Monthly Archives: May 2014

One of my Maine favorites. Boothbay Harbor

It’s Sunday morning on Memorial Day weekend.  Actually, I can’t believe that I am on dry land on a MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND, and don’t really mind.  Well, I don’t mind too much.  Old habits die hard, though.

For the 30+ years that we owned boats prior to my retiring, Memorial Day weekend was the official beginning of summer here in New England and it was took a “cold day in hell” to keep us at the dock or on the mooring, as it were, on this, the first long weekend of summer.

Actually prior to my “new life” of semi-leisure (I did cut the grass yesterday, and trim the roses and the cherry tree…), I can only recall a single memorial day weekend that we weren’t able to head out onto the water and that was years ago and a result of insurmountable mechanical “issues”.  No, I can’t recall the year and the exact problem, however.  And that is just as well as it was no doubt so traumatic that I repressed the memory.  To miss a long weekend…

However, it’s sufficient to say that it was a BIG DEAL.  Yes, there were rainy Memorial Day weekends but that generally wasn’t enough of a deterrent to keep us from heading out.  Sorry Brenda…   Well, now times are different.  At the very least, I just returned from several months in the Bahamas, but that’s another story and one that I have prattled on endlessly about in this blog.

So, what’s to talk about?   Maine!  Yes, Maine, where we will likely be heading later in the summer, after I complete my list of upgrades and repairs on Pandora.  However, it’s a holiday weekend and I don’t want to talk about things I have to do to get Pandora “ready” just now.

So, I’d prefer to talk about one of  my favorite spots in Maine and they are really great spots.  We have cruised to Maine many times, about 15 actually, not to put too fine a point on it. However, the last time we’ve been there was back in 2011.  Wow, that seems like a lifetime ago, alas I digress.

So, what are my favorite places to visit in Maine?   Glad you asked…  For now, I am going to just focus on one.  I’ll cover others in future posts, pretty soon, actually.  

So, Booth Bay Harbor:  This is a wonderful spot to begin a cruise “down east” as it’s in the mid coast part of well, “mid-coast” Maine.   There are some fun events scheduled according to the local chamber of commerce including an antique Lyman boat parade and viewing on Sunday August 10th.  There’s also a town wide celebration on August 22nd through the 24th in recognition of the 250th anniversary of the founding of Boothbay.  Sounds like fun.

One of our favorite ways to visit Boothbay is to take a mooring right down town from the Tugboat Inn.  The moorings are very close to town, a few hundred feet actually, and are protected by a tiny and very picturesque island.  I love the home that’s perched on it.   Not a bad view to enjoy coffee with in the cool mornings. This harbor is well protected and has most everything you might need including a good grocery about a 15 minute walk outside of town.    Of course, there’s plenty of “T shirt” shops but I wouldn’t hold that against them if I were you.

There are plenty of places to eat in town.  Two of our favorite are The Boat House Bistro.  We enjoy the third floor open air area with it’s great view of the harbor. We also enjoy a special meal at The Thistle Inn, just outside of town.   It has a very historic feel and the food is quite good. 

Of course, there’s lots more to do in Booth Bay Harbor but a simple Google search will give you more than I can in a single post.  For now, it’s sufficient to say that it’s a great place to visit.

However, one problem with this spot is that it’s a hard place to swap crew as there isn’t a car rental spot very close.   However, if you aren’t swapping crew.  Not a problem.  When I have to take on or relieve crew, my choice hands down, is Rockland.  Stay tuned for a post on that.

This is in no way a complete overview of Boothbay harbor but it will have to be enough for now as I have to get on with my day.  It is, after all, Memorial Day weekend.

That’s all for now.

Where’s Pandora…Going?

It’s Friday morning and it’s been a week since I returned home from the Bahamas.  Aside from cutting the lawn, planting gardens, setting mouse traps (a few moved in while we were away).  And, if you’re wondering, one down…

Anyway, in spite of a long “honey-do” list, I can’t help thinking about “what’s next” for us and Pandora.

As I have mentioned many times, being home during New England winters doesn’t hold a lot of attraction to me so one given for the 2014-15 winter is that we will be somewhere WARM.  Beyond that, nothing is certain.

One thing I am sure about is that I’d love to visit Maine again as it’s been several years since our last visit, 2011 actually, not to put too fine a point on it.

For many years, about 15 actually, we did visit Maine each summer and loved it. While I really enjoy the Bahamas, I might have to say that in a “shoot-out” I’d likely choose Maine.   I am in now way saying that I don’t like the Bahamas but Maine is just so magnificent.

No, you can’t swim in Maine unless you have the fortitude of a polar bear, but it’s just so, well, green.   There is nothing that compares with the water of the Bahamas but once you step ashore it’s pretty arid and I did miss the lovely shades of green that we have in the northeast.

So, what next?

One option we are thinking about is to make a run north to Maine this summer for perhaps a month and then we’d put Pandora up for the winter and fly somewhere.  As Brenda and I are splitting our time ashore and afloat, the options are winters afloat or summers afloat, with the balance of our time spent here on land.

However, it’s a tough call as the Bahamas are so beautiful… Although not too many places to eat out there and those nasty cold fronts that I wrote so much about last winter.

Maine, beautiful scenery, great spots to eat out.  But…the water is SO COLD.   No swimming in Maine.

