Monthly Archives: July 2015

A little jazz and getting excited about Virgin Gorda.

It’s Friday morning and near the end of July (where do the days go?) and yet another beautiful day here in CT.  Last night Brenda and I went down to the CT River Museum to enjoy one of their “Thursdays on the Dock” concert featuring the USCG Dixieland Jazz Band.  These concerts are held on Thursdays in July and August and are a terrific bargain, free to members and $5 for non-members.   It was a beautiful evening with a great turnout and wonderful music.   The last time I spent any time with the USCG they wanted to see my fire extinguisher and documentation.  It was more enjoyable last night. 7-24-15a 003A very nice group of guys.  One of the guys even had his mother visiting.  HI Mom!7-24-15a 006I tried to find a video of them performing that doesn’t take an hour to watch but no luck.  This one was filmed in nearby New London and features the same guys that performed last night.  You should at least watch a few minutes.

Seeing them brought back memories of many visits to New Orleans, back in my days as a “worker bee”.   They were terrific and attracted a great crowd to the museum.  I have enjoyed spending time volunteering at the museum over the last year.  The director, Chris, is a great guy.

Brenda and I will be spending the winter in the Caribbean  and I have begun planning my run to the Caribbean and the BVI and am getting pretty excited about it.  Making a 1,500 mile ocean run is a bit daunting as it will be the longest that I have made to date.    Just over 1,000 miles is the longest so far and I was never more than a few hundred miles from shore.   A few hundred miles is still WAY to long a swim to shore but on this run I’ll be much further out on this run and too far to be picked up by helicopter, speaking of the USCG, if things decide to go badly.

Anyway, we plan to make landfall in the British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda, home of the Bitter End Yacht Club, and the destination for the Salty Dawg Rally.   Not a bad spot.  Getting excited!Still lots of details to work out to get Pandora ready for the run south.

Oh yeah, I think I mentioned that the bow thruster wasn’t working properly and had feared that a major repair was in the offing.  Well, I went up to Wickford and Pandora this week, tools in hand, ready to perform surgery.  Good news, nothing more than a loose wire.  And, to make it even better, I found, and fixed, the problem without bringing in the professionals.  Well, not yet at least.  Let’s hope that the “thruster gremlin” doesn’t show up again any time soon.

Still need to do some canvas work to put a connector between the top of the dodger and the bimini so I’d better get going on ordering some supplies and quit it with this post.  That’s all for now.

On the hard and thinking of wet

It’s Monday and it’s been over a week since I was aboard Pandora.  She’s now in Wickford RI where she will be, less some time cruising now and then, until early September.

I still have plenty to do to get her ready for next winter’s cruising and the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton VA to Virgin Gorda in November.   I have been recruiting crew and am about done in getting those details in order.

Of the recommended equipment that I will need on board for the run, one missing item is a parachute sea anchor, a large, well parachute shaped device, that can be deployed from the bow to keep the boat pointed into the waves in the event a storm with large breaking waves.  I don’t have one but have been offered a 12′ one by a friend.  Pandora is technically too big for that size as the recommendation is for a 15′ diameter one but the size rules are more like “guidelines” so I think that I will go for the 12′ and hope that I never have to use it.  The size recommended is really a function of the severity of the sea state so larger waves means larger parachute.  I am hoping that anything less severe than “OH S&^%” will be ok for a 12′ one.  I guess we’ll see.   I do have an EPIRB, no make that two, and a liferaft.  Others items that I surely hope NEVER to use.

I have also installed my SSB radio and will have the back stay insulators, for the antenna, installed in the next month or so.    Another item still on my list is to get the AIS transoponder name changed to Pandora. AIS is a neat item as it transmits the name course of the boat so that others, with AIS receivers, can see me.  All commercial vessels have this now and an increasing number of pleasure boats do too.   It’s a wonderful product and once you’ve used it you won’t want to be out without it.  The problem is that only an FCC certified tech can make changes to an installed system and there aren’t many pleasure boats with AIS so there aren’t a lot of places to get them serviced.  My unit requires special software and cable which I will have to bring to the tech so that the information can be changed.

