Monthly Archives: November 2015

Cuba. It gets more complicated.

It’s Monday morning and Thanksgiving has come and gone.  It was great fun but now might be a good time for me to cutting back to part time eating for a while or I risk increasing myself from ultralight to full displacement cruising mode.  It was fun though.

Anyway, time to put up the Christmas decorations, if only for a few weeks.  After that, on to Pandora and a winter of cruising.

Since my last post, I have put some time into finding out more regarding the rules for American’s that wish to spend time in Cuba.  With the “warming”, if you can call it that, of relations with Cuba, American’s can visit Cuba without a permit, for one or more of the 12 reasons (check back to a previous post for those) but to stay longer requires more formal approval and the filing of what is called a SNAP-R form.  It’s a sort of export permit for the boat in order to keep her in Cuba for more than the two week limit.  The same process applies for Pandora as would be needed if I wanted to export a shipload of grain to Cuba so some of the paperwork is a bit hard to understand for mere mortals like me.  Fortunately, I was able to find someone, Mark, in that department, who walked me through the application.  Sound like fun?  Feel inclined to get one yourself?  You can find more information  at this site.

I have applied under the Journalism category and have been told that this process, for which I have been told I have a good possibility of being approved, should take about 6 weeks.   I guess that our final plans for visiting Cuba will have to wait until we hear back.

For now, we continue to consider options and research the possibilities for our visit.  The two major options are.

Option one:  Spend some time in the Bahamas, we particularly want to visit the Berry Islands and spend some time in Great Harbor Cay at the marina there.   After that, we would head south along the Exumas and then on to Georgetown.  From there we would sail the 250 miles south to the Windward Passage between the eastern end of Cuba and Haiti where we would enter the Caribbean and turn west to explore the southern coast.  We would spend about a month exploring the south side of the island, round the western coast and head on to Havana and Marina Hemmingway.  After that, back to the US where I’d rendezvous with crew for my run to CT and home.

Option two:  Spend time in the Bahamas and then head back to Florida.   From there we would continue south through the Keys, make the 90 mile crossing to Havana and spend a month exploring the island using Marina Hemmingway as a base of operations.  That’s surely the easier option if perhaps a little less interesting.   However, we weren’t too happy with our time in the Keys from last winter and spending a few weeks in the Keys again leaves us a little flat.   However, we could also continue beyond Key West and explore the Dry Tortugas and Fort Jefferson before jumping across to Havana.  That would be fun.

I wrote about the Tortugas last year when we were thinking about visiting.  We opted to skip but there’s always this season.   This link is to the Park Service and gives a good history of the fort. As another thought on all of this is that our friends Dick and Anne on the cat Nati have expressed an interest in going to Cuba too and seem to favor option one.   We buddy-boated with them a few years ago in the Bahamas and had a great time. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey have one of those funny boats with two hulls but we try not to hold that against them. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALots to think about, I’d say and However, for now I’d better get cracking on preparing my presentation for the folks at the Essex Yacht Club next week. I’ll be talking about our cruises down the Intra Coastal Waterway and Bahamas.   Perhaps my talk will inspire them to take the plunge and head out cruising.

And as far as my discussions with Uncle Sam are concerned and the quest for my own personal SNAP-R, it’s plenty complicated but I am of the opinion that if it’s simple it’s probably not worth doing anyway.    Not completely confident that Brenda shares that belief but that’s another story.

Yes, life can be complex but it’s sure interesting.   That it is, indeed.


Looking forward to clear blue.

It’s Wednesday morning and 25 degrees here in CT.  Burrr….

With just a month to go until Brenda and I rejoin Pandora in FL, I am thinking about what we’ll do and where we’ll go when we head to warmer climes.    All of this has me recalling our past visits to the Bahamas.  Yesterday I saw a very nice video of the Bahamas Sloop Tari Anne.  It was three years ago, the year that Brenda and I made our first run south, that I was fortunate enough to crew on a “Class B” sloop at the Little Farmer’s Cay Regatta.  It was a trip, let me tell you.  I wrote about this wild, and totally fun, experience here.   What a hoot…

Seeing this video last night brought back so many memories and has made me long for clear blue waters and warm breezes.  The video was filmed in Georgetown Exuma, a beautiful harbor in the southern Bahamas where as many as 500 boats congregate every winter when cruisers converge from all over the world to enjoy the protected waters of the largest harbor in the Bahamas.  I assume that it was summer when Tari Anne was filmed as the harbor is all but empty.   Note that you can watch the video in HD by clicking on the icon in the lower right and choosing, you guessed it, HD.
In my last post I wrote, with barely contained excitement, about the possibility of visiting Cuba this winter.   I learned after speaking with someone from the State Department, that Brenda and I could visit under the “journalism” category of travel.  As a next step I called my friend Frank, author of numerous Cruising Guides to the Caribbean. Frank is a prolific writer and maintains a site of FREE cruising guides, brilliantly named  He has written, quite a few guides on all aspects of getting to and cruising the islands of the Caribbean.  Anyway, I asked him about the best way to combine a trip to the Bahamas and Cuba in the same season.  His answer was, predictably, “well it depends”.