Decisions, decisions…

So, the blue waters and secluded beaches of the Bahamas…Water so clear…. Yes, really clear.  Perfect scenery in Maine.   Camden, one of our favorite spots.  How’s this for a great view from the cockpit.  And a view from the Camden Hills of the harbor.  Pandora’s there in this shot.  She’s the white one.  Well, she’s there, trust me.  Besides, perhaps we’ll see Tenacious, owned by Dr. Bosarge, the guy who’s island, Over Yonder Cay, we visited in the Bahamas this winter.   I have written about this fabulous spot several times.  Most recently, following our visit in April of this year.  And last June when I found out about this wonderful island and its owner, Dr. Bosarge. 

While I didn’t know that we’d be visiting Dr. Bosarge’s spot in the Bahamas when I took this shot of Tenacious back in 2011 in Booth Bay Harbor Maine,  I just liked the boat, or should I say “yacht”.   Of course, the definition of a yacht is a boat used for pleasure that is bigger than yours.  Well, Tenacious, at 115′ certainly qualifies.  Besides, I was particularly struck by the cannons on board.   Now I know a bit about Dr. Bosarge and his love of antique weapons.  Cannons,  better than “blowing the conch” at sunset, at least in Maine. Who knows, perhaps he’ll be there again.  Maine it is… for sure, perhaps.  Well, we’ll see…

Of course, what does Brenda think.   Time will tell.

“Land” home. It’s good to be back.

It’s Saturday morning and Pandora will soon be on the hard again for some upgrades and repairs.  It seems like the process of keeping a boat “ship shape” is a never ending process.

Returning to the Essex Yacht Club a few days ago was fun and exciting as it closes a loop that began for me way back in September when I headed out for Annapolis.   Brenda was there to greet me as she had flown home from Nassau last week.

Approaching the dock.Back on dry land.  The run north from Nassau was uneventful if a bit light on the wind.  We had pretty good wind from Nassau to Cape Hatteras but from that point on, not enough. I had decided to head through NYC, as opposed to heading around Montauk,with the belief that we would have a better angle to the expected wind.  However, the winds were lighter than I had anticipated so that didn’t really help.  Actually, we motored most of the way from Hatteras to Essex and I ended up motoring into a pretty good easterly wind down Long Island Sound.  Perhaps it might have been better to go the other way past Montauk.  Alas, enough of that as I covered the trip in nauseating detail in posts last week.   

In any event, I am back and Pandora is about ready to be “decommissioned” for a bit after being underway for nearly a year.  It’s funny how “gremlins” take over on a boat as the months roll by.  In Pandora’s case, some of these issues cropped up and then mysteriously, resolved themselves.  Unfortunately, more often than not, most “issues” do not go away on their own.  Wishful thinking.

One thing that I was not counting on for this spring is hauling Pandora out of the water so soon.   As I have mentioned in past posts, perhaps in excessive detail, are the “issues” associated with my MaxProp and vibration in the drive train under power.  After sending the prop back for a rebuild last summer, I STILL have problems and am at a bit of a loss as to what do to.  Fortunately, the folks at MaxProp seem open to working with me but at this time I am inclined to just get a new prop and get rid of the old one that has caused so much annoyance.   The cost of a new prop is just part of the answer as the cost of putting Pandora on the hard is a significant expense as well.  Hope that gets resolved, once and for all.  

Even though Pandora will be out of commission or a while, I will continue to post regularly.  What I’ll write about is a mystery for me but I expect that I will be inspired as I go along.  I hope that you will be too and continue to come along with me over the coming months.

So, with just a few days at home since arriving here earlier in the week, I am already thinking about next winter and where Pandora will take us.  There are a number of options but for now I’ll leave that topic for a future post.

Today my son Christopher and his girlfriend Mercedes will join me aboard Pandora for the short run up the river from the Essex Yacht Club to a marina in Deep River where Pandora will sit while work is done on her.    It’s funny, as others are scrambling to put their boats in the water for Memorial Day weekend, Pandora’s about to take a rest ashore.

Speaking of resting, I have to say that after a week of disrupted sleep aboard Pandora as we made our way up from the Bahamas,  I am finding myself a bit “boat lagged”, if  such a condition is possible.   One way or the other, it seems that I have been working hard to catch up on the lost sleep over the last week.   Perhaps voyaging on small boats should carry warning.   “Do not operate heavy equipment while using this product.”   No wait, Pandora is a piece of heavy equipment.  Hmm…

Perhaps it’s not the lost sleep at all but more a issue of being on dry land with so many more chores to do that has me dragging.  It’s harder being on dry land. Aboard Pandora it seems that not much takes place before noon.  I am afraid that shoreside living is much more like work.

Work!!!  Work, now that’s a scary concept.    I am so glad I don’t have that to contend with.   

On dry land….  All is not lost as we live close to the water so “aquatics” will never be far from us.  I look forward to enjoying lovely views along the CT River over the next few months.  It’s great to be home, indeed.

No wait, I’ll head home now.

It’s Wednesday morning and I awoke to a view of the lighthouse at the entrance of the CT River and the estate of the late Katherine Hepburn.   If you are wondering, it’s still for sale.  Interested?  Not sure?  Check it out here.   Perhaps I’ll make a run down there later in the week to see if the place would be worth the $30,000,000 they are asking.   Looks pretty nice from my vantage point.And a nice view of the lighthouse at the entrance to the CT River. You might be wondering how I found myself anchored off of the entrance of the CT River so early in the morning.  Well, after spending the yesterday tied up at the dock at the Norwalk Yacht Club, I decided that I would take advantage of the outgoing tide and make the run down last night toward Essex and home.   Besides, I took a long nap at the dock yesterday afternoon and felt quite rested. Well, as rested as one can be after being underway for the last week from Nassau. 

