Monthly Archives: July 2018

Why you should do the Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua this fall.

It’s only a few months until the Salty Dawg Sailing Association fall rally to the Caribbean arrives in Antigua and, as port captain for Antigua, I have been busy putting together a terrific mix of arrival events.   The Antigua Yacht Club, local business, national park service and government have been very supportive and has made my job a lot easier as I work to put things in place to make it worthwhile for you to make the run south with us.

The plan, upon arrival, is for the fleet to tie up in Nelson’s Dockyard for at least the week of festivities and we anticipate a very special rate as low as $.50 US/ft per day.  We plan to kick off our events on November 13th or when the bulk of the fleet has arrived safely.   The Dockyard is the only working Georgian dockyard in the world, once the center of the British Navy in the Caribbean.  What a beautiful place to make landfall after a long ocean voyage with the Dawgs. It’s a feast for the eyes wherever you turn, including ruins of a British Navy sail loft and the current home of the aptly named Pillars restaurant, part of the beautiful and so historic, Admiral’s Inn. We will again have our welcome cocktail party at Pillars.  Rally participants at last season’s reception. Our arrival dinner will be held at Boom, poolside, overlooking the dockyard.  And, it’s quite a spot. Imagine yourself with an icy rum punch with all of your Dawg friends in this setting.  Oh yeah…  Want some shore time after a long voyage south or perhaps a spot for your crew and family to hang out for a few days.  There are very special “Dawg Rates” at the Admiral’s Inn, starting at about $150/night US.   Join the rally, contact them and identify yourself as a Rally participant to get these rates.

And, don’t forget that all of this is right in the dockyard, where you’ll be snugly tied up.  This is a shot of the Oyster round the world rally when they stopped in Antigua. The harbor is a feast for the eyes with spectacular yachts from all over the world. The Antigua Yacht Club will be our host and they are there to help you.  Each boat will receive a skippers bag upon arrival with valuable discounts from many local business as well as information on what to do during your time in Antigua.

Just stop and see Nesie, who will help you with anything she can to make your visit to Antigua a great time. The clubhouse is located in Falmouth Harbor, a five minute walk from English Harbor.   Club members plan on throwing a welcome party for us, a special member guest event.   They will even provide in some free food and drink to make us feel welcome. Last year we were greeted by the Minister of tourism as well as the club commodore.  The event was very well attended by the Dawgs who had a great time. There will even be a special AYC member/guest Thanksgiving feast if you choose to be on-island for the holiday.   Angie, who runs the clubhouse restaurant, plans a wonderful event with all the turkey and fixings at a very reasonable price.  There will even be a band for dancing.   This might have been the most popular event last fall.  I even got a peck on the cheek when I presented Angie with a rally flag.  That flag, is now flying proudly in the clubhouse. Here’s one of the staff, they love the Dawgs, sporting one of our “Ts”.  But wait, there’s more, a total of ten special Dawg events, planned just for you.    I highlighted these events in another post so click here to learn all the details.  And let me tell you, there are lots of details.  There will be a free open house, complete with wine, beer and snacks at the North Sails loft in English Harbor.  Other events include a local art gallery who’s throwing a “season opener” party to welcome us to the island.  There will even be a reggae band on hand as well as free rum drinks and dancing.

The Royal British Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda, (and yes, this proves that there is a club for just about anything you can imagine), will host a very special event in our honor at the beautiful Copper and Lumber in the Dockyard.

The Tot Club was founded in the 90s by a small group devoted to preserving the naval history of Antigua,  including Mike, a colorful keeper of British Navy history on the island.   Want to know what happened in British naval history on February 21st, 1885?  Mike surely knows the answer.  Join the group, and it’s not as easy as it seems, but if you do, you too can get one of the official “Tot club” shirts.  I became a member this spring and wrote about the experience, that included a lot of rum tots in some remarkable places including a 150′ schooner, in this post.

