Monthly Archives: May 2013

All’s well that ends well. Pandora back in Essex CT. Yeah!

It’s Sunday morning here in Essex and I feel a real sense of accomplishment for having completed what for me was a major ocean voyage of nearly 1,000 miles back from the Bahamas.

When Brenda and I headed out for our trip south back in early September of last year (boy, does that feel like another lifetime ago) it seemed to me that we were headed to a far away and exotic land, the Bahamas.   Frankly, I didn’t know what to expect but was very excited about what was on the horizon.  Brenda would have described the feeling as anxious but together we headed out into the (sort of) unknown.

So, here we are, back in Essex and it all worked out splendidly.

Our plan all along, was for Brenda to accompany me for the entire trip south and then for me to return, with crew, on Pandora in the spring with her flying back from where ever I was planning to depart.  We have, since getting our first boat, a 20′ Cape Cod catboat, back in 1979 usually had her avoid the really long passages and to join me there after I arrived with crew.  I am told that there are a lot of girls that aren’t as crazy about the long bumpy ocean stuff as most guys are.   Why is that?  The “I’ll meet you there” approach has worked for us for some 40 years of sailing together and on our nearly 15 trips to Maine.

The run back from Marsh Harbor was my longest yet so when I returned to the Essex Yacht Club on Friday evening I was very excited about having successfully completed such a big deal trip.  I have to say that I was just blown away by the reception that I received from Brenda and others at the Club.  My understanding of what was going to happen upon my return is that I would enter the anchorage, take a mooring and join Brenda in the bar for a drink to celebrate my return.   Simple.  Yes?

As it turned out, that wasn’t the half of it.  As I motored up the last mile to the club I called to alert the launch driver that I was coming in and to request a mooring assignment.  I was surprised to hear that they had reserved a spot for me on the dock.   Hmm…

As predicted, the cold front had come through earlier that afternoon and it was blowing like stink and was frankly colder than I was used to after a winter in paradise.  As I was now aboard alone, I wasn’t that keen on going to the dock in 20+ knots of wind.

As I approached the dock I was startled by the crashing boom of a signal cannon going off and there on the club dock was Brenda, her hand on the cannon pull cord and white smoke swirling around her beaming smile.  Okay, now I understood why the dock was a better choice.  But wait, there’s more.   There, on the dock, were lots of friends and family who had all shown up to give me a proper welcome, including the club Commodore.  I was blown away.

Happily, I was able to retain enough composure to bring Pandora smartly to a stop  at the dock.  They say that a docking is actually a spectator sport and I was not going to give them a thrill.  No bad docking allowed.

My plan was to approach the club and to announce my arrival, I was going to blow the conch horn.  This is a tradition in the Bahamas is to blow the horn at sunset.  All along, it was my plan to announce  my arrival at the club by blowing my conch.  However, I was so overcome with all the excitement I could only manage to blow a pathetic squeak, not the full blast I was hoping for.  Not at all…  So much for grand entrances.

Do I look like a guy who’s happy to be greeted so warmly?After the staff tied up Pandora I jumped off of the dock and greeted everyone.  What a great reception.  It was very nice to be greeted by our commodore Frank too.  

Friday evening is a very busy time at the club with many members coming down for a cocktails and conversation.  As word of my arrival and voyage made it’s way around the room I was greeted by many more folks who wanted to hear about the trip.  It was just so great.  

I couldn’t have been more pleased with how things ended up for our “excellent adventure”, from our trip down the ICW, our four months exploring the Bahamas and a great return voyage.   So, how great is that?

Pretty great!!!

Now it’s time to cut the lawn, clean the boat, fix the shower sump, leaking shaft seal, send the prop for repair, strip and paint the bottom, do some touch up painting on the house…

Did I hear someone say “honey-do-list”?

The final leg. Home to Essex with the wind at my back…

It’s Friday morning and I am under power, running Pandora up Long Island Sound, from Black Rock CT, near Bridgeport, on the final leg to the Connecticut River, the Essex Yacht Club and our “other” home.  Last evening we arrived at Fayerweather Yacht Club to tie up for the night. You may recall that Brenda and I spent the first night of our journey there way back in September.  Being fastened securely at the dock was a welcome change after nearly 5 ½ days underway from Marsh Harbor Bahamas.  I slept like a log.  Actually, like a bowling ball.  As you may be aware, when you toss a bowling ball into a bed, it rolls to the center and doesn’t move.  Me too.  And, when my friend Christopher, who crewed with me for the run, showed up today at around 7:30, I had to drag myself out of a fog to greet him.  After nearly a week with a few hours of sleep, off and on, it was nice to have a (sort of) full night of rest. I say “full” night as I did not actually get to bed until after midnight, a bit late for me and way, way past the “cruiser’s midnight, or the 9pm, that I had become accustomed to over the months aboard.

Arriving at Fayerweather YC was just so great as Brenda was at the dock to greet us along with Chris’s wife, Pat and their other son Travers.  It was a bit of family reunion.  Very nice.  Between the two of them “documenting” the occasion, I thought I might crash into the dock given all of the camera flashes that totally blinded me. So much for night vision.  It was terrific and happily, I guess that I can sort of dock Pandora with my eyes closed, which I had to do because I was pretty much blinded by the flashes.  What fun… After greetings in the rain, we were whisked us off to a great dinner that Pat had prepared. What great way to wrap up things from a great trip.

While the trip was a long one, some 950 miles, the wind was largely cooperative and we made excellent time. We calculate that “door to door” from Marsh Harbor to Sandy Hook, mostly under sail, we averaged 8.2kt.  That’s nearly 200 miles a day! How great is that?  For me, the goal of a 200 mile day is a big deal. I would have liked to sail the entire way but in order to stay ahead of the approaching bad weather that arrives tonight, we had to motor sail some even though there was a good deal of (favorable)wind much of the time. Happily, the wind was from the stern the entire time, usually plenty strong at that and we were going with the waves instead of against them.  Trust me on this.  Going with the flow is a lot easier than bucking the current. As a meta-fore (sp?) for life, so it goes on the open ocean too.