After nearly 1,200 miles I couldn’t stand the fact that I was a mere 50 miles from my goal and sitting on a dock.   So, I dropped the lines and got underway.

The primary reason I was waiting at Norwalk YC was for the strong easterly winds to die down and as evening approached that’s exactly what began to happen.   While the winds were pushing to twenty, with higher gusts, during the day, they began to drop prior to dark.  Unfortunately, they didn’t end up dropping as much as I had hoped but did so enough for me to make progress.

As the ebb tide gained steam, my speed over the bottom increased so I was able to make good progress with peak current pushing me along at over 2.5kts.   That might not sound very fast but the 5.5kts that Pandora was moving, combined with the push of the current, we were tooling along at nearly 8kts, in the dark… And, I was alone onboard as I had said goodbye to my crew earlier in the day.

Believe me, as I threaded my way past shoals and reefs, in the wee hours of this morning, I felt like I was on a runaway train.

So, at around 03:15 this morning I dropped the hook just behind the breakwater for the CT River and headed right for bed.

I awoke to a brisk 54 degree cabin at 07:00 to the sound of Pandora’s boom creaking in the cross swell coming around the breakwater.   No, it might have been the feeling of my cheek hitting a 50 degree pillow.   Anyway, I woke up.

It’s very calm now and I could have waited till today when the wind was lower to make the final run to the CT River but I would not have had a fair tide as I did earlier this morning.  And, in this area the tide really runs hard.

By leaving last night, I was able to enjoy the push of the ebb and now I can catch the morning tide flood up the river and on to Essex.

Well, the tide is running  up the river now so I’d better get going.  I also have to check into Cruiseheimers SSB radio net and let them know I have arrived home safely.

And yes, Brenda’s going to meet me at the club to give me and Pandora  a proper welcome home.Yup, time to go as  time and tide wait for no man.   It will be good to be home.  

First, good by to my new neighbor Kate H.  Bye Kate!


Oops, not there yet.

It’s Tuesday and I am sitting on a dock at Norwalk Yacht Club in Darien CT.  Oops, I was supposed to be in Essex today.  Last night we stopped here around to drop Jim so he could take a cab to a train to deliver him home to VA.

The plan was to let him off and immediately continue east toward the Connecticut River and home.  However, As you can imagine, after being underway for a week, we were pretty tired.  So, I decided to anchor and catch some rest and head out in the morning to go the last 50 miles to Essex.  As we motored down the sound from New York, it was glassy calm so how much different could it be in a few hours?

Feeling pretty good about a nap, and an early start on Wednesday we dropped the hook for the night.  Well, at 04:00 I was awakened by the sound of wind rattling the rigging and the wind blowing about 20kts from the east, THE EAST, exactly where we would need to go.    What happened?   I thought that we had listened to the NOAA weather report and they said the south with a shift to the east but not right away.  Somehow I missed the shift to the east thing. 

Well, just in case it wasn’t as bad as I feared, we got going by 05:30 and motored out around the point only to see, first hand, that we could make little progress motoring into 20+ apparent wind.   I should note that the forecast called for 5-10 from the east,  a lot different than 20 with gusts.  What do do?  After a week of moving toward our destination, I was very reluctant to stop and ditch the boat for a few days and take a train home.

Besides, after making great progress for 1,000+ miles, to abandon Pandora so close to the “finish line”  didn’t set well with me.

As we motored up the Sound from New York last evening it didn’t even occur to me that the expected front would be felt here so quickly.  Last time I “looked” it wasn’t coming till tonight or later.  Oh well, as they say, “If you don’t like the weather, wait an hour”.  Let’s hope that applies in a good way too.

As Wednesday’s weather calls for light easterly winds, perhaps I’ll just hang out here and clean up Pandora a bit from months away from a dock in the Bahamas and, not to forget, a week of sailing offshore.

Perhaps a nap first?   Quick, call 911 Bob’s taking a nap in the middle of the day.  So much for my Protestant, New England upbringing.  It’s practically a “school day”.

Before I break, I’ll include a shot of the NYC newly renovated clubhouse.   From our 15 years of membership, I know that these improvements were a long time coming.  Nice result…Perhaps if I wait an hour, the wind will calm down.  Ever hopeful…

Oh yeah, it’s not even a little bit “Bahamas Balmy”  How about low 60s?  Now that’s going to take a bit of getting used to.

Into the final stretch and entering New York… Nearly home

It’s Monday morning, biscuits are in the oven and the sun is peaking over the eastern horizon.  It’s a good day aboard Pandora. 

Last night was uneventful as we motored past the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River.  As the moon set we were passing Atlantic City.  Let me tell you, you can’t miss it as the rest of the coastline of NJ is black at night.  Atlantic City, not so dark.

We have spent much of the time since rounding Hatteras under power as the wind hasn’t been strong enough to sail.  The light wind we have been experiencing, or “not experiencing” as it were, is a result of the whole area being under the influence of a high pressure weather system.  However, along with bringing nice weather, the “high” has brought very light winds and the motor or “iron wind” is purring away, keeping us on the move.   As my dad used to say, “that’s why God invented engines”.  And, happily, we have one of those to keep Pandora moving along when the “wind don’t blow”.

It looks like we will be rounding Sandy Hook, and entering the lower harbor of New York late this afternoon and will enjoy a fair flooding tide to carry us up through the harbor, the East River and into western Long Island Sound.  It will be good to be back in “home” waters after so many months away.

