Monthly Archives: September 2018

In for the long (winter) haul.

I still can’t believe that I am writing these words but this coming Monday Pandora will be hauled for the winter.  FOR THE ENTIRE WINTER.  Once she’s on land, after less than two weeks in the water, I’ll be able to focus on a number of small, and some large, items that need attention after slightly more than a decade in continuing service.  Yes, I am working hard to put a positive spin on it.

Not to wallow in self pity, but this is the sort of view I am used to when it’s cold up north.  Pandora in Guadaloupe.  NOT.Hauled for the winter?  Yes, she’s been hauled each year but being winterized and put up for the entire winter, is a first and I can’t say that I am thrilled about it.

However, it will be good to focus, with lots of time to do it right, on all the little things like a persistent leak over the galley and a few drips, here and there, from portholes, that have been bugging me for as long as we have owned her.  These leaks, more like drips, can easily be solved by removing and re-bedding the traveler or replacing offending hatch gaskets.  Perhaps “easy” isn’t the right word  with regards to the traveler as much of the headliner will have to be taken down to access the bolts that hold it in place.  But wait!  The headliner will already be taken down to deal with the fallen portions and additional leaks from the bases of the granny bars near the mast.

When you buy a boat one of the inevitable questions is “are there leaks” to which the answer is always an enthusiastic “no, she’s as dry as a desert”.   Ok…

I’ll also be re-bedding the large windows in the hard dodger as the are showing signs of coming “unglued” in some of the corners.   I expect that it won’t be a terrible job once I understand how to get them out and what the best material will be to put them back in place.  Also, all of the side portholes will have to be removed to make it possible to replace the headliner on the sides of the cabin.   That’s going to be a pretty big job, and one that I won’t be able to tackle until the boat is fully covered to protect it from the elements.

Recently, I wrote about my desire to get a passerelle, a gangway to board Pandora from the stern when she is Med moored.  I was all set to order one of these from a company in the UK but held back as questions arose about our run south.  I am glad that I did as I wasn’t all the crazy about the design that I had chosen.  The problem is that in order to come up with a design that we could  afford, ie: in the neighborhood of one boat dollar, we were going to have to settle on an aluminum version.    That’ OK but a bit heavy and to lug it around the boat could be challenging as it wasn’t going to be all that light.

In case you are curious about just how to accomplish a Med moore, this video gives a good feel for the process.  Trust me though, it’s not as easy as they make it look.  Well, not for us, at least.

With the stern toward the dock, it’s a lot easier to board the boat with a promper ramp, so, with the extra time home this winter, I’ll have time to make my own.  However, before you think “loving hands at home”, I’ll be getting advice and support from an old friend, Peter, who has a company that does complex composite construction for the Navy.   Peter was enthusiastic about helping me and even offered me the opportunity to “pick through our scrap heap” to find some materials to make a really lightweight ramp.

Apparently, his shop has some high tech aluminum and epoxy honeycomb material that is very strong and super light.   Learning how to put these materials together will be pretty neat.   I have seen some examples of carbon fiber/composite units in Antigua but never thought that I’d be able to find a way to afford one for Pandora.

By comparison, a lightweight aluminum version weighs in at about 30lbs and one constructed from carbon fiber is less than half of that weight.  This is what the aluminum version looks like.  And composite.   I could never afford one of these as they run about 3 to 5 boat dollars.   However, if I can make one myself… Heck. I’d even be able to put yet another Pandora logo on one like this.   Pretty slick.  However, I have no allusion that I could make something so refined but I’ll bet that with Peter’s help, I’d be able to come up with something that is worthy of Pandora.  More to come on that. So, with what now seems like unlimited time on my hands, I’ll be able to tackle these jobs.

Perhaps one of the toughest things about my being a CLOD “cruiser living on dirt” for a time, will be coming up with ideas to put in posts.  It’s tough to come up with ideas for posts when I am not actually out there doing it.    However, I am committed to posting regularly, hopefully at least once a week so wish me luck.

In the short term, I’ll be focused on winterizing Pandora and with all her complex systems, it’s going to be a learning experience and will surely feel like a scavenger hunt as I sort through all of the details.