My first thought was that we would make a run over to the Bahamas, work our way south to Georgetown, on to the Ragged Islands and then jump over to the north coast of Cuba.  Sounds simple enough.  NOT!  Frank told me that the north coast is very rugged with almost no marinas to stop at.  Actually, between the eastern tip of Cuba and Havana, on the western end, there is only one marina and it’s in the middle of nowhere.   Setting aside the rugged coastline problem, the Cuban Government doesn’t allow anchoring out or landing on the north shore which really limits your options. Besides, the waters are pretty rough and, to make matters worse, it’s a lee shore.  Brenda doesn’t like lee shores and Frank reminded me of this too.

As an alternative, Frank suggested that I get crew, assuming that Brenda wouldn’t do the run from the Bahamas (a long shot at best), to join me in Georgetown and run south through the Windward Passage, the body of water between the eastern tip of Cuba and Haiti, a run of 250 miles.   It’s not as far as I thought, which would probably only mean one night at sea.  We’d have a fair current of 1-2 knots and it’s a beam to broad reach the whole way. After transiting the passage we’d hang an right and make the 250 mile run to Jamaica where I could loose crew, rejoin Brenda and make the 80 mile over to the south coast of Cuba with Brenda.

Another option would be to just make Cuba our first stop.  Brenda flies and meets us there and have crew leave by flying from Cuba to the Dominican Republic (DR), and then back to the US.  However, this option does mean that Brenda would have to fly from Georgetown to Nassau, from there to Florida, on to the DR and then to Cuba to rejoin us, a trip that I expect would take about the same amount of time as her sailing there with us.

Editors note:   As you can imagine, Brenda hasn’t immediately jumped at the “let’s cruise 250 miles to Cuba from the Bahamas” option.  Her reaction was more akin to “I am going to have to think hard about that so don’t push it Bob…”, delivered with a stern steely eye glare.   I was encouraged by that.  Very encouraged.  You know me, “ever hopeful”.

Once in Cuba, we would cruise the south coast, continue our way west, round the western tip of Cuba and go on to Havana where we could jump the 90 miles to the Keys, on to Miami and home.  Isn’t that simple?  Yes, excepting the thorny part of getting Brenda to agree.  Hmm…

Another option is to run down the FL coast, make the 90 mile jump directly to Havana and not cruise the south coast this season.    However, Frank said that the south coast is not to be missed.    So many choices.

So, what’s a cruiser to do?  Frank can provide answers!  Along with the free guides that Frank publishes, he has also written a book “A thinking Man’s Guide to Voyaging South:  The Many Facets of Caribbean Cruising“, which is available as for Kindle @ $9.99 from Amazon. This book describes, in great detail, the two options that Frank laid out for me, along with lots more information.  I downloaded it today and will let you know what I learn.

Yes, there’s lots to think about but there’s one thing for sure.  We are heading south and the water is going to clear, blue, warm and I can’t wait.  Did I mention that it’s 25 degrees outside?  Yuck.  No make that double YUCK.

Pandora’s visiting Cuba! But it won’t be fun.

It’s Monday and I am thinking hard about where Pandora will be this winter.

Now that we won’t be in the BVI, (that still bugs the heck out of me), the question for frustrated BVI wannabees, is what now?

Here’s an idea.  How about going to Cuba?  I had kicked this idea around months ago but the process seemed overwhelming with formal State Department approval required and all.  I had heard that I might be able to plan a visit without direct approval and while the same 12 reasons that are acceptable for visiting Cuba still apply, there might be a way to visit without going through a formal written approval process.

As a point of reference, a detailed document describing the rules for visiting Cuba are described in this document from the State Department.  However, if you don’t want to wade through the whole thing,  the 12 reasons are…

  1. Family visits
  2. Official Government Business
  3. Journalistic Activities
  4. Professional Research and Professional Meetings
  5. Educational Activities, including People-to-People Contact.
  6. Religious Activities
  7. Public Performances, Clinics, Workshops, Athletic and Other Competitions and Exhibitions.
  8. Support of the Cuban People
  9. Humanitarian Projects
  10. Activities of Public Foundations or Research or Educational Institutions.
  11. Exportation, Importation, or Transmission of Information or Informational Materials.
  12. Export Transactions

I have highlighted in red, the section that I believe applies to me, #3 Journalistic Activities under the section of the code, #515-563 Journalistic activities in Cuba. (a) General license. The travel-related transactions set forth in §515.560(c) and such additional transactions as are directly incident to journalistic activities in Cuba by persons regularly employed as journalists by a news reporting organization or by persons regularly employed as supporting broadcast or technical personnel are authorized.