I left CT way back in late September to begin my run south, going from Essex to Annapolis.   It seems like another lifetime.   Given the winter that everyone experienced up in CT, I am so thankful that we were somewhere warmer.  I don’t like the image of myself being found frozen stiff with one hand clutching a bill from the oil company as I tried to make my way back inside during one of the many storms those who were tougher than I endured over the last few months.

I’s prefer not to think about ice (except in a rum punch) right now so back to the present…

Our plan is for us to stop in Norwalk CT late this evening so that Jim, that’s “crew Jim”, can get off the boat and catch an overnight train back to Williamsburg VA.   That works well as I can drop him at Norwalk Yacht Club, where I used to be a member.  Getting a cab to the train is very convenient from there.

Before Jim jumps ship, I think I’d better post a photo of Pandora’s crew, Jim and Rich, who gave up a week of their lives to help me bring Pandora home.  Thanks guys.  I made sure that both Jim and Rich cleaned up as best as they could to sit for this photo. Looking a bit shabby?  I guess it’s the best they can do after being underway aboard a small boat for a week.  Well, they were at least well fed if now “well cleansed”.    Please don’t read into the “arm around Jim thing”.  It’s not what it seems, really.   Pandora’s a happy ship but not that happy.  After dropping Jim in Norwalk we’ll likely take “nap” and get going at first light to resume our run down the Sound for the short 60 mile run to Essex and home.  It’s funny to think about that run as “short” as I have made it so many times over the years.  Back in “another lifetime” making a run of that distance would have seemed like a lot but after putting some 4,000 miles on Pandora going down to the Bahamas and back , since September, a 60 mile run seems pitifully short.   Funny how perspectives change.

It’s been a great run for the last week from Nassau even if the last few days have provided less wind than I would have liked for sailing.  Romping along, with all sails flying, is certainly better than motoring for hours, no make that days, at a time.

I guess that expecting to spend a week on the water with fair winds the entire time is probably asking too much.    Even more important than the question of “wind or no wind”, is that what wind there has been was behind us for the entire time.  That’s good.  Sailing down wind is vastly more enjoyable, that’s for certain.   As is often said, “gentlemen do not sail to windward”, and I agree.  Bashing into the waves is not my idea of fun.  I’d much prefer to “have the wind at my back” any day.  Or, to put it another way, downhill is easier than uphill.

I am really excited about being home after so many months away.  To that point, even such as little thing as activating my phone so I can make some calls and check e- mail was quite a thrill after months of having those basic conveniences well, not so convenient.   I won’t talk about how many calls to tech support at Verizon that took.  All better now.

Another thrill, and I am easily amused,  is putting up this post myself with that much coveted Internet access via my phone.   Brenda has been terrific about posting for me over the last week but it’s so convoluted to write the post, send the file over the SSB radio so that Brenda can log into my site and make the post.   Today, just log into my site and post.  Instant gratification!!!

It’s so funny how addicted we, well at least me, have become to being “online” 24/7 over the last few years.  Me?  I love it and am thrilled to have “instant access” again.

It was great to be in the Bahamas enjoying sun and warmth while others were up in the “frozen north”.   However, with all that hedonistic stuff came many “hardships” such as limited access to FaceBook.   Pitty me?  Perhaps not.

Anyway, I am happy to be nearly home and can’t wait to cut the lawn again.  Did I mention that we have a BIG lawn?  Ah, the smell of freshly cut grass…  I am sure that the thrill of dragging out the mower will wear off soon enough.

Of course, there’s always next winter to look forward to.

I suppose that I should close with a photo of the little guy that joined us a few days ago and camped out in the head.   Alas, sniffle sniffle, he didn’t make it and was buried at sea.  Perhaps if he’d sampled some of my cooking it might have turned out differently.    I guess I’ll never know…

“Bob, Bob, stop being so &%$@#% maudlin.  It’s depressing.  Besides, you are nearly home.”OK, OK.  Thanks, I needed that.  He really was a very cute birdy…

That’s all for now…


Crossing the Line: Long Pants and Sweaters All of a Sudden!

It’s Sunday morning, mother’s day and I am not with my mother.  In fact, I can’t even call her as we are way too far from land to get any Cell reception.   Oh well, at least I am on my way home and will see her later this week.  I wonder if that will begin to compensate for being away for these months?  “Mom, I am thinking about you!  Honest!”  Hmm…

Anyway, as Scarlett O’Hara, in Gone with the Wind, once quipped, “I won’t think about that today, I’ll think about that tomorrow.”  Indeed, that’s the best I can do for now.

Yesterday we rounded Cape Hatteras and exited the Gulf Stream.  Good bye warm water.  I recall years ago when I sailed on a boat from Bermuda to New York that the weather changed dramatically in the short distance it took to cross the Gulf Stream from south to north.  The weather went from warm and humid to cool in just a few miles.

And yesterday that’s exactly what happened.   For the last four months I have been in shorts, short sleeved shirts and sandals and haven’t even thought about having a sheet over me at night, much less a blanket.  Well, in the course of a few hours yesterday, all that changed.   A few hours after rounding Hatteras and adjusting our course for New York, the temperature dropped dramatically.  Off came the shorts and on came the long pants.  As it got dark I broke out a fleece and my foul weather gear, along with a wool cap.  Sleeping with a blanket last night, yet another “new” experience.  Yikes, I thought summer was coming.

It’s nearly noon and the thermometer in Pandora’s cabin shows 72 degrees.  Heck, I haven’t seen temps below 80 for months.  What a jolt to my delicate system.