So, I promise that I’ll work hard to get Pandora in good shape so I can spend some time aboard next summer and then head off to Antigua next fall.  That will give me something to write about.

And, speaking of next summer, we have spent many summers in Maine over the years but none since I retired.   Along the way, I have wanted to visit the St John River, way up in the Bay of Fundy, famous for really high tides.    There is a bridge over the falls that is almost 80′ high at slack tide and I understand that you can only make the run during a brief 15 minute window at slack tide.  At low tide the river turns into a waterfall with raging rapids but you can get through at high tide during the very brief period that the water is slack and calm.

I am always nervous when going under a bridge, even when I am confident that we have adequate room.  This video of a large sailboat going under the bridge with a mast that’s actually higher than the bridge is tall is interesting.   They use a large waterbag to pull her over.  It’s a squeaker.
I guess that’s about it for now. However, before I break, I’ll share a brief passage that, for me, nicely sums up what cruising is all about. It’s excerpted from the book “The America, The Story of the World’s Most Famous Yacht”  It’s long out of print but you can get a used copy on Amazon.   It’s a fascinating book and well worth reading.  For example, the yacht for which the America’s Cup is named was sold in England immediately after she won that famous first race.  Later in her long life, she was owned by Union Navy and served as a blockade runner against the Confederates during the Civil War.

This quote is from a letter written by the then owner of the Yacht America, Ben Butler in 1878, while on a cruise in Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St Lawrence, with his son Paul.

“I suppose that you know the qualifications of a yachtsman… to wit, to be able to eat and drink unlimitedly, not to be seasick more than one-half the time and keep good natured under difficulties if any occur, especially in drizzly weather, and to be able to play any ordinary game of cards except Kino, which is strictly forbidden on the ground that it requires to much mathematics as to be inadmissible.  The outfit will need to be the thickest possible clothing and roughest clothing, a rubber overcoat and cap if you desire to be on deck when it rains and a reasonable supply of the latest novels in case the yacht library should not be sufficient.”

I guess things haven’t changed much as his thoughts sound about right 140 years later.

And, speaking of “being on deck when it rains”, the hot summer weather here in New England will soon be driven out by cold winter winds.    As a friend once said to me, “when you get to Labor Day you can almost hear the iron doors of summer slam shut.”

Indeed, but hey, it’s going to get better in May.   I’m in for the duration, the long haul, so to speak.   Spring will be here before we know it.

I’m counting on that.  Totally…



Where’s Pandora going? Try nowhere… Time to buy more sweaters.

It’s been nearly seven years since I retired and every winter Brenda and I have headed south in the fall for a winter of cruising in warmer climes.   We’ve done the ICW a number of times, Bahamas for a few years, two months in Cuba, and, for the last two seasons, the eastern Caribbean.  However, that unbroken run seems to be coming to an end.    Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it’s “taking a break”.  Well, I sure hope it’s only a break.

As I have written recently, Pandora was in the shop for painting and some engine work and, as planned, she splashed the day after Labor Day so that I could begin the long process of getting her ready for the run south with nearly two months to work my way through the long list of tasks and upgrades.

After several years of hard use, Pandora was surely in need of a face-lift.  Her paint was looking pretty shabby and the heat of the tropics had caused problems with some of the foam backed headliner in her cabin which has begun drooping and worse.   As I negotiated the projects to be done by the refit group, the cost of fixing the headliner was just too high so I decided to do it myself once she was re-launched in late summer.  Some of it has come down completely.   Note the “puffy” look to the right.  The foam backing on the vinyl has totally broken down from the tropical heat.

Nasty, right?
To fix the problem when the Pandora was painted, I was quoted at something like $5,000.  Way too rich for my blood so I opted to do it myself.  It’s going to be a nasty job and will involve removing hardware, molding and… Well, I don’t even want to think about all that.

So, back to the day after labor day and Pandora’s launching.  As planned, she went back in the water.  However, as I was checking to see that all was in working order I discovered that the engine work had not been completed.  Yes, the paint work was terrific but the  mechanical work was not done by the sub-contractor and it seemed that nobody noticed.  So, out of the water she went and after three more weeks, the work was finally completed.