There are also a number of smaller issues that need addressing aboard such as the bow thruster that crapped out recently and a mysterious oil leak on the engine.  Let’s hope that it’s indeed minor as I shudder to think about a problem that’s not…  It is a very minor leak but a few drips are ending up in the bilge, never the less.  Such are the trials of boat ownership and the larger the boat the larger the trials.

Brenda and I hope to spend some time aboard Pandora after our son Rob’s wedding in early August and may make a run out to Nantucket.  That would be fun as I really enjoyed my visit with Craig a few weeks ago.  You can see that post by clicking here.

I always have trouble finding topics to write about when I am not aboard and now is no different hence the ten day delay between posts. However, the other day I stumbled on some information about Hooligan’s Navy, a group of private sailing yachts, based out of Greenport LI, that patrolled the waters off of New England during WWII.  While I had heard of this group of sailors, I didn’t know much about them. This short video is quite interesting.
If your interest is peaked, click here to see a documentary , about 45 minutes, that tells the story in detail.  When I was at Cuttyhunk Island a few weeks ago, I was reminded about the U-Boat threat to the NE Coast when I climbed the hill to the center of the island and saw the observation bunker that was used to try and spot U-boats during the war.

As another update, Donna Lange, the grandmother of 11 that spoke at our SSCA Essex GAM a few weeks ago, will be leaving on her non-stop around the world attempt alone in about a week as her scheduled date of departure, from Bristol RI is July 26th.   The following is a short video of Donna talking about her upcoming journey.  I plan on keeping track of her voyage and will certainly write about it here.So, for now I find myself thinking about being out on the water but these days, for me, it’s more thinking and working to get ready and less about doing.  I guess that’s life, 90% perspiration and 10%… Well, I don’t recall the rest of the quote but it’s 10% something else.  For now I’ll call it doing.  Yes, that will suffice for the moment.

Yes, a post that’s perhaps a bit random.  But hey, it’s a lot different than some pictures of me sitting at my desk writing posts.  Well, I cling to that belief.


Martha’s Vineyard and a week of perfect sailing.

It’s Friday morning and we are headed from Vineyard Haven to Newport as we make our way to our final destination, Wickford this weekend.  Yet again, we have wind from a favorable direction as we close reach at between 7-8 and sometimes 9 kts in wind at just under 20kts apparent.   I love the fact that she’s so fast and doesn’t heel much either.   It makes for a very nice and speedy ride.

Craig and I have been out for nearly a week and have enjoyed nearly perfect sailing conditions.  When was the last time you went for a week cruise and were blessed with fair winds each day?

As we headed east earlier in the week we had solid SW and S winds and now, as we head back west,  a front has blessed us with NE winds that are making the return trip perfect as well.  I can’t recall when I have been able to sail this route with fair winds BOTH ways.  It reminds me of when parents quip “You don’t have it so bad. When I was your age, we walked hill to school, both ways, in the snow”. However, this week, it’s been nothing like that.   Perfect.

However, the hardship in all of this, as as we have been sailing so much it’s been tough to get warm showers as the engine just hasn’t been run enough.  Feel sorry for us?  No?  If it helps you feel better, I did get a bit of salt spray on my arm as we took the dink ashore the other day.  And, it rained for an hour this morning as we left Vineyard Haven.  Still not sympathetic?  I am  having trouble seeing the puffy clouds as I am having to squint into the sun…  Still?  Never mind…

On another note, we had a very nice visit on Martha’s Vineyard and took the bus from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown yesterday.

There are many beautiful buildings.  Every town should have such a nice town hall building. Here’s the Chappaquiddick ferry.  When we were standing on the town dock Craig noticed that there was another Aerodyne 47, like Pandora, on a nearby dock.  As there were only three made, seeing one was pretty amazing.   Note the Edgartown Yacht Club in the background and the Aerodyne in front on the left. Well, I trotted right over and introduced myself.  The owner, actually the boat has two owners, weren’t aboard but the “manager” invited us aboard for a tour.  It turns out that this is hull #2 and the owners live in NYC and NJ.  I understand that the boat splits it’s time between Edgartown and The Hamptons with the manager moving her around and taking care of her as needed.  I need a manager…

The boat, even though she’s the same design looks a lot different.  She has a hard dodger but it’s a lot shorter and down below the woodwork is teak and white, a much different look than Pandora.  Here’s the cockpit layout.  You can see how much shorter the hard dodger is.  Mine is about two feet longer.   I like the extra protection it affords.   So does Brenda and what she thinks is critical.  Down below, much more white.Here’s a similar shot of Pandora.She also lacks the second head stay that we keep our Code Zero sail on for sailing in light air. I expect that she has an asymmetrical spinnaker.  I gave my card to the manager and hope that he shares it with the owners. I also have the contact information for the owner of hull #1 so that will give us an owner’s group of three. It will be fun to compare notes.