An evening with the Tot club was one of our most popular arrival events.  Each day at 18:00, year round, the Tot Club meets to celebrate British Navy history, toast the end of the working day and the Queen, of course.   It’s a wonderful way to honor the history and tradition of the British Navy in a wonderful setting.  You really won’t want to miss this. Some say that the “real Caribbean” begins in Antigua and Falmouth Harbor Antigua is a great spot to begin your winter season and journey south toward Grenada.

There’s lots more in store for you if you make the jump to Antigua with the Salty Dawg Rally in November.  Departures are planned from Hampton VA and Essex CT.  It’s a wonderful group and you will surely make great friends along the way.

One more thing.  This post is only the tip of the iceberg as there are ten, count em, ten days of arrival events planned that you won’t want to miss.

Want to learn more?  Visit the “official Dawg” site and apply today.   And, if that’s not enough, the rally is very inexpensive.   In addition, there are days if pre-departure activities including blue water seminars, dinners and weather routing by Chris Parker of Marine Weather Center, for the entire trip south.

If you take the trip to Antigua, this view could be yours, rum punch in hand as the sun sets below the western horizon.  Antigua is wonderfully situated so that wherever you decide to go later in the season, south to Grenada or Trinidad or north to the Virgins to begin your run north in the spring, it’s always an easy reach.

Join us, you’ll be glad you did.  Click here to sign up now.

Don’t miss out.

What color would you paint Pandora?

This post is up for one reason and that is to get feedback on which color to paint Pandora, our Aerodyne 47 sloop.  She’s been a very dark green Awlgrip since being launched in 2007 and has already been painted again, just a few years ago.

Someone once said to me that “there are only two colors to paint a yacht, white and stupid”.  I will protest this position as a yacht painted a dark color makes a dramatic statement but for sure, dark hull colors don’t hold up for nearly as long as white.    As good as a dark hull looks, it does cost a lot more to keep it looking good so lighter does seem to make sense.

So, while I may like the dark color hull the best, we have found, after 6 tropical winters, that a big downside of a dark colored hull is that it gets really hot, especially in the afternoon when the sun is low and beating on the starboard side of the hull.  And, it’s nearly always shining on that side as the prevailing winds are just about always blowing from an easterly direction.   Additionally, as we don’t have crew (just me) to wash her down each day, salt builds up along with minerals that are really hard to remove and give the hull a messy look, especially near the waterline.

Additionally, the paint and the top clear coat have peeled in some areas from the intense sun and that doesn’t even begin to describe the wave of heat that billows out when we open some of the lockers.

So, here we are, deciding on the color for yet another paint job, her third since being launched in 2007.  The shed pre-arrival.  Pretty big space.  Not so big now.  She fills it right up.  So, here she is being prepped and now is a good time to think of what’s next.  That’s where you come in.  Ok, so the plan is to nix the dark color and go to something lighter, perhaps a LOT lighter.  Easier to keep looking clean and a lot cooler.   Here’s Pandora in her current color scheme. The shop doing the refit offered to modify the photo of Pandora to show different Alexseal color options as well as boot tops and cove stripes for comparison.   As a note, we are going with that brand of paint as opposed to Alwgrip, as it’s a bit softer paint and somewhat more resilient to dings as well as easier to repair.  I understand that many of the really big yachts, that are always being touched up, have gone to Alexseal.

Here’s the darkest option we are considering, “Kingston Grey”.   This rendering includes a dark green boot top and cove stripe for contrast.  Having said that, it doesn’t have to be green.  However, her upholstery down below, for what it’s worth, is dark green so the color is a nod to that. And, the same color without the boot top and cove stripe.  From my vantage point, she looks a bit bulbous without the contrasting stripes.
Now, for some lighter colors. “Light Grey”, a good deal lighter than the prior option.“Whisper Grey”, even lighter, but still with the striping. A bit lighter still.  “Pearl Grey.”So, the question is really dark or light grey?  The issue of the color of the boot top will also need to be addressed.  Her bottom is black now and will likely have to be black, blue or perhaps red as those are the most common colors for ablative paints.   The renderings that they did show a white contrasting bottom paint below the boot top, which isn’t correct.