Confusing?  Yes indeed.  So, what’s a blogger to do, especially one who doesn’t get paid for his/her efforts?  Am I employed?  I think so and to paraphrase the VISA commercial, “for me, writing for is well, PRICELESS”.  So, I called the State Department of course and talked to Rubin in the Compliance Division of the Office of Foreign Asset Control.

My question to my new buddy Rubin was to find out if I needed to make a formal application to go or if I could operate under what he described as a “general license”.  That class of travel assumes that you are going for an approved reason and that you will keep records of what you did while you were visiting in case the State Department ever wants to check up on me.  He was careful to point out that general tourism isn’t approved which I guess means that I can’t “have fun” while doing it.

Not to tell a lie, I did mention to Rubin that writing and researching while we were in Cuba was likely to be fun although perhaps a bit less so as neither of us speak Spanish.  “OK, as long as you aren’t having fun…”, said Rubin.   That’s going to be a tall order as I am not sure that I am capable of keeping a dour look on my face the WHOLE time I am visiting.

Going around Cuba with a permanent scowl on my face just to prove that I  am not having fun will be tough given my nearly perpetual cheery nature.  This aspect of my personality is particularly annoying to Brenda, especially before she has had a cup of coffee in the morning.  Speaking of coffee, I wonder if you can get decaf coffee in Havana…  I’d guess I’d say…“Puedo tomar una taza de café descafeinado por favor?”  They’d reply… “De ninguna manera. ¿Que eres? Un yankee weasily ?”  Brenda, what did he say? Beats me.  I don’t speak spanish.

However, I’d say it with a smile.  I submit this shot of me looking my usual self.  Sunny?  Annoying?  You be the judge…Never mind about that.   So, here’s where we are now.  It seems that Brenda and I CAN go to Cuba and we plan to write about our visit.  However, and this is VERY IMPORTANT, we promise NOT TO HAVE FUN while we are there.  Ok, ok, got it.

So, there you have it.  Pandora’s definitely, or very likely… I think, visiting CUBA this winter.

Now I have to find out how much it’s going to cost for insurance to do this trip. I’ll bet my broker is going nuts with my change in plans, yet again.

Yes Rubin, trust me, I am pretty sure we won’t have even a little fun while we are there and I am sticking to that.  However, as miserable as we will be, we will just have to tough it out.  Besides, we do like old cars.Who knows, this might be me after our visit.  Besides, I am in touch with my feminine side after all.  Perhaps a visit to my dermatologist will be in order.

One way or the other, no rest for the “retired” weary.  Cuba here we come, I think.


Where is Pandora going and why, exactly?

As you might imagine, after so many months of my writing about our visiting the Caribbean this winter, I have received many questions and notes of sympathy from friends about how our plans have changed.

Frankly, it’s been a bit tough for me to swallow the need to abandon my run to the BVI but, as they say, “it seemed like a good idea at the time”.  Of all the queries about my reasoning, none were quite so “loaded” as our insurance company asking “just why are you not going to the BVI after all?”

Let me explain…

My insurance coverage for Pandora limited our sailing from Eastport Maine to the Bahamas and in order to include the Caribbean, less Haiti and Cuba, required me to go to a different carrier and the nearly doubling of my premium.  Of course, I didn’t want to pay the extra premium for any more months than I was going to be there so I had the new policy go into effect when I left Hampton.

Well, in less than a week after heading toward the BVI, it was obvious that I wasn’t going to there this season.  So, what’s a penurious boater to do?   Amend the policy, of course.    And let me tell you, this set off alarms with my carrier.  “So, what happened and why are you not taking your yacht to the Caribbean?”, implying “Now you have us wondering.  Should we be worried?”

So glad you asked…  I wrote a letter explaining, in the most balanced and lovely way, why not.  It will be interesting to see if any questions remain.

But wait, there’s more…

I now am exploring a visit to Cuba as I had read that the State Department has issued new guidelines for visiting Cuba by private yacht.  From what I gather, the same 12? rules apply but now you don’t have to have written approval from the State Department.  However, you have to keep records as to why you visited for a full five years, just in case they want to review what you were up to.

I suppose that it is a way for congress to deny Obama what he is looking for and let us visit in the mean time.  A sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to getting  permission to visit an “enemy state”.

So that’s all I know and I have a call into our congressional office.  It will be interesting to see what they say.   As a point of interest, the administrator that I spoke to did not know and would have to do some research.

