Monthly Archives: May 2015

Looks like Pandora owns us now.

It’s Wednesday morning and Memorial day weekend has come and gone.  The marina parking lot, that had been full to capacity with double parked cars just one day ago, was virtually empty as everyone had gone back to work after the long weekend.

I have been unpacking and organizing Pandora from her run north and trying to sort through all of the gear that we had quickly stowed aboard as well as the stuff that the last owner had left.  As their new boat is a trawler, a big switch from a sailboat, they decided to go with an all new color scheme.  As a result, they left some of the custom touches such as throw pillows and linens which was great for us.

Speaking of the bunk, the mattress is not just a foam cushion as we have had on our other boats, but an actual custom made innerspring mattress.  It’s very comfortable.  They also left custom sheets, designed to perfectly fit the mattress.  I put them on yesterday and we are very pleased with how they look.  Yes, it’s a bit tough to make up a Pullman berth but the results were very nice.  Interestingly, the sheets are custom to the boat and were cut so that while there is plenty to tuck in at the foot as well as along the bottom third of the inside, against the hull, from the middle of the bed to the head, the fabric was cut to fit with no overlap.  Sounds like  a small detail but it means that the made up bed looks very finished without extra fabric bunched up against the hull. Yes, a detail that appeals to an anal guy like me. Last evening Brenda and I went aboard Pandora to move her from the dock where she was for a few days of unpacking to her mooring and enjoyed the sunset over a bottle of bubbly supplied by our friends Rodney and Genie for us to toast Pandora’s homecoming.  What a thoughtful touch.  Sorry they weren’t with us to celebrate the moment. She looked great in the warm light of the setting sun.  Yes, both Pandora and Brenda peeking out from under the dodger, looked perfect.  A very nice evening.   

On Thursday evening I am attending a fundraising event at the CT River Museum (Brenda’s out of town) and I will be offering up Pandora for a luncheon cruise for 4 in the silent auction.  I’ll be putting a few photos together, with a description of the outing, with the hope of making the offering as inviting as possible.  I’ll also put Pandora on a mooring off of the museum grounds so that bidders can see her first hand.

Brenda staged a shot of what the lucky bidders will enjoy aboard.   Doesn’t it make you want to plunk down hard cash to benefit the museum?  Well, it’s not all fun and games aboard Pandora these days as there are still plenty of things that have to get done to make her ready for her fall and winter voyages.

The next step is to install more solar panels aft, on top of the davits.   She already has 320 watts of solar on top of the bimini and it’s been estimated by the folks at Hamilton Ferris, the dealer, that I need around 200 watts more to make Pandora fully functional off of the grid and able to fend for herself on a mooring and “unplugged”.

There is room on the davits for about 300 additional watts so I will pack on as much as will fit and cross my fingers.  I can still put some additional wattage on if needed but I am hoping that a total of 620 watts will do the trick.  And, it’s important that there be some excess capacity to make up for cloudy days and it’s critical that we be able to keep the house batteries up to full charge as I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize, and perhaps shorten the life of  that expensive bank.

I will also have to address the upgrade on the watermaker so that I can increase the capacity to 14 gph from her current 6.5 as we do use a good amount of water.    And the SSB radio also has to be installed.

Yes, it’s becoming clear that Pandora owns us now I had better be sure that I do everything that she asks for.  Between Brenda and Pandora, I’ll be plenty busy this summer.

Memorial Day and there is a lot to be thankful for.

It’s Saturday morning and the beginning of Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial, or is it the official start of summer?  One way or the other, a detail.  For many, especially here in the NE, it’s the first weekend for many to get out on the water.

For Pandora, now safely back home, it’s time to take a deep breath after months of sailing to pull her from the water and get some needed work done, both maintenance and upgrades so she’ll be ready for the 2015/16 sailing season when we head south next fall.   And, of course, with a new boat, there’s always plenty to do with the addition of more solar, the SSB radio, upgraded water-maker and shall we say “so much more”.

However, as I sit here I can’t help but think about the real meaning of Memorial Day and those who sacrificed so much to make it possible for the sort of leisure that we enjoy, and me in particular, here in the good old US of A.

For this weekend, Brenda and I are in MD visiting our son Rob and his fiance Kandice for a few days and last night we watched the movie, American Sniper for the first time.  I have to say that it was a very moving story of one man’s sacrifice to serve his country and it certainly gave me pause for thought about what Memorial Day really means, official boating season start date and all.