I understand that they will be done sanding and will apply a light grey primer on Tuesday so I’ll be able to see what she looks like “grey” then.

So, what do you think?

Oh yeah, one more thing.   It’s been a while since I have posted a shot of our Grandaughter Tori.  We thought that she was still pretty little but she doesn’t look so quite so little since the arrival of the twins, fresh from the hospital last week.  Meet her sister Emme and brother Rhett.  



It takes a village. What’s that sucking sound?

After a decade of use and thousands of sea miles under her keel, it’s high time for Pandora’s rig to be checked out.  I had known that this was needed when I purchased the boat three years ago as I was pretty sure that her first owner had never removed the rig.  As evidence of this, I had to cut a new opening in the cabinetry to remove one of the fittings that held the mast in place as there was absolutely now way to get at it.   Based on that, I am pretty confident that the rig has been in the entire time since commissioning.   It’s time.

Pandora has rod rigging and it is recommended that it be replaced, or at least carefully checked after 30,000 miles, I think, so one way or the other, it’s high time.  Additionally, as Pandora’s heading into a paint shed this week for a new coat of paint on the hull, the rig needed to come out anyway, so out it came.

I spent hours taking the sails off and making sure that all the wires were labeled and removed in preparation for the job.

On Thursday afternoon Brenda hoisted me up the back stay to remove the SSB antenna wire.  I also loosened the shrouds so that when the crew boarded on Friday morning all would be ready for removal.

She looked pretty forlorn on the dock with the boom removed and sails off. It takes a village, or at least a small mob, to remove even the smallest mast and while Pandora is not a small boat, she’s not all that big.   Brian, the yard manager and default crane guy for the day was ready and looking, well, looking pretty bored, actually. Chris, the “up the mast guy” took his time to be sure that everything was perfect.  Up the mast to attach the bridle. I was very concerned that there was something missing from my prep efforts that would keep the mast from breaking away from the boat after a decade in place and that the crew would have to put the job on hold while I got the prep right.

But, after a few minutes of pulling with the crane, it suddenly lurched up, along with my heart, a foot from the step. The step itself looked terrible, with lots of corrosion.   All four bolts holding the step in place were badly corroded.  Looks expensive.  This one, in particular, also holds the ground wire.  What about using stainless guys, when you built the boat?  Hmm…Some of the hydraulic fittings were a mess.  What about using stainless here too?    There’s a number of these that are in very bad shape and I am told that the plated ones that were used are $10 and stainless, $100.  Oh, I get it…The tide was coming up fast and it looked for a while like we wouldn’t be able to get the mast high enough up to clear the deck.  But we did, barely.  If the mast looked big on board, it looked even bigger on land.  It’s remarkable how many guys it takes to pull a mast.   I can’t even imagine how much it would have cost if I had just said.  “Guys, I want to pull the mast.  Have at it.”  The hours it took me to label everything, pull the sails, run messengers for lines, remove electrical connectors etc…

So, off to Stratford on Monday morning, tomorrow, where Pandora will be hauled and put in a shed for the next five weeks.  I am looking forward to visiting  regularly to chronicle the process of getting her ready for her new paint job.

And, I’ll be able to put some new graphics on her hull and boom and get rid of the nasty ones that are there now.

It’s going to be odd to head down the river and Sound tomorrow with no mast.  Boy, I sure hope that nothing happens with the engine.   You never know…

As complicated as the process of pulling Pandora’s rig was, it’s nothing compared to the rig on a mega yacht.  Check out this short video of how complicated it can be when it’s the rig on a 180′ sloop.  They say that a boat is nothing more than a hole in the water that you pour money into and I’d say that it’s true.    At least I can be confident that my hole is a lot smaller than the owner of that boat.