Of course, if we decide to go, it will surely thrill my insurance company and I don’t even want to think about what the additional premium will be.  However, it probably won’t be any worse than what I paid when I had two teenage boys driving our cars many years ago, something that insurance companies view with as much concern as visiting a hostile country.  Hmm…

One way or the other, folks who are “in the know” feel that time is of the essence as Cuba will look a lot like DisneyLand once it’s open and easy to visit.

For now, if we go, I would expect that our first stop would be Marina Hemingway.So, where is Pandora going?   Hmm… I guess all of us will be wondering together. For now, it’s Florida and the Bahamas and who know where and that’s a good start.

Back in CT and planning Pandora’s next move

It’s Monday morning and I am back at our “land home” in CT.  While I have only been home for a it more than 24 hours, plenty has happened in planning our “escape” to the warm weather of the Bahamas after enjoying Christmas with our family and Pandora is on the hard for a few repairs/modifications in preparation for her winter with me and Brenda.  Fortunately, there isn’t too much to do, I hope and she should be ready to go when we rejoin her in late December.

I have certainly gone on and on about what transpired on our run and why I decided to divert from our run to the BVI and take Pandora to Ft Pierce FL instead.  I’d say that a winter in the Bahamas isn’t something to be sad about and there’s always next year for a second attempt to sail to the Caribbean.

Not a bad place to visit.  This was Pandora before she was Pandora when we cruised with her prior owners in the Bahamas a few years ago.  It will be fun to be there again with her soon.  I thought that it would be fun to include a shot of our route as we made our run across the Gulf Stream and back for a stop in Beaufort NC.  From there my crew Jim and I ran Pandora down to Florida.   All and all, a satisfactory “shakedown cruise” aboard Pandora.

You can see our “loop” as we headed out and, oops, turned back.   As a point of interest, the “spots” were automatic at a predetermined interval, so you can see how our speed varied from time to time. I guess that’s all for now. Time to clean up the yard from all the leaves that fell while I was horsing around afloat.

That’s it, plans set. Sort of…

It’s Saturday night and I am sitting in the boarding area for my flight to CT.   Jim and I left Pandora in Ft Pierce today and flew home out of West Palm Beach.   I had expected that flights would be too expensive and would require us to drive the 24 hours back to CT to avoid expensive flights.  Alas, we checked with the airlines as we came within cell range off of Cape Canaveral and were thrilled to learn that we could get $141 flights home from West Palm Beach.  That as less expensive than renting car and a LOT less time consuming.

We arrived in Ft Pierce at midnight last night and anchored just inside the inlet.  After a celebratory “adult beverage” we crashed into a DEEP sleep after not getting more than a few hours of sleep per night since leaving Beaufort NC on Tuesday afternoon.  In spite of a 24 hour period of slow progress on Thursday, into the wind, we had a pretty good run and covered the nearly 500 mile run in reasonable style.

I didn’t keep track but believe that we sailed nearly half of the time and enjoyed a 100 mile 12 hour run in the first day of our trip, meaning that we sustained more than 7.5kts, a very respectable speed.   Actually, we left Beaufort with a number of other boats and passed them all, sometimes sailing at better than 9kts on a close reach.  Pretty great, actually.

However, when the wind shifted against us, we struggled to make 4.5kts against the wind for an entire day.    The problem is that Pandora is “over propped”, something that I was aware of when I purchased her in May.  This means that the propeller is too large for the engine and it can’t attain rated RPM and while this is fine in flat conditions, we aren’t able to punch into waves when the going gets rough.  I believe that by adjusting the propeller we can likely improve things but it’s unclear if this is the only problem.  I am keeping my fingers crossed that there isn’t something more sinister at work, like some sort of compression or other engine problem contributing.  More to come on that point.

Also, the refrigeration problem continues to be quite vexing and if you have been following this you know that I abandoned my BVI run due to overheating from the refrigeration.  It turns out that the compressor doesn’t work well when we are moving fast as it can’t get adequate water flow, overheats and shuts down.  You will have to review a recent post to get more info on this problem.   Again, details to come.

So, based on these issues, I decided to haul Pandora and have the prop issue sorted out and have proper thru-hulls installed on the fridge and watermaker.  You know, the type with a “scoop” on the outside to be sure that adequate pressure is available to force water into the pump and counteract the vacuum that happens when water passes over a hull opening when we are going at speed.

