Monthly Archives: July 2017

Remembering cruises past…

It’s Sunday and a week since my last post. Actually, some who follow me may think that I have not been posting at all as I recently realized that my e-mail notification feature on the site hasn’t been working for a few months.   I contacted WordPress and they can fix it, but for a fee, of course.  I hate to pay to fix something that I didn’t mess up myself, but will probably relent in a few days.  Oh well. such are the complexities of modern “publishing”.  I can only hope that there’s still someone watching what I put up. (Maureen, are you there?  Say something, please!) Fingers crossed.

Last summer we visited Sag Harbor NY aboard “new” Pandora and fell in love again with that charming town in the Hamptons.  We had not been there for many years as we had been deterred by the hellishly expensive moorings.   Can you say $2/ft?  Crazy.

However, all is not lost as we belong to Essex Yacht Club and they maintain two moorings in Sag Harbor so we now have a more reasonable way to visit the harbor and did for a few days last fall. Main Street is very charming in this once whaling port on the eastern end of Long Island.  We love to treat ourselves to a meal at the American Hotel.  While we were there we also went to an opening at the Grenning Gallery and fell in love with some of the work on display.   However, as we are just so practical, most of the time, we decided that buying a painting wasn’t in the “picture” right then.  However, this spring, as we approached our 40th anniversary, we wanted to treat ourselves to a piece to celebrate all those years and contacted the gallery again.

As luck would have it, Laura Grenning, the gallery owner, had organized a group of artists from Russia to visit and paint in both Maine and near Sag Harbor a few months earlier and a piece by Olga Karpacheva,  (And doesn’t her name just roll off of my Yankee tongue?) caught our eye.  The piece is of Allen Cove, just outside of Stonington Me, a spot that I immediately recognized as one we had visited many times over the years.  It’s pretty large at 24″x 32″ and we just had to have it.It brings back so many memories of cruises to Maine and as we have cruised Maine together a dozen time now, there are plenty of memories.

Brenda actually found this photo of Olga painting our piece?  This proves, once and for all, that you can find ANYTHING on the Internet.  And, this is a shot of the artist, Olga in her studio.  I guess she must be the one on the left.Aside from the odd trip to Maine and The Hamptons in her spare time, she makes her living restoring fine art in Russia and has done some work on some major pieces in the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in Russia,among others.  That spot, seems to be the scene, or at least of a similar place, that she is posing in front of in the photo of her above.  And, speaking of Maine, there’s perhaps no image more quintessential of summer in Maine than this shot of a family out sailing on a classic Friendship Sloop with this little girl on the rail trailing her feet in the water.We do miss Maine and actually enjoy this area for cruising more than any other that we have visited over the years.

This photo, shot back in 2011 only a short distance from where Olga painted “our” picture is of a view from downtown Stonington.  We stopped at a dock at Billings Diesel, just outside of town with “old” Pandora back in 2011, one year before I retired and walked right past the very scene that Olga captured last summer. This view of the lobster fleet is a pretty typical view. Now, each time we look at the piece hanging over the fireplace in our den, we will think of those many summers cruising in Maine.

Time to get ready to make more memories.  Perhaps it’s time to visit Russia?  Hmm…

Pandora’s Box Truck, a crisis of sorts and some wonderful boats.

It’s been nearly ten days since my last post/confession; forgive me, for I have sinned…

Yes, it’s been a while but it’s tough to come up with something to write about as I’ve been busy cutting lawns, doing household chores and other decidedly landlocked chores.  Last night at an event at Essex Yacht Club, Jim, the manager at the marina where I have Pandora stored, came up to me and said “Bob, where have you been? Pandora’s just sitting there and you haven’t been around!”  Yes, indeed.   True and without much in the way of “simply messing about in boats”, I haven’t got much to say.

However, you can rest assured that I have been doing plenty of “thinking about boats” and my office is getting quite messy, piled high with stuff that I have assembled complete with replacement parts and such, for Pandora so it’s high time that I visit her.  Alas, not quite yet…

I should note that, in spite of not being aboard, I have at least been focused on our plans for next winter, including focusing on lining up crew and I may have two signed up to run her south.  Jim, who was with me this spring on our run north has tentatively agreed to join me in Hampton in late October for my run to Tortola.  I enjoyed having Jim along so hopefully he will be able to swing the time to make the trip.  I’ve also been talking to Mark, the captain of that yacht I crewed on to run from Greenport to Ft Lauderdale last fall.  He may have some time and might be able to make the run with me on Pandora and do some “slumming” for a bit.  I’d like that although I don’t know if he even remembers what a sail is since he’s spent some much time on big motor yachts.    I wrote about our run south in a number of posts last September and this one is a pretty good summary.   I also wrote a number of other posts, as we made our way south, burning 1,500 gallons of fuel per day, from September 8th through the 16th.   It was quite a trip. (note: You can pull up the September 2016 posts by scrolling down and clicking on the month)