After our tour, Craig and I stopped at the Edgartown Yacht Club for a drink.  It’s a beautiful spot.  Edgartown looks a lot like Nantucket with the major difference being that “competitive container gardening” doesn’t seem to have taken hold quite as strongly.  However, it’s a lovely place and the gardens are beautiful.

This is a very popular wedding spot.  I think that it’s perhaps the most perfect porch that I have ever seen. How about these gardens?  All that’s needed to complete the picture is a blushing bride.  I expect that one will arrive on Saturday. Enough gardens?  There is a real working wooden boat yard in Vineyard Haven, Gannon & Benjamin.   They have been in business for many years and have churned out a steady supply of beautiful boats, many of which reside here all summer. Well, thanks to a speedy run, we are almost to Brenton Reef where we will turn the corner toward Newport.  Besides, it’s lunchtime and I wouldn’t want my crew to get cranky from low blood sugar.  And, to add insult to injury, he may end up with a shower that’s only warm as we haven’t been motoring much.  Such are the compromises of cruising.

Craig!  Lunch is coming.

The gardens of Nantucket. Wow!

It’s Wednesday evening and Craig and I have returned to Pandora after a day ashore in Nantucket.  It’s been a long time since I have visited here and only the third time since I have been here by boat.  Frankly, the moorings, at $75 per night, are the most expensive of any in New England, and I can’t see myself paying those sorts of fees so I didn’t visit for years.  However, this time Craig and I opted to anchor beyond the mooring field, a half mile from the dock.  It was blowing like stink but with the great dink and a powerful motor, we made the run in minutes and stayed dry.   Fortunately, the harbor police didn’t notice, or care, that we were exceeding the speed limit.

The first time that Brenda and I came here by boat was when we had our 20’ Cape Cod catboat, TAO.  After making the run here yesterday, it’s hard to believe that Brenda an I braved the seas to do this trip in such a small boat.  The currents, as you come from Martha’s Vineyard and cross the shoals, are fierce and kick up a pretty nasty chop.  Perhaps even more remarkable than the fact that Brenda and I did this trip in such a small and fragile craft, is the fact that Brenda didn’t say “I’m out of here” and ditch me and tiny TAO, on the spot.  I guess that’s a story for another day.  Thank you Brenda…

When we were here the first time, so many years ago. we ate at the Brotherhood and even though it was more than 30 years ago, I remember it like it was yesterday.  Craig and I had lunch there today.  It brought back memories. We also visited a very nice wine store, something that Brenda and I didn’t do when we visited so many years ago.  They were serving some terrific CA wines.  We enjoyed tasting them but I am still too cheap to pay those sorts of prices, larger boat or not.  We also walked the docks at the marina and saw, first hand, the “big kids” and their boats.  Well, we saw their hired help, at least.  This streets are paved with cobbles brought here in the bilges of ships for ballast.  The tree lined streets are very tranquil, in a “monied” sort of way.
I was struck by this flower stand.  If Brenda were with me we surely would have stocked up.  The local shops are very conscious about presenting their best “curb appeal”.   These window boxes just shout “buy something, quick!”.  Churches here are well supported and look beautiful.   Craig and I opted to climb up into the bell tower of this stunning one.  The view from up high of the harbor was spectacular.  Love the rockers.  What better spot to watch for returning ships. And, what’s a town full of beautiful homes without a few “painted ladies”.  This one is an amazing standout.  I’d hate to pay to keep this one in finery. I can’t say that I have seen such a profusion of gardens and planters ever in one place.  Perhaps it’s the cool Nantucket air or the deep pockets of the homeowners.  I expect that it’s both.

