Monthly Archives: September 2013

Heading south, very soon. This is the week!

It’s Friday around noon, sailing along in Block Island Sound and I am entering Watch Hill Passage and Fisher’s Island Sound, the eastern most part of Long Island Sound.

In a way it seems like just yesterday that I arrived in Essex from the Abacos but in other ways it seems like May was a long time ago.   However, when I think about the number of projects that I did on Pandora this summer along with the long “honey do” list of home chores from Brenda, I guess it’s been a long time since May.

I have been a bit stressed out about the weather for getting to Annapolis next week and for a while I thought that I was going to have to shove off on Tuesday at the latest which would be pretty tough to be ready for.  However, I spoke with Chris Parker, our weather router, a bit ago and he told me that while there won’t be much wind next week, it looks like the favorable wind window will stay open for much of the week.  It is my hope that we will be able to sail but at the very least, I’d prefer not to motor into the wind.  At this point, it is looking good.  Fingers crossed.   I’ll check with him on Monday to see how things are progressing.

I am making today’s run alone as my friend who was going to come with me came down with a 24hr bug.  While I’d prefer to have company when I am aboard, it’s plenty easy to run Pandora alone.  Actually, while I am typing away, the autopilot is happily steering away.  As long as the wind doesn’t pick up too much, the laptop should be secure on the cockpit table.  Having the laptop smash onto the cockpit sole would not be good.  Fortunately, it’s not too gusty.    Here’s a shot of my “office” for today.   Not too shabby.I had to set the computer down on the sole as I passed Watch Hill.  Lots of hard stuff to bump into and I needed to pay attention.  Also, loads of fishing boats out hoping to get lucky.   I like the Watch Hill Light.  It does look better on a sunny day though. I hope to get to Deep River early enough to catch the mechanic before he leaves for the weekend so any parts that he has to order to fix the alternator can be arranged before the weekend.  There is a problem with charging and I expect that it was something done while the mechanic was working on the engine.

I guess I had better cut this short as the wind is dying and there are plenty of rocks to watch out for in Fisher’s Island Sound.  It would ruin my day if I bumped into one of them.  Trust me, I know about such things.

Besides, it’s lunchtime and I am getting hungry.  Oh yeah, the sun is coming out too.  Perhaps that’s a metaphor for the coming months.  Yes, I’ll go for that.

I am getting excited about heading south!

It’s Thursday afternoon and a beautiful day here in Essex.   I have worked out many of the details regarding crew and dates to prepare Pandora for the trip to FL. As of now, my plan is to return to Essex for a few days to provision Pandora with non-perishables, enough to last for the trip south and our three months in the Bahamas.

My friend David and I will bring Pandora back to Deep River for a few last minute maintenance items and some major provisioning prior to leaving for Annapolis later in the month.  As of today, I confirmed that my friend Barry will help me bring Pandora to Annapolis at the end of the month.  That should be fun as I have known Barry for years and yet have not had the pleasure of having him aboard. Barry has considerable offshore experience, having sailed from the Caribbean many times over the years.   That’s a trip that I’d love to do over the winter of 2014/15 so it will be fun to talk to him about this on the trip to Annapolis.

If Brenda and I were to take Pandora through the Caribbean, the plan would be for me to do the Salty Dawg Rally, that leaves from Hampton VA for Tortola in November each year.  This rally is relatively new and had quickly grown to be a major force within the sailing community.  The fact that it is free didn’t hurt, that’s for sure.

More to come on that.   Of course, Brenda and I would have to commit to two seasons in the Caribbean as we would leave Pandora for the summer in Granada and fly home for the summer.  After that, we’d fly back the following December or so and begin bringing Pandora home through the Bahamas.  It would be a really fun trip.   Fortunately, we know plenty of cruisers who have done this trip so getting good information about what to expect will be easy to find from folks who have been there, done that.

After the Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Brenda and I will spend a few weeks south to VA and on to Beaufort NC.  From there I will meet up with crew for the run to Ft Pierce where Pandora will be hauled for the three months prior to heading back in late January.

