Monthly Archives: January 2017

We’re back in Tortola. 32 years later. 

Well, we made it, we’re aboard Pandora in Tortola and all is well.  The sun is just about to peak over the eastern end of the harbor here in West End and it’s going to be a beautiful day.I have to say that I am pretty pooped as yesterday was a very LONG day.  On Sunday we winterized the house and, of course, set more mouse traps.  In fact, I have set so many traps set that we now have a “mouse dedicated” jar of peanut butter.  Brenda saw me “double dip” the knife into that jar at least once and… Well, let’s just say that I won’t be using THAT JAR to make sandwiches any time soon as it’s now indelibly marked “mouse contaminated material. NOT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION”.  Ok Brenda, I’ll go along with that.

After the final bit of water was blown out of the domestic water pipes and the thermostat turned down, our next door neighbor Janet drove us to the airport. We had decided to stay at a hotel on Sunday because there was just no way that we’d be able to get the house ready and make it to the airport in time for an “O dark 30” flight yesterday.  Conveniently, Janet has parents up near the airport and offered to drive us to our hotel.  Thanks Janet for being a good neighbor.

Our final act before leaving for Tortola was to meet our friends LeaAnn and Garrett, who came to our hotel room to join us for a light supper of cheese, crackers, soup and, of course, wine.   You know, all the basic food groups.  LeaAnn is Brenda’s oldest and best friend.  Well, to be clear, she’s not Brenda’s “oldest” friend but she has known her the longest, since she was 8 years old.  That’s a VERY OLD friend and it seems is getting older by the day, but we won’t think about that right now, will we?

Anyway, we had a great time and it was a nice way to toast us on our way for the rest of the winter.

Airport hotel or not, we still had to get up at an obscene hour to catch our 05:50 flight.  But we made it and now we are here and “here” is just beautiful

A lovely view greeted me today as I had my first sip of coffee.  And a pelican stopped by to say hello.I am dragging a bit today so I decided to make 50/50 coffee.  “Watch out Brenda.  Bob’s had caffeine!”   Hopefully, it won’t be too bad.  The problem is that when I drink “real” coffee the feeling that I get isn’t particularly good, unlike our son Christoper who says that “coffee makes him normal”.    For me, I get the same sort of feeling that I had the first time I tried to work up the guts to call Brenda the first time to ask her for a date when we were Juniors in High school.   I was really excited but felt a little queasy.

And speaking of Brenda, which I do from time to time, and the title of this post, the whole “32 years and we’re back” thing, it was about this time all those years ago that Brenda and I were last in Tortola together.

I have to say that it really hit me as we landed at Tortola’s Beef Island yesterday and all those memories came flooding back.   Brenda was pregnant with our son Christopher, the “normal with caffeine Christopher”, our second.  She was pretty far along and we decided to head away for a week because we were pretty convinced that once we had two children WE WOULD NEVER GET ANOTHER VACATION ALONE AGAIN.  Happily, that turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration and I can’t believe that we are finally back here again after all those years.

Lucky us.  Lucky me!

Well, I’d better sign off for now as the caffeine is kicking in and I am having trouble typing.   I’m pretty excited too but my stomach isn’t quite as queasy yet as the first time I summoned up the nerve to call Brenda.

If I have a second cup.  I might have to join these two fisherman working the shallows with a throw net.  Yes, a bit random perhaps but I have to use up all that energy.  Yes, pretty excited.  It’s good to be back in Tortola together again after all those years.

What a spot.

Bob and Brenda out… Mouse party time!

It’s Sunday morning and later today Brenda and I will “check out” of our home and check into an airport hotel for the night before we catch our flight on Monday to Tortola.  And that flight leaves at “0 dark 30”, the tender hour of 05:50. Early, early.

When I returned home about a week ago from deliverying Pandora to Tortola I began setting traps around the house with the hope of catching any mice that might be planning to take over once we winterize the house and leave.

I have to tell you that I have been astounded with the number of mice that I have caught compliments of Victor. You know, the Victor mouse traps? Those little wooden traps?  Yes, the ones that are so impossibly hard to set without “catching” your finger.  Yes, those traps.

Anyway, at first I set about 4.  One each in the kitchen, Brenda’s studio downstairs, in the basement and up in the attic above the garage. Well, let me tell you, it turns out that there was a “regiment” of mice waiting to invade once we left.  I have caught mice nearly every day since returning home, sometimes’s more than one.

I caught them in the laundry, downstairs bath and even in the kitchen behind the toaster oven (Brenda just loved that. How about a nice piece of toast Brenda?). However, the largest number, upwards of 8 or so, were caught way up high on a shelf in the garage where I store towels to dry the car.