And, speaking of “Pandora’s box truck”as in the title, which I was until I became hopelessly sidetracked, I was intrigued by some of the little trucks that I saw in the islands over the winter like this one in St Barths.   These are not marketed in the US, in part because they would not fare well in a “shootout” with a Ford F350, I expect. When I got home this spring, I happened to see one of these little trucks at a local car repair shop and stopped to ask about it.   Well, one thing lead to another and I found a source, a company in Queens NY that imports them directly from Japan.  Of course, they are not road legal as they can’t pass emissions or safety regulations needed to be registered for use on American roads.  However, not to be deterred, I did some research and decided that I just had to have one.  You see, I do need a car/truck to cart stuff back and forth from Pandora to home right?   Road legal you say?  Not to worry, as if a car is over 25 years old it is considered an “antique” and thus exempt from such frivolities such as EPA and safety issues.

So, here’s Pandora’s Box Truck in all her splendor.  Notice the “monster tires”.  Delivering a 9.5′ dink.  Bid dink or little truck?  Hmm…Not big you say?  Can you take her on a highway?  Never mind.  It’s fun to drive and seems big when I maneuver her to park in the garage.   Actually, she fits fine along with Brenda’s VW, our MGA, and even under our Adirondack guide boat, all in a two car garage.  How convenient.  How cozy.  And look, there’s even room for several garbage cans.  Isn’t that practical?  Totally!While I am on the subject of practical. and so you don’t think that Pandora’s Box truck is all just for fun, here’s proof that she’s a hard working truck.  Getting mulch at the dump.  I hope the dumper-truck-guy didn’t wet himself when he saw me and the truck.   “What do you mean, I buried your truck with one load?”Yup, that’s us, spreading the mulch in the front yard.   Pandora’s box truck.  Master of all she can see. So there you have it, my own “upper midlife crisis” in mini-living color.  You have to admit, there are much worse ways that a guy of a “certain age” could act out.  Unfortunately, this truck hasn’t done anything to help me look any cooler to my boys, or Brenda, who refuses to drive it or ride in it.  Oh well, at least other guys think it’s pretty neat as I do get stopped everywhere with questions.  It’s too soon to tell, and I never will admit, if it’s a “chic magnet”.  Lips sealed…

So there you have it, my latest stupid move but you have to admit that it’s kinda fun.  Right?  Just don’t ask me if it was hard to get registered as I think it took 5 trips to DMV but that’s a story for another day.

So, enough about “Mini Me”, Pandora’s box “monster” truck, for the moment.   How about some photos of beautiful boats?   This is a blog about boats after all, right?

Yesterday Brenda and I made a trip up to Mystic Seaport for their annual Classic Yacht Rendezvous and show.  If you want to see beautiful yachts and acres of finely finished wood, this is the place to be with dozens of wonderful and beautifully cared for classics.

In keeping with my “upper mid life crisis” how about this beauty. Gramp?  Love the wicker chairs.  I believe that I used a photo of this boat in a post a few weeks ago when I spied her at the Wooden Boat Show.   However, I think she’s great so her she/he is again.  Love the shift and throttle on the wheel. I don’t usually like outboard powered classics but this one is stunning.   How about a gold prop?A beautiful little steam launch.
How about the oh-so-appropriately named Splinter?  She was designed by Bruce King an launched in 1989.  The hope was that she would be the first of a class of one design race boats but alas, she was the only one built.  What a beautiful piece of work.   I believe that she is for sale if you are interested.  As an aside, a few years ago she was racing in the Opera House Cup in Nantucket and her keel fell off.  It seems that someone forgot to put on proper keel bolts.  Oops!
Bolero was there too.  We last saw her in Antigua in March and wrote about her. I also saw here in Newport last summer and mentioned her then too.   It’s a small world.  This girl really gets around.
All the boats on display were not classics.  This one is a recent design from Sparkman and Stephens.  She’s high tech carbon fiber.  Quite a magnificent piece of work.   I wish I had written down her name.
Look at her wheel.  It’s designed so you can reach the instruments without going though the spokes of the wheel.  I’ll bet that this is only the tip of the iceberg of what makes this boat unique and super pricey. And, speaking of attention to detail, how about this beautifully polished binnacle on BoleroOr, this wheel and throttle on an oh-so-civilized motor launch?For sure, the perfect place to “pilot” your way through life.
Or this hatch.  A most civilized way to catch your fill of sea breezes.
This beautiful commuter offers the perfect spot to enjoy a G&T.  “Jeeves! Fetch me another and be quick about it.  My ice is completely melted.”
And, the view forward, while sipping a cool one, even with melted ice, has got to be lovely too. “Oh yeah, and please turn down that infernal pipe organ, while you’re at it.”I was struck by this wonderful ship model on exhibit.  Imagine keeping something like this around your home.  It was built as an admiralty model some 300 years ago and is accurate in every detail.  Even the interior is finished and exact to the real ship.  Each line is as it was on the actual ship.  Amazing. The level of detail is exquisite, even if the quality of the photo isn’t.  “Yes, we believe you Bob, the photo sucks!”Anyway, I’ll ignore that.  As I was saying, we saw some amazing yachts but perhaps the one that I am most smitten with is the Sabino, the lovely little steamboat that makes her home at Mystic Seaport.   She’s just been relaunched after a 2.5 year refit and she’s beautiful.  As she sat at the dock they were still working on her with the plan of having her ready for visitors in early August. Plenty on board painting away.  We were fortunate enough to be invited aboard for a brief tour and look at the new boiler and restored steam engine by the engineer.   I was a treat.

