Monthly Archives: September 2017

It’s nice to be wanted, in Antigua.

It’s about two month’s until Pandora and other participants in the Salty Dawg Rally make landfall in Antigua, a 1,500 mile run from our departure point in Hampton VA.

Even since the rally board decided to change the destination from the BVIs that were so badly damaged by Irma, I have been hard at work, as the official “port captain” lucky me… contacting businesses in Antigua with the goal of making sure that the “Dawgs” feel at home in Antigua and will want to make the additional 95 miles and join us there in November.

Setting aside the wonderful island, Antigua also is at the top of what some say is the “beginning of the real Caribbean” with beautiful lush islands to the south that are close with each an easy day sail to the next.  That’s in contrast to the nearly 100 mile stretch from the BVIs to St Martin, directly into the wind.  From Antigua south it’s easy trade wind sailing.

Brenda and I just loved visiting there last year aboard Pandora for nearly a month and really got a great feel for all that Antigua has to offer.  We enjoyed our time there and look forward to returning this November.

One of the most important events of the rally is the arrival dinner and I am thrilled to have worked out plans with The Admiral’s Inn restaurant and pool facility in English Harbor to have a barbecue at their poolside restaurant Boom.  The price is right and of course, specials on drinks for us are planned.

I can’t think of a better spot to celebrate with friends after arriving from a 1,500 mile voyage.Boom has an infinity pool overlooking the main building of the Admiral’s Inn. With a beautiful infinity pool. The main buildings really comes alive at night with beautiful lighting.   And speaking of night, the Inn is extending special discounted rooms for crew and skippers who might want a little shore time after the long trip south. We also will enjoy the hospitality of the Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbor. I have been in touch with them and they will be hosting a “meet and greet” with local marine businesses that can help solve any problems that our members may have encountered on the trip south.

They even have a fleet of small boats and they have offered to host a regatta for the group.  Perhaps we can have Salty Dawg Challenge race in the harbor.  That would be fun. The view of all the “big boys” in the nearby marina makes for a wonderful sight at night.   This is a remarkable place indeed. We also expect to have a wine tasting at a very nice local wine market overlooking the harbor.  Brenda and I participated in a lovely evening last winter and I am sure that our fleet will enjoy it too.  It will be hosted by Cork and Basket.

I am very excited about what’s in store for the fleet as they arrive.  And, it’s going to be a great group with about 70 boats signed up to make the run to Antigua.

Yes, Antigua beckons and they really want us to visit.  I’m excited to catch up again with all the other Dawgs and to join them for one of those not-so-rare happy hours.  Did someone say “special prices on rum punch”?Perhaps best of all, it’s nice to know that we will be welcomed in Antigua, as it’s been pretty easy to find businesses that really want to have us visit.

Oh yeah.  Want to join us?  It’s not too late. Just follow this link to sign up now.  I promise, it will be the best $200 you ever spent.

See you in Antigua?  I hope so.


Antigua’s “open for business” and we’re going.

It’s only about 6 weeks until the Salty Dawg Rally departs from Hampton VA for Antigua and I am scrambling to get Pandora ready for the run.   Actually, Brenda and I are in MD babysitting for our granddaughter Tori as I write this.  So much for rushing along with Pandora.

And, this morning I set out to do a blog post and it’s now nearly 7pm and it’s still not done.  This is why.  “Grandpy!  Out of the way, I want to do a blog post too.”

Editor:  After Tori finished “typing” away the computer crashed and it took about 5 restarts until the wifi worked again.  Whew!
Anyway, adorable helpful Tori aside, there’s still lots to do and I’ll admit that I am getting a bit anxious about finishing up so that Pandora can make the trip without too much “adventure”. Of course, there’s not much I can do about what Mother Nature might have in store for us but at least I can work hard to make sure that Pandora’s systems are all in order.

As part of the “preparation” for this season, Brenda and I opted to have a new bimini made and a full enclosure to keep out the weather.  It’s not going to be of much use in the islands as we don’t need to be “sheltered” from the weather there, recent hurricanes not withstanding, but for the ten day trip south it will make a big difference in keeping the wind, water and spray out of the cockpit.

This is a big step for us as the desire for a nice enclosure on our boats in the past has always lost out to a more pressing item.  Fortunately, not this year so fingers crossed that something really “pressing” doesn’t come up between now and launch time.  Actually, that won’t matter as we are committed.  Happy for that.  I still hope that nothing else comes up, never the less.