In the 600 miles from central Florida to the Outer Banks of North Carolina you’d expect the temperatures to become gradually cooler but we didn’t really experience much of a change beyond a drop of a few degrees since leaving Nassau Bahamas.   However, once we left the embrace of the warm waters of the Gulf Stream.   Down the temps went, and fast.

As was once said,  “Dorothy, you aren’t in Kansas any more”.  And how.  Yes, it’s cooler but soon, as the summer heat kicks in, I’ll be complaining about the hea .  Oh yeah, so, what’s with that?  Two movie quotes in a single post?    I always liked “go ahead, make my day”…   Bob, Bob, the first two quotes were cute but the Clint Eastwood one has absolutely nothing to do with anything.  Stop it, NOW!

Never mind…

We had an amazing sail yesterday from early morning when the wind came back up until about 22:00 (That’s 10:00pm) when a squall line came through.  That was pretty interesting with dramatic lightning in the distance.  Happily, it never really got close to us so we were able to enjoy the show but weren’t subjected to too much wind.   However, as the line passed, we were left with north winds on the nose, although they were light, for the rest of the night.   At least my batteries are now fully charged.

So, we motored for about 10 hours until 08:00 this morning when the wind picked sufficiently to sail.  Now, it’s nearly noon and we are moving along very nicely, sans motor.

For some additional excitement last night we were treated to a “close encounter” with a 100′ long commercial fishing boat.  We were on a course that would have had us passing behind them but as they got close they made a dramatic course change and began heading directly for us.  I was called up on deck, made a quick course change and came a lot closer to them than any of us wanted.    It seemed like he didn’t even see us but who knows.   That was stressful, especially as they were much bigger than us.

We also enjoyed an interesting situation where two large ships came close to us, one coming from the west out of the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and another crossing our bow from the east, heading into the Bay.  Normally, the best option, when being approached by a large ship, is to adjust our course and speed so that we cross behind any large ships.  It’s not prudent, as you can imagine, to go in front of something that weighs THOUSANDS OF TONS.  However, in this case, there were two approaching us at the same time, from reciprocal directions.  This meant that to go “behind” one put us in front of the other.    Our solution, s-l-o-w-w-a-y-d-o-w-n and after about 45 minutes at a snail’s pace, both passed and we were clear.   Much less exciting than the fishing boat…

Today, now that the wind has picked up we are again sailing along nicely toward our next destination, Sandy Hook New Jersey.  If we are able to keep our current speed today and overnight, we should enter New York harbor at some point mid afternoon tomorrow, in time for the flooding tide that will carry us up the harbor and into Long Island Sound.

It’s been a long trip but one that has provided for some excellent sailing and weather.  To get a favorable weather window that lasts a full week really is a treat.

I am looking forward to being home in a few days and celebrating a belated Mother’s Day, with Brenda and my very own mother.  And, I am even a little excited about wearing long pants and even “real” shoes when I get there.  “Kansas” was nice but I am excited about being home too.

So, that’s my report and I’m sticking to it…

Hatteras Abeam….Are We There Yet??

It’s Saturday morning and we are about to pass Cape Hatteras which will put us about 2/3s of the way home.

Much of yesterday we motored with light winds.  However, as soon as sunset approached, we were able to shut down the engine and sail all night.  For the last few days we have been in what is referred to a diurnal wind pattern where there is a nice breeze at night and less in the daylight hours.  At about 05:30 this morning the wind went much lighter and I had to again turn the engine on, beginning a third day of this pattern.   However, the wind picked up again so happily, we are sailing again.  Such is sailing on passage…

As I mentioned in my last few posts, we have been following a series of waypoints up the coast, provided by Chris Parker, the weather router, with the goal of keeping us well within the Gulf Stream to take advantage of the best current.  These “imaginary” points have worked well until mid-day yesterday when we found ourselves too far east where we lost the 3-4 knot current that had been giving us a boost since Florida.  And, for a while, we actually encountered a very frustrating “counter current” or “eddy” where the current turned against us for several hours.  We weren’t really sure what to do to solve the problem but we made a decision to head a bit further west which ended up working and allowed us find the favorable current again.

I don’t have a lot of experience in transiting the Gulf Stream as this is my first time to navigate my own boat in the Stream going north.  As we found ourselves at the eastern “wall” of the Stream yesterday, we began to encounter long streams of floating seaweed, something that you often find when a current meets water that is from another direction or not moving.  This floating vegetation combined with a dramatic reduction in our speed over the bottom gave us our first clues that we were not in the right place to get a boost from the northbound current.

We also found that the sea-state became much more unsettled with a 4-5′ confused chop developing, seemingly out of nowhere.  This was in dramatic contrast to the very settled conditions that we had been experiencing earlier in the day and have as I write this.   Fortunately, the waves settled down nicely when we found our way back into the stream some hours later in the evening.  It makes sense that things would kick up a bit at the boundary where the fast moving and warm Gulf Stream connected with more stationary and cooler ocean waters.  Happily, we are again enjoying settled seas and a good 3+kt boost from the stream.

As we pass Cape Hatteras we will adjust our course a bit and likely head to Montauk, at the end of Long Island.  Based on Chris’s forecast today, it seems that we will have very strong south west winds for the next few days.  Our best guess, and it’s a rough guess is that we will round Montauk at some point Monday afternoon so we can take advantage of a flooding tide to carry us into Long Island Sound and on to Essex.  Going through eastern LI Sound against the current is not easy at all as the currents in that area of the Sound are fierce.  If the forecast changes we might end up diverting through New York City as that’s an option too.