It seems to me that gardening here seems more like a competitive sport here on the island with each home more beautiful than the next. One look at this and Brenda would have me in the shop whipping up an arbor.  How about this wall of roses?One of Brenda’s favorites, Hollyhocks.Don’t like pink, how about yellow?  We walked by endless beautiful home perennial gardens.  Well, I could go on for ever but I think that you get the picture.  Besides, when Brenda sees this post I am going to be in a fix.  “Bob, I’d need a new garden bed.  I promise it won’t be a big one.  Honest.”

Good thing we don’t live in Nantucket as my protestations wouldn’t hold much sway with Brenda.  It’s clear that the mix of cool sea breezes married with owners who have deep pockets and Nantucket is indeed THE spot to garden.

Tomorrow Craig and I hope to head west to Martha’s Vineyard as we begin our run to Wickford where Pandora will be moored for the rest of the summer.   So far, we have been blessed with great winds for sailing so let’s hope that our luck holds.

Well, it’s “opening time” so I’d best wrap this up.

At sea again and thinking about old times.

It’s Monday morning and we are on a mooring in Cuttyhunk, a spot that brings back so many memories.   I am out with my friend Craig for a week as we head toward Nantucket.

I have been visiting this harbor since the early 80s and have visited here in each of our six, count em, boats.   Beginning with our first in the late 70s, that would be Tao and Sappho, our two Cape Cod catboats, Artemis, our 1962 Pearson Invicta yawl that I actually spied the first time, prior to buying her, here in Cuttyhunk,.  Elektra, our Tartan 37 and most recently Pandora, our SAGA 43.  Being here brings back so many memories of summers past.

Interestingly, last evening someone stopped to ask about the boat and when I confirmed that she’s an Aerodyne 47 he told me that Rodger Martin, the designer of the boat, was here in the harbor on his own boat.  I didn’t stop to see him last night and unfortunately, he left early today so we didn’t connect.  Oh well, perhaps when I am in Newport as that’s where his office is.  Better luck next time.

Anyway, Cuttyhunk is a special place for me.  I think that the last time I was here I think was when I visited here with my sons Rob and Chris and my dad.  Dad died about a year ago. That trip, about 4 years ago and the last time that Dad was aboard.  It was a very special trip.  As the sun set last night it took on a bright orange glow.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t show here but it turned a cherry red as it drifted toward the horizon.  I can still remember the ethereal light that surrounded us when Dad and the boys were here with me.  That day we hiked up to the top of the hill on Cuttyhunk and posed on a picnic table.  What a great day it was with three generations of Osborn boys.   A wonderful memory.Nearby, on another mooring, there is a lovely Marshall Catboat that is a dead ringer for our second boat, Sappho.  I love the little gig rowing nearby too. We left Essex on the 4th and spent the night at Fishers Island.   You’d think that we were heading out for a month.     From Essex we made our way down the Sound there wasn’t a breath of wind and  didn’t arrive at Fisher’s till after dark.  Along the way we were treated to a beautiful sunset which combined with the fireworks along the shore, made for some wonderful views.  From Fishers we headed here, about 55 miles yesterday.  The wind was right on our stern and freshened as the day progressed to give us a really nice run.  By the time we got here it was blowing about 20kts which meant that picking up the mooring was a bit challenging.  The moorings in the harbor are packed very tight so there isn’t much room for error.

Today we head up to New Bedford and dinner with my good friend Patty, a fellow Corinthian.  Patty was the first female Master of the group and is a great personality.  It will be fun to spend time with her for a drink aboard Pandora.

So much has changed since I first visited Cuttyhunk but nothing perhaps says it better than this picture of my friend Craig talking on the phone with our friend Brian.   “Can you hear me now?”  Not really as the service here isn’t great  but who back in the early 80s would have imagined that we’d have phone service from aboard much less the ability for me to post from aboard.  Pop quiz:  Who decided that blogs should be called blogs, anyway?  Hmm…

Well, writing this isn’t getting us on with our day so perhaps I should sign off and even though Brenda isn’t along for the week, it’s good to be at sea again.

Two down, one to go. Going sailing!

It’s Thursday morning and I am happy to report that the solar installation is done, I think.