The local canvas shop that we hired to do the work is well regarded and I’ll report on how it goes.  In the meantime, all I can show regarding progress is the plastic in place when he completed the templating for the panels.  I have always found that part of any canvas job to be quite a mystery.   The sections on the front of the bimini and over the dodger will be done in a hard plastic, not vinyl which will hold up much better.    There will also be what the canvas guy calls “smiles”, U shaped zippered openings on each side of the cockpit enclosure that will make it easy to get out on deck in a hurry. In the aft part of the enclosure, there will be three panels so we can close things up while the weather is nasty or cold, something that doesn’t happen much in the islands, actually.  There will also be a “smile” back there too for ventilation.  I do know how to do some basic canvas work but a job of this scope is way beyond me.    Remember the seat covers that I made for down below?  The ones to keep salt off when I am on passage? Projects like that are more my speed. This is the last piece, the cover for the ottoman.   The top is tan because I ran out of grey canvas in spite of ordering 9.5 yards of 60″ wide material.  Lots of settees, I guess.Meanwhile, we are in MD and will return home on Friday.  I can’t even begin to list all the little “issues” on Pandora that need attention like minor leaks and such but somehow I’ll just have to get them done.

In my spare time, HA!, I have also become the default “port captain” for the Salty Dawg Rally, now going to Antigua because their usual destination, the BVIs was trashed by Irma.    As a result, I have spent countless hours on the phone and on email for the last week or so, contacting folks there about the eventual arrival of perhaps as many as 80 boats in mid November.

Even while they dodge multiple hurricanes my contacts have been very supportive in helping me work out the details of dockage for boats, welcome dinners and checking in pets aboard, including, I am told, a parrot.   I wonder how a parrot does in a seaway with his/her cage swinging wildly.  I guess just fine as pirates have always kept parrots aboard, or that’s what I have been told, at least.

So when I get home on Thursday evening I can turn my attention back to getting Pandora ready for blue water.  Well, once I cut the lawn, I guess.

I am very much looking forward to making this rally the best it can be as I just love Antigua and can’t wait to make it a “favorite place” for the Dawgs too.  No, I didn’t take this shot but I am hopeful that this what Nelson’s Dockyard will look like when the fleet arrives in mid November.  Wish me luck.  One thing is for sure, in spite of the hurricane damage in the Lesser Antilles this year, Antigua was spared and they are “open for business” and I for one, want to bring some too them in November with a healthy fleet of Dawgs.


As island nations struggle to recover.

It’s been a long few weeks for those who were unfortunate enough to be in the path of Irma and before her Harvey as they blasted first through the Caribbean and then into the US, both Texas and Florida.   And, while much of our attention has been focused on the damage brought by these storms to the U.S. many who spend time in the Caribbean watched with horror as Irma devastated these island nations.

Perhaps the most remarkable fact about Irma, the most powerful hurricane to be recorded in the Atlantic since records have been kept, is how much damage she did in some areas and low little effect she had on other islands that were sometimes less than 50 miles away.

Most sailors that charter in the British Virgin Islands do so out of Road Town, Tortola, home of the areas largest charter fleets managed by The Moorings and Sunsail with literally thousands of boats in their fleet.  It was hard to go anywhere in the BVIs without seeing sometimes dozens of boats with their distinctive graphics.   This was what a single dock of their boats looked like in their home marina last January when I visited. Unfortunately, the British Virgin Islands were particularly hard hit by Irma with nearly every building destroyed or badly damaged.  And, as so many from the U.S. have vacationed there or chartered boats from this once mighty charter fleet out of Tortola, they could certainly relate to this “before and after” in a very personal way.   These two photos of the Moorings and Sunsail fleets have been widely circulated.   I understand that his first photo of the fleet preparing for a hurricane was actually taken several years ago. This is how the same spot looked a day after Irma passed.I ran into someone that works for one of the major insurers at the marina where Pandora’s hauled now and he told me that up until recently that hurricane preparations for the charter fleet included securing the boats to a 450,000 lb chain strung along the harbor floor.   Reportedly, there was a recent change to “sand screw” moorings and that one after the other, pulled out of the sand.   I guess sometimes relying on great mass to hold things in place is the only way to go.  Of course, all of this is second hand but this is what I was told.  Never the less, a lot of folks lost boats.

I’ve heard that these two companies, the largest in the islands, have lost virtually their entire fleets of boats and those who have booked charters early in the season are being directed to their operations in Marsh Harbor, Bahamas.  A friend of mine told me yesterday that someone he knows had just put a brand new boat into charter this spring in Tortola and that it’s now totaled.  It’s certainly going to be some time before they are able to clean up the mess, bring in new boats and put things back to normal.

