Monthly Archives: June 2016

Good news and a full house.

It’s Saturday afternoon, everyone has flown the coop and Brenda and I are alone again.   Our Gam in Essex that I organized for the Seven Seas Cruising Association began a full week ago with guests coming in from all over.  The three day event was a success with nearly 100 in attendance and we had a full house at Bob and Brenda’s B&B, otherwise known as B&B’s B&B.

So, now that everyone has headed on their way things should begin to settle back to normal.  In my last post I mentioned that Brenda had been diagnosed with melanoma, a very dangerous form, no make that the worst form, of skin cancer.   She had her surgery over two weeks ago and is now beginning to feel herself again.   Happily, she had her follow up with the surgeon and they did not find any remaining malignancy which is such a relief.

The timing of the surgery and Gam were unfortunate as we had a boat load, make that many boat loads of folks visiting Essex and staying with us only one week after Brenda went under the knife.  That made for a tough week as she tried to keep up the near constant steam of parties and events that surrounded the event.

The Gam got off to a rousing start the night before the formal events got underway.    Pandora hosted a dink raft-up out in front of the Essex Yacht Club and ended up with 30 aboard.  She was riding a bit below her marks.  We all had a great time.  Her cockpit was jammed.6-25-16a 003With plenty of overflow to the forward deck. 6-25-16a 004Over the three day event we had a great lineup of speakers including Chris Parker who did several sessions on weather, a topic that can be very confusing. Happily, Chris is very good at making complex issues understandable.    Here he is at the CT River Museum, where we held the last day of the event, standing in front of a reproduction of the “turtle” the first military submarine.   The original was built in nearby Old Saybrook back in 1775.  It’s not Brenda’s idea of a cruising vessel. 6-25-16a 023It was a thrill to have Chris do his morning and evening broadcasts from my home office.  Somehow he was able to manipulate his antennas at his studio in FL via the Internet as well as broadcast over the SSB.  How he do that?6-25-16a 006Jake from Life Raft and Survival came down from RI to talk about safety equipment and wowed us all by doing a live life raft inflation out on the lawn.   How convenient to have him present as he was able to take my raft, which needed servicing, back to the shop with him.  That saved me a trip and made his trip worthwhile, I hope.   I’ll be filming the inspection of my raft up at their shop in the next few weeks and will write about it in a future post.  That should be very interesting.   Let’s hope that’s the only time I see the thing inflated.  6-25-16a 017Tom Whidden gave our keynote presentation at dinner on Sunday.  He did a wonderful job presenting a mix of high tech racing, including the current Cup competition and shared some thoughts about what’s going on in contemporary cruising boat design.  IMG_2028Tom has a remarkable background as a member of the America’s Cup Hall of Fame.  He has won the America’s Cup three times and finished first in class A in the Bermuda race 5 times. He is a very accomplished sailor and we were very lucky to have him speak to us.  I’ll admit that it was a bit easier for me to convince him to speak to us as he’s the current Commodore at Essex Yacht Club.  Thank you Tom.

With nearly 100 attending we had quite a mix of cruisers including this couple that brought their trawler up from Annapolis alone to attend the Gam.  They are both in their 90s.   We should all be as spry at that age.  Perhaps it’s the wine.  I cling to that belief. IMG_1976There was much more including a talk by George Day from Blue Water Sailing Magazine about preparing for offshore sailing.  Alas, no pictures of George.

All and all, it was fun to put the event together but I am sure glad that it’s finally over.  Happily, I had plenty of help from my buddies George and MaryMarie as well as others.  Perhaps I’ll take a few weeks off before I start lining up speakers for next year.  Yes, time off, good idea.

A day after the Gam crowds left, our friend Lars arrived in Essex for a visit.  We had spent time together in Cuba and it was fun to see him on our home turf.  His boat Luna, has taken him around the world, beginning in Norway,  over the last 12 years with stops in too many countries to count.   Here’s Luna in Santiago de Cuba where we met him back in early March.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere’s Luna on the dock at Essex Yacht Club for a much needed scrubbing down. Perhaps not quite as scenic a spot or perhaps it’s just the angle of the shot.  Essex is beautiful, for sure. 6-25-16a 024Lars and I headed up by car to Mystic Seaport for the Wooden Boat Show yesterday.  I always enjoy seeing all of the beautiful boats and hardware on display from the vendors.