In case you haven’t seen the movie, check out the trailer.  It’s a very moving and true story, of a real american hero, Chris Kyle.  He was a SEAL and the most lethal sniper in American history.  It is because of people like him that our way of life is even possible. While I was in Ft Pierce FL waiting for the weather window to open for our run north with Pandora, I rented a car and took my crew, one of whom was a veteran, to the SEAL museum, a place that I had wanted to visit for some time.

I have to admit that I didn’t know much about that service but knew that they were some pretty tough dudes.  Well, I was impressed with what I had learned but didn’t have an opportunity to write about our visit until now.  And, given the importance of this holiday and seeing the movie last night, I woke up this morning thinking that the time was right to do this post.

The ‘SEAL museum is in Ft Pierce, once the training ground for the SEALS, prior to their moving to San Diego, where they are now located.  However, given their history, it is fitting that the museum be in FL.  The museum is designed to represent the history and work of the group and it does a very nice job.    Their site gives a good overview of what’s there.

There are some very interesting exhibits with a focus on their “ethos” and what they are all about as a group and indeed, they do amazing things.   There are also special exhibits there commemorating particularly important milestones such as the killing of Bin Laden and the Maersk Alabama rescue of Captain Philips that inspired the movie of the same name.

They also have some great displays of equipment that the SEALS use.   They do have some great boats.  I wouldn’t want to find myself on the wrong side of this baby. And, this go-fast boat would fit right in in sunny Florida.  I am not thinking that they would hail me on the radio and say “Pandora, we’ll give you a slow pass port to port”.  Not likely. One of the exhibits is from the Maersk Alabama and they have the lifeboat, bullet holes and all on display. And, no, I couldn’t find a way to get a better photo of the lifeboat.  In case you haven’t seen the movie Captain Phillips, it’s terrific.  Check out the trailer.One of the displays was this nifty gadget for climbing up the side of a ship.   Much sexier than a hook on a line.   Just stick this magnetic crawler on the side of a ship and it climbs up and drops a ladder.  I can only imagine what sorts of gadgets they have that nobody knows about. “Yes, we have some very cool stuff and I’d tell about some of them but then I’d have to kill you sir”.  Ok, got it.  In the museum store, and you HAVE to visit the store in any museum, I was struck by the message on this hat.  Yep, note to self,  best to skip the hijackings.  The store has EVERYTHING.  They even had NAVY SEAL action figures.  The museum also has a great collection of armament from Desert Storm.  I had always thought of SEALS as a group that worked on the water but most of their missions actually take place on land.  I’d love to go for a ride on one of these across sand dunes.  However, not in the unfriendly areas that these guys go in. I can only imagine what it’s like to be deep in bad guy territory running around in the dark.  Better them than me.   I guess that’s the point exactly.  They do it so we don’t have to.
Well, if a picture is worth a thousand words than this video, one that you can see at the museum, is worth… well it really gives you a good feel for what the SEALS are all about.  And, let’s just say that their experiences on the water are a bit more exciting than what Brenda prefers.All and all, the museum was both sobering and inspiring so, to me, it’s fitting that I write about it to remind myself what Memorial Day is really for and what those in the service do for us every day.

Well done guys…

A-L-M-O-S-T home. OMG, it took F-O-R-E-V-E-R

It’s Sunday morning and as I begin this post we are less than ten miles from Montauk and “home” waters.   It seems like yesterday when Brenda and I thought that a long trip was the 100 miles from Norwalk YC to Martha’s Vineyard or Block Island.   These days, well a little different, when our cruising grounds take us from New England waters to less than 100 miles from Cuba.  Speaking of Cuba, I wonder if we’ll be there next winter.  If we are, I can say with certainty that we won’t be alone.

Well, I am glad to be (almost) home.  This run north has been a long one as my as my crew, Michael and Jim arrived two weeks ago today and I count myself lucky that they agreed to stay this long.  Actually, I am not certain that they actually agreed but being 50 miles from shore made tough for them to say.  “All done Bob, I want to go home now.”

This trip has taken a full two weeks in contrast to my last two runs that took a week or less. and were several hundred mile longer.  When it comes to sailing “when are we going to get there?” is a particularly big question and it seems like the weather windows have been much shorter this year.  Perhaps I’ll ask Al Gore.  He did, after all, invent the Internet and global warming.  “Al, what gives?”

The last two days running from Hampton VA  have been long and a bit frustrating as the wind, while plenty strong for sailing, was from nearly behind us, a difficult wind angle, particularly on a new boat where I am not familiar with the best way to sail her.   With the constant rolling and banging, it was difficult to move around and keep things in order.  However, there is a marked difference in comfort aboard this verses our last boat and having the hard dodger to sit under is clearly an improvement.