I had allowed two weeks to make the trip so having a good weather window that stayed open for nearly a week,and long enough to make the trip in style, was a great opportunity.  Thanks to Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, for helping make the trip so great.

Speaking of weather, it was plenty bumpy, as you would expect in the ocean, or “blue water” as it is often called.  Brenda, like so many others, suffers from sea sickness and in spite of years on the water, she still feels queasy, or worse, when the going gets rough. I was fascinated to watch Ian, the youngest of the crew, who didn’t feel well at all for the first few days, seemed to miraculously get over it after several days and, toward the end of the trip, was able to easily read a book while the boat was pitching all over the place. I have heard that most everyone is “cured” after a few days, but I had never seen it first hand. The body adjusts, it seems.  

Really interesting and good because being sea sick isn’t fun at all.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that the “cure” is only good for that particular voyage and you have to go through the adjustment anew each time you head out. Bummer about that.

While I have sailed thousands of miles over the years, this was certainly my longest voyage as most of the time long, to me, means a few hundred miles and mostly day runs from place to place . From Marsh Harbor, I covered nearly 1,000 miles, with all but about 100 in the open ocean. The last major run that I took was many years ago when I helped bring a boat back after the Bermuda race. That run was about 2/3 the length of this run and as crew, I had much less responsibility. Of course, now, with my own boat, it was a bigger deal as keeping things under control, the boat floating along and making sure that the crew was well fed and happy.  

It’s easy to make the statement that we “live in a connected world” but that was particularly the case for me yesterday when we were a few miles out from Sandy Hook and I heard someone hailing me on the VHF radio. As a rule, vessels have to monitor channel 16 while underway. In any event, here comes the hail, “Pandora, Pandora this is Kalunamo”. It seems that Bill had seen my “spot” message on this site, which he follows periodically, and saw that we were coming into NYC and were probably within VHF range. While we weren’t able to hear each other well on the radio, I pulled out his boat card and called him on the cell phone, “can you hear me now?”.   Indeed, he could. It was so great to talk with him and catch up.

Bill and Maureen live aboard Kalunamoo full tome and we had spent the better part of a month “buddy boating” with them in the Bahamas. We hope to see them this summer, perhaps in Essex. They are great fun to spend time with and Maureen, in particular, took Brenda under her wing to help her get the most out of our first winter in the Bahamas. It was fitting to be greeted by Bill as I approached home waters.

I won’t bore you with the details of our last day or so out at sea except to say that as we came up overnight past the Delaware River and the mouth of the Chesapeake, ship traffic increased a lot.  At one point, in the dark I might add, we had some five ships in the 950ft range on our plotter and it seemed that all of them were pointing right at us. Welcome back to civilization Pandora.

This shot I took of the plotter screen when we were going through NY shows just how many ships there are in the harbor. It’s a busy place. Each of the black triangles are the coordinates for particular ships as they show up on AIS a location monitor system for ships, like the air traffic control system is for commercial aircraft. That’s a lot of shipping vying for space in a busy area of water. Speaking of massive chunks of steel that can go bump in the night, or day for that matter , none can rival an aircraft carrier for shear bulk. For two days this ship was conducting live fire expercises in the area where we were traveling. To see something this big come out of the haze was a spectacle to behold.It was also interesting, and a bit intimidating, to have a navy helicopter fly overhead, and they did perhaps a half dozen time in two days, to keep an eye on us. They would fly toward us, circle around close overhead and then fly back to the carrier. They were near enough for us to see the faces of the crew. I guess that the wanted us to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that “we see you”.  Actually, I hope that they took an aerial photo of Pandora under sail.   Perhaps they did.  I wonder who I should call to get a copy sent to me.   The Pentagon?  I have sailed the waters of the New York area for many years and it was nice to enter Ambrose Channel and head up into NY Harbor. No, this isn’t the very first bouy in the channel, but it was one of the first markers, of any sort, that I had seen after months of sailing in the Bahamas. Even when there are buoys shown on the charts, they aren’t actually there. To see so many leading us up the harbor I felt like saying “Nice bouy, bouy.” Oh, I guess that means there is a rock nearby.    Perhaps we wouldn’t need them here either if the water was clear as in the Bahamas where everything is easy to see.  Sort of…Wait, the harbor pilot passed us right by.  What about guiding US home?Perhaps he had bigger fish to fry?Lady Liberty did give us a wave.  That was really very nice.Over the years I have always told our boys, Rob and Chris, that they have to watch out for what they do in public as it’s very likely someone they know will see them. Yesterday, as we made our way up the east river, against the tide I might add, which runs really fast, I was given a first hand dose of my own medicine. As we were passing up the East River by Roosevelt Island and the UN building, I thought about my friend Margo, who lives nearby, with a view of the river. Just for fun, I called her on the phone to say HI. After months without a cell phone that I could use without running up massive charges, I called. Amazingly, she picked up the phone to say “Bob, I was just picking the phone to call YOU as I saw Pandora going by”. It is indeed a small world.

Today, when I was checking my blog, I also saw a comment from my friend Roger, a fellow SAGA 43 owner, who also saw me on the river, in the vicinity of the 40s. He was driving south on the FDR and there was Pandora. Roger and his wife Ilene sailed to Grenada and back over two seasons.   Quite a trip.  They chronicled their voyage on their blog.

Remember, don’t do anything in public that doesn’t pass the “red face test”… ever.  Someone will see you and tell your mother!  So, in the space of just a few hours, I was greeted by three friends that knew I had returned. Just how great is that?