If you’ve been paying very careful attention to past posts, you must be wondering “what have you done with all that frozen food Bob?”   Good question, good question indeed…

As is often said, “it takes a village” and I am very fortunate to have my friend and past fellow SAGA 43 owner Carl who agreed to store my 30lbs of frozen food in his freezer until Brenda and I return to Ft Pierce after Christmas.  Of course, with Pandora out of the water, the fridge doesn’t function.  Carl says that I can pick up the food when I return in late December.  That’s of course, unless he decides that it looks “good enough to eat”.  Hmm…

As it turns out, my 1,000 run from CT to FL was much more of a “shakedown cruise” and I can say that I have been indeed “shaken down” plenty by this experience but hopefully, most of the kinks have been worked out and we can again enjoy Pandora as the beauty that she is.  It’s pretty certain that there aren’t many boats that can take the pounding that we did in the Gulf Stream with 25kts opposing the current and continue to romp along in such great style.  It was a wet but terrific ride indeed.

I haven’t mentioned yet, but on our first night out we were peripherally involved in an Air-Sea-Rescue by the US Coast Guard, in the Gulf Stream.  Fellow crew Ken wrote about this in an e-mail today that I thought I would excerpt here.

And Ken wrote…

“Some of you asked about the SAR case we observed on our way south from the Chesapeake to Virgin Gorda on Bob Osborn’s boat Pandora.

So… the story was that a sailboat in our area at about 74.5 West off Hatteras transmitted a distress signal at about 2 AM on 4 Nov and then went dark.  This is a potentially nasty piece of water with 25 to 30 Kts against the Gulfstream, which meant it was a lumpy night with rain.  The boat was at the edge of the USCG’s VHF coverage so the Coast Guard asked those of us in the area to see if we could raise a boat named “Trouble” on our radios.  “Trouble” had sent a distress call that they were taking on water.  Three of the boats in our Rally and a cargo ship turned around to search the area.  The radio traffic turned into a Abbott and Costello routine of ; “are you trouble?.. your in trouble? No your trouble,  I’m not in trouble … third base”   A USCG helicopter soon joined them.  We were over the horizon to the east but we could see the “night sun” spotlight shining down from the helicopter.  There were a lot of false sightings of flares and debris all night but finally the helo headed back via the closest logical port that a distressed boat would head for.  It was on that track line that the boat was found, with its radio off.  Apparently they turned on a hand held radio when the helicopter was hovering over the boat.  We heard the Coast Guard side of the conversation, which was very cordial.  “Is this the S/V Trouble? How many people on board? Do you need assistance? Are you no longer asking for assistance?  (This last question was repeated a few times). 

We can only speculate on what happened.  The USCG will never discourage or scold a boater from asking for assistance, although I am sure they were frustrated.  The ship that turned around undoubtedly cost its owner one hell of a lot of money, but the SOLAS convention gives them no choice.  One of the three sailboats that responded ripped his mainsail in half while maneuvering in that sloppy sea and had to abandon his transit to Virgin Gorda. 

We aborted our trip the next day when smoke filled the aft locker due to an electrical short.  The 47-foot Aerodyne was a pleasure in high winds and sloppy seas.  We only had one boarding wave swamp the cockpit.  The starboard aft locker (on the leeward side) held the propane tanks and was therefore open to the sea and filled with water, as designed.  The problem occurred when we jibed and the water filled locker slopped over and through a hole for a wire that was not sufficiently watertight.  Just that little bit of water ruined our day.  We were never in danger but Bob made the right call on the side of caution.  There was no reason to risk a fire that far from land so he turned off the refrigeration.  This meant some food would have gone bad and no one wanted to eat peanut butter and jelly for a few days at the end of the trip.

We were all disappointed that we could not continue but it turned out that a Low that was north of Haiti turned into a full blown tropical storm so we may have avoided a few more sloppy days before making landfall.

As an aside, it was warm enough in the Gulfstream for me to take a shower on deck by just standing in the rain while avoiding the salt spray over the bow. “

It was an interesting night at sea and while I hated to divert and scrub my run to the BVI for this season, I am confident that I did the right thing.  Of course, with hindsight, it seems that the main reason we had to abort, a refrigeration problem, could have been avoided if I had better understood the limitations of the refrigeration installation and had a minor modification done prior to leaving CT.  Of course, with Pandora on the hard AGAIN, this problem should soon be history, I hope.

So, back to our arrival in Ft Pierce in today’s wee hours, Jim and I were happy to drop the hook and get a good night sleep.   When I dragged myself out of a deep sleep at 07:30 today I was greeted by a lovely breeze, palm trees and balmy temperatures. 11-14-15aWhat a lovely warm dawn it was and it’s good to know that Pandora had a successful if  somewhat more “interesting” run south to her winter home.

So there you have it.  My plans for the winter?  Well, at least for now.

Hopefully Pandora won’t “shake me down” any more for a while.  But wait, she’s a boat and that’s what boats do.

I’d better run to catch my flight though…


If I’d only known…

It’s mid morning and we are 75 miles off of the GA coast and about 2/3 of the way toward Ft Pierce, our destination, where I will leave Pandora until Brenda and I return after Christmas to prepare for our run to the Bahamas.