Having said that, let’s hope that this process doesn’t prove to be any more painful than I expect.

“Wait, is that a sucking sound I hear?  Hey you, let go of my wallet.”

What’s it like to be at sea? Do you anchor each night?

When I talk to folks that have not made long runs offshore in a small boat, the most common question is “do you anchor at night”.  My answer, if I was a bit snarkier than I am, would be “Yes, we carry 15,000 feet of anchor chain and just let her rip.”   But no.  I don’t say that…

The point here is that it’s very difficult to explain what it’s like to be at sea in a small boat.  And yes, Pandora at nearly 50′ is small.  Especially when you are hundreds of miles from land.

To see a full moon rise at dusk with a single sail on the horizon…The growing glow on the eastern horizon as a raceboat crosses our bow.  
A Swan, with a hotshot delivery crew overtaking us on their way to Puerto Rico hundreds of miles south of Bermuda last fall. Hundreds of miles from, well, anything, and still, they came so close…A rainbow after a passing tropical shower.
Something as simple as a sunset is an event as it goes from blues and grays…To a fiery display…Sometimes there are others out with us to enjoy the majesty of it all.
More often, it’s just the broad ocean, as flat as glass.  “Bob, where are the ocean swells?”  Ok, no swells.  I’ll admit it wasn’t the ocean but I’m trying to make a point here so go with me on this…Sunsets at sea have no peer.Anyway, I won’t beat this to death “Bob, too late, you already have.” except to say that it’s hard to understand, unless you’ve been there.

To be at sea, day after day, alone.  Never sure what will come next.

Still don’t get it?  But wait, there’s hope…  This video, a time lapse movie of a month at sea on a container ship does a wonderful job of illustrating what life at sea is like.  Of course, minus the wave action on a small boat.

Sunlit days, making landfall and spectacular star filled nights…And no, they don’t anchor every night.

Life gets in the way.

It’s about this time every year that I being thinking in earnest about what our cruising plans will be like for the coming winter season.  In past years the question was easily answered as we had new areas to visit and a pretty clear idea of what the coming months would bring.

So, as I sit here, in my office, on the 4th of July, arguably one of the busiest boating weeks of the summer, I really have no clear idea of what’s coming this fall.

The problem is the classic problem of, “life gets in the way” with multiple “events” coming our way that will make it hard to know what’s in store.

The good news is that our son and his wife are expecting twins, perhaps at nearly any time now, and anyone who’s spent time cruising and had grandchildren, especially the “new” kind, know that their arrival on the scene can be really disruptive to the “cruising lifestyle”.

Additionally, Brenda’s been working on a book for some years now and feels that it’s “high time” that she get it off of her plate and off to the publisher.    The good news is that she has a publisher and knows what has to be done.  The bad news is that some of the materials that she really needs to complete it are not under her control so it’s tough to say exactly how long it will be until she can finally get what she needs and get the project done.

One thing for sure is that the publisher’s next deadline to receive the completed manuscript is this coming March.  So, if you do the math, you’ll see that this falls smack dab in the middle of the winter cruising season.

And, as I sit here on July 4th, it’s hard to say, what we will be doing this coming winter season.  I can say for sure that winter in freezing New England and winterizing Pandora leaves me “cold”, but I guess we will have to just wait and see how things develop.

In the mean time, after months of deliberation on when and where, I have arranged to have Pandora’s hull painted and she will be going into the paint shed by mid July.  I’ll be pulling her mast for a rigging inspection close to home in the next week or so and then will take her to a yard in Stratford CT for paint.

The most complex part of the job will be dealing with the rub rail which is wood and wasn’t ever properly prepared to hold a finish.  As a result, the paint on the rail has badly peeled, something that I am hoping to avoid going forward.  That part of the job, as minor as it appears is a big part of the overall cost.