Speaking of returning to home waters, I was fascinated by the process of clearing customs and returning to the US. As we were approaching the coast, and were within cell range, I called customs to find out where I should dock to be visited by the customs officials to “clear” me back into the country. After a few calls to several offices, I was greeted by a very nice officer who asked me several questions and then, to my utter amazement, welcomed me home, told me to have a good weekend and to stay out of trouble on the water.  That was easy!  Wow.

Last May, when I returned to the States with my friend Bob on The Abby, we waited at a dock in Beaufort and were boarded by a US Customs official along with someone from the Department of Agriculture. They spent perhaps a half hour aboard. While one was checking our documents, the other was rifling through the fridge and freezer, perhaps looking for errant pests or contraband cabbages. Anything that looked suspicious was sealed in a yellow plastic hazmat bag. Having experienced that a year ago, I was just stunned to complete the entire process in a few minutes over the phone.

Just for once, it would be a boost to my ego to be looked at as a potential threat.  “oh, that’s Pandora and Bob… Just wave them by.  They’re perfectly harmless”. What a legacy…  Perhaps I need to eat more ice cream and bulk up a bit. Yeah, that works. Then, I’d be scary.  Perhaps not.

As I finish this post up the breeze has picked up ever so slightly, the tide has turned in my favor and I am sailing along toward the mouth of the Connecticut River and home to Essex. Today’s easy run is a fitting way to finish up on a wonderful trip.  While some might describe this as a “once in a lifetime trip”, I won’t as come next fall Pandora will again be going south and into the Bahamas for the winter.

Perhaps I too should take a cue from the Weather station folks who are always hyping some “storm of the century” and call this instead “the trip of a lifetime… of the year”.  Yes, a trip of a lifetime, every year would be perfect. So, what next?

Pandora is to be hauled next week for some work and while everyone else in New England is just getting out on the water, I’ll be preparing for our next year of cruising.  

Me? I am very much looking forward to a vacation away (sort of as I’ll be working on her part of most days) from Pandora and some time “on the hard” myself.  

I have just a few miles to go and it’s turning out to be a beautiful day.  On top of that, there’s a gentle breeze at my back.


Approaching the New Jersey coast. The final leg.

It’s Wednesday morning at 11:00 and we are sailing along with a solid 20-25kt breeze behind us.  Our speed over the bottom is about 7.5kts which is good for  putting us at Sandy Hook and entering New York Harbor, if the breeze continues to hold, by this time tomorrow, Thursday.   The forecast is for the wind  to be a bit stronger with gusts to 30kts later today and tonight, which will help us get there sooner.   As we are sailing in roughly the same direction as the wind, we need a strong breeze to keep moving.  Keep in mind that a following wind of 25-30kts on a boat moving in the same direction at 7-9kts, feels like a 20kt breeze, which is not too strong.  Perfect actually.

Ideally, we’d like to round Sandy Hook about about 5 hours sooner, near daybreak, as the outgoing tide ( and it’s a doozy in NY Harbor and the East River) will begin ebbing (turning against us) if we arrive as expected, mid morning, and won’t begin to flood in the direction we want to go until early afternoon.   That means that we will be running up the harbor and East River against the outgoing currents which will slow us down quite a bit.  However, the fact is that we are nearly 160 miles from Sandy Hook now, and that’s a lot of miles between here and there, so conditions might very well change in ways that we can’t anticipate as we romp along here, some 60 miles off of the Del/Mar Peninsula.

The good news is that we are in good shape to enter NY harbor at some point on Thursday mid to late morning with a building southerly following wind.

After making our way through New York, we will still have about 80 miles from the East River in NYC to Essex.  If we continue without stopping  after leaving NY, we would arrive in Essex at some point around o’dark: 30, on Friday morning, which isn’t appealing at all.  After nearly 4,000 miles and 8 months onboard, I want to arrive at Essex Yacht Club with a proper audience.  Say, in time for cocktails on the deck.

With that in mind, I expect that we will anchor somewhere along the way to get some rest and prepare for our grand entrance.    We wouldn’t want to arrive looking and smelling like we have been at sea for a week, would we?

Of course, all of this depends on continued favorable conditions for and only time will tell if everything holds as planned.  As is always the case, it’s all about the weather.  If I have learned anything over the last 8 months, it’s that you really don’t know where you will be until you are there.  You didn’t think I could be so profound, did you?

Oh yeah, I almost forgot to mention that we were buzzed by a Navy helicopter several times today.  They came close enough for us to see the face of the pilot.  I waved to him. He didn’t wave back.  Bummer.  It seems that the Navy is conducting live fire exercises nearby and they have been alerting vessels to stay FAR away from them.  I expect that Pandora would be on the loosing end of that stick.

Sorry, no pictures in this post as I have had trouble finding a channel out here that will allow me to send larger files.

Here’s to arriving and style and in time for an “adult beverage” at Essex Yacht Club with Brenda and friends.

Here’s to continued fast sailing.  I don’t need smooth…  I need fast.

Wish us luck.

Signing off for now.

Half way home and a FULL measure of excitemen

It’s nearly noon on Tuesday as we enter the 4th day of our voyage from Abaco Bahamas to Essex, CT, aboard Pandora.   I say that we are entering our 4th day as we picked up our anchor in Marsh Harbor at 11:00 on Saturday to begin our 1,000 voyage home and it’s 11:00 now.     Is that a coincidence or what?

As we make our way north, we are keeping an hourly log of lat/lon (position), speed over the ground, wind direction and speed along with other data.    Keeping this location each hour is critical as it will allow us to better understand where are are in the event of a problem, such as our being struck by lightning and loosing all our electronics.  This would be particularly critical if we were to loose our GPS.   Unless we had been logging our Latitude and Longitude regularly, we would have no idea where we were.