We are motor sailing close hauled and making fairly slow progress which is a bit frustrating. However, our overall run has been pretty good as we sailed at quite a clip for the first 24 hours at the rate of about 200 miles a day. We expect that the winds will again be favorable once we cross into Florida early tomorrow morning and hope to sail the last 100 miles with a good NW wind behind us.

As both Jim and I have already purchased return flights from the BVI, neither one of us is too keen on paying for yet another airline ticket. With that in mind, I’ll be renting a car and we will drive straight through to Jim’s home in Wiliamsburg VA, beginning on Sunday. It’s not ideal but at least it won’t be too expensive. Such are the complexities of moving boats around.

There’s not much to report except that nothing more has broken and I feel like I understand Pandora a lot better.

One thing that I understand now is the refrigeration and if I knew then what I knew then, I would not have aborted my run and would be in the BVI by now. What I learned is that the fridge doesn’t cool well when we are in rough conditions or going fast, as the cooling pump draws in too much aerated water to properly provide cooling for the compressor. This problem could likely be eliminated by putting a new thru-hull in with a forward facing scoop, much like what is used on an engine water intake. In addition, it is commonly known that when water passes over a flush hole in the hull a vacuum is created, known as the venturi effect. As Pandora is such a fast boat, this effect causes the water pump to work much harder, against that vacuum, causing the compressor to overheat. The watermaker suffers a similar problem so I’ll have to replace that thru-hull as well. The Spectra watermaker instructions specifically warn of this problem as a cause of premature pump failure, something that I have already “enjoyed” on Pandora. For now, the simple solution is for me to just turn off the refrigeration and only cycle it as needed and not to allow it to draw down the temperature quite as low, thereby reducing the run time on the unit and minimizing overheating. It’s really unfortunate that I wasn’t aware of this sooner as great deal of frustration and expense could have been avoided.

Oh well, at least I know now.

We haven’t been in close contact with many boats for the last day or so but have talked to a few that have showed up on AIS. In particular, I was amused by a 70′ sport fisherman called “18 reeler”. The captain had a thick southern accent and I couldn’t help wondering if he made his money in the trucking business. Oh yeah, we have also had plenty of dolphins keeping us company, which is always fun.

I guess that’s about all for now as we make our way south. Oh yeah, we are officially into warm water so it’s shorts and light shirts, even at night.

BVI or bust? Busted…

If you have been watching my track on “were in the world is Pandora” you are likely scratching your head as to exactly why Pandora is underway and moving south along the US coast. So, here’s what’s going on.

Taking care of all of the “details” following our romp in the Gulf Stream at the beginning of the Salty Dawg Rally took a full five days on the Morehead City docks.  I won’t reiterate all of the issues, most of which I detailed in previous posts, but the list included plenty of items with the final task to replace the missing set-screws in the jib roller furler that were missing.

The absence of these fasteners meant that one of the upper extrusions was shifting and wore away the bolt rope and damaged part of the jib. I didn’t realize that this was a problem until we attempted to re-hoist the repaired jib. The repair required two metric set screws and finding the right size turned out to be fairly difficult and involved a cab ride to a local hardware store, a sort of nautical scavenger hunt ending with success in finding what ended up being two $30 set screws that should have cost about $1 each.

Anyway, when we had finally ticked off most of the items and I had time to begin thinking about what I was going to do next. Of course, the major issue was crew as the three had signed on for two weeks and that meant that heading out again for the BVI was not going to work as we’d never get there within the two week window.

My first thought was just to leave the boat in Beaufort, head home and then return after Thanksgiving and run to the BVI then. Yes, that seemed like a good idea. However, the rub was that getting crew to sign on for two weeks during the holidays seemed to me like a very tall order so back to the drawing board.

Ok, I’ll just continue on to Ft Pierce FL, leave the boat there and head back there after Christmas and spend the winter in the Bahamas. That seemed to be a reasonable idea even though I was very disappointed to give up the BVI after so much planning and anticipation.

After saying that we’d be leaving the boat in Beaufort, Ken and Cathy made other plans which meant that I lost them for the run to FL. Fortunately, Jim agreed to stay on and help me with the rest of the delivery. So, as I write this the two of us are working our way down the coast and should be in Ft Pierce FL late Friday or Saturday.

We left Beaufort yesterday afternoon and had a rough sail overnight with winds gusting near 30kts on a close reach. As there had been very strong winds from the south for the previous few days, the seas were pretty rough and confused as the winds clocked from the south to the west and finally NW, but we made good progress passing all boats that we encountered along the way and covering 100 miles in 12 hours, a pretty impressive run.

I expect that the remainder of the run will involve a lot of motoring but at least the boat will be where it needs to be and all settled in. So, after Christmas Brenda and I will either fly or drive south and rejoin Pandora in late December.