So far, so good with favorable wind and current, we are moving along nicely.  Fingers crossed, it will hold through Monday or Tuesday.  That would be good.
Well, we’ll have to see how things develop.  Enough passage planning for now.

Yesterday we had a feathered visitor, a small sparrow sized bird that landed on Pandora.   As we were quite a distance from land I expected that he/she was pretty tired.  “Oh God, your ocean is so big and my wings so small.”  We are often visited by small birds when we are on passage so I was not surprised by his arrival.   During other passages we have often had feathered visitors but they usually only stayed aboard for a few hours.  However, our visitor yesterday wasn’t content with just hanging out on deck, as has been the case in the past, and kept coming in through open ports and bumping around down below in the cabin.   After “helping” him out of the cabin 3 or 4 times I again found him in the aft head and decided to let him hang out there until we were closer to land.

I have often wondered what happens to these little birds that find themselves so far out to sea if there isn’t a boat for them to land on.  There must be a lot of these little critters flying around offshore as we are visited on nearly every offshore passage.  I assume that they are really tired out and landing aboard is a “last ditch” move of desperation and certainly better than ditching in the water.  That wouldn’t be good at all.   Oddly, birds that find themselves aboard Pandora often come right into the cockpit and sometimes even perch right near or even on our crew.   For wild birds to act so “tame” certainly suggests that they are not feeling quite “normal”.

Well, our little feathered visitor was clearly not feeling well at all and died early last night, perhaps from exhaustion and fright from his many visits into our cabin.   Too bad.  However, we gave him a dignified burial at sea, hopefully better than he would have had if Pandora wasn’t around to be used as a “semifinal” resting spot.

On a brighter note, regarding our arrival in CT, it looks like we will round Montauk at some point on Monday afternoon which would put us in Essex late Monday or Tuesday morning.   It is critical that we get into port by Tuesday as the wind is supposed to shift to the north which would force us to put in somewhere to wait for more favorable winds, a delay that I’d prefer to avoid.  On one trip a few years ago, on another boat, the trip took nearly two weeks with a stop for repairs and weather delays.  A week from Nassau to Essex is plenty long for me.

In any event, things are going well and I am taking advantage of the motor running to make some water for showers as we are all feeling a bit salty and sticky.  Showers for all!  Yahoo!!!

Well, only about 350 miles to go to Sandy Hook.   There was a time when that would have seemed like a VERY LONG WAY to me.   These days, still a long way, but no longer long enough to be written in CAPITOL letters.

I am really looking forward to spending time at “home” even if I will have to cut the lawn.  After months in a very arid Bahamas, all that green will be downright intoxicating.

Halfway Home and Speeding along….NOT

It’s Friday morning and we are about 200 miles south of Cape Hatteras and just a bit more than half way home.   For the last two days we have been navigating from waypoint to waypoint provided by Chris Parker, the weather router, with the goal of staying in the middle of the Gulf Stream to make the most of the 3-4 knot northward flow of this north flowing “conveyor belt”.

As I have mentioned, and you probably know, the “stream” is a massive “river” of water moving up the coast from the Gulf of Mexico toward the North Atlantic, carrying a huge amount of tropical heat along with it.  This flow has a dramatic effect on the climate of the North Atlantic as well as coastal areas such as England and parts of Europe which would be substantially cooler without the heat that the stream delivers.

As I understand it, this flow is a result of the strong easterly trade winds that blow relentlessly, day after day, month after month, across from Africa toward the Caribbean.  As these strong winds blow from west to east, they cause currents to form that flow toward the west, through the Caribbean and into the Gulf of Mexico.  As a result, water builds up as it reaches Central America and has to go somewhere.  And, the only place for this water to go is around the north side of Cuba, past the Florida Keys and north between the Bahamas and Florida.   I don’t know how much water the Gulf Stream pushes past Florida each hour but when you consider that the Gulf Stream is about 40 miles at that point and about a mile deep, that’s a lot of water moving along at an average speed of say 3-4 knots.  Let’s see, I guess that would be about 12 cubic miles of water every hour.  Hmm…  Hard to wrap my head around that one.  It’s probably safe to say that that’s more water than flows from every river in the world, combined.   I can’t “Google that” so perhaps you can tell me if I am on the right track.  Well?

Anyway, we are still in the midst of the Gulf Stream and making our way north.  Another thing that strikes me when I am on passage is just how S-L-O-W sailing really is.  Brenda left Nassau and flew home in a few hours.  Us, we will take a week.  They say that the world is getting smaller but when you are on a sailboat it’s still VERY, VERY BIG.  As a rule of thumb, it takes a day in a sailboat to go the distance a car can go in a few hours.  That’s unless, of course, unless you live in New York.  Never mind, it’s too early for such sophomoric comparisons and is probably akin to questions that I might have asked when I was in college, late on a Friday night like “what if there was no gravity”.

Ok, so here’s where we stand.  With 200 miles between us and Cape Hatteras, we have covered about 570nm (nautical miles) from the Bahamas and have about 620nm left to go for a total distance of about 1,200nm.   However, the distance that Pandora has gone “through the water” is less as the Gulf Stream has been giving us a boost for several days of between 3-4 MPH.   Because of this, the mechanical log, a small paddle wheel on the bottom of the boat, only shows about 400 NM.  That’s a big difference; a combination of the positive flow of the Gulf Stream combined with any problems with the calibration of my mechanical log.  One way or the other, by boat, it’s still a LONG way home…

Some time back I noted that cruising is often described as “boat repair in exotic places” and we got a small dose of that yesterday.  When we are using the engine, I open up the engine compartment a number of times each day to check and to be sure that all is well.  I check coolant levels in the engine, signs of oil leaks and look for any stray water in the bilge.  Yesterday during one of these checks, I noticed a very small amount of water weeping from a drain hole that comes out from behind the engine.  So, I pulled up the cover to the engine in the aft cabin and discovered that there was a small leak in at the top of the muffler where cooling water is injected into the exhaust.  The leak was more of a drip but I could imagine it becoming a BIGGER leak over time.  And, if it really broke, we’d have water and diesel exhaust being pumped into the boat.  That wouldn’t be good, not good at all.