Speaking of Cuba (well I was a few photos ago) there was a boat at the show that resembled Pilar, Earnest Hemingway’s boat.  The original boat is in Havana. Unfortunately, we didn’t see her when we were there.  While the sign on the boat we saw at the show seems to imply that this boat was “the one”, upon close questioning, the owner fessed up that it was not even the same hull design but that the boat was made to “look like Pilar”.  A nice boat, never the less. 6-25-16a 029This was a neat find, a Cape Cod Catboat named Pandora.  A bit smaller than our Pandora but beautiful.   I am happy that our Pandora doesn’t have any exterior teak with the exception of a teak cockpit table. 6-25-16a 030How about a cold molded camper?  Quirky but well made.   It even has roof racks 6-25-16a 026It comes complete with a galley.  Sure hope that it’s always sunny when they are working “in the kitchen” as it’s outside.   Love the paper towel dispenser. 6-25-16a 027Everywhere you turn, beautiful boats.  How about this drake tail stern?  Lovely. 6-25-16a 032And this beauty built by Gannon and Benjamin, the storied boat builder on Martha’s Vineyard.6-25-16a 033And, magnificent details on boats everywhere you look.  I loved this steering station.  Terrific bright red cast wheel. 6-25-16a 034Lars and I had a fun day at the seaport.  He left today to head east.  It was nice to see him again.  Hope it’s not too long until our paths cross again.   Perhaps Brenda and I will visit Oslow Norway (by plane for sure) where his “home port” is, even though he hasn’t been there in many years.
6-25-16a 035And all of this just scratches the surface of all that happened in the last week, and the “onslaught” began only one week after Brenda “went under the knife”.  No wonder she’s exhausted from all the “fun”.

So glad that she’s on the mend and that the tests show that she is clear of cancer.  That’s very good news, indeed.

I’d say “that’s all for now folks”.  Oh yeah, one more thing.   Did I mention that we had to buy a new car too last week as our 1999 SAAB finally bought the farm?  Oh yeah, and our lawn mower croaked too and you know how much I just love cutting the lawn.

Other than that, noting much going on.

Upgrades for cruises to come and a kick in the teeth.

It’s mid June and Pandora has been back north for about a month.  I can’t believe that it’s been that long but in a way it really seems like another lifetime since Brenda and I cruised much of the coast of Cuba.

I am presenting to a number of groups about our trip and beginning the process of putting my thoughts down about the trip has brought back many great memories.

My first presentation on Cuba will be this coming weekend at a three day meeting that I am putting on in Essex for a group of cruisers affiliated with the Seven Seas Cruising Association.  SSCA is  a group that anyone who cruises or is contemplating doing so should be a member of.  With dues of about $50 a year it’s money well spent. Besides, they work hard on our behalf to help shape legislation for anchoring rights and other important topics for the cruising community which is reason enough to be a member. They also have a very informative monthly newsletter, more of a magazine actually, that alone is worth the price.  Not a member?  Click here to see what you get as a member and sign up.  You’ll be glad that you did.  Me too.

So, when I am not busy preparing for meetings, I am thinking about what to do to make Pandora a better home afloat for me and Brenda.  As Brenda enjoys cooking and is very good at it, I have been hard at work on some modifications to the galley to make it more “cook friendly”, no make that “Brenda friendly”.  One important refinement was to convert one of Pandora’s five hanging lockers, the one in the galley, by putting in shelves to store pots and pans.  After a year we have found that this space just doesn’t get used very much as we have plenty of other places to hang clothing.

So, I added three shelves so that we could more easily store the cooking stuff that we’ve found to be very hard to fit anywhere in the galley.  We had been keeping this stuff under the washing machine (Yes Brenda is very happy that we have one of those aboard Pandora).  Technically, the pots and pans fit there but the racket that I caused getting things in and out was jarring at best and not a great spot to root around in each day.  With a deep slanted floor, and narrow opening, every time we opened it up, pots and pans came spilling out all over the floor with a jarring clatter.

This is the locker (before).  Not much to look at.  Yup, a locker. 6-13-16a 058I was careful to fabricate substantial fiddles on each shelf to keep everything in place.  I also wanted to be sure that the design of the woodwork matched the other fiddles elsewhere exactly.  I was happy with the results.  This is the same space.  I challenge anyone to tell that it wasn’t original to the boat.   Notice the granite insert on the top of the stove/oven.  It was stored in the “old” hanging locker so I had to find another spot to put it when the stove was in use. 6-13-16a 062How about keeping the stove top insert on top of the washer/dryer?   I fabricated a fiddle and attached it with a double sided adhesive foam strip.  I think that it looks good and the insert slips in right behind it.  I also put a short 3/4″ tall strip on the back end of the washer to keep things from sliding outboard when we are on a starboard tack.  Cutting boards will also be stored there, another item that we find hard to store, out of sight.  Problem solved. 6-13-16a 068The addition of shelving to the locker has freed up the area to the right of the stove for other items.    This area used to be filled to overflowing and was a source of constant frustration to Brenda.6-13-16a 063Now things are more thoughtfully stored and easily accessed.  These changes will also make room for a larger food processor that will help Brenda be more efficient in the galley, a good thing to be sure.  Besides, when I am putting away things first thing when Brenda’s still catching her “beauty Zs” I won’t disturb her with pots clanging into an overflowing locker.   Perhaps that’s the big payoff.

