Monthly Archives: October 2018

If I were heading south…

If I was heading south this winter, I’d be in Hampton VA with the others that are participating in the Salty Dawg Rally to the Caribbean.  And, I’d be preparing Pandora for the 1,500 mile run, with the other boats, to head out around November 3rd, or at least as soon as there is a decent weather window.

A complicating factor in all of this is a late season hurricane Oscar that, until a few days ago, was heading right toward Bermuda and the east coast.  The forecast always had him veering to the NE but seeing a hurricane headed our way, temporarily or otherwise is always unnerving, to say the least.  Watching a storm that’s heading our way, even one with plenty of time to consider what will happen, does give one pause for thought.  Here’s Oscar’s track as of Tuesday morning.  Two days ago, the track was to the WNW.  However, that’s not my problem as I am not heading south.   Actually, while I am still unhappy about that, I am beginning to see that being home for the winter will help me focus on things that somehow haven’t gotten done here since moving to CT over six years ago.

Besides, with all this extra time on my hands, I will be able to work double time to figure out what to write about in this blog.  I also hope to be able to give a few more talks about our travels, something that I really enjoy, and that seems to be coming together too.

Additionally, I have put on a two to three day event in Essex for the last 6 years, in June and had decided to cancel that out of simple fatigue for 2019 but now that I am home for the winter (Did I mention that wasn’t heading south this season?) I have decided that perhaps we do need one more year of the event.

I’ll be doing that in June along with the Seven Seas Cruising Association and will also involve the Salty Dawg Sailing Association (I sit on the board) as well as the Ocean Cruising Club.  I joined that group last winter.

The “new” idea for the event, and it’s not my original idea, is to do a sort of “open boat” weekend, where folks from other local yacht clubs could sign up to visit boats that are set up for blue water sailing and are attending the event to see, first hand, what’s involved in getting a boat ready for blue water passages.

In addition, the publisher of Blue Water Sailing Magazine has agreed to run a round table discussion that day to explore the topic with “those who do it”.

Of course, I also plan on taking another run at arranging a search and rescue (SAR) demonstration in the river by the USCG, chopper and all.   For the last two years I have gotten approval for a demo but they were called off at the last minute by weather etc.   So, wish me luck, as I apply again.  Perhaps three will be the charm.

I did get them to show up with a cutter last spring and that was really interesting. When I was in Hampton VA two years ago, the USCG staged a SAR demo and it was totally awesome.   This particular chopper was their “100th anniversary edition”, yellow instead of the traditional white and orange. I wrote about that amazing experience in this post.  After that day I said “I want one of those” and begin petitioning the USCG to do an event like that at the Essex Yacht Club.   Wish me luck and mark your calendar, June 2019.  Exact date to come.

Of course, when you think about the USCG you may also think about terrible weather and folks getting into all sorts of trouble afloat.   Actually, it’s not the “big kids”, sailors like us that do what we can to be fully prepared when we head to sea, that take the bulk of the energy from the Coast Guard.  It’s the day-sailors and folks on paddle boards that are their “best customers”.   However, when I head out to sea I can’t help but think about what will happen if…

And, when I am more than 350 miles from shore I always take a deep breath as that’s the limit of how far a chopper can go to rescue you if things turn bad.  Of course, on a run south to Antigua, being 350 miles from shore is, well, it’s for most of the time.

The Volvo Ocean Race goes through some pretty nasty stuff as they slog their way around the world, especially as the make their way through the Southern Ocean.   I learned that each boat has a drone aboard.   Awesome!

This video is really amazing.  Perhaps even more amazing is that the drone can keep up with the boat in all that wind.   Listen at the “yahoo” from the crew at the beginning of this short two minute video and watch,at the end, as the helmsman catches the returning drone with his free hand while steering the boat.  These guys, and they are mostly guys, are nuts…  Oh yeah, they are way out of chopper range, for nearly all of the trip. You may subscribe to Scuttlebutt Sailing News.  They recently announced the winner of what I think they said was the “best sailing video”.  The winner was a one minute piece done by AzkoNobel, one of the teams in the Volvo race.  They cram A LOT into a one minute video.  It’s pretty good, actually.All that’s not my cup of tea, and surely not Brenda’s.  I am pretty sure that Brenda would prefer a day on the water that was more like this.  You may recall that when asked “Brenda, what is your favorite part of sailing?”, her answer is predictably, “being anchored”.    Too small a boat you say and yet you do like the umbrella deal?  Try this one instead.  Besides, aboard Pilar Rossi, which we spied in St Barths two years ago,  everbody gets their own spot in the shade. Yes, even I agree that easy sailing or being anchored in a beautiful spot suits me just fine.  Besides, when I was really small and splashed with water, my response, I am told was, “don’t get my wet”.