So, we stopped the engine and sailed as best we could, given the very light winds at the time, and considered how to address the problem.  Happily, I carry lots of spare parts and “goops” of various sorts. In this case, I had some epoxy putty that hardens in about 20 minutes and is very sticky and turns rock hard when cured.  We cleaned up the offending area and gooped it up using half of the package.   When this was hardened we fired up the engine again.  Alas, there was still a very small leak where we had ended the patch, half way around the fitting.  Happily, I still had half of the package left so we continued the “patch” the entire way around the fitting.  SUCCESS!  No more leak, for now…  Fingers crossed.  No, make that fingers and toes crossed. I’m optimistic.

I was pretty proud of myself to have had something aboard that would solve the problem.  The difficulty in having spare parts and repair “potions” aboard as it’s impossible to know what’s going to fail, and something ALWAYS fails.  In this case, while I didn’t have a spare for the piece itself, I did have “goop” and goop can solve a lot of ills.  Problem solved, at least for now.   As Gilda Radner used stay “It’s always something”.  Yes, indeed and double that on a boat.

As I write this we are motoring along merrily, still with a 3-4 kt boost in speed over the bottom, compliments of the Gulf Stream, that we will carry for the next 200 miles until we reach Cape Hatteras and exit the Gulf Stream.  At that point, it’s a straight shot of of about 380 miles to Montauk Long Island where we will enter Long Island Sound.

According to Chris Parker, the weather router, we should begin seeing solid SW winds beginning tonight or tomorrow ,Saturday, as we exit a fairly windless ridge that is between us an Hatteras.

It’s amazing how wind speed and direction can vary, even over very short distances.  Our friends on Kalunamoo left the Bahamas at the same time we did but left from the Abacos, about 100 miles north and east of Nassau.  While we have had wind of about 10-15kts much of the time, they have had to motor the entire way, usually on glassy calm waters with virtually no wind.  As of two days ago they were about 200 miles east of us and just a moment ago we heard from them on the VHF radio that they were able to work their way west and are now about 40 miles behind us in the Gulf Stream.   And, now they are the ones sailing and we are under power.  However, as they enter the area where we are now, they will likely lose the wind and not pick it up again until they clear Hatteras.  Are you following this?  I sort of am…

So, as we continue to head north I am hopeful the Chris Parker’s forecast will hold and we will pick up wind tonight and carry these SW winds for the rest of the trip.

So, when will we be home?

If we can carry an average speed of 7kts for the rest of the trip, and we probably can even do a bit better than that, we will be in Essex at some point on Monday, a six day run from Nassau.  That would be quite good.   Well, we’ll have to see what Mother Nature has in store for us.

And, I have to remind myself that we are only half way home and a lot can happen between here and there.  Besides, we still have to pass Hatteras, the “graveyard of the Atlantic”.  No, probably not a threat in the next few days but hey, you never know.

“Bob, Bob, stop it, you’re getting dramatic!!!”.

Happy Ship, Happy Trip Aboard Pandora

It’s 03:00 on Thursday morning and all is well aboard Pandora.  Jim and Rich are sleeping below and I have been on watch for less than an hour.  The moon has set, the stars are out in profusion and there is a phosphorescent glow in the water surrounding Pandora and streaming off in her wake.  It’s a truly remarkable time to be out on the ocean making passage.

We are about 1/3 of the way through our voyage from the Bahamas to home in CT and I have to say that I am enjoying this trip more than perhaps any I have taken in 40+ of sailing.  Pandora’s performing well with no major issues and the weather, THE WEATHER, is perfect; Sunny warm days and pleasantly cool nights.  I have even taken to wearing shoes, if only at night, can you believe it?  I haven’t had shoes on since leaving home in late January.  Who knew?

With a third of our 1,300 miles behind us, we have been able to sail the entire way, all but a few hours, without running the engine.
Conditions have been about perfect with a nearly flat sea and winds that are running in the 10-15 kt range on the beam or just behind, ideal for Pandora.  Our speed through the water have been consistently in the 5 to 7 knot range, which is great for fairly light winds.  Unfortunately, the forecast for today is for the wind to go light so we will likely be motoring much of today until the wind fills in from the south.  I’ll learn more from Chris Parker later this morning.

With regards to putting miles under our keel, what’s even better is that we have been able to keep Pandora in the strongest part of the Gulf Stream for nearly the entire time since leaving the Bahamas, giving us over-the-bottom speeds in the 8-9kt, sometimes 10kt range for the last two days.   The “stream” runs north at a good 3-4 knot clip which adds to our speed as we move along.

The near perfect conditions that we are enjoying are in stark contrast to those being “enjoyed” by our friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo who are about 200 miles east of us.  They left about the same time as we did but from the northern Bahamas. I have been speaking to Bill each morning and evening on the SSB long range radio to compare notes and their experience has been very different.  While we are having moderate and favorable winds, Kalunamoo has had virtually no wind.  That’s amazing as they aren’t very far from us. They have had to motor the entire time and I can assure you that listening to the drone of a motor 24 hours a day can get pretty old.