When I arrived in Tortola last January we cleared in at West End, Soper’s Hole. It’s a small harbor that had a wonderful little waterfront area, including a Pusser’s Rum store and restaurant.   This is the spot where I enjoyed spending time at last winter. And Pusser’s restaurant and store was a dominant feature on shore. Here’s a shot, just past Pussers and what it looks like now.    There isn’t a leaf on anything up on the hill A view of the charming waterfront and shops, before. This is what the hill looked like before Irma with Pandora in the foreground. Many opt to leave their boats in the BVIs for the summer and although marinas there use huge concrete blocks to secure the boats firmly to the ground, this is the sort of scene that greeted owners after Irma in nearly every marina.  Another island that was hit hard by Irma was St Martin, an island that Brenda and I loved visiting last winter.  The French side was particularly charming.  This was the market that we enjoyed spending time at. This is the view from the top of the hill now. And, the cemetery downtown. This mall in town, before and after.  We walked in most of the stores while we visited. And a view from there to the downtown market in the background. We spent time in a little seaside village Grand Cass just up the coast.  We loved the beautiful umbrellas lining the beach. And the charming streets lined with little French restaurants. We had a wonderful Valentine’s dinner at this spot. Here’s that same street now. Total devastation. Irma was a massive storm.  This satellite shot shows how big Irma was as she carved a path of destruction on her way to the U.S.  It’s hard to imagine the massive force a storm like this brings.
And these waves were captured at a point that wasn’t even the height of the storm before the winds kicked in. It’s sobering to see so many loose so much and I am hopeful that these islands can get back on their feet soon and return as the tourist and sailing Meccas that they have been for generations.

Amazingly, while many islands suffered enormous damage others were spared including Antigua, where Brenda and I spent a lot of time last season.  We are looking forward to visiting there again in November with the SDSA rally which will make landfall there instead of the hurricane stricken BVIs.  If you’ve been tempted to visit Antigua yourself, click here to learn more about the 2017 Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.

Meanwhile, the Salty Dawg Board has set up a fund to benefit the BVIs in particular and with your help they will recover soon.  Want to learn more?


It’s going to be a long time until these islands are brought back to the beautiful places that the once were but if history is any guide, it won’t take as long as you’d think.  These are resilient people and with help they will recover.

The power of nature.  Never forget.

As I write this we are flying home from a week in San Francisco and a visit with our son Christopher.  It has been a very long time since our last visit to the “other” coast and being there brought back many memories.

It’s been a week since my last post although there’s been plenty to write about.  However, with all the destruction caused by two back to back hurricanes in as many weeks, somehow putting up a post didn’t seem quite right.

So, here I go anyway as Irma continues to churn her way west toward Florida with an expected landfall in the US, perhaps in the Florida Keys on Saturday. The expected destruction in Florida will just be the latest installment in what is the unfolding catastrophe of Irma that has already brought untold havoc to the Eastern Caribbean, especially to St Martin and north through the British Virgin Islands.  The pictures that are beginning to surface of the very places that Brenda and I visited earlier this year are now unrecognizable and a sobering reminder of the power of nature, especially to those of us that make our home aboard for much of the year.

Many photos and videos have surfaced, especially on Facebook and in spite of my best efforts, I was only able to identify one or two places that were recognizable as so many buildings have been completely destroyed.   This short video is of the Bitter End Yacht Club resort.It’s hard to believe that the images in the video are of the same place we visited last winter.   This is what it looked like when we were there.  Everything was in perfect order and a sobering reminder of just how fragile life can be.  These hillside bungalows are nearly gone. I hope that it won’t be long before cruisers and charterers will once again be able to enjoy sunsets from these beautiful beaches. It’s going to be a long time until these communities and countries will be back to normal and it may even get worse before recovery can begin as yet another storm, Jose, is headed their way and due to arrive in just a few days.

The Salty Dawg Sailing Association, SDSA, is just beginning to consider options on what to do in the wake of all this destruction.   Some of our members are anxious to get there to help in the recovery efforts and some may choose to sit this season out with them hope that things will be back to normal next season.

Others are considering different areas for possible landfall, perhaps in Puerto Rico, less effected than other areas, and some considering a run to destinations further south below Irma’s path such as Antigua.  As a side note, I spoke to the owner of the hotel, The Admiral’s Inn, in Nelson’s Dockyard Antigua and he told me that they were not really affected by the storm, a far different picture than just a few hundred miles west in the BVI’s

One way or the other, the pull to head south for the season is strong for many if the details remain a bit unclear.

Surely, in the next few weeks plans will firm up for many as surely as work progresses on their boats as they continue to plan for a winter afloat.

I do have my work cut out for myself as well as there is still plenty to do to get Pandora ready for a long trip south.

In the mean time, I’ll be speaking with my crew, both those who will help me bring Pandora to Hampton and those planning the run south to the islands to keep them informed on plans as they firm up.

However, there is one thing for sure, that the power of nature is awe inspiring and that those of us that venture to sea in small boats must never forget just how small we are.










Thou shalt knot.