Anyway, we keep all those stats in a log book designed for that purpose.  And…each page has 24 lines on it so day one begins when we leave port and the “second day” begins 24 hours later, in this case at 11:00 daily.  Get it?   Bob!!! Quit it with the boring stuff.  What was exciting?

So glad you asked.   In the last 24 hours we enjoyed, or not, the following.

1.       NOT enjoyed…Numerous squalls with strong winds and rain, lots of rain.   And a few of these were in the dark.  The wind was strong and as Pandora surfed down waves , in the dark and rain, I could only imagine what it would be like to be in a real storm.

2.      REALLY NOT enjoyed our hunt for the Gulf Stream.   For hours we meandered in meanders, along the side of the Gulf Stream.    We were given the coordinates for the southern wall of the Gulf Stream but with the light wind and the side of the stream swirling around, we were caught in currents pushing us every where but where we wanted to go.   On top of that, the seas in that area were very confused which meant that the boat was rolling wildly from side to side for much of the day.  Happily, today is a lot better, more like a mill pond.  However, Brenda might not think that “mill pond” is quite the right description.

3.      NOT enjoyed…Wind on the stern that wasn’t quite strong enough to make distance and we really didn’t want to motor.   (At least the wind wasn’t on our nose.)

4.      NOT enjoyed…An uncontrolled jibe.  This means that the main sail slammed from one side of the boat to the other in a big bang.  It happened when a squall hit us with a 100 degree wind shift without warning.  BANG!  A move like this can break the boom or worse.   Not a good thing, especially 200 mile from shore.

5.       NOT enjoyed…When the main sail jibed, it broke the preventer.  This is a line that runs to the end of the boom to slow it down if we jibe.  Well, there was a snap shackle on the end of the line that exploded when the boom slammed over.  What is that about the “weakest link”?   Well, it was fine that the shackle broke as the boom didn’t.

6.      REALLY NOT ENJOYED!!!  Speaking of the boom.  We ALMOST had what would have been a REALLY BIG problem with that too.   Somehow, the nut, on the bolt that holds the boom to the mast came off.  Thankfully, the bolt stayed in place. No simple feat as the nut was on top so the bolt could have just dropped down and out. Had that come off the entire boom would have broken free of the mast, in loads of wind, I might add, which would have been a major problem.    I don’t even want to think about what would have happened.  At the very least, we would have had a major failure of the sail, which would likely have ripped in half.  Beyond that, a 17′ long boom would have been flailing around in a seaway, perhaps acting as a battering ram against the side of the boat.  I don’t want to think about that scenario,even a little bit.  After a bit of jury rigging, we were back in business.  All this for the lack of a single nut.

7.      Enjoyed? YES and NO…The (big one) that got away.  We were fishing and hooked a really large Mahi Mahi.  After something like a 30 minute effort to get the fish the boat the line parted and the fish got away with the hook etc.  To say that we almost boated it, is an understatement as Chris got some scratches on his leg from the fish’s fins as it thrashed around at the stern.  That’s close.  Ian got some great videos of the fight which I am sure he will put on YouTube.  You will have to trust me on this but it was huge, perhaps  4′ long.   Yes, I know, the one that got away.   So, I didn’t enjoy losing the fish.  I sort of enjoyed reeling it in.  But most of all, I WAS SO GLAD not to have to clean a 4′ long bloody fish in the cockpit.   However, all the slime would have been washed out a few hours later by the deluge of rain.

8.   LOVED and enjoyed…  A fabulous sunrise after all of the squalls.  Actually, these clouds off of our stern, lit by the sunrise brought us a whopper of a squall a short while after this shot was taken.  In the foreground was a large swell.  Bummer that it doesn’t show in this photo.  Pretty impressive.

9.      REALLY ENJOYED!!!  A pod of 3 or 4 dolphins visited us for about 15 minutes, swimming all around the bow and darting back and forth across the pressure wave of the bow cutting through the water.   I have seen dolphins do this before but this is the first time I have been able to get decent photos.  Getting a photo of a dolphin took me only 8 months of this trip. They were beautiful.

10.     ENJOYED!!!  Being half way home.  Yes, I know that I already mentioned that.

All and all let’s call the last 24 hours “interesting” and “mixed”, some good, some not so good.   Today?  After cleaning up the mess down below and airing out a soggy boat, the sun is out and it’s cool.    Did I mention that we are half way home?   It’s almost time to begin using that often repeated phrase, “are we there yet”.

So, that’s the 24 hour top ten for Pandora for day three.

When do we expect to be home?  That’s hard to say.   If we are able to keep our speed up we should be to New York at some point on Thursday or perhaps in the early hours of Friday. We are not going to come in via Montauk as the strong unfavorable winds will arrive too soon for us to go that way. If we can’t get to New York by Thursday night,we will have to pull in somewhere and wait a few days as there is a front coming through on Friday that will usher in strong northerly winds that will make any further progress north impossible.   So, in an attempt to keep on schedule we fired up the “iron wind” and are under power as there’s not quite enough wind today to move along at a decent pace.

Fortunately, the forecast calls for freshening, and favorable, winds later today or Wednesday.   These winds will likely  end up being too much of a good thing in the next few days.   While they will be from the southwest (good), they will build to the high 20s and low 30s (not so good) in the next day or so.    At least they will be from behind us.

So, half way home, some excitement along the way.   Making progress…  Speaking of making progress, perhaps I should make some lunch.

Day two and 200 miles from Cape Hatteras

It’s Monday morning and we are charging along about 200 miles south of Cape Hatteras.    With fully 600 miles to go Montauk, there’s still plenty of distance to go.   The sea state is a bit lumpy but not too bad.  The good news is that the winds have been favorable and pretty strong with nearly 20kts on the aft quarter much of last night.   I am not comfortable with the calibration of my knot meter but we saw speeds in the 10+kts range quite a lot and speeds over the bottom from the GPS somewhat less as we have been in some contrary current eddies south of the Gulf Stream.    However, I can’t complain as having solid winds aft of the beam have allowed us to make good time so far.   And, the forecast for the next few days suggest that we will continue to have favorable winds and sea conditions.  That’s good…

There isn’t a lot of activity around us this far off shore and many hours go by without our seeing another boat, much less one that comes anywhere close to us.   I’d say that in the last 24 hours we have only seen two or three ships and they were way off on the horizon.   It’s pretty clear that when you are offshore, you are on your own.