This short video talks about the work that was done on this remarkable vessel.
She will be ready to make her debut soon and our plan is to take an evening cruise aboard her with some friends in mid August.  In the evenings, most days, she does a two hour cruise down the Mystic River and joining her with a bottle of wine, cheese and crackers has been something of a tradition for me and Brenda over the years.    Want to see her yourself?  Here’s the dope on what you’ll need to do.

Well, I guess that about covers it for now.   Pandora now has her own, sort of, dedicated “land mini-tender” and I’ve found yet another and mostly harmless way to act out my “upper” mid life crisis and some beautiful boats to round things out.

Cruising the islands that kiss the clouds

I was asked to write an article for Blue Water Sailing for an upcoming issue about our trip south last winter aboard Pandora.   This is a draft of what I will send them.   Just for fun, I thought it would make for a fun, if a somewhat lengthy post.  And, I’ll have to ask for forgiveness if you recognize some of the photos from past posts.  However, if a story, or photo, is worth sharing once, it’s worth sharing again.  So here goes…

When I retired five years ago my wife Brenda and I headed out from our home in CT, aboard Pandora, our Saga ‘43 sloop, for a run down the Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW) and over to the Bahamas for a winter of cruising.

On our way!

After several seasons in the Bahamas and the purchase of a boat (a 2007 composite built Aerodyne ’47, also named Pandora) we decided to head to Cuba from the Bahamas beginning in Georgetown, cruising the south coast and around the western tip of Cuba and onto Havana (see BWS article October 2016). For our 5th winter afloat in 2017, we decided that it would be fun to spend time in the Eastern Caribbean. A number of our cruising friends had been sharing their experiences, and we were intrigued by what we had heard.

While we enjoyed the beautiful beaches and crystal clear waters of the Bahamas, we were excited about exploring the many cultures of the Leewards, especially the wonderful food and wines available in the French islands. The Leeward islands are part of the Lesser Antilles and include Puerto Rico and the islands south and east to Dominica, a total of 19 islands.

With the exception of an occasional overnight or two, Brenda prefers to spend the nights anchored, so when it’s time to do long passages I find crew to accompany me on the long runs from the US to Tortola and home. I have become more involved in the Salty Dawg Sailing Association that sponsors, among others, the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, VA, to Tortola.  While I have done long runs with crew on my own over the years, it’s great fun to hook up with like-minded cruisers who are going in the same direction. With daily SSB radio nets and twice daily weather briefings from weather router Chris Parker, the 7-10 day passage from Hampton, VA, to Tortola is even more fun with a “community” of boats heading your way.

Brenda joined Pandora in Tortola, and we began our run south with our first planned stop, after the BVIs, in St Martin. Compared to sailing on the East Coast, where passing fronts make for changing winds on a nearly daily basis, the winds in the Caribbean are very consistent, almost always blowing from an easterly direction at speeds of upwards of 30kts, but usually at a more moderate 15-25kts.

While the passing of a front in the Bahamas brings with it clocking winds that force cruisers to frequently run for cover to avoid being caught on a lee shore in an exposed anchorage, the arrival of a front in the Caribbean usually leads to a slacking of the trades for a day or two. The run from North Sound in the BVIs, the eastern most point in this island group, to St. Martine is about 85 miles and nearly directly east into the trades with the best option of waiting for a drop in wind speed perhaps requiring a wait of a week or two or longer.  In our case, as we were anxious to move south, we opted to motor- sail into moderate easterly trades which made for a very long day and some pounding into a chop the entire way.