Last evening our good friends Loreen and Miles aboard Ariel, came to Essex and took a mooring at the Essex Yacht Club for the night and joined us at our home for dinner.  It was great fun to see them again after a few months ashore.   They had spent the summer in Maine and were headed back to Annapolis on their way to Florida.  They own a slip in South Beach FL near Miami where they spend a few months each season.  We hope to visit with them for a week or so prior to our trip to the Bahamas.  The shopping for provisioning the boat from their marina will be pretty simple although we hope to have a good amount of the food on board in advance of leaving CT later this month.

Seeing them for dinner brought back plenty of memories from our trip last winter and talking about the coming season was fun.  Having a few glasses of wine with them made it all the more enjoyable.  Funny how that is.

Speaking of fun in the sun, this is a fun shot of them hamming it up when we were together last winter.  Pretty sure that the star fish weren’t amused.  Of course, we tortured the little guys too.  Not Loreen and Miles, the star fish.    It will be fun to do it again, soon. After hanging around the murky water of New England for months, it’s hard to imagine water this clear will be soon coming our way.   Bring it on. First, I have to get to Florida.  Let’s hope that the weather cooperates.  Fingers crossed.

Oh yeah, how many tubes of toothpaste did we use last winter?  Let me check my notes. Time to get (really) serious about provisioning.

A fun visit to Newport and the boat show.

After long last Pandora’s back in the water.   We moved her to RI last week and enjoyed a visit to Newport to see the sights and to enjoy a visit to the Boat Show.

Having been to many boat shows over the years, it was fun to include the Newport Show on our list this year.   Actually, we haven’t visited that show in a long time as the one in Annapolis is so much better.  As a point of historical interest, the first time we went to the show in Newport was to tie the knot on our very first boat, a little 20′ cape cod catboat way back in 1979.   Yikes, that’s a long time ago.  I wonder how many “boat dollars” have washed through my fingers since that very first boat.  Better not think about that.  And, double better that Brenda not think about it either.

Compared to the guy that owns this little wonder, no make that a major wonder, all of the dollars that we have spent on boating wouldn’t even pay for the operating expenses for a single season, I’ll bet.  Pretty amazing craft.    If the photo doesn’t make it clear, this boat, er ship, is over 100′ long.   The mast is so high they have to display a red light, like a radio tower, to warn off planes at night.  This sweet little Stone Horse cutter is about the same size as our first boat, larger actually.  You can see how little she is as she passes one of the “big boys”.  And, there are no shortage of massive yachts in Newport. While we were there the New York Yacht Club was hosting races of their NY40s, a class of one-designs, all identical in design and outfitting.   These boats, as they prepared to race, paraded around the harbor in numerical order with flags flying.   Each boat has a number from one to twenty and they lined up in exact numerical order.   I’ll bet that there is a bit of politics in the order of the boats.  It’s probably better to be #1 than #20.   However, there must be a ton of pressure on #1 to perform.   They passed right by Pandora.  Each of the boats had crew lined up on the port rail in matching uniforms.  It was quite a show.  In spite of the fact that these boats are a bit smaller than Pandora, they are considerably more expensive.  I understand that to have one of these takes an investment of $1,000,000 or more.  And that doesn’t even take into account the many suits of sails needed to be competitive, year after year.   Playing this game clearly isn’t for the 99%.