We should enter the Gulf Stream at some point in the next few hours and will run with it for about 250 miles.   As the stream in that area runs several knots to the NE, we should pick up our over the ground speed a good bit for the next 24 hours .   While our over the bottom 24 hour distance made good, without the benefit of a current, has been in the 175 mile range, we should cover 225 miles or more while we are in the favorable current of the Gulf Stream.  After we exit the stream we will adjust our course to head toward Montauk.    The winds are forecast to be favorable for much of the rest of the run and should build a bit further into the 20-25 knot range from the south to southwest as we head into the latter part of the week.

This is a grib file for tomorrow, which I downloaded over my SSB radio.  I modified it to show our current location and estimated track to Montauk.   The red arrow is our location as of 08:00 Monday.   The wind direction flags point toward the direction from which the wind is coming.  So, you can see that we are experiencing winds from a southerly direction.  This is expected to continue through Friday when a cold front exits the east coast.

Friday is about the time we should be off of Montauk so as the weather forecast becomes clearer we will make a decision regarding if we are going to head into New York and into western Long Island Sound or if we will continue offshore to Montauk as planned.  This should all become clearer by Tuesday.   All of this suggests that we will be in Essex by the weekend unless we have to hide somewhere as the front comes through.  We’ll see…

Last night a few little flying fish landed on deck.  Chris told me that a larger one, perhaps a foot long, was on deck yesterday but was tossed overboard before I was able to take a photo of it.  Speaking of meals, last night when I was cooking dinner it was hard to keep my footing because the boat was slopping around a lot.  I was mixing up scrambled eggs and a wave hit…  You know how eggs that aren’t fully beaten can sort of flop, no make that crawl, out of a bowl and somehow some of the other eggs tag along?  It’s like the eggs latch onto each other and climb out as a slimy lump. Well, that’s what happened.  So much for the galley rug.  It was getting pretty nasty anyway.  Time for a new one.  The eggs were pretty good in spite of that.  No Brenda, I didn’t scoop up the ones from the floor and put them back in the pan. I am not that disgusting.  Well, I hope not…

There isn’t much in the way of wildlife to look at here.  We have seen a number of sea birds as well as a good number of Portuguese Man of War jelly fish.  Man of War are the ones that look like a white inflated baggy about 6″ long.  This “sail” helps them move along somewhat faster than the current, although much of the animal, and the poisonous tentacles are below the surface.   The sting you can get from these is pretty nasty, I am told.

So far, the trip is going well and I am hopeful that we will continue to have favorable weather.  Unfortunately, the somewhat bumpy conditions are causing some difficulty with seasickness for some of the crew.  Hopefully, everyone will adjust and not feel  nauseous much longer.

So, what do we do all day on Pandora?  Well, some of the time we sleep.  However, we try not to all snooze at the same time.  Two down…

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood.  And yes, it’s still a long way home.

Marsh Harbor to Essex. Off to a great start.

It’s 09:30 on Sunday morning and we are sailing along in a moderate breeze of 11-14kts.   The winds are on our beam as they have been for the entire trip.  Amazingly, we left Marsh Harbor yesterday at 11:00 under sail and are still sailing some 20 hours later.   The only time we used the engine was for getting out of the harbor and for a short time leaving the Whale Cay Cut as we entered the ocean.  As anyone who sails would know, it’s usually inevitable that the winds will be unfavorable most of the time, regardless of where you are going.  I feel pretty lucky to have what looks like forecasted generally favorable winds for the bulk of our trip and really great winds so far.One of my concerns in leaving Marsh Harbor was transiting near Whale Cay Cut, a notoriously nasty piece of water where the depth goes from thousands to around 20′ in a few miles.  This causes any waves to pile up as they get closer to shore.  This recent post talks in some detail about the cut.  Happily, the sea swells yesterday, and today on the ocean, for that matter, are in the 3′ range so leaving the cut was a cinch.  Great luck there too.

As I write this we are about 150 nautical miles north of Marsh harbor which translates into an average over the bottom speed of about 7kts.  This takes into account the fact that we spent a good deal of last night in a gulf stream counter current or eddy which was flowing against us, sometimes more than a knot and for perhaps 8 hours we had a current in the 2 knot range pushing us toward the west.  This meant that we had adjust our heading further to the east to compensate for the westward set. Heading closer to the wind, as we compensated for the current, actually helped our speed as it put us on close reach, with the wind somewhat forward of the beam, increasing our speed into the moderate easterly winds.

Conventional wisdom suggests that you should head west from the Abacos and join up with the Gulf Stream to gain as much help from the northerly current that runs up to 4 knots, as you head up the coast.   In our case, Chris Parker, the weather router, suggested a course that stayed well east of the stream and due north as that heading would cut off as much as 100 miles from our trip.  It just didn’t make sense, with the forecasted winds,  to head west to the stream and then north to our destination.

So, for now, we are continuing north to a point just southeast of Cape Hatteras where we will join the gulf stream, take advantage of that current for a time and then jump out a few hundred miles north of that point and head to Montauk.

Chris, Ian and I have settled in nicely to what will likely be about a week on board with time spent keeping watch , reading and sleeping.  Oh yea, and don’t want to forget the eating part.  I made fresh biscuits for breakfast today.  In spite of some slightly queasy stomachs for Chris and Ian, they forced them down without a moment’s hesitation.   As usual, I am blessed with a cast iron stomach and, knock on wood, I haven’t had any problems with nausea yet on this.  Of course, it’s pretty calm out here so fingers crossed that my good luck will continue.