The good news is that the contracted work is all done.  The bad news is that my two month window shrunk to less than a month and I am now seriously wondering if I can get the boat ready in time to head south.

A month sounds like a long time but the unknowns with the interior work was bad enough and then “the other shoe dropped”.   You know that, with a boat, it’s always something”.  And that particular something may have driven the last “nail in the coffin” for going south this season.

As I fired up the instruments when I left the dock, everything was in working order but after about an hour the screen on the primary chart plotter began to get dim and an hour later it went dark and failed entirely.   That was particularly bad news for me as there is no way that I would head offshore without everything in working order.

It’s worth noting that the plotter at the helm failed last year so the unit that is there now was a replacement, purchased from a dealer as “near new”.  It had been taken off of a race boat that had not been used for several years and I was told that it had very few hours on it.

Getting a plotter fixed or even replaced isn’t a big deal, well at least not compared to getting a boat painted,  except that Raymarine has discontinued that series and is no longer supplying parts or doing repairs.   I spoke with the tech people and the local dealer and learned that Raymarine  hasn’t supported that model for the last three years.

But wait, it gets worse.  To replace that, now obsolete plotter, will require that I replace the other plotter, the radar and the dozen individual instruments and repeaters that are scattered in the cockpit and down below.   We’re talking BIG DOLLARS, and that’s before we even think about all the work in running cables throughout the boat to connect all the stuff.   NOT HAPPENING and certainly not in less than a month.

All of this gave me, what my father used to say, “a cold rush of S**T to the heart”.   Not a good feeling.

What next?  “Let me Google that for you.”  Actually, if you are one of the three people on earth that doesn’t know about Google, this video will help you learn now.So, after refreshing myself on how to “Google that”,  I spent some time searching with phrases like “e-120 backlight repair”, “e-120 interface” and whatever else I could think of to avoid a complete instrument upgrade.

Good news!  Success!  On e-Bay there’s a guy, some sort of electronics geek, perhaps related to the LMGTFY guy, that takes these units apart and replaces the high voltage backlight, the part that I am told is usually the problem, and puts in a low voltage LED backlight.   I contacted him and he told me that he is able to repair the units he receives about 90% of the time.  So, I’ll be sending him the unit as well as the one that failed 18 months ago.  Yes, I saved the broken one as, EVERYONE knows that you really never know when a broken plotter will come in handy.   You knew that, right?

So, fingers crossed that one or both of these will be repaired and I’ll be looking at a repair of under $350 to $700 for the pair instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about what “new” would look like.

I can say for sure that if only one can be repaired I am going to purchase another used unit to keep on board as a spare, just in case.  New backlight or not, it will still be old and to be 500 miles out to sea and have the plotter crap out…  Well, let’s just say that  it doesn’t inspire confidence.

So, after six seasons south, so little time left until departure and a daunting list of stuff that still needs to be done…  Oh yeah, did I mention that I just found out that I need a new jib?  Well, I do.

Well, I guess it may just be time to put Pandora on the hard for the winter, just this once.   As a point of fact, she was launched in 2007 and this will be the first winter that she has not been in service.   And while that’s pretty amazing, it’s still pretty crappy news to me. 

So, what’s a CLOD (cruiser living on dirt) to do to keep warm during the cold winter nights?  Brenda’s got some ideas.  And I know that because it’s been discussed.  How about remodeling the third bathroom, the guest bath off of her studio?  I could do that.

I just finished the guest bath upstairs.  My third bath remodeling job.  It turned out pretty well, if you ask me. There’s even a tub with a curvy side. And, besides, I have been wanting to build an outdoor “beehive oven” for years so now I can, if I stay home.  I’d better hurry as it’s going to be getting really cold soon.    I got this idea from a place that Brenda and I visited in Maine back in 2011.  I wrote about the experience in this post.

We had a great time that day with a bunch of folks that we had never met.  Drawn together by pizza.  S0unds good to me.

Here’s an idea. I’ll go to Maine next summer and resume our southern travels next fall.

As The Little Engine That Could once said, “I think I can.  I think I can…”So, there you have it.   Me trying my best to make lemon aid out of lemons.