It is often the case that owners of these boats own something else, a boat for a different purpose.   And, for the purposes of a harbor cruise with a G&T, nothing beats a Trumpy.  This is a sister ship, to Sequoia, that was once the presidential yacht.
There’s a boat design for every occasion.  How about this one that I saw at the boat show.  This photo was taken in Wickford, where Pandora is now, after the show closed.  It’s an HBI (hard bottom inflatable) with a twist.  While it has an outboard to use when on the water, it also has a built in generator and hydraulics that power the wheels when it’s coming up the beach and on the roads. I wonder where the license plates go?  Looks pretty complex to me.  I’ll bet that they won’t have a big market.   This baby has to be pretty pricey.  Look at the complex gear that raises and lowers the wheels.  Can you say “lifetime warranty”?  The manufacturer probably can’t either. The show, while not as good as the Annapolis Sailboat show, was fun.  I won’t bore you with the details except this neat new product.  It’s a remote controlled underwater camera by a company Aquabotix.  With 200 feet of cable, you could do a lot of exploring.   This guy, at a nearby booth, was not very impressed with all of the activity.  In spite of my best efforts, I was unable to get him to smile for the camera.  If there was ever a face that says more clearly “I am not impressed with you”, I haven’t seen it. However, I expect that he would have been pleased to join us for our dinner at the lovely White Horse Tavern, billed as the oldest tavern in the US from the 1600s.  The food was quite good and the atmosphere very quaint.   Perhaps he would have come along but I doubt would have been good for much conversation.   “What part of, no, I don’t want to talk to you while I eating, do you not understand?”
One of the oddest things to me about FaceBook is the tendency for folks to photograph their meals before they eat them.   Well, here goes, odd or not.  The salad we had was so nice looking I had to record it.  How about heirloom tomatoes with watermelon radishes?  I never had a watermelon radish.  Have you?I’ll bet that they owners of the estate, the Elms, that we toured while we were in town, had salads as nice, or nicer in this sun room.  We were told that parties for 400 were held in this home.  That’s a lot of lettuce.  Amazing.

I didn’t take a photo of the house itself, but this “out building” is pretty opulent and gives you a good feel for the main house.  I doubt that today’s 1% could come lose to affording this.  We had not taken a tour of one of the mansions in many years and I have to say that the self guided audio tour was very well done.  We could go at our own pace and enjoy the sections that we wished to dwell on .  I recommend it.  The Newport Preservation Society has quite a few mansions under their care and it would take a week to look at all of them. It was fun to be in Newport but it was a bit chilly as it’s so late in the season.  We had better head south soon…

On the road, er sea, again. Pandora launches :)

Finally, Pandora is back in the water again and getting ready to head out.  So, let our 2013/2014 season begin.

Pandora looking good and ready to go at the dock in Deep River.  As I write this,we are sitting on a mooring in West harbor on Fisher’s Island.  We left Deep River as planned at noon today and covered 34 miles against the tide in excellent time.  Arriving at Fisher’s at 16:00 we covered the distance at about 8 knots with a fresh SW breeze that topped out at some 20 knots as the afternoon wore on.  I always find myself exhausted the first night aboard as getting ready for a few days aboard takes about as much effort as getting ready to spend months cruising.

Brenda and I are headed for Newport to enjoy the sites of the city and spend some time at the boat show.  We have signed up to man the SSCA booth for a few hours on Sunday.  It’s a great group and we are happy to help out.   Anyone that spends a lot of time aboard should really be a member of this group.  Without them, we would never have attempted our run down the ICW and to the Bahamas.  Check them out at

This trip is a “shakedown” cruise after three months of work , some by me and some hired at the yard and so far, so good.   I do feel a bit of vibration in the engine that shouldn’t be there so I will have to have that checked out when I head back to the marina for final provisioning prior to heading south to Annapolis later in the month.    We will leave Pandora in Wickford for a few weeks prior to heading home for last minute details.  It’s pretty exciting to be looking forward to spending time at sea again.

I’ll be using the SPOT unit again for our upcoming trip.  So just click on the “where’s Pandora” link on the home page.

Let the season begin!!!

A cast of thousands and the rudder’s back into Pandora

Only a few days left till Pandora splashes and we begin our sailing season.  It seems like forever that I have been working to do everything needed to put her in tiptop shape for our trip south again this fall.

Friday was a particularly important day as I installed the new bearings and re-shipped the rudder.   I can’t believe how tough that job turned out to be as just getting out the old bearings was a bear.  After that I had to do all the measurements so that new bearings could be made.  Nothing off the shelf for Pandora, custom all the way.  Ugh!!!  But you knew that already as it was covered in older posts.

Anyway, the rudder is now back in and operational.  Whew!!!

There was a cast of thousands on hand for all the fun.  I can’t wait to get the bill. At the peak of the action, there were five guys on hand.  The 5th is operating the lift to pick up Pandora high enough to slip the rudder shaft into the lower bearing.  We actually put the rudder in twice as the first time we put everything together “dry” to be sure that it fit.  And it didn’t.  The upper bearing didn’t line up with the lower and middle one.  That sucked.