However, with a larger and more complex boat comes larger problems and we have had a few on this trip. Oddly, nearly all of them seemed to resolve themselves spontaneously or with hours of tinkering on my part.  “Did I fix the problem or was it just magic?”   Who knows…   Mysteriously,  a few of the electronic instruments stopped working and just as unexpectedly, started worked again.  I guess I’ll leave well enough alone and deal with them if they stop working again.

The plotter at the helm stopped working yesterday (don’t worry, I have two) as did the AIS (alas, only one) and after hours of tweaking at connections and wriggling into impossibly small spaces (Did I mention that the boat was wallowing and banging around as she slogged down wind and waves?) I was finally able to trace the problem to a single tiny brown wire under the aft cockpit that I had not reconnected securely when I was rerunning cables after the work on the davits was completed.  I worked all day yesterday trying to get the AIS to work and after setting aside the problem for a few hours I suddenly remembered a small junction box that I had not checked.  YES!  A teeny, tiny brown wire had come loose and “voila”, fixed but the AIS still wasn’t working.   However, it wasn’t until almost two hours had passed that I remembered to turn on the AIS again.  Hurrah! Now it worked.  Was it the teeny, tiny brown wire or just magic?   I was particularly concerned about having that system working as we crossed the busy NYC shipping lanes.  I wanted to see them and, perhaps more importantly, be sure that the big ships saw me.

Well, it worked and that’s a good thing as I was beginning to feel like Clark Griswold,  the hapless father character played by Chevy Chase, in the movie Christmas Vacation, when he couldn’t make his holiday lights work.  Just plug them in… I like to think that I am better than him.  Hmm…

As is often the case when I am running offshore, we were visited by a little bird that stayed with us for several hours, exploring, and pooping on, every corner of the boat before leaving as quickly as he arrived.  Here he’s (or is it a she?)checking out the little bromeliad that Brenda and I had on board for our trip after picking it off of a tree in southern Florida.   It will be interesting to see how it (the plant, not the bird) likes CT summer weather. Here’s a map of our run from Hampton To Montauk including the windy part inside from below Cape Hatteras.  You can see why I prefer ocean passages.  Pretty straight line compared to inside.  However, it’s a lot tougher to drop the hook for dinner and a cold beverage at night. So, as we round Montauk Point and enter Long Island Sound, I think that the only thing not working is the Engine hour meter.  I believe and hope that  it’s counting away but, for now, here’s to hoping that it’s a “covert counter”.   I’ll also have to decide if I am going to pull the speedo and plotter to have them checked as they both didn’t work and now do.  I wonder if it had to do with that little brown wire?

I guess that’s about it except to say that Michael and Jim have been great crew based on the way that they scarfed down the meals I prepared, won’t boycott Pandora because of the cuisine.   It’s funny how guys tend to descend into decay and will eat most anything, and enjoy it, when they are out of sight of women.

I wonder if Jim will shave  before he gets home.  It’s a good thing that this trip didn’t take a month or he’d have begun looking like Tom Hanks in the movie Castaway.  Well, better that than Wilson I guess.Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of the final sunrise from my winter aboard, as we approach Montauk.oh, one more thing…  In case you might be wondering if I just recycled one of my sunset pictures (and you know who you are) here’s a shot of Montauk light.  Sorry Rodney,  I don’t have a copy of today’s WS Journal to hold up to prove this photo was taken today so you’ll just have to trust me on this. As much as I am looking forward to being home, I fear that the lawn will be in quite a state from my neglect.  And as far as the run home is concerned, when it comes to ocean passages, they aren’t over till mother nature says that they are over.  F-I-N-A-L-Y…  Are we there yet?

Let the “honey-do” list commence Brenda, I’m ready, I think…

The last leg home. Really…

It’s hard to believe that the last time I was at “home” was the day after Christmas.  In some ways, it seems like yesterday and in others…  Well, let’s just say that it’s been a LONG time and a LOT has happened. 

While we were away my mother went to the hospital and then into a nursing home (a really, really nice one, I might add) from assisted living.  I am very much looking forward to seeing her in a few days.  She’s doing well too. Thanks for asking.

We surveyed (twice) and purchased (once) a new boat and moved our “old” one to her, I hope temporary, home in New Bern NC.    Brenda and I transited much of the ICW together twice and three times for me as well as cruised the waters of the FL Keys and ventured into the Gulf of Mexico for the first time.

We learned, first hand, that sometimes you can very clearly see no-see-ums and that you can ALWAYS feel them.  That wasn’t much of a revelation as we’d been boating for, well, let’s just say that it’s been a long time.  And, I won’t even talk about mosquitoes but I will say that the bigger the boat, the more mosquitoes that will find their way down below and go buzz in the night.  Note to self: Put in the screens.