In the long run it was worth it as we arrived and dropped the hook in the bay outside of Marigo, the capital of French St Martin. The island is divided into two countries, French on the east and Dutch to the west. Most cruisers clear in on the French side because it’s simpler and less expensive, while the mega yachts opt for the deeper channel on the Dutch side. Entering the canal into Simpson Bay from either side is subject to the opening times of the narrow causeway bridges. As the channel into the lagoon from Marigo was recently dredged, Pandora’s 6 ½’ draft wasn’t a problem.  On the Dutch side, massive yachts barely squeeze through the narrow lift bridge.  Clearing in on the French side of the island is a cinch as you can actually fill out your paperwork on a computer kiosk at a local chandlery.Unlike the BVIs where depths in the anchorages are great and anchoring often a challenge, there is plenty of space to drop the hook, have good holding and easy access to both the French and Dutch sides once you are cleared in.  While many cruisers make their first landfall in the Caribbean in the BVIs, St Martin is only about 50 miles farther from U.S. East Coast ports and facilities for the inevitable repairs and provisioning are much better in duty free St Martin and Sinte Maarten. Experienced cruisers will tell you to “eat on the French side and shop on the Dutch”, which is true as there are so many wonderful and reasonably priced places to eat in St Martin that you could spend many weeks there and never run out of new places to try.  We enjoyed shopping for Caribbean spices in the open market in Marigo. On the Dutch side there are two large well-stocked chandleries: Island Water World and Budget Marine with the former, from my point of view, offering the best selection and excellent prices. As both sides are duty free, you will find that prices and selection is comparable to the US, and for a 24 volt boat like Pandora, the selection is the best I’ve seen anywhere. In addition, there are many support services for getting hard to find parts for electrical systems and RO units, which makes sense as so many mega yachts make the Dutch Sinte Maarten their home for the winter months.

While the run from the BVIs east to St Martin is usually a long slog to weather, as you make your way south and east, the runs between islands get shorter and the sailing better. Although these runs are indeed “ocean sailing” with exposure to easterly trades and large seas, the period of the swells is long and conditions generally comfortable. For us the next major island to the south was St Barths, a short 15 mile run after we exited on the Dutch side.

St Barths is French flagged and very popular with the “in” megayacht crowd, and some keep their yachts there for the entire winter season, tucked into the tiny harbor of Port de Gustavia, Mediterranean-mooring in impossibly tight conditions. Most cruisers opt to anchor out in the lee of the island, just outside of the harbor entrance, although it can be unpleasant if there is a north swell running. However, there’s also lots of “eye candy” there with massive yachts everywhere. By the time you reach this area you are in cruiser’s territory, as there are only a handful of charter boats on holiday, unlike the Virgins where the bulk of the boats are on charter.

St Barths, a mere 5 miles long and barely one mile wide, is as cosmopolitan as you’ll find in the islands and is the winter playground of the rich and famous with magnificent yachts of all descriptions spending time there each winter. The shopping is first rate with a wide selection of fresh food and just about any gourmet items you might enjoy. Yes, it can be expensive and there are plenty of shops that cater to the uber-rich set, but there’s also more than enough to enjoy for those with a more modest cruising budget.

As we continued south, we opted to skip a few of the smaller islands, St Kitts and Nevis, as well as Monserrat with its active volcano, as the anchorages did not offer much protection with the northerly swell that was running while we were there. However, these charming islands offer much and should be on any cruiser’s list. We hope to visit them this coming season. On our run to Antigua from St Barths, we departed at dawn and as we cleared the island we found ourselves right in the middle of the Caribbean 600 race fleet. To be in the presence of such sailing machines as Rambler and Leopard, some of the fastest mono hulls in the world as the sun came up over the eastern horizon was a sight to behold.From St Barths and south sailing between islands is more oriented north/south and with the consistent trades, sailing here is a dream come true with Antigua an easy 70-mile ESE run on a close or beam reach from St Barths. By the time you reach Antigua the island chain curves more to the south so the wind is nearly always on the beam. In fact, for the months that we sailed in the Leewards, the wind direction only veered from an easterly direction once when a front came through bringing light westerlies that only lasted for a few hours. It’s also worth noting that while it rains often, it’s usually a brief shower followed by stunning rainbows, sometimes more than once a day. As an added benefit, the frequent gentle showers kept Pandora’s decks salt free. Unlike the NE United States, strong conductive squalls are rare so the high winds and the crash and bang of thunderstorms are rare in the Caribbean.