Yes, I dry the cars EVERY time I return home if it’s been raining. And yes, I know that’s pretty anal. However, I’m proud of anal as it works for me.  So, way up on the shelf I have been catching mice every single day and that’s a lot of mice.

When we first left the house five years ago, we discovered, to Brenda’s abject horror, that mice had eaten into everything edible in the pantry while we were away. So, every year since then we have set traps and move all the staples to the refrigerator.

So now you know, if you leave your home for months at a time, THE MICE WILL COME!  Or, to put it another way and to torture a phrase “set a better mousetrap and mice will beat a pathway to your door”.  And they do…

Perhaps more than knowing that we share our home with myriad mice is knowing that the largest concentration of these furry pests is on a shelf that’s 6’off of the ground in the garage. For some reason, this makes me think of zip lining but I’ll get back to that in a moment.

I can just imagine us blowing out all the pipes, putting antifreeze in the toilets, sink traps, washing machine and dishwasher, turning down the heat and shutting the front door…

And THEN, once the front door clicks shut…The mice come streaming in with high pitched little cries of joy. Can’t you just imagine them climbing all over the furniture and swinging from the chandeliers?  I guess that’s why all of this makes me think of zip lining.

“So, where, where, where are you going with this Bob?”    Well, I’m thinking Antiqua of course and zip-lining through the rain forest canopy.   Yes, that’s what I want to do. Why should it just be those little mousies in CT that are having all of the fun?

We hope that our travels this winter will take us to Antigua, 160 miles south and east from the BVI.  And there I want to try my hand at zip-lining through the rain forest canopy. vYes, that’s what I’ll do while thinking about all the fun that the mice will be having in our home while we are away.

Check out this short video.  Looks like fun Brenda? Right?But first those little mousies are going to have to get past the nearly 20 baited traps. Here mousie, mousie.  How about some nice peanut butter.

I wonder if mice have peanut allergies?  Hmmm…

Time to put out more traps and get ready to go.

Here mousie, mousie…  Party time…

(editor:)  No mice were harmed in the making of this blog post.   Well, not the post itself…  And if they did, they deserved it.

The countdown has begun. Pandora, we’re on our way.

It’s only three days until we winterize our home here in CT and head to Tortola to join Pandora for a few months of sailing in the Caribbean.

Our plan is to stay in the BVI only long enough to become acclimated again to life aboard and then, with the first weather window, make our way to St Martin where we will join up with our friends Maureen and Bill aboard Kaloonamo (I’ll never figure out how to spell that name).  We have “buddyboated” with them for weeks/months at a time over the years and are looking forward to spending time with them again.

They have spent the last few years sailing in the Caribbean and usually summer in Trinidad.   They are great fun and know their way around the islands which will make it easy for us to just tag along and enjoy the ride.   Can you say “tour director” Maureen?

When I arrived in the BVI after my trip down from Beaufort, I spent some time cruising the area with my crew.  The deal was that if they did the run with me, I’d spend time with them cruising once we arrived.

It was a fun time and a few of my recent posts are about the places we visited together during that week, prior to heading our separate ways.

The BVI is a wonderful area to cruise but I have always thought of it as the “charter mecca” that it is.  In fact, I have been told that something like 90% of all boat charters are out of that area and just about every boat you see is a charter boat.

With that comes a very different sort of “cruiser”.  Unlike the folks that we have hung out with over the years, those who visit the BVI for a holiday seem to us to be very focused on “living large” while they are there.

I wrote about our recent visit to Norman Island which is perhaps an apt example of the sort of place that the BVI seems to be for many folks on holiday, a sort of “aquatic pub crawl”.   I do expect that my description will elicit some strong words from those that don’t agree.  What can I say?  It’s just a first impression.

Over the years Brenda and I have certainly participated in many “sundowner” cocktail events ourselves but in the BVI this activity has it’s own “twist” as witnessed by this photo of a young couple sleeping it off after a few too many at Willy T’s.  This is the sort of “sundowner” that Brenda and I prefer.   This photo was taken at a recent Salty Dawg Sailing Association event.   BTW, if you enjoy cruising, you owe it to yourself to consider joining this group.  Yes, plenty of wine flowing but somehow it’s just different and more our speed.  Perhaps it’s our “semi advanced age”.

In any event, the BVI is great fun but there aren’t quite as many cruising types there as we expect to see as we head south to those islands less frequented by the charter set.