We saw many sea turtles, caught fish in the ocean and saw an amazing number of Portuguese Man of War jelly fish.

We experienced, and not in a a good way, the fury of a tornado, up close and personal and enjoyed countless sunsets over the water, and posted photos of nearly all of them, my friend Rodney would say.

Our younger son Christopher decided to move to San Francisco and did it within a week, I think.   He’s very happy there, much to his Mother’s distress.  Our son Rob continues to work on all of the details of his upcoming wedding to is betrothed Kandice and works every remaining free moment on their new home.

We  cleaned out 8 years of stuff from “old Pandora” and packed into a rental car, several times.   WE drove thousands of miles in those rental cars and I don’t even know how many hotels we searched for online for at the last minute as we moved between home, boat, other boats, friends and family homes…  Well, we moved around a lot and that’s not even including countless miles on the water under sail and power, mostly power.

We found and (thankfully) removed ourselves from what seemed like every sandbar and shoal on the ICW, sometimes twice.  And, I never even used my towing insurance.  “Don’t jinx it Bob”. Ok, I’ll instruct the jury to strike that from the record.

And let’s just say that our wallets have been smoking for months now from the friction of dollars streaming out and into someone else’s pockets.

OK, OK, I won’t bore you with all the details but such is the featureless grey life of the retired.

Oh yeah, and we didn’t see snow the entire time.  So there.

As I finish up this post we are transiting the channel to pass the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and into the Atlantic for our run to Montauk point and into Long Island Sound and home.   Not the most exciting pix yet, I admit.  I guess you had to be there. After days of waiting for the winds to turn in our favor, it looks like we will be able to get home the nearly 400 miles remaining in our trip with a minimum of fuss and might even have a good sail for perhaps half of the trip.   Overnight the wind fell away and we are leaving for our run on calm seas. 

As we pass from the protection of the CBB&T I expect that we will be seeing some ocean swells but I don’t think that they will amount to much and will certainly be much less than what we were expecting to see as recently as yesterday morning when I checked the weather.

Before I break, a few photos from our run up through Newport News.  It’s plenty clear that your tax dollars are HARD AT WORK here.  Now that’s a smoking wallet.

How about an aircraft carrier?  And I thought that Pandora was beamy.   It’s hard to believe that this girl can cruise at nearly 50mph.Of course, you need tugs to get everyone in and out of port.  And don’t forget, my crew member Michael is a retired tug captain.  To me, tugs have always seemed to be a nearly perfect example of “form follows function” and are particularly easy on the eye. And in the “you can’t see me” category, a stealth battle ship.  Hard to imagine something this big being hard to see.   Shows up fine here.And all is not not grey in Newport News.  Here’s Highlander, the Fedship yacht once owned by publisher Malcomb Forbes.  Now she’s a looker.  Oh yeah.  Almost forgot.  The speedo is working again.  Thanks Pandora, one less item on the “fixit list”.  Who knew…

I guess that’s all for now.  See you in a few days, really…

Dismal and beautiful. Can you be both?

It’s Thursday morning and we are motoring through one of my favorite spots on the ICW, the Great Dismal Swamp Canal that straddles both NC and VA. 

The scenery here is amazing and although I could do without the occasional bump (more like a good wack actually) on submerged logs as we motor along,.  For me, it is perhaps the most beautiful part of any trip on the ICW.

Here is what greeted us as we headed out early this morning from Elizabeth City.  What a great way to start the day.The river winds through bald Cypress stands for miles. We were visited by this beautiful dragon fly.Along the way we made time to stop, although briefly, at the welcome center.  What nice ladies behind the desk.  Southern hospitality and with a smile.  Pandora looked smart at the welcome center dock. There was quite a bit of wildlife along the way.  Turtles on every warm surface.  Notice the rope on this log, it was pulled out of the canal.  That’s the sort of thing that I bumped along the way.  Better out of the water.How about a water snake?   Want to go swimming?  Hmm… I’ll think about that for a bit.This is my first “springtime” visit to the Dismal and there were flowers everywhere and the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafted by on the breeze.

You see all matter of craft on the ICW.  How about this “live aboard”, Clam?  It’s bound for the Bahamas.  Need living quarters?  No need to do a major refit.  I’ll just bring along my camper.  Much simpler.  I shudder at the thought of this boat going across the Gulf Stream. 