Antigua has a strong British heritage although it has been an independent country since 1981.  It continues to have a strong cultural link to England. It is here in the two major harbors, Falmouth and English Harbor, that many magnificent sailing yachts make their winter home like the recently launched replica of the classic fishing schooner ColumbiaAmong the classic sailing set, the Classic Yacht Regatta draws dozens of the most magnificent sailing yachts in late April for a week of racing and partying that marks the unofficial end of the winter season before the fleet disperses to more northerly climes. As Antigua is where so many mega-sailing yachts make their home, it’s also an excellent place to refit or get supplies although not as convenient and a bit more expensive than St Martin, as it’s not a duty free country.

Antigua was the center of England’s naval power in the Caribbean beginning in 1725, and the famous Admiral Nelson was stationed there in the late 1700s. The dockyard has been meticulously restored and to tie up Med-moor style for a week or more takes you back to a time when England was one of the great sea-powers. Nelson’s Dockyard, as it is known, remains a working boatyard, complete with sailmakers and a facility nearby for hauling out for repairs. There is also a skilled local labor pool if you wish to have painting or varnishing and a wide array of services from engine work to electronics to address the inevitable problems that crop up while cruising. Antigua is a beautiful and friendly island with rich history and plenty to do. While we were there we had our first experience with their national sport, cricket, a game that is hugely popular, drawing locals as well as vacationers alike to their regular games. Cricket is a complex game and a single match can go on for much of the day. From Antigua we headed to the village of Deshaies Guadeloupe an easy 40-mile run due south with wind on the beam, in perfect moderate trade wind sailing. This teacup harbor on the northwest tip of this French island, provides a stop that has all the charm of a lush tropical island along with the rustic charm of France, complete with wonderful dining and an authentic French bakery right near the dock that serves up terrific pastries and French breads every morning. For a real taste of the tropics, visit the nearby Jardin Botanique de Deshaies. Call and they will send a van to bring you up the steep road a short distance away. These gardens are spectacular with every imaginable tropical plant in a lush setting.As you make your way between islands the winds funnels around the headlands so you will experience a 30% increase in windspeed as you approach within a few miles of the coast. On a day with say 20kts of gradient wind, you will briefly find yourself in 25kts or more that will just as quickly settle back to 20kts or less as you move into the lee of the island.   Of course, there’s always the opportunity to trail a line.  In the lee of the island we sailed south 30 miles, with the island towering up so high above us that their peaks were lost in a crown of ever present clouds. Agriculture is big on this lush island with sugarcane a major crop. As you’d imagine, there is a wide selection of locally produced rums to choose from in the markets, some of the best in the world. With regular flights from France, the island is popular with French tourists who flock here each winter.

A few miles south of the main island of Guadeloupe lay the island archipelago called Iles des Saintes, offering some of the most scenic views in all the Caribbean. When we approached the main town Bourg des Saintes, Brenda declared “this is the prettiest place I have ever been.” With its quaint seaside village and red roofed, whitewashed cottages, it is indeed a beautiful spot. Renting a golf cart or scooter is a must and a fun way to see the sights and beautiful beaches on this tiny island. The main island is served regularly by ferry service from Guadeloupe and is bustling with French tourists each week. Les Saintes are a dependency of Guadeloupe and clearing in here is as easy as any of the French islands.  In this case, for a small fee you can clear in and out easily at a kiosk in the local laundry, a short walk from the dinghy dock.

After getting our fill of fine French food we headed the short 20 miles south to the anchorage of Portsmouth on the NW corner of Dominica, one of the most rural and unspoiled islands in the Caribbean.  Known for it’s natural beauty and miles of trails through the rainforest, Dominica offers a wonderful mix of rural charm and natural beauty. Once known as a place best avoided by cruisers due to pervasive petty crime, Portsmouth is now safe and very popular with cruisers who flock to this largeharbor with good holding. A group of local entrepreneurs got together to address the crime issue and founded PAYS, the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security, several years ago, and as you round the headland to enter the harbor, you will be greeted by one of PAYS members, in our case, Alexis; who roared up to Pandora in his outboard powered skiff, handed us his card and declared “welcome to paradise” before heading off as quickly as he had arrived. During our visit he took care of whatever we needed and guided us on a number of tours of the island. A run up the Indian River with Alexis was unforgettable as he rowed up the lazy river (no outboards allowed on the river) with tropical birds and flowering trees overhead. The spot was chosen for its haunting beauty as one of the locations where an installment of Pirates of the Caribbean series was filmed and portions of the set built for the movie. A rustic cabin on the river bank remains. The gnarly roots of the trees that line the riverbank surely conjure up evil for those with a healthy imagination.Dominica was our furthest point south for the winter as our time aboard was cut short due to family obligations, so we made our way north back to Antigua, stopping again at some of our favorite places along the way. Brenda flew home from Antigua and my good friend Craig arrived to spend a week sailing from there back to the BVIs where I would meet up with crew to join the Salty Dawg Rally back to the States.