Our watch schedule (we have to be sure that someone is on deck all the time, night and day) is pretty simple.  From 08:00 to 20:00, when it’s light, the watch is informal as everyone is on deck enjoying the scenery, such as it is, with miles of water in every direction, punctuated by an occasional school of flying fish.    After 20:00 hours we go on a 4 hour watch system.  Last night, Chris took the 20:00 to 24:00, me the 01:00 to 04:00, with Chris came back on deck from 04:00 to 08:00.  Ian, who doesn’t have that much offshore experience, joined us for two hours of my watch and two of Chris’s.  This overlap helps as he was fresh when he came on deck as we were getting toward the second half of our watch and feeling a bit sleepy.   Tonight, we will switch watches with me doing two beginning at 20:00 and Chris only one.   That keeps things fair as we switch every other night.

Last night was particularly beautiful during my watch as there was a bright half moon until it set around 03:00 with the water sparkling with phosphorescence  as Pandora made her way steadily northward.  I love the 24:00 to 04:00 watch as it’s so peaceful and there isn’t usually much going on.  Last night I only saw a single ship and after speaking with the officer on watch, a woman, she indicated a plan pass to my stern and at a good distance.   Speaking with her personally made me much more comfortable instead of wondering what her plans were.

For much of the time on watch, I enjoy reading or listening to music on my i-pod.    For me, when the sailing is easy and at a good speed, I can’t say that there is any time when I feel more at peace, ashore or afloat.  It’s very nice to be at sea.  And, it’s a good thing that I feel that way as this trip will keep us underway for a week or more and that’s a long time to be underway.  Most folks tend to break up a trip like this into segments but I prefer to just go without stopping and avoid entering or leaving harbors along the way, especially ones that I am not that familiar with.   I’d much rather be 200 miles from the “hard stuff” than to be inshore dodging rocks and shoals.   Being close to rocks with Pandora gives me plenty of cause for anxiety, that’s for sure.
It’s an amazing contrast from the trip south with Brenda which we stretched to a full three months as we meandered down the Intra Coastal Waterway (A great trip BTW).  That same distance, now in a straight line offshore, will only take about a week.

So, where’s Pandora?   We are currently about 200 nautical miles east of north Florida.  That’s a really long way from land.    If you want to follow our trip on this site, just click the “where’s Pandora”  button and you will see…  I will be updating our position every four hours for the entire trip.  These position “spots” will be in place for up to two weeks and then they are automatically deleted.

So, how’s it going?  So far so good with our  first 24hours taking us in the neighborhood of 170 nautical miles, and with some unfavorable currents against us, that’s pretty impressive.   With some luck, the weather will hold and we will be able to sail much of the nearly 1,000 miles home and arrive in Essex at some point toward the end of the week.   It would be perfect if I could arrive in Essex, at the club, in time forFriday or Saturday cocktails.  One can only hope…  By that point I’d have to make a pit stop for a shower prior to joining the folks in the bar.  Minor detail.

It’s quite beautiful out here on the ocean and last night’s sunset did not disappoint.

So far, so good with our trip less than 20% completed.  No, that doesn’t sound like much but don’t forget, we only left yesterday.
Wish us continued smooth, and fast, sailing.

That’s all for now, SV Pandora signing off…

Heading Home from the Bahamas,Finally

It’s 13:30 on Saturday and we are offshore and headed for Essex and home for the summer.  It’s hard to believe that I have been aboard for nearly 8 months since Brenda and I left Essex Yacht Club way back in early September.

I can still recall when, not that long ago, our trips aboard were measured in days instead of months and I have to say that I am really looking forward to being home for a while and not worrying about the weather and gear issues with Pandora every day.  So far, and there is nearly 1,000 miles ahead of us until we arrive in CT, there have been no major gear issues but a number of fiddly things that have caused problems, mostly minor.  Fingers crossed that my good luck will continue for the rest of the voyage.  On the gear side, fingers crossed that things will continue working for the next week.   22 miles into our trip, so far, so good.

I spoke with Chris Parker, the weather router that we work with, both yesterday and this morning to get the latest information related to wind, seas and current for our trip.  Usually, it seems that the wind is always from the direction that you want to go but it seems that we should have fair winds that should hold for most of the trip.  That will be important as I do not carry enough fuel to allow us to motor all of the way.    I was very concerned that a great weather window would come and go prior to my crew arriving but as luck would have it, a great window that opened up yesterday, so it looks great.

If all goes well, we hope to make the trip in about a week and that’s important as there is a strong possibility of a cold front heading off the east coast later in the week, around Friday.  By that time, if we are not past Montauk we may have to stop somewhere until the weather passes and fair winds come into play again.   We will know more on that point in a few days.

In order to make it there in time, we will have to make an average speed of about 6kts, which should be pretty easy for us, provided that the wind stays fair.  As I write this we are averaging about 6-7kts, and most of the time at 7kts or better, with fairly light winds of about 10ks on the beam.  Of course, as they say, “past performance is no guarantee of future success”.  Well, I think that’s what they say or something like that.  As I am way out of phone and WIFI range, there’s no Google to lean on for answers.

Speaking of WIFI, I will be preparing these posts and will send them to Brenda via the SSB long range radio.  She will take them and publish them, along with some photos, hopefully.

