Monthly Archives: December 2016

Yes, it looks like Wednesday’s the day! BVI, here we come!!!

I spoke with Chris Parker today and his original recommendation that Wednesday the 4th will be good for a departure to head to the BVI still stands. This is actually a surprise to me as long range forecasts usually don’t turn out to be quite the same when they are no longer long range.

So, here’s what Chris thinks things will look like for next week.

I could leave either Wednesday or Thursday from Beaufort but a departure on Wednesday puts us south of the Gulf Stream in advance of strong NW winds in the range of 20-30kts with higher gusts that we’d likely see with a Thursday departure.

By leaving Wednesday morning we’d be ahead of this and probably will see winds in the 20s out of the west as we cross the Gulf Stream.   By evening, and we’d be across the Gulf Stream by that point, we expect to have NW winds in the 20-25 range that should carry through Thursday morning.

After that the winds should go light with a continued NW component followed by light winds for Saturday and Sunday, suggesting a few days of motoring.

On Monday it looks like NW winds will build again which will allow us to carry the rumbline all the way south to the BVI.   This is in contrast to the “normal” run to the eastern Caribbean that generally calls for a lot of easting toward Bermuda prior to heading south when we reach the easterly trade winds.  Of course, a straight shot is also shorter which may mean a total run of a week or perhaps a day or two longer if we have to motor a lot.

However, if we are delayed and can’t get going on Wednesday we will probably have to wait until the weekend or next Monday to avoid the next front that rolls off the coast after Wednesday.

And speaking of delays, remember the “unfinished” work  on Pandora that I wrote about the other day?   As I mentioned in my last post, I was able to find someone to look in on Pandora on Friday who told me that some of the work was completed but that the cockpit glazing was not in place.  Yesterday I finally heard from the yard owners, who are now back from their vacation.   They reported that the cockpit glazing is now in place so we should be “good to go” unless something else comes up.   I still don’t understand why the sub that is doing the work would not return my calls, or those from the marina.   He still hasn’t contacted me, work done or not.

As of now, it looks like Pandora and her crew are in for a good run with good conditions for a few days of easy fast sailing when we get underway. This is very good as Dave and Jerry are not familiar with Pandora so I don’t want to “jump into the fire” right away with heavy conditions.

I fully expect to see some “sporty” conditions during the trip but it would be best to have that later in the run when we are more settled in to our routine.

While it’s supposed to rain on Monday and Tuesday, it looks like the high on Wednesday will be around 60 degrees which is a lot more appealing than being out in near freezing conditions as we begin our run.

Of course, every post should have at least one photo so how about a sunset photo as Brenda and I entered Cuban waters last March?  That seems like a long time ago.  What an amazing trip that turned out to be. Yes, I expect that this winter will be filled with wonder too as have the last 4 for me and Brenda.

And, speaking of “wonder”, how about a photo from yesterday of our granddaughter Tori in her “Pandora crew” shirt?   She’s pretty excited about our trip too. I really feel so sorry for all the mothers who’s children are not as cute Tori.   Yes, and when it comes to “wonder” I sure hope that I don’t find my self “wondering” why I decided to make a run from the US to the BVI, beginning in January”.   I guess you will have to stay tuned to see how it goes.

So, here’s to a terrific run next week.    Yes, indeed, it looks like Wednesday’s the day.

Don’t forget to check out “Where in the World is Pandora” on this page.  I’ll have my new tracker working by Tuesday so you will be able to see where we are at most any time all the way.

I’ll be back in a few days with an update.

Happy New Year!  It’s going to be great, I’m sure.

When will we get there? The BVI, that is.

It’s Friday, Christmas has come and gone and I am due to jump in  a rental car on Monday to drive to Beaufort.    With less than a week to go, it does look like the weather will support a mid-week departure for the BVI but, as is so often the case,  there is one “little” problem.

When I dropped Pandora in Beaufort in early November I contracted with the yard to get some projects done.  That work included some engine work, a new charger/inverter, new mid cabin port glazing on ports that had developed chronic leaks as well as new bedding on the large glass dodger windows.