Unlike sailing on the East Coast of the US, spring winds in the eastern Caribbean are nearly always predictable and from the east so making our way north and west to the BVI’s was a snap, which was good as we only had a ten day window to enjoy the sights and make our way the nearly 200 miles from Antigua to the BVIs. In order to get the most out of Craig’s 10 days of vacation, we enjoyed ourselves during the days ashore sightseeing and did our sailing overnight. It was a treat to know, months in advance as plans were made, that we’d likely have favorable winds for our run since the trades are so predictable. Waiting for a “weather window” wasn’t an issue for us so we could focus on getting the most out of the time we had before we had to be back in the BVIs and his trip back to the States.

As I write this Pandora is on the hard for some much needed maintenance in preparation for our winter in the Caribbean this coming season. I plan on again participating in the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean from Hampton, VA, for the run to the BVIs in early November. I look forward to joining what will likely be upwards of 100 other boats coming together in Hampton to enjoy a week of seminars and events prior to making the run south. As an added perk, the Blue Water Sailing Center in Hampton offers “The Dawgs” a very special rate on monthly storage leading up to departure.

Our plans for the coming winter will surely include stops again in the Leeward Islands and hopefully time for us to make our way further south in the Windwards, perhaps as far south as Grenada. As with many others who wish to avoid the long runs north and south from New England, we may opt to leave Pandora for the summer months in Grenada, or perhaps Trinidad, next summer. However, I hate to be away from Pandora for so long so perhaps I’ll again participate in the Salty Dawg Rally home from Tortola next spring. Who knows, perhaps I’ll add Bermuda to my cruising plans on my way home as we haven’t been there yet aboard Pandora.

One thing or sure though is that the eastern Caribbean is now at the top of our list as our favorite cruising area. The steady trade winds, beautiful islands, different cultures, great food and wine, and of course, those islands that brush the clouds, all make for a wonderful destination that surely deserves consideration.

And don’t forget the great friends that you will make along the way as perhaps that’s the best part of all.  

Pandora’s on the hard but it could be a lot worse.

I always find time “on the hard” to be tough in the post department.  While there’s an endless number of things to write about when I am aboard Pandora, somehow, well, it’s not that easy when I am looking out the window at dirt without a drop of water in sight.

I say that but today there’s plenty of water to look at as it’s raining steadily.  That’s good as the lawn and trees need water from time to time.

I should also note that, as I write this, the power is out, something that never happens aboard Pandora, being “off the grid” and all.  Where’s battery power and a trusty inverter when you need one?

And, speaking of being “on the hard”, Pandora was hauled a few days ago and is in a nearby boat yard where she will be for the next few months while I focus on our “dirt home”.

However, I do have to keep “nautical” so here’s a shot of Pandora in the slings. I had cleaned her bottom in Tortola before I left in mid May  and I know that she didn’t have a bit of nasty on her hull.  However, after a month in Hampton it seems that she got a lot of slime growth.  It’s amazing how quickly it builds up.

The running gear was covered with barnacles too.   No wonder her speed under power was a bit down. However, in spite of all that, we still went pretty well on our way north and kept up a good turn of speed.   However, I did notice that we fell short of the kind of performance I am used to from Pandora.

It’s funny that after all the long sea passages that I have made somehow the 350 mile from Hampton to CT, it just didn’t seem worth hiring a diver to clean her bottom when my run home was a “short” 350 mile run.   It wasn’t too long ago when a trip from Norwalk to Maine, 250 miles seemed like a major ocean passage to me.   I guess times and perspectives change.   One thing for sure, my runs, even the long ones, seem like a mere day sail to someone who has sailed around the world.  I almost said “across the pond” but that’s only about twice as far as I go so even that seems to me that it might be attainable these days.   Yes, it’s all about perspective.

Don’t lament that Pandora is on the hard and that this post is somehow going to awkwardly segue into a gardening post or perhaps a series of photos of our granddaughter Tori as I visited the Wooden Boat Show in Mystic last week and saw some remarkable boats.  What follows is in no way intended to cover the amazing breadth of what was on display but here goes.

Perhaps the best place to start is with a photo of a catboat and a Beetle Catboat in particular.  These lovely boats are still being built as they have for nearly 100 years.   The company, from New Bedford, once home to the largest whaling fleet in the world, was known for making whale boats, the sort known for giving “Nantucket Sleighrides” back in the days that ships roamed the world hunting whales.  After oil was discovered in Oil Creek Pennsylvania in 1859 whale oil was no longer needed.  Good for the whales as I don’t think that they would have lasted much longer with all the relentless hunting of them for their oil.