Oh yea, one more thing.   Remember our granddaughter Tori?  She’s growing up fast. I’ll get to see her more.And, the twins.   I’ll be able to take them off of their father’s hands, if only for a moment. Yes, that would be nice.  I guess that I’d better buy a few more sweaters.

Where in the world is Pandora and where is she going?

It’s only about six weeks until I am supposed to head south on Pandora, bound for Antigua and I am getting a little bit anxious about next steps.

The good news is that Pandora’s paint job is completed and her graphics applied and they turned out perfectly.   Pandora went in the water first thing on the Tuesday after Labor Day and I arrived in Stratford just in time to see her moved into a slip.  My plan was to motor her back to Deep River to re-unite her with her mast and get going on all the “to-do” items that are on the long list of chores.  She looked wonderful in her new finery.  For those of you who read the prior paragraph VERY carefully, you would have noticed that I used the phrase, “my plan WAS” about next steps.

That’s because as I went through my “pre-flight” check list, I noticed that the bearing on the back of the transmission, the “pillow bearing”, that was to be changed or rebuilt, hadn’t been touched.   That bearing had concerned me a lot on the way home from Antigua last spring and it needed to be addressed while Pandora was on the hard.  However, somehow the engine guys at Brewers who were to do the work somehow “didn’t get the memo”.   A work order had been issued weeks before but somehow that key task was missed.

Now for the bad news…  So, back out of the water she went and back on the train  for me.  I wasn’t happy because by the time I got home I had burned nearly the whole day.  Not to put too fine a point on it, but that little issue meant that I got up at 5:30 and spent the next 9.5 hours messing around on trains and buses but mostly just sitting around “waiting” for trains and buses.  It’s so much fun and Pandora was back on the “hard” all over again.  But wait, there’s more.  I just found out that the work won’t be completed and until next Friday, a nearly three week delay that eats up a huge amount of my prep time for getting ready to head south.

So, here I sit, with so much to still do to get ready to head south and the clock is ticking.   And wouldn’t you know it, the tides will be against me this week, if she’s even ready then,  for bringing her east in Long Island Sound.  Such are the best laid plans.

A few days ago I received an update and was told that they could not find a replacement bearing and that the old one would have to be rebuilt and that some parts were going to be “fabricated” in the machine shop.  I always get anxious when I hear the word “fabricate” in the same phrase as “mechanic”.    Oh great, they get to play with their awesome machines and I get to listen to the time clock tick loudly.

Oh well, that’s why everyone talks about “boat dollars”.  You know, the ones that are 1000/1 compared to regular dollars?

And, speaking of boat dollars, we are thinking about adding a passerelle, actually, I am not sure I can even spell it correctly.  However, it’s a boarding ladder that goes on the stern for use when “Med Mooring” a boat.    Oddly, they don’t even make them in the US for small boats so if we want to get one, it will have to be fabricated in the UK and shipped to us.   I have been in touch with a company there and they assure me that with the proper application of “boat dollars”, that they can get one here in time.    The company makes all sorts of units but we are going to go with one of the aluminum ones, their most “pedestrian” style.  Here’s a link to the page that shows the unit.  It’s not terribly elegant but should make it easier to move on and off the boat when we are Med or stern moored at a marina.  I don’t have a photo of what the unit looks like when it’s deployed but this is a shot of a fancier unit on a much larger boat.  And, on a really, really large boat.  That unit telescopes into the hull from the stern.  We saw this boat, Kismet, a few years ago in Ft Lauderdale.  I  wrote about her and her well heeled owner a while back.   His passerelle is longer than all of Pandora.  So, there’s a lot left to do and not a lot of time to accomplish it.    Actually, and not to put too fine a point on it, I only have a month and that assumes that she is finally launched next Friday.  Not sure I can make it as I was not counting on the unexpected three week delay in getting Pandora back to my local marina.

However, as the title of this post suggests, Pandora’s going somewhere and that somewhere is supposed to be Antigua.   Well, I sure hope so as there is a lot to look forward to when we arrive with a week of festivities planned.   Click here to see what’s planned.   

It’s going to be great assuming that I can get everything done.