With two months to get the work done the answer was “no problem mon”.    Alas, not quite.  The engine and electrical work were done in short order but the windows?  Well, let’s just say that getting information on the status of the job has been nearly impossible.  I was getting so frustrated yesterday, with less than a week to go, that I finally had to call on the local SSCA Cruising Station host in Beaufort to get in his car to check out the status of the boat for me.     As expected, Michael dropped everything and went to the yard to check on the work.

The good news is that the large ports in the cabin are nearly complete but the cockpit window is not yet done, has been removed and is lying in the cockpit.  I have called the “closed for the holidays” yard off and on all week and hopefully will have confirmation soon that the work will be done in time.

I guess that it is experiences like this that make me determined to do most of the work on Pandora myself but sometimes calling in experts, as in this case, is the only option.

Anyway, this is the sort of thing what keeps me up at night but back to the subject of this post.   When I talk about next week’s trip to the BVI, a question that inevitably comes up is “How long will it take?”  Of course, that’s a complicated question that involves many factors, the first of which being “When will we leave?”.    And, as I have mentioned above, that’s currently a big question.

However, setting that aside, the next question is about the wind and that’s a big “Who knows?” too.    All of the above aside, another question and one that is in the minds of all sailors and designers, is “How fast is she?”   Below are a set of “polars”, a graph of predicted performance numbers for the Aerodyne 47 design.  It’s a bit confusing to read but worth digging into.

If you find it easier to read a table, here are the raw numbers.

Simply stated, the red lines are wind speed which is overlaid on compass rose that shows a theoretical speed at any given wind angle and speed.    Rodger Martin, the designer, just sent them to me and at first glance I would say that my experience, with the understanding that these are for a boat that’s not as heavily laden with cruising gear as Pandora are consistent with the charts.  The stated numbers are in the ballpark if a it high.  However, when you consider that she has a LOT of stuff on board, they are pretty close.  In my experience, with about 15kts on the beam, that she runs in the 7-8kt range.  The numbers are impressive.  Nice design Rodger!

So, armed with these numbers, the question is “How long will our 1,500 mile run take?   Who knows but, for sure, there will be times when we will say “wow, she’s fast”.   Other than that? Who knows.  Besides, she’s a sailboat and Brenda’s opinion on the subject is something like “fast or slow, it’s sort of like watching grass grow”.   Oh well, I guess.  Seems fast to me.

So, now long will the trip take?  I’m betting around 9 days, give or take a day.   I guess we will have to wait and see.  For now, I’ll just have to hope that the work on Pandora is completed when I arrive or IT’S GOING TO TAKE A LOT LONGER.

With New Years Eve just a few days away, I guess I’ll close with the hope and expectation that 2017 will be a terrific year.

Fingers crossed for now.   And, as Brenda has said, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful.”

Yes, that’s me.  Can I have a cookie?




Departure Wednesday next week? Yikes!

After weeks, no make that months, of thinking about and planning for my run from Beaufort NC to the BVI I can’t believe that it looks like it’s going to happen next week.

I spoke to Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, today and he feels that there will be a window, perhaps on Wednesday January 4th for us to leave Beaufort and begin our run south.  The window actually looks pretty good with 4-5 days of north component winds to get us across the Gulf Stream and far enough east and south before the next cold front rolls off  of the coast at the end of next week.

Yes, crossing the Gulf Stream with a northerly component wind isn’t great fun, but I expect that Chris Parker feels that Pandora and her crew can take it and that it probably won’t be a particularly strong wind.  Chris knows that I am open to more “sporty” conditions with crew than when I am when Brenda’s aboard and he is aware that, in this case, Brenda will be joining Pandora in the BVI via the “silver bird” after Pandora’s all settled and cleaned up from the trip.  Actually, I plan to fly back home once more to see our new granddaughter and to get the house closed up and winterized for the time we will be away.

On the remote chance that you have forgotten what our new granddaughter looks like, here’s Tori on Christmas day, wearing the outfit that Brenda knitted.

As I told her about our plans for the winter, you can see that the was plainly gripped by my tale of adventure.
Unfortunately, after the second set of slides I think I lost her.  Oh well, perhaps it was the review of GRIB files that did her in, like my last post.