What’s causing the difference in conditions is that there is a high pressure area east of us that is surpassing the wind so while we are sailing merrily along Bill and Maureen have no wind and have had to keep the motor running the entire time so far.  I am certainly sorry about their plight but am happy that we are where we are.

Speaking of “where we are”, our current position puts us nearly 70 miles from land and off of St Augustine FL.  It’s hard to believe that we have been underway nearly two days and are still in FL.  It’s a big state.   Of course, you can check out “where’s Pandora” on this site and see where we are on a Google Map.   As I have mentioned, we “push the button” on our GPS transponder every four hours to keep everyone up to date on where we are.

It’s certainly hard to say exactly when we will be back to CT but it’s looking like it could be as early as Monday or Tuesday.  Of course, as they say in the investment community, “past performance is no predictor of future returns” but we are making good time and I am hopeful that our good fortune will continue.   Yes, indeed, and as Brenda says, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful”.

Or, on the other hand, as my dad used to say, “we’ll be there when we get there”.

Having good weather has been just terrific and I am appreciative of Chris Parker, the weather router, for giving me forecasts that have turned out to be spot on.  He also provided me with coordinates for the Gulf Stream which I am following as we head up the coast.  In southern Florida the “stream” is well defined and very close to shore, but as it heads north, it becomes more diffuse, with eddies and meanders along the edges.  These “eddies or meanders” can be very frustrating as while currents a few miles away might be running 3-4 knots to the north, you can find yourself in an area where the currents may suddenly head off to the east or west.  Happily, our task heading north is simple, as we are just trying to stay in the middle of the stream where the currents are quite consistent. Chris provided me a series of about 10 waypoints to put in my navigation plotter and steer for as we head from the Bahamas to Cape Hatteras.  This course looks like a gentle curve the northeast after we hit Georgia and, at times, diverges from a northerly course to one that’s nearly east in direction.  Yes, this means that we are not going the most direct route but with a 3-4 knot current pushing us along we get quite a boost to our speed and will cover the distance faster.

Sailors spend a lot of time thinking about what constitutes an “ideal cruising boat” and one of the greatest attributes of Pandora in this area is her ability to sail in conditions with marginal wind.  The fact that she can keep up a respectable turn of speed with winds in the 10-15 knot range is remarkable with most cruising boats needing at least 15 knots to keep moving well.  Pandora can make good speed in conditions where most boats will need to have their motor on to make progress.  I am also appreciative of her easy motion as she reels off the miles.  There have been many times in the last few days when I was resting down below and thought we were nearly dead in the water only to learn that we were moving well but so smoothly that it was hard to tell we were making any progress at all.

As I sit here, alone in the cockpit writing this post, I am also enjoying the fact that there isn’t another sole within some 50 miles of our position.  The VHF radio is silent and there are no lights on the horizon in any direction except a gentle glow to the west, I guess from St Augustine.  The radar and AIS confirm that there isn’t a ship anywhere near us.  As we were leaving the Bahamas yesterday and were near Miami and Ft Lauderdale, there were dozens of ships to contend with and some were on a course that would cross our path so keeping a careful watch was critical and often stressful.   Twice, on our first night out, I had to contact nearby ships to confirm that they saw us and confirm what they’d like me to do to avoid getting into trouble.

Now that the three of us, me Jim and Rich, have settled in to a routine aboard, I am less concerned about keeping two on deck for each watch which is making things easier and allowing us to get more rest.  On our first night out, as is customary for me the first night when making passage, I wanted two on deck at all times.  Given the fact that we were in pretty congested waters and both Jim and Rich were not familiar with Pandora, I wasn’t comfortable having just one of them on deck while I was down below.  As a result, none of us got much sleep.  Me, perhaps an hour all night.    That’s in marked contrast to tonight, when I slept from shortly after dinner till I woke up for watch around 02:00 this morning.  If feel very well rested.  That’s nice.

Now that we are in a less busy shipping area and everyone is better acquainted with the boat, I am comfortable with having only one on deck at a time.  The watch schedule is pretty easy with Jim on deck from 20:00 (8:00pm) to 23:00, Rich from 23:00 to 02:00 and me for three hours till 05:00 when Jim takes over again.

At 06:00, each day, I listen to Chris Parker’s forecast and talk to him to get an updated forecasts for my area.  At 08:30 I check in with Cruiseheimers, the SSB Net, to give my position as well as with the Do-Da net at 17:00.  I have also been speaking with Bill on Kalunamoo in the morning and evening to see how they are doing.  It’s nice to know that we are able to communicate with others in spite of being so far out in the ocean.  We are very aware that we are truly on our own out here but it’s nice to be in touch with others.

I also check e-mail several times a day to get news from home as well as my evening weather update from Chris Parker.

All of these activities along with cooking and keeping the boat in shape keep me pretty busy but still allows for plenty of down time to catch up on my reading.

All in all this run is shaping up to be the best one for me in nearly 40 years of sailing and at 1,300 miles non stop, the longest yet.

So, what next?  While Brenda and I have talked about what we will do next winter, I have to say that making the run to the Caribbean, a trip I have wanted to do for years, is sounding very appealing.

Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  Alas, still no pictures.  I could send a shot of water but while it’s a lovely shade of cobalt blue, well, it’s just blue.    I guess I’ll just have to see how many more meteors I can count before the day begins.
Wish me luck for continued smooth sailing aboard Pandora.  Signing off…