I say “I think” as I won’t really know if the charging system is functioning properly until I have an opportunity to see the input into the batteries in the middle of the day when the batteries are down significantly.  That way I can see if I am getting the proper output from the panels.  The rub is that I now have two voltage controllers on the system, one for the four 80 watt panels that the boat came with and another separate MPPT controller for the new 290 watt unit.  This combines to a whopping 600 watts, a lot for a boat installation.  However, with two controllers feeding into the same battery bank, there’s a risk that one will cut out the other if they aren’t programmed exactly the same way.  As I didn’t install the first one, I don’t know what the settings are, actually.   I had to put on two controllers as you can’t mix different types and sizes of solar panels and now I have four 80 watt panels and a 290.

In my last post I put a photo of the panel so you could see just how big it is.   Here it is again. Yes, I am not a particularly tall guy but that’s a BIG panel.6-29-15c 002When I was planning the installation months ago and trying to decide how to approach adding more watts to the system,  I was concerned about how a really big panel might look.  I didn’t want to make the boat look weird with a huge huge extension off of the back.  However, in spite of the fact that I did install a HUGE panel on the back, hanging out over the water, it doesn’t really look all that big. I guess that’s because Pandora is even more “HUGER”.  Here’s a profile of the new panel all done.   Now, wasn’t that easy?7-2-15a 009Actually, installed the panel looks pretty puny.  I guess, compared to Pandora, most anything looks small.   Well, at least when she is at a dock.  At sea, everything looks tiny.  7-2-15a 006Actually, it took two days to put the panel in place and another day or so to run the interior wires.   I backed the boat into the slip.  So glad I have a bow thruster.  Did I mention that I LOVE my bow thruster?  Though so.   Then I set up two step ladders and a friend helped me hoist the new panel into place.  That went fairly well.  No loss of life or panel. 7-2-15a 005The panel is bolted to stainless tabs that were welded into the frame when it was constructed in FL.  As there is a bit of camber to the arch, I had to fabricate some brackets to smooth out the front of the panel to take up the extra space between the frame and panes on the forward part of the panel.  All and all, there are six attachment points holding the panel to the davits.

I think that this is a pretty nifty install.  And, it only cost about one boat dollar. Imagine what it would have cost if I had to hire someone to do the work.  Three days of labor on top of the panel and controller.  Glad that I am a handy guy. Handy and exhausted though as drilling something like 20 holes in stainless isn’t for sissies. or sissies with a dull drill bit.   All it takes is a brand new $12 drill bit, plenty of cutting oil and elbow grease.  Yes, plenty of elbow grease.   Can you say “Brenda can I have an Advil”?7-2-15a 010This panel is not going anywhere.  Well, it should stay up as long as the boat doesn’t turn turtle. And, if that happens, messed up panels will be the least of my problems.

So, now I am nearly complete on the three major projects on the agenda this summer.  SSB installed… Check.  Solar all done (I think)… Check.  Next… The watermaker swap.  But that’s a story for another day.

Oh yeah.  I almost forgot.   Remember the scratches on the bow that I was moaning about last week?   Well, as they say, it could have been much worse.   This boat was swamped during the storm when a large log washed into the river and rode up on his mooring.   It seems that as the log was pushed up toward his boat and over the mooring,  it pushed down his bow and the stern rose up.  The rain filled up his bow and ultimately swamped and sunk his boat.  Here’s his boat being towed into the lift basin with air bags holding her up.  7-2-15a 001Not much to look at.  However, as it rose from the deep…7-2-15a 003And Brian, the lift operator, did a masterful job of righting her.    Oops, lots of water and oil drifting about.  The USCG was on hand to be sure that there wasn’t an”environmental catastrophe”.   You never know…7-2-15a 004The owner was none to happy.  Bummer that it didn’t happen in the fall instead of at the beginning of the boating season.

Compared to this guy’s experience, I’d say that I got off lucky with a few scratches on the bow.

And yes, it’s time to go sailing and Saturday I head out with my friend Craig for a week up toward Martha’s Vineyard.  That should be fun and it is good to know that I am down two and one more project to go till Pandora’s about ready to head south.

Well, that’s about enough for now.  Off to see my mother.  Aren’t I a good son?