Going through the locks is always a treat.  At first you are down at the bottom of the lock.And then it fills up and you are on your way.  Locktender Robert is wonderful.  I think that he looks a little like Elton John.   He wondered why Brenda wasn’t aboard.  Perhaps he was hoping or some sort of juicy story.  Sorry to disappoint Robert.  She just hates long deliveries.  Lucky for Michael and Jim.  Well, at least that’s what I hope they think.

Doesn’t Pandora look marvelous in the lock?  What a wonderful afternoon. I will never tire of this beautiful stretch of water. 

Tonight we leave Hampton Roads and will head out into the Atlantic to make our run to Montauk Point and home to CT.  I am very excited about being at our “land home” again after so many months away as it’s been since just after Christmas when we packed up to head south.

The weather forecast says that we will be heading out into some fairly rough water with perhaps 6’ seas at first, left over from the strong north winds of the last few days, but that it will improve fairly quickly.  I’ll vote for “quickly”.  We do expect to be able to sail after the first half day or so and be able to sail for half of the run. I hope that the front that’s coming through late Sunday with unfavorable NE winds, won’t arrive until we reach our destination.

I won’t be able to post until we are back in Cell Range on Sunday but, as always, I’ll be noting our location every 4 hours on “where’s Pandora”.

For the moment I’ll enjoy our run through the Dismal.  Yes indeed, it’s clear that you can be both dismal and beautiful, bumps and all.

FLASH ALERT:  I just spoke with Chris Parker, the weather router, and he advised us to stay local until Friday morning and leave at dawn.  This evening the seas and wind are still up and it would be miserable to head out now.  Still expecting to be in on Sunday, and we’d better be, as unfavorable winds from the NE will kick up late Sunday afternoon.   Such are the trials of passage making.

Inch by inch, toward Hampton VA.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and we are motoring SLOWLY up the ICW toward Hampton VA.   The scenery here is pretty primeval and there isn’t a home for miles.   However, millions of mosquitoes love it here, a factor that I neglected to prepare for when we went to sleep last night.  The wind died down before dawn and we woke up to dozens , perhaps hundreds, making a feast out of us.  Not a great way to begin the day.  Did I mention that it was 04:00 when we realized that we were not alone?  I was killing the stragglers for hours.  I won’t make the same mistake twice.   Well, not tonight at least. Along the way we are passed by periodically by faster boats in the flotilla of “snow birds” heading north.With about two days between us and Hampton, we should be there in time to jump out when the wind shifts back to a more southerly direction, predicted to be as early as Thursday night.  Once the wind shifts we should be able to sail to CT with a good following wind.  Fingers crossed that it works out.  However, if we don’t have enough wind, we will just fire up the “iron wind” and motor the whole way.    We carry plenty of fuel and I will be sure to fill up prior to heading out.

As we cover the miles, a number of fairly minor things have been causing problems.  I expected this as it’s nearly impossible to pick up on all the details in a boat survey, no matter how carefully we went over everything.   For example, the forward macerator pump that empties the holding tank needs to be primed sometimes before it will empty the tank if it isn’t used regularly.  Unfortunately, I didn’t know this so when I tried to use it, I let it run too long and burned out the impeller and pump.  Good news, there was a spare on board.  All better now.

Also, the speedo unit that measures the boat’s speed through the water decided to crap out today.  I noticed that it seemed to be giving some odd readings while we were offshore cor the last few days so I calibrated it to take out the error in the reading, which was clearly not correct.  It seemed to work yesterday but today the unit didn’t work at all and showed a blank screen when I turned everything 0n for the day.

I guess that goes with the territory as this is a complex boat and besides, there are more than a dozen instruments and repeaters on the boat so I suppose that it’s only natural that something will crap out from time to time.  But wait, there’s more.

The owner mentioned that the engine hour readout sometimes doesn’t work  when you first turn on the engine and yet was still counting hours of run time for the motor.  The day of the survey it was working fine.   Alas, it must have been on it’s best behavior as it hasn’t turned on for the last two days.  I guess I should have made a bigger deal about it.  Oh well, hope it doesn’t cost too much to replace.

Well, that covers it for now and I suppose some little “hitches” are to be expected.   I will try not to think about all of those details for now.  The good news is that a lot more is working than isn’t.

On a more positive note, today I noticed that there were some photos on my camera that I had taken over the last week and had forgotten to download.   Just for fun, a few of the more interesting ones.