However, our plan of heading south means that we will first have to make the nearly 100 mile run from the eastern end of the BVI to St Martin and the run takes us directly into the prevailing easterly trade winds.   We will work with the weather router Chris Parker with the hope that we will be able to find a decent window to make the overnight crossing.  Unfortunately, it’s likely to be “uphill” all the way as the trades blow from the east nearly all of the time.  I am hopeful that Brenda will have had an opportunity to become acclimated to life aboard again and you know how much she loves overnight passages.

I expect that it’s going to be somewhat uncomfortable for her but I am pretty confident that it won’t be nearly as nsaty as the conditions that the crew of the Dagmar Aaen encountered in the Southern Ocean.   Remember the video that I posted from the gale we encountered in our run to the BVI?  Well, that was a mere zephyr compared to this.  As you watch this sort piece, notice how one of the crew’s life vest is inflated after a particularly large wave washes over the ship. Boy oh boy, if we have anything even a little bit like those conditions as we make our run to St Martin, it will be the LAST time Brenda steps aboard Pandora.  Yes, that would be what my son Rob might refer to as a “terminal CLM” (Career Limiting Move).

Anyway, I won’t think about that right now and will try to be optimistic that we will not encounter any conditions like that.  Besides, we have Chris Parker to guide us.

It’s up to you Chris….

So, time is short for us to get everything ready to “fly the coop”, “audios amigos”, “get out of Dodge” and head down to the BVI.  Lots on the to-do list including winterizing the water system so we won’t have any worries about freezing pipes and I’ll also be setting a mess of mousetraps.    We have found in the past that when we move out they move in.   And don’t forget about preparing tax forms to send off to our accountant as we won’t be back till after tax day.   There’s no end to the details.    Ugh…

Anyway, I’m getting anxious just thinking about everything that needs to happen.

The clock’s ticking….

Pandora, we’ll be there soon.  Stand by to accept boarders.

Pandora’s snug in West End Tortola

It’s Thursday afternoon and I am here in MD with Brenda visiting our son Rob, Kandice and grandaughter Tori for a few days.

I have spent a good part of the morning tracking down some repair parts for Pandora including the pin for the autopilot that broke on the trip down from Beaufort.  I understand that this part, a pin that attaches the autopilot to the rudder post, has been a problem on Pandora since she was launched and that it has been replaced about every 18 months.  I won’t go into the details yet except that I think that I can modify the installation so that there will be less stress on that part going forward.   In any event, I was able to purchase two spares from Raymarine so that’s off of my list for now.

I also spoke to the folks from Quantum and they will be sending me some adhesive backed sailcloth to make a temporary repair to the rip in the main.  I’ll take it to their loft in Annapolis in the spring to have it repaired properly.

Finally, I also need to replace the control lines on the traveler as they frayed. There is a particular spot where the line enters the traveler from the turning block that isn’t perfectly lined up with the entry to the traveler so it rubs.  With the rough conditions we encountered that certainly caused the lines to fray sooner than normal.

It’s remarkable just how much wear and tear we ran into during the week we spent moving Pandora to the islands.  My friend Chris once told me that one year of living aboard causes as much wear and tear on a boat as ten years of weekend sailing.  I believe it.   And, 1,200 miles in a week, half in a gale, is bound to stress things.

If you have ever been in large seas, I expect that have tried to take videos to document the conditions.    A sort of “wow, you should have seen HOW BIG thes waves were” only to find, as I did that the shots just don’t do justice to what you experienced and have found yourself thinking “well, I guess you had to be there”.

In any event, here’s a short video of Jerry at the helm as we blasted along in gale force winds.  Believe me, the waves were way over our heads but this video just doesn’t do justice the just how uncomfortable we were for the four days of strong winds and big seas.   Actually, this wasn’t the worse of it as we didn’t even try to take shots when conditions were at their peak.Happily, that’s over now and I am happy to say that Pandora’s now safe and sound in West End Tortola where it’s a lot less exciting.   She’ll be there all by her lonesome through the end of the month under the watchful eyes of some friends. The view to the west at sunset is spectacular.  Please forgive the non-level skyline. Must have been the Dark and Stormy.  Our grand finale of a week of cruising with my crew was a visit to Foxy’s the famous beach bar on nearby Jost Van Dyke.  The island is very quaint with a lovely “Main Street”.  And a lovely church on the waterfront.  Or course, a beautiful view of Pandora from our table at Foxy’s where we had lunch.   Actually, I had some sort of chicken burrito thingy that was my best meal of the week. Jerry had already flown home so it was Jim, me and Dave for a “family” shot. All and all, it was a good trip with great crew but I am really happy to be with Brenda again.  When we get back to Pandora at the end of the month, Brenda and I will be going to a Salty Dawg Sailing Association dinner at Foxy’s.   That will be fun but for now Pandora will be waiting for us all snug in Soper’s Hole, West End.