After what seemed like forever, everyone left me alone to determine next steps.  I ground out the inside of the sleeve that the upper bearing fit in to allow for some movement so that the shaft would like up properly.  In an operation where 1/1000 of an inch makes a difference, being off by 1/8″ was a huge miss.  Fixing the miss-alignment didn’t take as much time as you’d think.  I just jacked up the rudder, checked the fit, dropped it again, ground some more and so on.  After a while I was able to get everything in line.  Once all that was done, it fit perfectly.  Ok, dry fit, check.  Then, everything came apart, epoxy was slathered all over the bearings and we put the rudder back in, only this time, for good.  We also applied wax to the rudder shaft to be sure that any epoxy drips would not stick where they were not wanted.   This doesn’t look like much, but this is the upper bearing all epoxied into place.   Still nasty looking, you say?  Nothing like a new deck plate to make everything look OK.   Some things are best covered up and out of sight.Yesterday I re-installed all of the steering components and tuned things up.   This is what the space looked like prior to the install of the new bearings on Friday.   Not much here. And, a few hours later, pretty crowded.  Looks easy?  Sort of…I never thought that I could be excited about something as mundane as a plastic sleeve, the new mid-station rudder bearing.   Pretty slick.  The entire weight of the rudder assembly rests on the pin (bolt) on top of the black bearing.  I got a new bolt as I don’t want to take any chances.  I also fabricated some rollers from stainless steel tubing and some water pipe.  They help the rudder turn more smoothly.  Got to be sure that everything is solid and well secured as dropping the rudder into the ocean would make for a very bad day.  “Guess what Brenda, the rudder fell out.  No way to steer.”  Yes, a career limiting move,  no make that the end of my sailing career.  Best to avoid that…Yesterday I finished up on the rudder install with some final tweaks.  I also rebuilt one of the winches that was being a bit sluggish.  That was a messy job.  Lots of old grease to clean out.

I tackled some gelcoat repair where there were some imperfections in the cockpit.   One of the guys at the yard mixed up a matching color.  He did a fairly good job.  At least the patches will look better than having dark chips knocked out of the surface of the cockpit.

Today, still more little details to attend to.  Tomorrow, Tuesday, she’s supposed to splash.  I will be JUST SO HAPPY when all the work is done and we head out for a few days.

Soon I’l be lounging in the cockpit instead of squirming around in the aft locker.   Lounging is definitely better.  Yes, lounging, not squirming.    That would be good.

A “cocktail cruise” on Selden Creek and Pandora splashes next week!

It’s just so nice to live near the Connecticut River, a place that Brenda and I have enjoyed for so many years.  We have brought each of our five boats up to Essex and even to a tiny little creek off of the river, Selden Creek.  This is an amazingly idyllic spot off of the river and separated by Selden Neck, a nature preserve.  Happily, the creek is a short dink ride from the marina where Pandora has been hauled for the last few months.

Brenda and I took a “cocktail cruise” aboard Pandora’s dink the other evening to enjoy some wine and cheese while watching the scenery drift by.  The tide was flooding so we followed the current up the creek while watching the shoreline drift by.  The sun was low and the colors of the marsh were spectacular.  At a time of year when most everything is getting a bit yellow from lack of rain, the marsh was still lush and green.  As we drifted with the lazy current, the view behind us was so peaceful. Brenda looking pretty relaxed in the bow of the dink.  Happily, we had a few cushions for her to sit on.  The cliffs on the side of the creek brought back elicit memories from years ago when the boys jumped from them.  Yes, I know, it’s private property and jumping isn’t allowed any more.  So much for the progress of civilization. As we drifted with the current we came upon a white heron.  He/she wasn’t as happy to see us as we were to see him.  It was getting dark so we had to do double time on our way back to the marina.  No running lights…  Brenda just “loves” going fast in the dink.   Not!!!

It’s hard to believe that Pandora is actually going back in this coming week.  Our plan will be to join a Corinthians cruise to Shelter Island late next week and then on to Newport and Wickford.

Still a few last minute items to attend to on Pandora.  The last few days have been very busy getting everything installed.  The rudder’s back in but that’s the subject of another post.