All and all, this run has been much more of a shakedown cruise than I had envisioned with all sorts of little surprises along the way. Hopefully, now that I know the boat better, this winter will be more relaxing and less of the “boat repair in exotic places” that it has been.

So, with the BVI totally “busted” I am hopeful that Brenda and I will have a fun winter in the Bahamas. It should surely beat the sub-zero temperatures of New England.

For now, continuing to head south to Florida and then on to home. Yes, home, I am getting a bit home sick, and can’t wait to see Brenda again, that’s for sure.

Getting to know her, getting to know all about her…

Ok, now I get it.  The last few weeks preparing for the Salty Dawg Rally and finding my way, sometimes painfully, to Morehead City NC has really been a shake-down cruise, an opportunity to get to know Pandora on an intimate level and better understand her and her systems.

On “old Pandora”, I had installed much of her equipment myself so I knew what to look for and exactly how to deal with most situations.  With Pandora “new”, It’s more like a scavenger hunt, where every little experience is a mystery and sometimes I really have no clue even if I think I know what I am dealing with.  “exactly where is that electrical smell coming from?”, “did the fridge compressor cut out because it is overheating or did it reach it’s set point and exactly what temperature is that anyway?”.

An Aerodyne 47 is a very complicated boat, well at least compared to other boats that I have owned, and sometimes I don’t even know if something is broken or not.  I just have NO IDEA what I am looking for.   Do I furl up the sail cover or leave it in place when I reef.  Furl it.  Now I know, furl it.  That was a painful lesson as I spent much of yesterday making minor repairs from when I reefed and didn’t furl.  It’s a big cover but between me and Cathy, we were able to maneuver it around in the cabin and get everything in order.   11-8-15b 010It’s all about attention to detail.  Pretty good work for an amateur, I think.11-8-15b 012Getting the sailcover off of the boom and back on was “magic” as Jim, Ken and Cathy handled the whole process.  I did the sewing.

How about getting to know her jib?  I patched the vinyl window and an area on the luff that had chafed on a rough part of the roller track where a rivet had broken, who knows how long ago.  Not serious but I’ll have it properly repaired next summer when she’s laid up for a few months. 11-18-15b 014I also received the watermaker pump head yesterday (Just how much does Saturday delivery have to cost?  Really?) and installed it.  I was getting concerned that I couldn’t back-flush the unit as required without a properly functioning pump.  All better now.

It felt pretty good to have “most” of the details worked out, both things that broke and those that just needed attending to that I didn’t even know about.  All and all, the chores took about three full days, or was it four?  And that included a lot of help from crew.   Happily, they have been very good natured about the “change of plans”.   Perhaps it was the “Pandora made” biscuits.  No, it was probably the rum. Having cold beer on hand helped too.  Did I mention that the fridge is working again?  Actually, it always worked.  That was a hard lesson.

Glad to have all of that behind me.  Well, until things get “interesting” again.  And speaking of that, I am now looking for crew and expect to try to make my run to the BVI again a few days after Thanksgiving now that I know Pandora just a bit better.

Chores or not, I did make time yesterday to watch what is billed as “the largest Veteran’s Day Parade in all of North Carolina”.   Not sure how that compares to other “largest Veteran’s Day Parades”, but it boasted a LOT of very enthusiastic participants, throwing candy at spectators, and went on and on.  The procession took nearly two hours to pass.  With a number of big military bases nearby, there was some really impressive hardware.

This one would be right at home in the desert.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHow many helicopters do you see in your local parade?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd, who doesn’t love the old Jeeps?OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was trying to get my head around these little trucks and wondered how many beers it took when someone said, “hey guys, let’s build little trucks and drive them in public a few times a year and no, I don’t mean those embarrassing golf carts that look like a Corvette.   I am talking totally ridiculous.  Can I Have another Bud?”  “Here you go, Elmer. I want a mini truck too!”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“No wait, I have an even better idea…  How about a motorized land boat?  And let’s make ten of them that match and drive them in circles as we move down the street.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“It will be awesome.  I’ll make a shrimp boat with wheels.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I can make my golf cart into a Jet fighter.  It will look just like the one I flew in Nam.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“And we’ll have my buddy Jake bring his hot air balloon basket so he can blast flames into the air.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I once saw the Blue Angles perform.  I’ll modify The Wife’s old Harley.  I am sure she’ll love it.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Guys, what about me?  I want one too and I have always said that if I was going to drive a car that was REALLY tiny, it would be yellow.  Yes, bright yellow with red pin-striping. and real green running boards.”OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo, there you have it, from the sublime to the ridiculous and you will just have to decide which is the sublime and which is, well not so…

For better or worse, I now know more about Pandora than I did before I left CT.  And, as my dad used to say, “that’s more about penguins than you probably ever wanted to know”, and this is only the beginning.