I can’t wait to see what Pandora will show us this winter.

Yet again, details to come so stay tuned.  And, of course, I’ll be keeping my Delorme unit engaged so you will be able to follow our travels if you wish at “Where in the world is Pandora“.

1,200 miles to Tortola?  Check!  Home to Brenda?  Check soon!

It’s Wednesday morning and the sun is out here in Tortola.  However, that’s no surprise as it’s ALWAYS sunny except for the few minutes every couple of hours when it rains.   I had heard that it rains often, perhaps every day, more like a short shower so no surprise there.  After several years in the Bahamas where winter rain is a very rare happening, try once in four months, this is a much appreciated change of pace as it keeps Pandora’s decks clean of salt and grime.

Another welcome change is that the wind always blows from the east, all the time, unlike the Bahamas where fronts come through about once a week bringing with it winds that clock 180 degrees.  This means that we had to constantly watch the weather to be sure that we wouldn’t find ourselves on a dangerous lee shore.   Here, clocking winds are not a problem.  Having said that, it’s much more windy here with breezes in the low to mid 20s.  That has been a bit much but I am told that it’s been unusually windy since we arrived and that it will likely settle down in the next few days.  Actually, yesterday’s winds were more “zepher like” which Brenda would have liked.

Speaking of Brenda, which I do in just about every post if you’ve noticed, I’ll be heading home tomorrow to see her with a stop along the way with her to see Rob, Kandice and little Tori.  You know, the “cutest” granddaughter EVER!   (see the last post if you doubt my word)

Brenda and I will head back to Tortola together at the end of the month for a few months of sailing  together.  We hope to head down toward the southern islands after a short visit in the BVI to meet up with cruising friends and “buddy boat” our way further south.

It’s been a very difficult time to be away as Brenda’s mother died after a long illness the very day that I sailed out of Beaufort to head here.   The timing was particularly difficult as Brenda got word just one hour after I was out of cell range.  It was very unfortunate that Brenda had to face such a difficult situation alone with me out of touch save some email for a week.  Her mother died of COPD brought on from a lifetime of smoking.  Let me tell you, COPD is a particularly nasty way to die as you slowly suffocate.  Not pretty to watch and I am sure, complete torture to endure.

Brenda managed the situation y herself but I have felt supremely guilty that I wasn’t there to support her through such a difficult time.   It was the first really big event in her life for the last 45 years that I wasn’t there for and it felt terrible to be out of touch.  Fortunately, once we made landfall here I was able to find pretty consistent access to Wi-Fi so calling her on the phone was possible several times a day.  Had I been in the Bahamas, where Wi-Fi isn’t nearly as robust, it would have been even more difficult.  However, as I only had access to Wi-Fi when I was ashore, she wasn’t able to call me when she particularly needed to talk.

Anyway, I can’t tell you how excited I am to see her again tomorrow for the first time in two weeks and what a long two weeks it was.

My crew has been great and very mindful of my “anal retentive” tendencies aboard Pandora.  They have been good company and have have kept things picked up nicely.    At 47’, Pandora’s not a little boat but with four on board for two weeks, she doesn’t feel large at all.  Once we arrived here in West End Tortola they went over the boat carefully to wipe down every surface so Pandora’s in great shape now for Brenda’s arrival.

This harbor, West End or Soper’s Hole, is very pretty and well protected.  There are plenty of moorings for rent and I’ll be leaving Pandora here while I am back stateside.

Yesterday Jim and I decided to hike up the nearby hill/mountain to get a view of the harbor.   We went up to the cell tower.  It’s at the top of the hill.  Let me tell you, it’s a lot farther away than it seems.    “Are we there yet?”The view of the harbor was amazing.  These buildings are where the local Pusser’s bar and restaurant are.  It’s a very nicely put together waterfront facility with nice shops and a pretty good grocery.While Tortola is fairly arid, there are plenty of flowers.   I loved this butterfly.   My new camera is really amazing. The view toward St John and the American Virgin Islands.  What a sight from up there.Here’s little Pandora, and Dave, tucked in the harbor.   She’s the lower boat if you can’t tell. I am a big fan of pelicans and snapped this shot of one as he decided I as just a bit too close for comfort.After we reached the top of the hill which felt more like a mountain, all 651’ up, with an emphasis on “up”.   Then we headed down the other side to Pirates Cove, I think that’s what it was called.  Liquor licenses don’t seem to apply here as an enterprising local had set up shop with a snack bar serving mixed drinks and beer was in full swing. Not the fanciest place but a lovely spot to sit and enjoy the view.  This was our view as we enjoyed a Carib beer.   No kidding, shade and all. After a four mile walk there I was happy to put my thumb out and hail a local to get a ride back to town.