The crew will also sand and paint the bottom, a treat for me as I have never hired anyone for this messy job and have always dealt with bottom paint since my very first boat back in the late 70s.   What a luxury.

Someone once told me that there are two colors for boats, “white and stupid”.  And, with Pandora’s dark hull, some think she’s black, she’s about as stupid as possible.  And, in spite of the fact that most boats are white, I don’t think that Pandora will look good at all with a white hull.  However, we do need to come up with an alternative as the dark hull color is tough to live with under the tropical sun and not only does it get hot down below, but the paint has not held up well since being painted less than five years ago.  Additionally, a dark hull shows every scuff and scratch, much more than a light hull and with a boat that’s used as much as Pandora is, she has plenty of “battle scars”.

Last winter, in Marigot St Lucia, we spied this lovely yacht Elfjie, owned by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google’s chairman.   I mention this yacht as she’s painted a light grey, Columbia Grey, an unusual color for a yacht.  Most large sailing yachts tend to be painted dark blue or black so she really stands out.  Here’s a shot of her with Pandora in the background.  I wonder if in grey, Pandora would look like Elfjie in Columbia grey?  Probably not  but the color is  still nice. The key will be to choose a color that will be light enough to stay fairly cool and yet still provide enough of a contrast to Pandora’s white decks to retain her sleek look.   We are thinking that medium grey might work.

We’ll also want to revisit her name graphics which were designed for us years ago when we owned our last Pandora.   As this shot shows, or doesn’t, it’s hard to make out her name from any distance.  There’s just not enough contrast and it looks fussy to me in any event. On “old” Pandora we had a drop shadow on the name and I’m thinking that we should loose that affectation on the new color hull.  This is a number of options the designer suggested, shown on a grey background.  Which do you like?  None of the above?One of the problems with graphics location and scale on the hull, is that we have a hefty rub-rail.  That’s good for tangling with docks and pilings but not so great for fitting graphics.  I am also wondering if we should have the graphics sized so that the “tail” on the D goes above the rub-rail.  I also wonder about the “stars”.

One reality is that the aft portion of the hull curves under the transom so putting the logo down lower may not work as well as these treatments might suggest. Well, there’s lots to think about as I prepare Pandora to head into the paint shed.  The good news is that she will be there for about five weeks so there’s plenty of time to think about color and graphics.   As we think about the proper color of grey, I’d be interested in what color you’d choose.  From our way of thinking, the lighter the better.  We are also probably going to have them use a  product called Alexseal, it’s commonly used in large yachts as it is easier to fix scratches and dings than on a hull painted with Awlgrip.  The bad news is that it’s not quite as hard a finish as Awlgrip.    Here’s a link to the color chart.

I plan on photographing the prep and painting process over the time she’s being worked on and will be posting photos of the progress.  It will be nice to see the job progress without me doing the heavy lifting personally.

When she leaves the shed in late August the season here will be just about over so I sure hope that my next step won’t be to book winter storage in the northeast.

Well, as they say, “sometimes life gets in the way” and I guess all of that will just have to play out.

One way or the other, I’ll let you know…

P.S.  Almost forgot.  The reason that I am sitting around doing posts today and not working on that bath remodeling project is that yesterday when I was doing the demo and breaking up the cast iron tub with a sledge hammer, I was hit in the face by a good sized errant piece of cast iron, try 8″,  that flew up after I slammed the sledge hammer on it.  It struck me just under the right eye and gave me quite a cut, right down to the cheek bone.    Good news, the bone didn’t break.

After a few hours visiting my doctor and then off to a plastic surgeon I’m all stitched up but it will be a week until I can resume my project.  This delay, and it could have been a lot worse, will also keep me from dealing with Pandora’s mast removal.

When the surgeon asked me how it happened, and I told him, he said that I really needed to come up with a better story.  Well, I could call it “domestic violence”, and yet another part of life that gets in the way, I guess.   So, more time for blog posts, for now…

Any ideas?