It’s Sunday of Labor Day weekend and Brenda and I are visiting our son Christopher in CA.  As I write this I am sitting on a patio in the middle of the Anderson Valley, our favorite part of the wine country, north of San Francisco.

This is the view that greeted me today as I enjoyed my first cup of coffee and sat down to write begin this post.Brenda found this wonderful little cottage nestled in the woods on Airbnb.  Nicely done.  We are out here visiting our younger son Christopher for a week and remarkably, he’s even agreed to take a few days off from work to hang out with us.

Before I get to the story behind the title of this post, bear with me for a few more photos of what we have been up to.  We visited Golden Gate park near San Francisco a few days ago, prior to driving up here.  Brenda and I had a greenhouse for about 20 years so we continue to be drawn to tropical plants.  This greenhouse, in the park, was built from a kit in the late 1800s.  Nice kit. It’s loaded with tropical plants of all descriptions including these carnivorous “pitcher” plants. Nepenthes actually, not to put to fine a point on it.  We grew some of these but none as huge as this species.  Amazing. Of course, I should include a photo of Christopher and his mom. Ok, now that I have all of that out of the way I’ll get back to the real purpose of this post.

Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of the sunset from this deck last night.  Those of you who have followed my exploits, know how much I love sunsets.   Of course, we shared a bottle of wine together, locally sourced, of course,  as the sun set behind the mountains in the distance.  We won’t talk about the fact that the temperatures were, uncharacteristically, in the 90s.Last week when Brenda and I visited the USCG air station on Cape Cod, we stayed the night in New Bedford and visited the Whaling museum to take in a new exhibit about Clifford Ashley, the guy who brought us what is widely regarded as the all-time-go-to book on knots, the “Ashley book of knots” This book, more of an encyclopedia, includes drawings, descriptions and instructions, om the use and how-to-tie of some 3,800 knots.   Eleven years in development, the book was first published in 1944 and is still in print.  The show, put on with the help of Ashley’s daughter, offers highlights from the book and information about his life and a remarkable life it was.  Here’s Clifford himself.  Well, a photo of a painting of him, actually. This show, and the title of this post, is quite clever.   And very nice typography too.  The welcome graphic as you enter the gallery. Ashley, drew all of the illustrations in the book and was also an accomplished artist in his own rite.  He studied under Howard Pyle, known for establishing the “Brandywine School” and teaching many successful artists.  Some of Pyle’s best known works include his illustrations of pirates in this edition of “Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates”.
Ashley too illustrated pirates including this piece.   You can certainly see Pyle’s influence on Ashley. This wonderful photo of Ashley in his studio.    Swashbuckling enough for you?  Break out the Dramamine, quick!If you love knots, or have some ongoing use for them, you should have this book. However, I will warn you, some of the “instructions” are a bit tough to follow.   However, the finished pieces, of some of the more complex knots, are wonderful like these samples from his collection. Sinister uses include this ceremonial dagger and a “cat-o-nine-tails” for whipping prisoners.  Of course, what exhibit of knots would be complete without a sailor’s knot board?Or a sail maker’s kit of tools?There were plenty of other knot examples of his work displayed wonderfully. A really elaborate becket or handle for a sailor’s kit chest.
Amazing detail. Of course, many knots have nothing to do with sailing but are wonderful anyway. Sometimes photos can be deceiving.   This knot is larger than it appears. A lot larger.And, some are downright creepy, to me anyway, like these woven from human hair of a deceased family member.  “This is my dead mother’s hair and I am never taking it off, never!”
Brenda loves doing bobbin lace and was drawn to these beautiful lace bobbins and samples of hand lace. Really intricate stuff. Unrelated to Ashley, I loved this model, but part of the museum’s collection, a classic Concordia Sloop, a design long associated with nearby Padanaram MA. Wonderful attention to detail. Down to the rail on the stern. And like the really big knot above, sometimes things are not as they appear as this “model” is actually 20′ tall.   It would be tough to fit this in most homes. Of course, it’s small compared to the model of the whaling ship Lagoda, reportedly the largest ship model in the world and the centerpiece of the museum. And, just to prove, with no question, that this is a blog about boats, how about I close with a view of the fishing fleet from the observation balcony at the museum.  Now, that’s nautical.  Yes indeed, it’s been a busy “bi-coastal” few weeks with lots of miles “under our keel”, with more to come.  But what a thrill to visit a wonderful exhibit at the Whaling Museum, a tour of the USCG station Cape Cod and cap it all off with a week long visit with our son Christopher.

Brenda sometimes feels that I am running her ragged and I’d guess that’s true.  I For me, I’d say that, “thou shalt knot let grass grow under our feet”.

Besides, there are plenty of wineries still to explore and San Francisco awaits…