Our plan is to use the SPOT, GPS communicator, as we have in the past, and will be “pushing the button” every four or so hours, 24 hours a day for the next week, or until we get home.   Check out the “where’s Pandora button to see our current location in real time, sort of.   I also hope to put up a post, provided that Brenda’s social calendar permits, at some point each day for our voyage.
The last few days have been very hectic as I have been preparing Pandora for this trip, with runs up the mast to repair burned out bulbs, trips to the grocery and other final preparations.  To say that a 1,000 mile voyage, hundreds of miles from land, is a big deal doesn’t begin to make the point, as it seems to me.   I have sailed thousands of miles but have only been offshore a few dozen times including a trip back from the Bahamas last May on a friend’s boat.  And, for that run, we were much closer to the coast and stopped half way, in Beaufort for fuel and gear issues.  And, of course, there were the 15 or so trips to Maine, across the Gulf of Maine, but those trips are only a few hundred miles and we were never more than 100 miles from land, usually closer.  I also did a trip back from Bermuda  which was about 700 miles, and that was over 15 years ago.

However, Pandora was built for trips like these and she is fitted out with all the latest safety gear including a four man life raft.  I am very hopeful that the raft is one piece of equipment that I will never try out.  So far, so good.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day here on the ocean just north of the Abacos and if you are wondering,  “nope, we aren’t there yet!

Perhaps I will close with a shot of the last sunset, sort of as it was two nights ago, that I saw in the Bahamas this year.   Yes, I am happy to leave but I am very much looking forward to returning next February.  For now,  I am all about being HOME.  Hey, here’s an ideaůhow about a hot shower?  Now, that’s something that I have not had since early September,  unless you count the brief visit home for Christmas.  Hmmm… only a week to go.  Oh, will I be ready then.

A fitting shot of a beautiful Bahamas sunset and a perfect metaphor for Bob and Brenda’s FIRST most excellent adventure.

Homeward Bound, soon, really soon!

It’s Tuesday morning here in beautiful Hope Town, Abaco and I am now less than a week away, weather permitting, from my departure for home.  With my crew Chris and Ian arriving on Friday evening, we should be ready to shove off, weather permitting, over the weekend or Monday.  There are provisions and fuel to get on board and then we have to make our way north through Whale Cay Passage (I wrote about this passage recently), across the banks and out into the Gulf Stream for the run north.

I have been worrying that I would have made all these arrangements, have crew arrive and we would be stuck in port due to strong unfavorable winds.  Of course, with everyone in place the last thing we would want to do is to sit and cool our heels for a week w-a-i-t-i-n-g.    When I returned from the Bahamas last May we were delayed in Nassau for several days and then again in Beaufort NC for half a week. Between weather and gear problems, a trip that should have taken a week lasted for two weeks.  I have been fretting that this would be the case with Pandora.

Of course, we won’t know how the weather will look until we get with a few days of departure but, as of now, things are looking good for a fairly easy run north.     The other thing to consider will be gear problems and I am hopeful that we won’t have problems there either.  Fingers crossed.   Interestingly, had I tried to leave this week we would have encountered everything from no wind to gale force conditions as we headed up the coast.  In all likelihood we would have had to wait till next week anyway.  Let’s hope that my luck holds…

My week with my friend Craig, who is visiting me here in the Abacos this week, is going well.  Yesterday and today we are in Hope Town, my third visit here in the last month, and on Wednesday we will head south to Little Harbor, a lovely spot and the home to Pete’s Pub and Gallery.  Brenda and I enjoyed a few days there earlier in April.   It will be fun to be back there again.   By Friday afternoon we will need to be back in Marsh Harbor for crew arrival.

There’s lots to look at here in Hope Town harbor and I was particularly struck by this beautiful catamaran that was moored nearby. Cheetah is apparently a new boat recently constructed in Trinidad.   Interestingly, it is powered by twin electric hybrid propulsion and is epoxy, plywood construction.  This link provides some very interesting background.  I have to admit that I am drawn to some of these big cats as they have loads of living space and, under the right conditions, are really fast.    This one is the best looking that I have seen.

Well, I guess that it’s time to finish up my coffee and head out for a bit of exploring as it’s nearly noon.  Where does the time go?  I guess I am in cruising mode…  I’m in the Bahamas mon…   Don’t worry, be happy!

So far, so good, except for worry about passages north.  Oh well…

Mother’s day. Alas, no mothers nearby…

I can’t believe that it’s Mother’s Day and here I am in the Bahamas and there isn’t a related mother in sight.  Brenda left on Thursday to head back to the States and The Boys.   I am sure that hey will keep her in good shape for this important weekend.  For Brenda, it’s not about Mother’s Day, it’s about Mother’s Day weekend.  I agree and happily, the boys do too and will surely be doting on her.  That’s good.   I talked to my mother today which was nice.  Brenda didn’t answer her phone.  That’s good too as she was certainly out doing Mother’s Day sorts of things.   Perhaps they are planting up the window boxes.

However, here I am in the crummy (not) Bahamas, feeling a bit guilty for not being there.  Oh well, it is sunny and warm, like a perfect Mother’s Day.  I did see a few mother’s tooling around in boats today, just not mine.

Yesterday my friend Craig and I did a bit of beach exploring on the ocean side.  The beach on Great Guana is quite beautiful and is said to be home of the third largest barrier reef in the world following the Great Barrier Reef in Australia and one off of Belize in South America.    The view of the beach is truly spectacular.And all this great beach to explore and almost nobody else to compete with for finding shells.  Brenda probably thinks that I only look for shells when she is there but I couldn’t help myself yesterday and was again on the lookout for the “perfect shell”.  I am always hoping to find something that qualifies as the “find of the day” and yesterday didn’t disappoint. You wouldn’t expect to find something like this on such a popular beach.  It seems that every day is indeed a new opportunity for a great find.   I have found plenty of these types but they tend to be about 1″ long or less.  This is a beauty.I will have to save it for Brenda.  Perhaps a small Mother’s Day token…

When Brenda and I were here a few weeks ago we visited Nipper’s, a very popular bar overlooking the beach.   On that that visit, a very windy day, we were not very impressed.  However, what a difference there was when the winds were more moderate and there was a less sophomoric crowd at the bar.  Yesterday I thought that the place was actually very pleasant.   There were plenty of colorful umbrellas to brighten up things. 