Anyway, as Tori said, “that’s great Grampy.   Talk to Ya Ya.  I’m taking a nap right now.” (Ya Ya is Tori speak, we hope, for Grandma Brenda,

So, back to my story.  It’s interesting how things creep up on you after months of planning when all of a sudden it’s all a mad rush getting ready to leave.  It also seems like whatever day I pick the best “window” always comes a day or so earlier than I’d like.  And as always, if we miss this window, Chris said that we’d likely have to wait a full week until the next window opens up.   Yep, gotta make that window so Wednesday sounds about right.   Car rental set?  Check…  Mountain of crap to bring down?  Check…  Summer clothes?  Double check… AWESOME!

So, while I have already purchased a lot of stuff for the trip, it’s time to think hard about what else I’ll need to pick up and bring along for the run..

And speaking of mountains of crap.  It’s amazing how much has accumulated in my office.   Somehow I have to organize it all in a way that I can stow aboard when I get to Beaufort.I guess that’s about all for now.  The plan, as of now, will be for me to leave CT on Monday and head directly to Beaufort.  Then my crew will arrive on Tuesday.  As it’s a 12 hour drive for me, I’ll be pretty bushed when I arrive and will only have about a half day to get settled.

So, there you have it.  Not a lot to say but somehow I managed to write over 600 words on the subject.

Let’s hope that everything goes according to plan.  I’ll be talking to Chris Parker again on Thursday so I’ll likely do another update at that time.

Details to come, as always.


Crew’s ready. Weather? Not so sure.

Well, here we are on December 17th, a little more than two weeks until I rendezvous with my crew in Beaufort to, as Chris Parker says, “exit the US East Coast” to head down to the BVI.

I am very lucky to have a great crew for the run.  Leading the charge will be Jim, who’s sailed something like 5,000 miles with me, the most of anybody except Brenda, of course.   And, it was through Jim that I was introduced to Jerry and Dave, also from Jim’s area in VA.  Jim is a cruiser like me but Jerry and Dave are both racers, inshore and offshore so the combined experience will be good.

My plan is to leave CT on January 2nd with a rental car and make my way south. Along the way I’ll likely stop and see my new Granddaughter Tori (short for Victoria) as I make my way through MD.  She was born December 12th in case you were wondering.  Her father Rob, our oldest, told her about my plans to stop by on my way to Pandora.  At first she said “Grandpy who?”. The she suddenly remembered “Oh, you mean my favorite paternal Grandpy!  Yes, I remember him!”  Can you believe that she already knows the word, paternal?   Smart girl.   We had a onsie made up for her that says “Pandora Crew”.  Good to start the training early.  Picture of her in uniform to come soon.  Right Rob?  I know how much she loves being dressed and changed into new clothes.  All that crying is really her trying to say “TAKE ME SAILING GRANDPY”.  Not certain on the spelling of Grandpy.  Spell check only pulls up Granny and that’s not working for me.

Ok, ok, enough baby pictures but I was talking about crew so Tori counts.  Sorry Jim, she’s going to be serious competition down the road.  Actually, by the time she’s old enough… Well, I don’t want to think about that right now.  I’m thinking one of those peddle boats.  Nooooo…..

I won’t think about that now.  So, back to “exiting the US East Coast”.   Chris Parker, the weather router that we use, does daily weather briefings six days a week and broadcasts on SSB radio as well as on the Web.   We are still a bit far out to know what the weather will be the first week of January when we want to begin our run but it’s not too early to look at some high level trends in east coast weather.

Chris told me that there seems to be a pattern of lows exiting the coast about every five days or so and that they are not terribly strong with winds, say in the under 3o kt range.   Yes, a mere zephyr.  That’s not bad as long as the winds are behind us, which they should be.  Yes, something to wish for.

A few weeks ago Chris told me that he thought that my chances of getting out in the first week of January was about 75%.  Soon we will know.

It’s interesting to see how quickly the wind patterns change day to day.  This may be “more than you want to know about penguins” but what follows is a series of 24 hour wind forecasts beginning at 06:00 UTC today.  That’s midnight EST today.