There is a lot of military air traffic as we worked our way up the waterway with copters and jets nearly constantly in view.  This little helicopter came very close to us.  Jim thought that it was military.  I sure hope that he was wearing his seat-belt. I mentioned in my last post that we caught a tuna.  Here’s a photo of it as it came up to be landed.  Looks pretty big?  Not really but a nice “action” shot, never the less.And, I can’t believe that I forgot about our turtle encounter.  We passed quite a few while we were offshore.  This one had a seabird taking a rest on it’s back.After a bit, he poked his head up to see who was coming by as if to say, “hey you bud, I was sleeping”   I’d guess that this turtle was nearly 4’ across.I sure hope that the wind will turn as planned so I won’t have to worry about replacing crew that runs out of “away time”.  Besides, Brenda tells me that the lawn needs to be cut.  It had better not grow much more before I get home next week.

For now, I’ll have to think “grass stunting” thoughts .  Given that our run north seems to be progressing about as fast as “watching grass grow”, I shouldn’t have any trouble with that line of thinking.

So, for now, inching toward Hampton and home.

49 hours and a 390 mile, shake down for the “new” Pandora.

It’s Tuesday afternoon and we are motor-sailing past Oriental NC on our way north to Norfolk VA where we plan on jumping outside again for the final run to the CT River and home. 

We decided to continue on the inside instead of waiting in Beaufort as it will allow us to avoid running around Cape Hatteras and also puts us further north instead of sitting for half a week on the HOPE that the wind will shift to a favorable direction as forecast.  And, as the wind will be from the north for the next few days, before turning back to the SW , it’s quite possible that we’d hit nasty conditions off of Cape Hatteras, favorable winds or not, and all that after waiting for a half week to find out if we’d made a good decision or not.

So, we just decided to keep moving and get ourselves another 100 miles north while we can and hope that the wind shifts as planned.  One way or the other, we want to keep moving and perhaps be back in CT a day or more sooner than might have been the case if we waited for the wind to shift in Beaufort.   I guess I have made my “wordy” point on that by now.  Hope so.

I guess we won’t know if it’s the right decision for a few more days so we’ll see.

Anyway, when we left on Sunday morning from St Augustine on our 400 mile “shake down cruise” to Beaufort, we did so on a boat that I had never even had the sails up on, even once.   I worked out fine but I was nervous, I’ll admit.

We were greeted by a nice sunrise in St Augustine which seemed like a good omen.  I decided to ignore the sailor’s adage of “red sky in the morning, sailors take warning”.   Also, to head out over 100 miles from land, right off of the bat, on a boat that I had never sailed, not even once…  The green line is our actual course, which followed the Gulf Stream, for maximum favorable current.   The black line is the point to point run.  I’ll admit that it made me a bit nervous to head that farm from land with a boat I did not know.  What does that say about my crew?  Hmm…  I did have more than a week living aboard.  Not convinced we were ready?  Me neither. But, it all worked out.  We practiced putting a reef in the main before we needed to if that’s any consolation.   

Good thing we practiced as we had PLENTY of wind in the Gulf Stream and put in and shook out both reef one and two multiple times.   I probably could have had up more sail but I was in the mood to be conservative.  Besides, we made the run half a day faster than I expected, cautious or not.  Fast boat. 

In consultation with Chris Parker, the weather router, we opted to head further offshore and catch the Gulf Stream even though it added perhaps 20 to 30 miles to our trip as we felt that getting the 2-4 knot lift from the current in the stream would ultimately make for a faster run.  However, in exchange for that, we “enjoyed” a pretty bumpy trip along the way.  On the bright side, my meal prep was not as complex as my two crew members lost their appetite.  Worked for me.

However that wasn’t until the second night when the wind piped up to around 25kts so we were able to make a nice meal out of the tuna we caught on day one.   Here’s Jim with the catch of the day.Overall, the run was very good even though it was quite hot and stuffy aboard with everything buttoned up against the spray that we were kicking up in the rough conditions.  Nothing major broke but it’s clear to me that this is a very powerful boat with lots of moving parts and it’s going to take a while to get used to her and all her gear.

Today, in the calm waters of the Neuse River near Oriental, we tried out the code “0”, a huge sail that’s more like a spinnaker than a genoa.  It’s on it’s own roller furling system so it’s “easy” to deploy and retrieve.   We were sailing down wind on a broad reach with wind that built to 15kts apparent.  This doesn’t sound like all that much wind but keep in mind that the boat was going over 9kts, down wind.

That means you have to add the speed of the wind we felt to the speed of the boat which meant that we ended up with wind behind us that was approaching 25kts.  The sheets that control the sail are quite small in diameter and sing like a guitar string when pulled tight.  Let me tell you, they were singing.  What a sail.   Quick, take it down… I was plenty nervous about how much the wind was gusting.   But before I doused it, I took a picture of our speed, over the ground, of over 9kts.   And, there was no current so that was our actual speed, according to the GPS.  The water driven log needs some calibration so the GPS was more accurate.  That’s screaming.  What a powerful sail and boat. Enough excitement for one day though.