That’s Craig along with our friends Dane and Ursula.  Ursula has a SAGA 43 like Pandora.  She has considerable sailing experience and spent a good amount of time in South America in past years.   That’s some really blue water in the background.  Pretty amazing. That evening I hosted cocktails on Pandora for them along with a couple from another boat.  We had a very enjoyable visit.  The sunset?  About typical… Beautiful, as always. Today Craig and I headed over the Man-0-War Cay.  I expect that we will do some exploring later this afternoon.  Who knows, perhaps we will spy some mothers enjoying their day.  It could happen…

Today’s weather.  Yes, another sunny day.  Who knew?  Perhaps I will close with one of those “typical” cloud pictures, taken last evening.   You can never have too many beautiful pictures of clouds, can you?  Just a few days till my crew comes into town on Friday.   Time to get serious about watching the weather for my trip north.  I am excited about moving toward home and my mother, of course…

Mom?  Are you listening?  Can you hear me now?

Bob and Brenda’s most excellent adventure. The end of a chapter…

Yesterday at 06:00 I took Brenda to the dock and waiting taxi to begin her journey to our “land home” in CT.  Except for a brief trip home for Christmas, Brenda and I have been aboard Pandora together  for eight months, beginning on September  11th when we moved aboard, until May 9th.

Our trip took us a long way.   We experienced most of the Intra-Coastal-Waterway, all the way from Eastern Connecticut to Ft Lauderdale across to the Bahamas and as far south as Rum Cay and Long Island which sit on the Tropic of Cancer.   We made many wonderful friends along the way and visited most of the major areas of the Bahamas and covered nearly 3,000 miles, about 1,000 miles of that in the Bahamas.

While the trip has been remarkable in so many ways, there is no doubt that I share Brenda’s excitement about heading home.  Our plan was to make this trip a long one and then, in future years, split our time between land and see.  Next winter we plan to spend about three months in the Bahamas with a month or two in Maine this summer and next.   In between we will spend some time in eastern long Island sound home waters and the Chesapeake.    I wouldn’t want to miss the Annapolis Boat Show, would I?

As we have been doing for years, I will make the really long runs with crew and Brenda will join me for the duration once the boat is in place.  This approach has worked well for much of the nearly forty years that we have been cruising together.

My plan now is to have my friend Craig join me this Saturday to spend a week sailing in the Abacos.  After that friends will arrive to help me take Pandora north with our hope of leaving the Bahamas on our about May 19th.

I have been looking at the weather on the eastern seaboard for several weeks now and I am hopeful that we will have favorable conditions within the two week window that my crew has to get back to CT.  The spring winds along the eastern seaboard are generally from the southwest this time of year so, unless there is a cold front passing off of the coast at that time, we should be able to make the run within that time frame and hopefully under sail.  As is always the case with weather, “let’s hope it works!”.   Time will tell.  Making long passages are a lot tougher when you have limited time and visiting crew as it’s not uncommon to find that conditions are not favorable for making a desired trip for perhaps up to a week at a time.   With a couple living aboard, it’s easy to wait for perfect weather but with visiting crew, not so easy.  As has often been said, “the most dangerous piece of equipment on a boat is a clock” and the need to keep to a particular timetable.  It’s always better to wait than to head out when conditions are not favorable.

If we run into trouble keeping to our schedule we will just bail out and head for Annapolis where I can leave Pandora for a week or so and then head back to finish the run.

I still have to find a yard where Pandora can be hauled for a month or two for some repairs and maintenance but that will have to wait until I re-enter US waters where I can easily make cell calls.  While we did get a Bahamas cell phone, using it to call the US is expensive so we have limited use as much as we can.

Having Brenda leave today, even though we have been planning it for weeks, was a bit of a jolt to me and to return to Pandora after taking her to the taxi was depressing.  Returning aboard to see that all of her stuff gone including the shells and other decorations that were out for display was a real bummer.  Pandora has been our home for many months and to see that it no longer looked “homey” was sad.

So, I was aboard, alone and depressed.  What to do?  Brenda predicted that I would clean.  Yup, she called that one right.   So, at the tender hour of 06:30, out came the cleaning materials and for the next three hours I scrubbed away.  I have to say that Pandora was already pretty clean but she is really clean now.  Rugs have been shaken out, floors washed, heads sanitized and dust cleared from shelves and every nook and cranny that I could reach.

There is still plenty to do to keep Pandora in top shape, there always is, but at least as I prepare for Craig’s arrival and ultimately, the trip north in about a week, Pandora will be ready to begin her nearly 1,000 mile voyage home.

Is has indeed been “Bob and Brenda’s most excellent voyage” and while there have been plenty of challenges, it’s been a wonderful experience.

Perhaps a great way to close is with a shot taken on the docks at Fayerweather Yacht Club way back on September 11th, our first night out.  Fayerweather Yacht Club was a fitting spot to spend that first night as it was our first yacht club and the spot where we kept our very first boat, a 20′ long Cape Cod Catboat, way back in the late 70s.  Who would have guessed that we would one day have a boat capable of crossing oceans and that we would be in a position to take the time, and have the opportunity, to spend many months away and aboard.

To celebrate the close of is amazing voyage and Brenda’s departure, we enjoyed dinner at a local eatery here in Marsh Harbor the night before she left.  What a great way to mark the end of our time together and the conclusion of our first big voyage.It’s been a wonderful time together, mostly with smooth sailing, and we are looking forward to some shore time, a chance to sleep in our bed at home, the one that Brenda calls her “cloud bed” and then come back to the Bahamas next winter.

This sunset from our last night aboard here in Marsh Harbor was particularly beautiful.  Or, is it a sunrise on our new, and more carefree life together?  You decide.