So, beginning today…  Note that the yellow is the strongest wind at around 30kts with stronger gusts and the white 5kts or less.   Today would not be a good day to get going as it’s blowing strong from the ESE and a low is just exiting the east coast south of Hatteras.  You probably know this but the “flags” point toward where the wind is coming from and each full “flag feather” represents 10kts of wind and a half feather, well, 5kts.   The red line would be Pandora’s course and approximate 24 hour run distance.  The Gulf Stream in yellow.  Note that the “stream” comes pretty close to Hatteras and is deflected to the east at that point.  The very shallow waters off of Hatteras make it a particularly nasty place to be when things kick up, especially with a north component wind.    That’s why they call it “the graveyard of the Atlantic”.   Cheery thought. 

On Sunday you can see that the wind is expected to shift more to the SSW.  This would still be a problem as our “apparent wind” (how it feels on board with the boat moving toward the wind) would be pretty far forward of the beam and would feel like 30kts or higher in gusts.  Not even a little bit great. 24 hours later, midnight on Monday EST, the wind has again shifted back to the north.   However, as you can see, the wind drops out about 24 hours into our run.  That’s when we would be south of the GS which goes very close to Hatteras.  still a nasty way to start the run. So, Tuesday the winds are still strong from the NE.  Nope, still not a good time to cross the Gulf Stream. Perhaps Wednesday could be a window to start out if we were ready as the winds are from the NW and not too strong.
Thursday the wind drops out so a departure might work even if it means motoring for the first day or two  Let’s see what Friday brings…Oops.  Friday again brings strong southerlies so the wind would be very far forward of the beam.  Pretty unpleasant and the pattern begins all over again. So, what’s a crew to do?   Well, this analysis suggests that there really isn’t a decent window in the next week.  However, the 4th or 5th of January is still a long way off so we will just have to wait and see what happens.  This exercise shows just how changeable the weather is in the winter months.  The key will be to get across the Gulf Stream and into more southerly waters before the next cold front moves off of the coast.

It is quite interesting to see how different the weather patterns are in the winter verses spring.  I have generally found that getting a week long window with favorable winds heading north in the spring is pretty easy as the prevailing winds are from a southerly direction and the fronts don’t roll off of the coast nearly so frequently.

I guess that’s about all for now and I’ll report back sometime next week to see how things look for the first week of January.  Ten days out we should at least be able to get an inkling of what lies ahead.

Well, I was telling Tori about what it was like sailing in the Gulf Stream with wind from the north and she wasn’t amused.  So,I gave her back to her parents.

I guess that about covers it for now.   Stay tuned for more scintillating updates on weather and getting ready to head south.  I know that my crew is.  Perhaps not Tori but it’s to soon to tell what she’ll think when she’s bigger.

Yes, I know this blog is about sailing.  Don’t worry.

Finally, four for dinner (Alfresco style) on Pandora.

Finally, Pandora’s new and improved cockpit table is done.  It took a lot longer than I had expected but it took a lot less time than the new bathroom which Brenda was particularly focused on this summer.  However, the bathroom deal is another story entirely.

You may recall Brenda’s saying, the whole “six for cocktails, four for dinner and two stay the night” thing.  Well, up until now the “four for dinner” only worked if we ate down below.  And that worked quite well as Pandora’s dining table is generous.  6-23-15-013However, in the cockpit, where we prefer to dine when it’s nice outside (of course) only had room for two.   While we were in Cuba was had to eat fresg caught lobster all by ourselves while, you can plainly see, enduring desperate conditions.  However, somehow we somehow managed to survive until now  Such depravity! 3-13-16a-006However, we did somehow survive and we FINALLY have a larger table.  I have fashioned an 18″ extension that I can slip on or off as needed.  Pretty nifty actually as engineering this was not simple and to make it look the same as the Lewmar table that came with the boat was pretty tough.  However, now, we can open it up and there will be plenty of room for the “four for dinner” that we had so desperately longed for.   You’ll have to forgive the difference in color of the new wood on the extension.  Yes, it will fade in time to be more golden.  12-9-16b-002We can also fold it up for those times when we need the room to put out drinks and snacks only.  You know, “six for cocktails”.  Actually, sometimes we have twice that many and that puny little 24″ table just won’t do. 12-9-16b-001“Bob.   How ever will you keep the two halves together and support the end?” Thank you.  I am very pleased that you asked.   There is a “magic tab” on the back that slides into two channels to support things.  I have to say that coming up with this took some genuine “head scratching” and it wasn’t until I was describing the problem to my friend Craig a few weeks ago that he suggested a sort of well, “tab” to keep things lined up.   It slides into special (don’t they look special?) slots on the back of table and extension. 12-9-16b-004