So, for our last day here I am not sure what we will do but I am a bit afraid of giving up my mooring and head out as there is a constant parade of boats heading in to pick up a mooring.   I’ll surely come unglued if we come back tonight and can’t find a “room at the inn” for Pandora.

Anyway, that’s about it for now as my crew is getting anxious for breakfast and granola bars will only get them so far.

It will be weird to pack winter clothing to take home today but I sure don’t need a heavy winter coat here.

Well, here I am only a little worse for wear after my 1,200 mile run south.  The good news is that tomorrow Brenda and I will be together again and then at the end of the month, back in Sunny Tortola for a few months of cruising together.

And speaking of “together” I can’t tell you how excited I am to be back with her again.  Yes, I know, I have already said that.

Did I mention I’ll be seeing her tomorrow?  So excited.

Roadtown Tortola. Want to rent a boat?

It’s Monday morning early and we are tied up in a marina here in Roadtown Tortola.  It’s hard to believe that the four of us, my crew and me, have been aboard together for nearly two weeks and on the move most of the time.  Since clearing into the BVI last week, we have moved from anchorage to anchorage each day in spite of the unusually windy conditions.

In each of the three seasons Brenda and I spent cruising the Bahamas it was “unusually” windy and each year those who had been going to the Bahamas for years always said, “this is an unusual winter.  It’s NEVER this windy.”   All I can say is that I am getting a complex and am wondering if there is some sort of little “wind goblin” that has been following me around for the last five years.

Well, enough of that I guess although it will be interesting to see how things go for the rest of the winter when Brenda and I return at the end of the month.  Fingers crossed.

We decided to come into a marina for a night yesterday to get out of the ceaseless wind, get cleaned up and do some laundry.

Roadtown is the largest city in Tortola and is also he home of the largest charter fleet in the Caribbean with literally hundreds (thousands?) of charter boats.   We walked over to the Moorings marina and I was stunned to see how many boats were moored there.   Given the fact that there are boats from this company everywhere in the BVI, it’s hard to imagine that there could be so many still tied up in the marina.  The company “The Moorings” also owns other brands including Sunsail, I think.  Rows and rows of them too.  The marina was quite nice.  It’s hard to believe that with all these boats sitting there in high season that anyone makes a profit.  However, who ever said that boats and profits went together? All of these boats are privately owned and put into charter through these companies.

Pandora is in another marina across the way and it is very nice to be tied up on a dock for a bit.   Oh yeah, and the AC is on and blasting.  Nice a dry with no humidity.    Me and my crew went out for lunch at the marina yesterday for burgers.  They tasted great.   This chicken was walking past our table in the restaurant during lunch.  Can you imagine a chicken walking through a marina restaurant in the US?Chicken’s and all, this is my crew.  Dave on the left, Jerry and Jim to the right. They have worked hard to keep Pandora in good shape in spite of the rough trip down.   I hope that they will sail with me again.  Soon. Beyond the marinas, the main drag in Roadtown seems to be dominated by t shirt shops and other small stores catering to cruise ships.  Two were docked when we arrived and by evening both had left. Well, in a few days we will all disperse for home and Pandora will be snug, I hope, on a mooring in West End Tortola where she will stay until Brenda and I return toward the end of the month.

Tonight I hope to have a farewell dinner for the guys before Jerry heads home on Tuesday.  Dave, Jim and I will sail together for one more night before we too head our separate ways.

All and all, it’s been a fun trip but it’s been very tough to be away from Brenda for this long and I can’t wait to see her later this week.  My plan is to fly to BWI on the 19th and stop for a few days with Brenda to see Rob, Kandice and little, well not so little any more, Tori.  Remember?  She’s our nearly brand new granddaughter. One month old now.  Go figure.

Isn’t she cute?  Grampy who? For sure, Roadtown is the place to rent a boat and there’s no shortage, that’s for sure.

Well, that’s about it for now.  Time to make coffee.   Need to keep my crew happy.  Besides, just about every scrap of food is now gone so I had better run out to a market and find something for breakfast.


Norman Island, classy til the sun goes down.

It’s Friday and we are motoring into 20kts of wind, headed to a new anchorage at Cooper Island for tonight.  The wind is strong and blowing from the NE which makes running east along the BVI islands a slog to windward.  With a short chop and a bit of an adverse current, it’s a very slow go.  Our goal for the week is to make our way to the windward end of the chain, spend a few days at the Bitter End YC and then have a leisurely run back west with the wind at the end of or week cruising together.