How about another shakedown cruise in December?  Then I’ll really know her, all about her.  Well, except the things that I’ll learn later.

Things are not always as they seem.

It’s early Saturday morning and here I sit in Morehead City NC aboard Pandora after aborting my attempt to get to the BVI.

In my last post, I talked about multiple equipment failures and my decision to head back across the Gulf Stream and stop near Beaufort to get things sorted out.

Faced with white smoke and an overpowering smell of electrical burning, I was convinced that my refrigeration had crapped out along with several other problems during our rough crossing of the Gulf Stream.

The real clincher was the “failure” of the refrigeration that made a stop seem like a really good idea.  So, as much as it depressed me to accept it, heading back to land was the sensible thing to do and the idea of arriving with a freezer of rotting meat wasn’t something that I wanted to think about.

Ok,trip aboarted and with a day and a half to sort through things, what really happened?

It all started with water in the propane locker that leaked into the interior of the boat through some inadequately caulked holes where wires passed through the bulkhead.  Salt water had built up in the locker as we thrashed along in heavy conditions and when we tacked to get a better angle on an “eddy” south of the stream, the water that had built up in the locker leaked through those holes and spilled all over the solar controller which was located right under some wires.

When I opened up the unit there was evidence that this had happened in the past but the controller decided to “croak” this particular time and boy it was a dramatic end.  As it was overcast and rainy when all of this was going on, it never occurred to me that all that white smoke could come from way back there and I incorrectly assumed that the refrigeration was the culprit.    One thing for sure is that it could have been worse, much worse.   I shudder to think what might have happened had there been “fire where there was smoke” in an area so inaccessible. Is is possible to love a blown fuse?   Let me count the ways…

Ken, Jim and Cathy, my crew, have been great and helped me remove everything from the “leaky lockers” as well as the “not so dry” interior aft compartment to get it washed and dry on the dock.  I sprayed out the interior section and set up an electric heater to work to dry everything out.   I caulked the leaky spots, inside and out to be sure, , make that double sure,  that this won’t happen again.

All was cleaned up by early afternoon so I turned my attention to the “doused” controller.

How could so much go wrong at the same time? Hard to believe that the fridge, controller and Oh yeah, the watermaker, which I forgot to mention, could all have problems at the exact same time.

Ok, controller issue resolved.  Could it possibly be that the fridge wan’t messed up after all?  I turned it on.  IT WORKED!  Can you believe it?  I had turned off a perfectly functioning piece of equipment.  Who knew.   I couldn’t decide if I was happy or sad that it worked.  I had aborted my run to the BVI for a “mission critical” failure that hadn’t failed.  The real culprit was the controller, something that I could easily have replace once I got there.

Can you believe it?  Isn’t 20/20 just great?  However, when faced with white smoke and the smell of an electrical fire while out at sea I made my best guess and I was wrong.    Now that I am writing this, I realize that it could have been worse, much worse, as it never occurred to me that the problem was way aft in a locker that “doesn’t get wet”.   The smoke and odor was coming from the solar controller, not the fridge.  Who knew?

Ok, it seems that the refrigerant is a bit low but that’s going to be addressed today.  Not a big deal.

But wait, there’s more.  I also have this automated watermaker that needs to backflush every 5 days to avoid damaging the membrane when it’s not being used and I discovered that it wasn’t backflushing any more.  Oops.  Great, another failure to deal with.  Good news, it looks like the fix is going to be fairly simple but I won’t know till later today when the part arrives from RI.  Can you say $68.47 for Saturday delivery?  That’s just the shipping. Don’t ask about what the part cost, you don’t want to know.  Hell, I don’t want to know.

Of course, the big question is “what about the BVI?”  I talked to Brenda and she still wants to spend the winter there so I’ll be recruiting crew for “yet another attempt” and hope to depart right after Thanksgiving.  All of this sounds like I am preparing for an expedition to ascend K2.  Is it me or does leisure really need to be so exhausting?  Hmm….

I do hope that we can salvage all of this and get to the BVI this season.  Besides, our friends Maureen and Bill on Kaloonamo (did I spell that right?)  are making the run from Trinidad to the BVI to meet up with us so we really have to be there… Right?

Almost forgot… When we arrived here my crew bought me dinner as they felt so sorry for me.  A sort of “pitty dinner” and it sure tasted great.  A cold beer… Thanks, I needed that.

I guess that the moral of the story is that things aren’t always as they seem.  However, a rough passage white electrical smoke? Better safe than sorry.

Editor note:  My brother Bill is going to be pissed.  Yet another post with no pictures.  Too busy fixing F%$#@$% problems to take photos.