Voila!  “Magic tab” in place. 12-9-16b-003Oh yeah, I fashioned some nifty screw-in legs to support the table when it’s in the “four for dinner” configuration.  It just wouldn’t do if one of our guests somehow ended a bit “lit” and leaned too hard on the end of the table.   All those chips everywhere.  That just wouldn’t do. 12-9-16b-006In case you missed the post that described the earlier stages of construction click here.

So, there you have it, Pandora’s new “alfresco” dining table is done so all that’s left is to answer the eternal question “guess who’d coming to dinner”.

I am afraid that I can’t answer that quite yet as she’s not open to entertaining at this time.   Guest dining, for four you now know, will just have to wait until we are all settled in the BVI.

And, with less than a month until I shove off for warmer climes, (Did I mention that I just hate cold weather?) “dinner for four” is not that far off.

One month from today on my way and memories of Cuba.

It’s hard to believe that I only have one month to the day until I’ll be back aboard Pandora in Beaufort NC.

This week the work on Pandora’s engine was completed.  It wasn’t anything particularly big, just a leak on the heat exchanger.  Fixed now.  I also had a new charger/inverter installed.  I could have done that myself so it’s going to hurt to write a check.  Oh well, only two boat dollars for both.  Ugh…

I am getting a bit anxious about the two big ports in the cabin and the big window in the dodger that need to be replaced as the guy who’s supposed to be working on it hasn’t been responding to my emails and calls.  I did speak to the office at the marina and I believe that they will hunt him down and be sure that the work is done on time.

The problem is that the guy who’s supposed to be doing the work is a sub-contractor to the marina.  However, the folks at the marina did recommend him and have a vested interest in having the work done right so I’ll keep my fingers crossed that everything comes together with a minimum of fuss.  Yes, “double crossed” but in a good way, I hope.

The fact that I am leaving in one month was brought into sharp focus yesterday as I did my first shopping for “provisions” for the trip south.  I am not focused on perishable stuff right now but did buy a lot of items that I’ll need to have on board.  I am trying to get most of the purchases out of the way of anything that won’t spoil.  Besides, you can never have too many packages of “Chips Ahoy” cookies.  Right?

As I’ll be trying to get Pandora completely ready to get underway in only  two or three days once I get to Beaufort, I want to bring as much as I can from home and have been making a list for the last few months of what I’ll need, you know, toilet paper, paper towels, snacks and the like.  I am also bringing along soy sauce and wasabi as I am hopeful that we will catch some nice tuna along the way.  That would be awesome.

Speaking of fishing, at the Salty Dawg Rally events in Hampton in late October, I sat in on a fishing session that suggested gear we should have on board for the run.   Of course, rods and the usual fishing stuff was part of the discussion but they also recommended that we have a hand spool of really heavy line that is run out the back of the boat and pulled in by hand with gloves when there is a fish on the line.

This is a good example of the rig and it’s a lot simpler than all that complicated rod and gear approach.  We have one of these aboard Pandora and it works well.  Interestingly, the spool that you wind the line on is called a “Cuban hand reel”.  Who knew?hand-line-rigWant one yourself?  This link will take you to a site with details on how to set one up.  I just went to a tackle shop and they made one up for me.  No, I am not ALWAYS a do-it-my-selfer, believe it or not.

I also heard that it was NOT A GOOD IDEA to use REALLY BIG lures as you might catch a REALLY BIG FISH.  Big lures usually mean REALLY BIG FISH. Not good as there is just no way to deal with a huge fish on board.   Even a small tuna, say under ten pounds, is hard to deal with as you’ll get sick of tuna before you area able to eat all of it.   Too much sushi you say?  Trust me on this.

So, I included a bottle of soy sauce and a can of wasabi powder.  All ready for our tuna.  Time to fish, soon.