Yesterday’s run from Soper’s hole was about an hour and took us to Norman’s Island, a well protected harbor full or moorings featuring a very nice waterfront beach bar/restaurant as well as the notorious floating boat bar William Thornton or “Willy’s” as it’s known in the charter community.  With some 50 moorings in the well protected harbor there are plenty of charterers on hand to keep these two businesses humming day and night.

The beach bar, complete with terrific free wifi, is as nice as any Hilton resort and yet it’s only accessible by boat.  Of course, there are plenty of day trippers who come over on tour boats from the nearby USVI for lunch.  It’s a nice spot.Beautiful view pf the harbor and clear water.  I went there for the afternoon to relax, check my email and make some wifi phone calls.  An all around nice afternoon.  My crew went snorkeling nearby.

As the sun set and moon rose above the mountains it was amazing.And, after dark the “animals” came out to play.  Willy’s boat bar, and it’s a sort of converted small freighter, is on a mooring in the cove and is THE spot to be seen after dark.  And as well kept as the beach bar is, Willy’s is the exact opposite and the PERFECT place for the charter gang to “let their hair down”, way down, well into the wee hours.

The bar tenders were eager to serve and serve they did early and often.  The guy on the left was also busy dealing in what one reveler called “Colorado Salad” on the side and in plain sight.  No need to be secretive in the BVI mon.As the evening ramped up, two boat loads of charterers, festooned in flashing lights arrived ready to rumble.After a few beers there was a handy sign on the head to keep everyone up to speed on the rules. Willy’s also has a particularly charming custom of putting four shot glasses of who knows what into specially drilled holes in an old waterski.  The idea is for four to stand together and as the board tips, everyone drinks at the exact same pace. And the pace is really, really fast.After a few rounds with the waterski, this fellow decided it was time for a nap.  Doesn’t he look cozy in his dink? He even took time to peek over the side from time to time.After a while his girlfriend, well that’s what I think she was, decided to keep him comfortable. How sweet for her to support him like that.  There was pounding music and plenty of dancing.  I was particularly amused by a group from Ukraine headed up by a sort of soft and pudgy “mini oligarc” holding court with his girls.  The girls seemed way more interested in impressing him than he was in them.    I guess he thought that he was “all that and more” on his 50’ Moorings charter cat.   Perhaps the girls didn’t realize that his father moved in circles where the boats were about 10x that length.   Perhaps they were in “training” for bigger things.

As the evening wore on, I was even lent one of those lovely flashing hairpieces.  Even when I was all dressed up and totally awesome, I was only asked to dance once and by a Brit in her late 60s.  Perhaps she thought I too was a mini Oligarch.  I did my best not to break her bubble.   I don’t know, seemed like some sort of angelic halo to me.  For sure, compared to the “dink nappers” was was a perfect angel.Norman’s Island is a must stop spot for charterers and the beach bar, well very nice and with GREAT WIFI.   I recall clearly that I had fun.  However, I have a feeling that many of Willy’s customers, while they aren’t sure what they did they were pretty sure that it was fun too.   Better them than me.

I guess, as they say, “you had to be there” to appreciate it.    Yes, Norman’s a classy spot, well at least until the sun goes down.

Sure, I’ll have another Caribe.  No, perhaps not.

We’re here, finally. Welcome to Tortola!


It’s Thursday morning and the sun is just coming up over the mountains here in West End Tortola.  After  8 days at sea, 189.5 hours actually, and over 1,100 miles of blue water along with three days of gale force winds, not to put too fine a point on it, we arrived at our destination only a little worse for wear.  Our average speed was just over 6kts which was less than I would have expected since there were plenty of times when the GPS reading in the double digits as we plummeted down the face of 20’ waves, several times topping out at better than 17kts.  “Hang on guys! ”  However, as we crawled up the face of the next wave we’d quickly slow to something like 4.5kts.    I guess it’s all about averages and well, that’s the average.

Anyway, this blog isn’t about numbers (well mostly) so I won’t beat that horse any longer.  All and all, it was a good run, if in a more than “salty” way than I would have liked.

All I can say is that WE HAD BETTER HAVE FUN here in the Caribbean as it was totally frigging hard to get here.

I did learn two things from this trip.  First, I can endure hardship better than Brenda (I knew that actually) but not as nearly as well as Jerry and Dave, two of my crew who seem completely nonplussed by constant depravity and discomfort.  Amazing!   The second thing I learned is that Pandora is an AWESOME boat.  My thanks to Rodger Martin for designing a world class ocean ride.   But, I guess I already knew that too.  Oh well, I must have learned something but I won’t think about that too much for now as my crew, who will be cruising with me here for the next week, really want to, as my father used to say, “get the lead out” and move on with our day.   Besides, we have snorkeling to do.  More to come on that score.