So, our plan is to make the run from Beaufort NC to Norfolk by Friday so we can jump out as the wind fills in from the SW north of Cape Hatteras.  Tonight we’ll pick a spot on the ICW to anchor and head out first thing tomorrow for Elizabeth City, one of my favorite stops on the ICW.

I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep and a shower.

So, all and all, a “shakedown” cruise of nearly 400 miles turned out fine.  No major issues (that I’ll admit to in writing) except one little one with a head pump that seems to be leaking.  As my friend Christopher says “The more complex a boat is the more that can break.”  If that’s true, than I am going to be doing a lot of fixin.

I guess we’ll see about that.   So far, so good…

On our way: St Augustine to Beaufort NC.

It’s Sunday morning early and soon we will drop the mooring, pick up some fuel and water and head out from St Augustine, bound for Beaufort NC, just south of Cape Hatteras some 400NM from here. 

I spoke with Chris Parker, the weather router, yesterday and he felt that Ana would be enough out of the way and the seas down enough to make the run on the outside to Beaufort.  He gave me a few way-points for the Gulf Stream to give us a boost in speed and also probably a better wind angle for our run north.

With the wind from the SW, and our course generally NE, the wind will be behind us and I don’t know enough about this boat’s sailing characteristics to be able to predict what time we will arrive at Beaufort Inlet.  However, the ideal arrival time will be Tuesday ,mid-day as the tide is flooding up the river between 09:00 and 15:00.  As they say, “It’s easier to go with the flow, than against it.”

We have to arrive in Beaufort by Tuesday evening as the remains of Ana will head off to the NE and back to sea and will bring northerlies that will make progress beyond Hatteras impossible until the winds shift back to a more southerly direction, perhaps later in the week.

From Beaufort, the run to CT is another 500 miles or so which will take three or four days given good winds.

Anyway, it looks like today will be the day that I get to sail the “new” Pandora for the first time.  Let’s hope that we don’t run into any conditions that are too exciting.  Having said that, we are certainly hoping for a fast passage and with the wind on our tail, we’ll have to have a good amount of wind to make time.

I am optimistic that Pandora will kick up her heels and give us a good run.  If last night’s dramatic sunset is any indication, we should have a good trip. Besides, I know my friend Rodney would be upset If I didn’t put in a sunset photo, so there it is.  

There was lots of excitement in St Augustine and I was very touched that the locals put on a parade to see us off.  These nice ladies waved as they passed our “reviewing stand”.   I wonder if they dressed up for us or if that’s the what they wear all the time.   Hmm…As is our custom aboard Pandora, we’ll be projecting our position every 4 hours with the SPOT GPS, so you will be able to see where we are under “Where’s Pandora”.   Unfortunately, I don’t have my SSB installed yet so I won’t be able to post any more blog entries until I arrive in Beaufort.  So, for now, you’ll have to be satisfied with “spots” on a map, showing our progress as we move north.

Wish us luck.


Waiting on Ana in St Augustine

It’s Saturday morning and as of tomorrow my crew will have been aboard Pandora for a week TRYING TO GET TO CT.  Yes, I am raising my voice with the hope that Ana will hear me and decide to get out of the way so WE CAN GET MOVING!

Well, that’s how I feel.  So there.   Are you listening Ana?  Didn’t think so.

Anyway, St Augustine is a lovely city and I should know as it’s the third time I have been here this year.  I will say that it’s a much nicer spot in May than it was in January when Brenda and I had our first stop and again in March as it was pretty chilly both of those times.  The weather in May?  Terrific.  Warm days and balmy nights.  And, the warm weather makes for great people watching.  

Yesterday Michael, Jim and I stopped at a pub for a beer, two actually, as it was “buy one get one free” happy hour, and spent some time watching the world walk by.  And there was plenty to watch.  Here’s Michael taking it all in. Perhaps it’s just me but there seemed to be a LOT of tattoos.  Not just the little ones that say something in Mandrin on an ankle but the rambling sort that begin at the wrist, flow up to shoulders and back down to the small of someone’s back.  And, that’s just the part that you can see.   Perhaps these folks that turn themselves into a walking art gallery are around all the time but there is nothing like a warm spring night to let you see, first hand, the result of what goes on in those little store front tattoo parlors that seem to be everywhere.