I’m stressing…

What’s in a name and all of the little things that I obsess about.

When people ask what our boat’s name is and I reply Pandora, my answer is often followed by another question.   “Do you own Pandora Jewelry?”  Another question is often “Do you work for Pandora Radio”, the Internet radio service.  Nope and nope.

However, more often than not, it’s a simple “why did you name your boat Pandora?”  So, since you asked…

Some ten years ago Brenda and I were on a summer vacation in Maine,  anchored in Gilkey Harbor, Penobscot Bay.  We met an older couple on a boat, another larger Tartan, who told us of their long summers aboard their boat each year.  After hearing their story, I said to Brenda “When I grow up, I want to be like them.”

At the time we owned Elektra, a Tartan 37, a great boat but one that did not have quite the “creature comforts” that Pandora affords and that I knew Brenda would require if I had any hope of her spending months at a time aboard.

So, Brenda and I agreed that our next boat would be one that was capable of long distance cruising and that we’d be able to do so in relative comfort.   Thank you Brenda.   When we finally acquired a boat that fit our bill for long distance cruising and it came time to consider various names, Brenda quipped…
“Wow, I am really opening Pandora’s Box by letting Bob get a bigger boat.”

So, Pandora became Pandora.

And, here we are so many years later with thousands of sea miles and countless nights aboard and I am still not sure if I should thank her or beg for forgiveness.  Actually, it’s probably both.

Thanks Brenda and I am really, really sorry about all this.  Well, not all that sorry, actually…

So, back to the newly painted Pandora all ready to hit the water in a few days.

As with most important decisions, and plenty of minor ones, such as what sort of tile to use in a bath remodel, or what color to paint Pandora, I tend to obsess over such things.  However, in my defense, after all the “what about this or that option?”, I generally feel like the outcome is worth the effort and Pandora’s new color was a decision that was worth obsessing over.

Recall all the time that I spent choosing a color for Pandora?   All those blog posts and Facebook posts about what color too choose?  Well, I think it was worth it as her new light grey suits her perfectly.

Folks had plenty to say about color choices ranging from “paint her the color of bird poop” to “exactly why are you asking total strangers what color to paint your boat?”  However, the final outcome was definitely better for all the input so thanks for the help.

In addition to the choice of color, which looks marvelous, I really wanted to get the logo perfect, both in design and in size.  And, thanks to the work by Mike from Stamford Signs in CT, it really looks terrific.  Mike was very patient and even offered to reprint the logo and make it bigger when we put the first printout on the hull a few days ago.   We both agreed that it wasn’t quite big enough.  Well, perhaps he was just humoring me but I appreciated his willingness to print out one that was about 1/3 larger, a whopping 7′ or perhaps longer.

I think it looks just awesome. On the starboard side he switched the stars to the other end of the logo so that they would trail aft in both cases.   My artist friend Chris had that idea and I think it was quite inspired. The process of actually applying the “sticker” was simpler than I would have expected.   Mike sprayed a solution of water, alcohol and a bit of soap to the surface so that he could lift the vinyl if he got a wrinkle.  No problem though, it went on perfectly, the first time. Nice work Mike.

All done and now it’s time to put Pandora back in the water and bring her back to Deep River where her rig will be reinstalled, new rod rigging and all.  There’s still plenty to do before I head south to Antigua at the end of October.

And, speaking of graphics, I am now obsessing over what sort of decoration to put on my little truck.   Of course, “TT (tender too) Pandora” is a great option.  Or, perhaps “Pandora’s Box Truck”.  Too obvious?  Yeah, probably.

For now, it gives me something else to obsess about.  That’s good.  I think it’s a cute truck.  Brenda says it’s just stupid.    Don’t you just love the new “big” tires and wheels?Anyway, all this writing isn’t getting my other projects done and the plumber comes Tuesday to do the final hookups on the “new” bathroom that I have nearly finished.

Best of all, we are heading to MD in a few days to see our three grandchildren and their parents too, of course.   Our oldest Tori is getting older by the day.   I just love this “sassy” picture of her.   Yes, having grandchildren is wonderful and it’s the one little thing that I don’t obsess over.   I’ll leave that to their parents.