Amazingly, after over a week at sea we somehow managed to time the sight of first landfall at sunrise yesterday.  This was our first real view of as the crew shouted, with enthusiasm and in unison “land ho”.   “Bob, Bob, there’s no way that happened.  You’re totally making that up.”   OK, OK, call it editorial license.   We were happy to be here at last.

Anyway, this was the first view of land for us in more than a week and how sweet it was.  And unlike those “adventures of yor” who didn’t have GPS, we actually knew where we were.  GOOD MORNING TORTOLA!A frigate bird flew out to make a formal greeting and to be sure we were flying our “Q” flag.And speaking of “frigate” the crew was more than happy to pull down those “frigating” sails. And in the “you can’t make this s*&% up” department a rainbow formed as we entered sheltered waters.  “No way Bob, you Photo Shopped that.”  Yes way…a real BVI rainbow to greet us.   Those Brits, they really know how to say welcome.Yes, welcome to paradise and to paraphrase my late father after 8 days at sea, it was “good to be seen” as we arrived in the beautiful BVI.

It was a remarkable if often really annoying journey and I am so happy to be here. What a beautiful harbor.  Time to make the donuts.  Hungry crew.

Are we there yet?? I sure hope so!

As I write this we are “enjoying,” NOT, our third day of gale force winds.  A gale is at least 35kts of wind.  If you think that sounds unpleasant,and it is, the 40+ gusts that we have been contending with for the last three days have been even more fun.  Oh yeah, and I won’t even mention our “own little squall” that trailed us for about 8 hours last night.  Somehow it stayed on top of us nearly all night.  And, all of this kicks up some remarkable waves in the 15′ to 20′ range that blast along and under us from behind every 10 seconds or so keeping us clipping along in the 7.5kt range.

You’d think it would be faster but 7.5 knots is an average that takes into account that the boat slows considerably as she “climbs” up the backside of a wave where her speed is quickly slowed to perhaps 4.5 to 5kts.  However, on the face of the wave Pandora surges ahead in a thundering rush usually topping out in the mid teens.  At a few points we saw speeds of 17+kts on the GPS.  To have the boat go from a crawl up the back of a wave and blast down the other side in a surge, all in perhaps about one minute, feels a bit like a free fall and is a remarkable experience.  To do this for three days without a break gets pretty old. Jerry, one of my crew, remarked to me today that this experience in the dark of night with heavy rain falling and waves surging against the boat feels like being on a runaway freight train in a dark tunnel.  Good description.

As you can imagine, the pressures on the boat are tremendous and we have had our share of breakages and leaks.  Fortunately, most are fairly minor but when the autopilot failed two days ago, we all thought that we were in for a horrible few days.  Pandora tracks well in rough conditions but steering under those circumstances is very challenging and can quickly tire even the most enthusiastic crew.  So, as we were powering down a wave late Sunday afternoon, Pandora all of sudden veered off course and rounded up into a huge wave.  Fortunately, someone was at the helm in case something went wrong so two of us were able to wrestle her back on course within a few minutes.

I pride myself, as Pandora’s previous owner did, in having spares on board for a lot of systems and there are literally thousands of dollars of spares tucked away.  However, I didn’t know if the broken specialized bolt that linked the autopilot ram to the steering quadrant was somewhere in all the hardware that I have tucked away.  Amazingly, after searching for nearly two hours, I finally found the precious piece and had it installed in less than ten minutes.  I just KNEW I had seen it somewhere!  YES!  Let me tell you, Dave, Jim and Gerry were ecstatic too.  Remarkably, I ultimately found a second spare.  I had seen these in the past but had no idea what they were.  Now I do.

Since Pandora has been banging around constantly I try to do a careful review of all systems several times a day to be sure that nothing looks like it’s about to break.  Today I found some critical bolts on the steering quadrant that had worked themselves loose and was also alarmed (an understatement) to find the watermaker lurching from side to side.  The screws that held the base to the workbench had pulled loose.  I was shocked to see how tiny they were.  Fortunately, I was able to put in some new larger ones with some help from Jim — a major mess averted.

The last few days have been very difficult, and if this trip is what might be called “typical” then I am not sure I’d want to do it again.  However, I should note that when we were making a decision on a weather window to leave Beaufort, Chris Parker, the weather router, did mention this front and said that it would be important to stay in front of it to stay in good weather.  Naturally, the front moved in faster than predicted, so we missed that window by about 12 hours.  Had that not happened, our trip would have been much easier.