To be fair, there was much more to see than ink on skin.  How about fife and drum corps on the march?The historic district is quite quaint and a great spot to “people watch”, that’s for sure.  Did I mention that there were a lot of tattoos?And, for the “older set”, there was a big band concert on the town green.  I understand that Michael is in a band in RI, where he calls home.  I wonder if 25 years from now everyone listening to band concerts will be completely covered with tattoos?  How about a musical scale running up your right arm and down the left?  Hmm…  Sure as shootin, tattoos look better on a 20 something than an 80 something.   “Is that a picture of a bowl of prunes tattooed on your back Grandma?”  “Shut-up and eat your cereal kid or I’ll send you back to your parents.”

Alas, I digress.  So, back to Ana.

I plan on talking to Chris Parker, the weather router, today about next steps and am hopeful that he will suggest that we leave on Sunday morning to head outside to Beaufort NC, just south of Cape Hatteras. a two to three day run, I think.  After that, I understand that there will be some northerlies again as a front passes offshore, north of the cape.

After all that,  I am hoping that things will clear up and we’ll be able to make a jump the rest of the way to CT.  I fear that this is going to stretch beyond two weeks and I’ll end up with some new crew for what is beginning to look like will become the “second half” of the trip.  I know that it will be tough for Michael and Jim to commit more than two weeks to this.  Perhaps my biscuits will convince them otherwise.

If not, luckily, I have been contacted by two guys who ready my blog, one of which I have sailed with before, who have put up their hands to finish the run if I need new crew along the way.

It’s nice to know that someone out there is reading this stuff.

So, more to come on this.  Let’s hope that we can get to the “main event” soon with the new Pandora and put some ocean miles on her and soon.

Oh yeah, I forgot.  Yesterday I was finally able to sort out the antenna issues with the satellite radio on the plotter so now I’ll be able to keep track of weather while we are out of cell range.   That makes me feel much better and gives me confidence that I’ll get advance warning if my buddy Ana, or one of her friends, decides to make plans to move in our direction and give us some trouble.

For now, it’s clear that Ana’s calling the shots and we’ll be waiting here in St Augustine while she makes up her mind on what’s next.

At least it’s not Cleveland…

Tropical Storm Ana. She’s in no particular hurry.

It’s Friday morning and we are motoring up the ICW on our way to St Augustine. where we will spend a day or two.  Unfortunately, we are still tied to the ICW as it’s just too rough offshore to make a run out in the ocean.    Things are particularly nasty as you get up toward Hatteras with Ana poking along to the NW at only 1kt, a very slow moving storm indeed.

Here’s what conditions are alike now off off of Cape Fear (Brenda just loves that name). The winds are running 35-50kts from the NW with gusts to 65, nearly Hurricane strength and it’s kicking up seas to 10-20’ tall.  Big waves.  Not a great spot to hang out.   And, to make matters worse, it’s not clear as to when this will settle down enough to make a run past Hatteras.

However, Chris Parker, the weather router, believes that that we can jump out from northern FL at some point, perhaps as early as the beginning of the week and begin our run outside.  Hopefully Hatteras will be settled by late next week, by the time we pass that area.  After that, 4-5 days to the CT River.  Well, who knows how long it’s going to take.    What a change from the last two years when I was able to make the run the entire way from the Bahamas in a week.  

There are a number of spots on the ICW where municipalities make free docks available to visiting boaters and New Smyrna, where we tied up last night, is one of those.  The town is lovely and we enjoyed walking around town to get a bit of exercise last night.  Here’s Pandora tied up to the free dock and a floating one at that.  Notice the davits holding up the dink.  That’s the work that was done last week.  I really like how they turned out.  The yard did a great job.  The new logo of the name looks great but it doesn’t show up quite as well as I had hoped on the dark green hull.  Oh well, I am not doing it again.  At least it’s subtle.This boat has all sorts of electronics and one that is particularly intriguing is satellite weather.   I had some problems getting it to work as it seems that I didn’t do a very good job of reattaching the antennas that I had removed from the arch when the welding was done.  However, today, after a few days of tinkering with the antenna (first I had to figure out which of the 5 was the right one) it’s working again.  This service shows weather for the entire eastern seaboard in real time.   It includes rain, waves, wind, lightning strikes (Brenda will particularly enjoy watching that) and a bunch of other data to help us understand what’s going on with the weather ahead of us when we are offshore.   As I have not yet installed my SSB radio, having this service is particularly useful.  This screen shot, cockpit reflections and all, shows how much information it has on the screen.  Very cool.Anyway, while the “where” we are going is not a question (Connecticut) there’s plenty of doubt about the “when”.  I guess it all comes down to Ana and what she has in mind.  So far, she’s proving to be in no particular rush to get out of the way.  “Ana!  Get a move on. “  I don’t think she is listening.  Women…