Anyway, as the market for whale boats dried up Beetle turned its’ attention to the then infant, recreational boating market and started making lovely little catboats.

The year was 1921 and they began making these iconic little 12′ yachts that would endure for a century.  I say that as the 100th anniversary of these wonderful little boats is coming up in , you guessed it,  2021.  2021?  I can’t believe that I am writing about that year as bring right around the corner.  I can vividly recall a time when Orwell’s book, 1984 seemed like an impossibly long way off in the future.  Newly built wooden catboats and 2021?  Back in the 50’s everyone was thinking flying cars by now, not little wooden catboats.    Anyway, they were “contemporary” in 1921 and they still are.One of the decisions I made two boats and about 10 years ago is that I would not own a boat with any exterior varnish but I still think that there’s nothing that compares to a well maintained beautiful wooden boat.  What a sweet transom and lines. The attention to detail on this lovely sloop is something to behold.A great cockpit to enjoy a lazy summer afternoon sail. The detail is wonderful on Mystic Seaport’s schooner Brilliant too.  From the tip of her bowsprit….To the lovely varnished cabin.  However, unless you have the coin to get someone to do the varnishing for you, you may find yourself spending much of the boating season getting everything just right.   Brilliant is wonderfully maintained by the shipwrights at Mystic Seaport.  (copyright Mystic Seaport, for sure)

She was a gift to the seaport from Briggs Cunningham,  an important figure in the sports car racing in the 1950s.  Beyond the race car circuit, he also was a skipper in the America’s Cup in 1958 aboard Columbia and is the inventor of the “cunningham” used for trimming the luff of a mainsail.  He loved racing in many forms and spent time aboard Brilliant before donating her to Mystic Seaport in 1953.  I understand that he also provided for her future upkeep which The Seaport has done wonderfully for the 65 years that she has sailed under the seaport flag.

An interesting footnote is that my wife Brenda worked on Stewart McKinney’s congressional campaign back during the Reagan years and Stewart was married to Lucy Cunningham, daughter of Briggs.  Stewart has the unfortunate distinction of being the first member of the US Congress to die of AIDS but that’s a story for another day.

So, back to boats.  When we were in Antigua last winter I saw magnificent yachts with guys swarming all over them for weeks at a time doing nothing but varnishing and painting, all in preparation for a week of racing in the classic yacht regatta.  We weren’t there for the races this year but I hope to put it on my calendar for April 2018.  Stay tuned.

I say, varnish away.  This beautiful Elco just wouldn’t be the same in carbon fiber so bring out those brushes.If I had to downsize to a lake boat, varnish or not, I’d be tempted by something like this.She sports a properly sized ensign on her stern. A pet peeve of mine is yachts with wimpy flags. And speaking of “composite” construction, this Legnos 10-3 was built back in the 80s and has graced the Mystic waterfront for much of the time since then.   Peter Legnos, the designer and builder behind this boat built our first boat, a diminutive 20’ catboat a Mystic 20 and the first boat that Brenda and I owned, back in the late 70s.  I don’t have a photo of TAO handy so a shot of a painting of her done by my friend Christopher Blossom will have to suffice.  “Bob, Bob, you’re recycling pictures again.  We have seen this photo in at least two posts already!”  Glad to know you are paying attention.  I think that it’s a nice painting.  She was a wonderful boat but not very well suited for ocean sailing.

Brenda says that when we sell Pandora  we will get something to putt-putt around on with a glass of wine in hand.   This would be a good one, wicker chairs and all.
Or, perhaps white if natural color wicker doesn’t seem right. Another favorite of mine is the converted sardine carrier Grayling.  There’s no doubt that a beautifully varnished coach roof makes her particularly fetching. And speaking of cocktail cruises, this launch would be perfect.  Very classy with a straw hat on a summer evening.  Wicker here too.
However, all “yachtsmen” were not gentle souls so enter a real Viking Ship, the Draken Harald Hårfagre.  Now doesn’t that just roll off the tongue?   These guys, and I expect that most of them were guys.  Well, at least the “at sea” ones, were tough.  No “lily assed” creature comforts for them!I expect that the wouldn’t have been caught dead in this deck “enclosure”.   No way! They’d be out in the elements every time and all the time.   Seeing this prow come at you out of the fog would give pause for thought. This figurehead says “watch out!”.  I guess that this radar isn’t “vintage” but handy. She’s a “real” boat for “real” men.  This is shot is from the ship’s website. Impressive with their apt “blood red” sail. This video is if her sailing along in decidedly non tropical conditions which are, of course, what would have been preferred any self respecting Viking.   All I can say is Arrrggg….  Which I think is pirate speak for “we are having an awesome sail”.