I think that the moral of the story is that if things look iffy, perhaps it’s better to hold off and try later.  I guess that’s often the case in life. Or, to put it another way “pick your battles.”  Yes, it’s been a very tough ride but my crew has been terrific and everyone is getting along well.

As I finish this up we are about 100 miles from Tortola and should arrive there around dawn on Wednesday.  I have to say that there have been a number of times in the last few days when I would have been happy to be just about anywhere than aboard Pandora.  However, if we arrive in Tortola and the sun is out and I am holding some sort of tropical drink with a little umbrella, I expect that all will be forgotten.

All and all, we have done well and nobody even got sick.  That’s good too.

Well, I am looking forward to spending time in the BVI with my crew but more than anything else, I can’t wait to see Brenda again.  I have missed her terribly and on top of that, I am looking forward to seeing our new granddaughter Tori again.  Oh yeah, it will be fun to see her parents Rob and Kandice too.

Yes, I am glad that this trip is almost over.  And in spite of the fact that Pandora has proved herself to be a wonderful blue water boat, I can’t stop from thinking “are we there yet?”. Boy, I sure hope so.

Hello Brenda!!!  I REALLY, REALLY can’t wait to see you. XXXOOO to come…

Half Way There at the End of Long Day

It’s nearly midnight on Saturday and we are sailing along at a very good clip, sometimes more than 8kts.  That’s pretty fast especially in the choppy ocean conditions that we have now.  And, ocean conditions it is, as we are 450 miles from the nearest land and 600 miles from the US coast.  We are really on our own, that’s for sure.  If we were to get into trouble, the only real option would be to get help from a passing ship and there aren’t many around.  We did have two come by today but they were too far to see as the closest they came to us was about 20 miles.

And, one thing about being out here by ourselves, is that it is critical that any problems be addressed while they are still manageable.  When conditions are rough little problems can become big ones very quickly.  For example, each morning we take a good look at the deck, lines and the sails to see that everything is in good shape. A small wrinkle in a sail that wasn’t there the prior evening can spell trouble and a little hole in a sail rubbed by another piece of hardware can lead to a major failure.

Yesterday Jim, one of my crew, was looking at the mainsail and noticed a small rip about 40′ up from the deck.  We pulled the sail down and then realized that the “little” rip was actually a pretty big hole, nearly 10″ long.  Fortunately, I had some adhesive sail repair cloth on hand which we applied on each side of the tear.  I am pretty sure it will hold until we get to Tortola.  Fingers crossed.

We also did some preparation for possible gale conditions expected Monday when we may encounter winds in the 30-40kt sustained range with gusts to 50.  Even though the winds will be behind us, that’s a lot of wind. With that in mind, we spent time today rigging a third reef in the main which will allow us to reduce the mainsail area by about 75%.  We were also having trouble getting good sail shape from the first reef which we have used for much of this trip so far.  The problem was that the reef wasn’t flattening the sail enough so the boat was heeling much more than it should have and it made for a very uncomfortable ride.  After about two hours of work today, everything seems to be in order.

Making sure that we are very well prepared will keep things from getting out of control when conditions get nasty.  It’s particularly important when you consider that no one can come out to help get the boat to shore when we are this far from land.  So, a problem that is easily fixed if we were a few miles from shore becomes a very big deal out in the “real” ocean.

And speaking of “remote” I can’t believe that I was able to send this text to Brenda via my SSB radio so she can post it to my blog. Amazing, actually.

So, we have been at sea for four days now and are half of the way to Tortola.  And, as I write this we are barreling along in the dark hundreds of miles from anywhere.  It’s different, that’s for sure.

With most of the “issues” resolved for now, it’s nice to know that we should have good sailing conditions for much of the rest of the trip, even though some of those miles may be “pretty sporty.”  At least I can say that I am as prepared for a possible gale as I can be.

I am feeling pretty relaxed right now, or is it that I am just tired?  Hmm…  The last few days have been pretty stressful as I have had to sort out a number of problems and worry about the nasty weather we are heading toward and all the while wondering if we were prepared.  There’s something about the word “gale” that tends to stress me out for some reason.

I guess it’s impossible to know but now I feel that we are as prepared as we can be.  Fingers crossed that I’m right.

I hope that you have been able to follow our progress as I am using a new tracker that is pretty neat.  It even allows you to click on an individual waypoint to see how fast we were going at that particular time.  Cool, I think.

Wish us luck as we continue our way south.  Thanks for “watching.”