The cockpit table extension is done and I am putting on MANY coats of varnish. I’ll post some photos of the completed table soon.  I am very pleased with how it turned out and can’t wait to share the result.  Now we can be true to the “four for dinner” aboard Pandora.  If you don’t understand what I mean by that you aren’t reading my blog.  Curious? Ok, check out this post and you’ll understand.

I also received the calcite water treatment filter which should solve the problem of acidic water that tastes a little funny from the watermaker, RO unit.  I was wondering how I’d be able to tell when the filter needed to be replaced and was pleased to see that the filter housing is translucent so that I will be able to see when the “sand” is depleted.  Unfortunately, the filter housing I have isn’t clear so I may have to rethink that and get a one that is see-through.  That way I’ll know when the filter is out of media.  Don’t know what I am talking about on this either?  Check out this post that goes into more detail on the problem.

I think I mentioned that the Salty Dawg Sailing Association is planning a rally from the BVI to Havana this spring and I have been asked to prepare a summary of some of Brenda’s and my posts from our visit to Cuba last winter as a “primer” on what we experienced.   As they are only going to be in Havana I will be focusing on that aspect of the trip.  Just for fun, here’s what I’ll be sending them with links to some of my favorite posts.

Here you go, Salty Dawgs (and you too)

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association will be hosting a rally to Havana in the spring of 2017.  Well, that’s assuming that the President Elect doesn’t decide to crank down and further restrict travel to Cuba.  I guess we will just have to wait and see.

Hank, who is the organizer for the trip, has asked me to prepare something to share to give you a feel for what we experienced, particularly in Havana.

Perhaps the best place to start is with Brenda’s post where she wrote about what the people are like and let me tell you, they are wonderful.   When you visit Havana you’ll find that it’s not quite as “gentle” as the very rural areas, but still very friendly.  I took a stab at describing how I felt about the Cuban people as well in this post.   In the event that you decide to venture further west of Havana Cayo Levisa, that I mentioned in that post is a wonderful spot to visit.

We spent about ten days in Havana which is probably enough time to get a feel for things but there is so much to see you could easily spend weeks or months exploring the city.  This post, which I wrote up while we were “in the thick” of our visit to Havana gives a good feel for all that there is to see in this vibrant city.  While it is a poor country, there is no shortage of art an music and it seemed like there was always some sort of holiday celebration underway.

This post by Brenda entitled, “Magical Havana” captures the wonder that she felt as we made our way.   Brenda and I visited Cuba under a “journalism general license” with her goal of exploring the fiber arts of Cuba and she really hit “pay-dirt” in Havana.

The arts in Cuba are just amazing and Brenda did a great job of conveying that spirit as she wrote about our very last day in Havana prior to heading to Ft Lauderdale.  Her post “Basket Man”, a street artist that we encountered, is a great example of how vibrant this city is.   We watched him make an amazingly intricate “basket”.   4-27-16a-032And finally, eating out in Havana is best enjoyed by visiting the many Paladars, small private family owned restaurants that are everywhere in Cuba.   As a general rule, the “tourist hotels” while they are magnificent buildings, have very mediocre, bordering on horrible, food and are expensive.  We did frequent these but did so for an afternoon coffee or drink.  If you want really great food, you need to go to a private restaurant, or Paladar.  We visited a number of these but one, Paladar los Mercaderes, was a real standout.   A great source of information on where to eat and what to see is the Lonely Planet Guide to Cuba.  This post was about that day and our best meal in Cuba.  I thought that the “greeter” was just too cool. 4-25-16a-047All and all, while not nearly as “polished” as many of the islands in the Caribbean, Cuba is a “diamond in the rough” and to go now, before there are “Golden Arches” on every corner, is an experience not to be missed.

Want to learn more?  Check out the 30 or so posts, from March and April of which I have highlighted just a few.  They can be found on this site as well as Brenda’s at  And just like visiting Cuba, they are best enjoyed when accompanied by a glass of good rum (prefereably Cuban) served neat.  You won’t be disappointed.

Yes, go to Cuba!  Brenda and me?  We’re going to somewhere new, the Eastern Caribbean.  Only a month until I head out.  So excited!