Even though they have a decidedly un-viking dodger on board, Brenda would NOT have approved and it seems clear that some of the crew look like they felt about the same way.  “Lars… Are we there yet, I am frigging freezing”.  “Oh, just shut up or I’ll gore you with my horned helmet”Well, I guess that I have beaten this topic to death so perhaps I’ll call it quits for now and close with a shot of the stern of the Mayflower which is being rebuilt at Mystic Seaport.  Next time, when I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by all that I have to get ready aboard Pandora for next winter’s cruise in the Caribbean I’ll remember this photo and know that my to-do list could be a LOT WORSE.

And the iron gate slams shut.

Years ago a friend observed that after a frantic summer of parties, boating, barbecues and the like, that the minute Labor Day weekend draws to a close you can almost hear the iron doors of summer slam shut and everyone goes home.

In a way, my arrival at the marina in Deep River has that sort of finality as Pandora will be hauled for the “season”.  However, for us, the season is different as “summer” is when Pandora, and me, take a rest from the admittedly frenetic moving about that we do for the rest of the year.   Actually, “frenetic” is the word that Brenda uses to describe our time afloat as we “hurl” ourselves from one place to another.  Romantic life?  Well, sometimes.

I’ll admit that I am ready to take a break as the long passages north and south with crew do get tiring.  The 1,300 mile run from Tortola to Hampton and then another 360 mile run to Deep River totaled some 11 days at sea, plenty of time away from Brenda all the while trying to keep Pandora in shape, and salt free down below with crew who aren’t quite as focused on keeping things below as “salt free” as I am, on those long ocean passages.

Fortunately, running Pandora from Hampton took less than three days and we were able to sail, with the wind directly behind us, for nearly the entire way. According to the Delorme transponder, our fastest recorded speed, at an exact moment when the tracker captured the speed and location, once every two hours, came in at 8.3 kts.  By contrast, the highest recorded speed on the run from Tortola to Hampton came in at 10.4 kts and I expect that there were times when we went faster than that.  And, while I’m quoting “Delorme moments”, the highest recorded speed we hit in January, on our run south, came in at 12.4 kts and I recall seeing speeds, several times, of just under 20 kts as we surfed down a particularly large 20′ wave.

This is our track from Hampton to Deep River, Pandora’s “home” while she’s “on the hard” this summer. And this, the track for our entire 2017 run, not counting the part from CT to Hampton and then on to Beaufort as I didn’t have the Delorme unit on board. Alas, no “proof” of that part so you’ll have to trust me.  All and all, a long run, never the less and I don’t even want to think about the number of repairs that I made along the way. Oh yeah, remember those dolphins that visited us a few days ago during the run north?  Well, here are the “best” photos that I was able to capture of their visit and I’ll say that it is supremely frustrating to photograph dolphins in “real life”.  I find that they are, as a rule, not nearly as cooperative as Flipper was where it always seemed that he’d jump out of the water on command and give everyone the perfect shot.  Most of the time my shots showed water only but sometimes a few in frame out of the several dozen that were cavorting around Pandora.I almost got a great shot as one shot along nearby.  It was remarkable how fast they zipped by Pandora even though she was moving along at better than 8 kts.  In between my shots there was lots of jumping and flipping out of the water, especially from the juveniles, but most of the time I just missed the best shots only to capture a brief partial shot.  At least I got this one’s beak. And most of this one that jumped nearby. And, thanks to a camera that takes 3-4 shots per second, the tail reentering the water a fraction of a second later. “I gotta tell you Bob, those photos aren’t really that great.  That’s the best you can do when surrounded by several dozen dolphins?”  I challenge you to do better unless you are shooting Flipper.  I’ll bet you can’t.  Besides, you had to be there to understand and you weren’t.

All and all, it was a pretty easy, and mercifully short run home with the inevitable view of Montauk light, as re rounded the point, which I hadn’t seen since last October  when I began my run south. Well, me and Pandora are home now.  She’ll be hauled in a few days and I’ll be “hauled” into the realm of projects.  Ironically, all this happens at the beginning of the Memorial Day weekend that signals the BEGINNING of most sailors season, but is the end of mine.

When we tied Pandora to the dock yesterday I distinctly heard that gate slam shut signaling the end of Pandora’s 2016-17 sailing season.

When I stopped in to see the yard manager Brian, yesterday, he asked me “why are you pulling Pandora for so long?”  My answer, “we need a break and besides, I have a bathroom to remodel”.  Indeed, lots to do so I’d better get cracking.