I do have concerns about having a food processor on board.  Getting the infernal thing clean without a dishwasher “Come on Bob, no dishwasher on Pandora? What sort of boat do you have?”   Alas, nope!  It’s me, I’m the designated DW. Dish washing isn’t a problem for Brenda because of the “galley rules” aboard Pandora.  The rules are as follows… whoever cooks doesn’t have to do the dishes unless it’s me.

Hmm… that means that I ALWAYS do the dishes, at home too.  Ok by me as I wouldn’t want to do anything that stifles Brenda’s creative work in the galley.  So far, so good.

Galley storage done?  Check.  However there are still many other little and not so little projects on the list that I’ll have to get to.  After this weekend event I will be able to turn my attention to what’s next.

Of course, all of this takes a back seat to this summer’s big job of gutting and remodeling of the master bath, the land home one, which I haven’t begun yet.   And don’t forget the lawn.  Such is life…

On another subject, and not a very happy one at that, Brenda was recently diagnosed with melanoma and had surgery last week.  While they caught it fairly early, it turned out to be a quite a big deal.  Post surgery and that took hours, she has two really angry looking incisions, one on her upper right arm that’s about 6′ long and another one, 4′ long, under her armpit.

The surgery was done at Yale and we’ll be going back next week to find out if there is anything to worry about going forward based on the tests done to the lymph nodes that they took out.  The prognosis is good, according to the oncologist but it’s been a tough few weeks, to say the least.

Of course, melanoma is not something to be messed with and sun exposure is clearly a risk factor, especially tropical sun, which, in spite of our best efforts, we get plenty of each winter.  We try to stay out of the sun as much as we can but there’s no denying that winters in the tropics mean more sun than winter in CT.

It’s worth noting that the “spot” looked like a large freckle and it was hard to see that it was something that, if left untreated, can kill you.  What’s particularly alarming is how fast the lesion appeared as she had been to the derm in October of last year, less than six months before she was diagnosed and had surgery.

So, there are a lot of questions to be answered and it’s anything but clear if our travels will take us south this coming winter.

For now, I’ll continue to work on Pandora to get her ready for “whatever” comes next.  You just never know what life will throw at you, I guess.

So for now, all I can say is stay tuned…  Details to come.

I’ll sign off now as I still have work to do on my presentation about our trip to Cuba.






Gecarcinus ruricola salad Cuban style.

When Brenda and I cruised the south coast of Cuba over the winter, we decided to take a land trip from Cienfuegos to Trinidad de Cuba.

Along the way, we witnessed a remarkable sight, the beginning of the annual migration of 100,000,000 Cuban land crabs (Gecarcinus ruricola) marching from their home in the mountains to the sea to lay their eggs.   As they near the end of their 6 mile journey, a particularly long way, it seems to me, for a critter that always walks sideways, they must cross a busy coastal road shortly before reaching their destination. What a sight as they scurry sideways, claws held menacingly skyward.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have an opportunity to stop and take photos that day as we crunched our way through along the road.   However, all is not lost as there are videos on YouTube about this and nearly every other topic that you could possibly imagine.

Along with touching crab videos, there are plenty to choose from that you’d probably want to skip.  However, you’ll have to wait a moment longer for a particularly poignant example of that ilk.  First, here’s a short and really fascinating, to me anyway, clip chronicling this remarkable migration to the sea.

You won’t believe just how many of these, not so little crabs, make their way from the mountains to the sea and back again each spring.  How about 100 million?   When we were there it was early in the season so the spectacle was limited to a road covered with mere thousands.  Plenty yuck enough, if you ask Brenda.   I understand that there are only a few places in the world where you can witness such a spectacle and Cuba is right up there.

And, if you happen to be lucky enough to have a home along their route, you’d find yourself with thousands of crabs “beating a pathway to your door”.  No, make that to your door, over your roof and down the other side, quite literally, each year.

So, if you happen to live in “crab city”, and double lucky you if you do, here’s a video of how you can prepare them for a nutritious meal, Cuban style.  And, of course, you’ll see that they are very much alive while you are “preparing” them.
No land crabs in your neighborhood?  Fear not.  And I expect you are at least as thankful as Brenda is for that as she’s more like “Julie” in the terrific movie “Julie and Julia“, when it comes to preparing “recalcitrant crustaceans”.  This “clip” from the movie offers a very personal take on preparing your own.  Familiar?  Of course, our heroine might have had a better time of it had she had just ripped off the legs and claws before putting them in the pot. Eeeewww!!!

Anyway, our visit to Trinidad de Cuba, as chronicled in this post, crabs aside, was wonderful and I encourage you to put it on your itinerary along with a bit of Gecarcinus ruricola salad (of course, that’s Cuban Land crab to the non Latin literate among us)  Yum…

So, there you have it.  just when you thought I had written on just about every imaginably inane topic… Scintillating detail about land crab migration and cooking instructions to boot.  Who knew?