So, to close the loop on the title of this post, “If I were headed south”, I’d be waiting until the weather looked good.  As the saying goes “here’s to smooth sailing, with the wind on your back”.

Let’s hope that the folks in the Salty Dawg Rally have just that.  Bon Voyage…

See you in Antigua.

Blocking up is hard to do.

With apologies to Neil Sedaka, who’s name has not EVER appeared here in the decade plus that I have been keeping this blog, for torturing the title of his song, “Breaking up is hard to do” but somehow that song came to mind as I watched Pandora being hauled the other day, on her way to being “blocked” for the winter.

Out she came, looking much larger than she ever looks in the water.   Conversely, the farther she gets from “terra firma” the smaller she looks and feels.  Try 500 miles from land in big seas.  Pretty tiny.

Now, she’s all set and covered for the first time EVER.   Makes me sad.There will be a nifty zipper door installed in the stern so I can get into the boat easily and still, sort of, keep out the chill winter winds.  Good luck with that.  Note that the aft solar panel was kept exposed to be sure that the batteries are kept up all the time.  I even took some scrap material out of the dumpster and fashioned a cover for our dink.  I used an electric heat gun to shrink the material.  Pretty neat cover, if you ask me.Winterizing the boat’s water systems proved to be every bit as complex as I feared.  The last time I had to winterize a boat was seven years ago and that boat was WAY simpler.

I made a list of all of the systems aboard Pandora that have water in them and  needed to be attended to.  It was a LONG list.

Air Conditioning, aft
Air Conditioning, forward
Bilge pump automatic, primary
Bilge pump bilge, secondary
Bilge pump manual, cockpit
Bilge pump manual, shop
Bow thruster bilge pump, Arid Bilge
Bow thruster bilge pump, primary
Cockpit fresh water wash-down
Cockpit transom shower
Drink water filter in galley
Fridge and freezer cooling
Galley sink faucet
Head shower, forward
Head sink faucet, aft
Head sink, forward
Head, aft
Head, forward
Holding tank, aft
Holding tank, forward
Hot Water tank drained
Maserator pump, aft
Maserator pump, forward
Shower Sump, aft
Shower sump, forward
Washdown pump, saltwater
Water tank, port
Water Tank, starboard
Watermaker, product hose

Yikes, the list was overwhelming and if I forgot anything or didn’t get a good amount of antifreeze into every system, I’ll have major problems in the spring.

As an aside, Brenda and I visited the Custom’s House Museum in Groton CT a few days ago and happened upon a very charming tugboat exhibit.  As part of the collection was some original art from the classic children’s book Little Toot.

I was struck by how relevant these images are for us and our time afloat.

As the old axiom goes, Sailing:  “Hours of utter boredom periodically interrupted by moments of sheer terror.”   What goes up…Must come down.  You know the feeling.Of course, as “tough” as we may like to think we are.   Most of us prefer to see days that feel like this as there is indeed, and to quote Ratty from the classic “The wind in the willows.”

“Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.”And, I will work hard to be sure that Pandora is ready for launch and a fun filled 2019 season of “messing about”.

But, for now, it’s making me sad as, blocking up Pandora is, indeed, very hard to do.

Good news though, I have decided to fly to Antigua to welcome the Salty Dawg Rally fleet and enjoy the arrival activities that I worked so hard to put together.    In case you’ve forgotten about all that, click here to see what’s in store.

It’s going to be great!

How to get ashore? Just plan ahead.

Did I mention that we aren’t heading south this winter?


Yes, yes, I get it.  Anyway, I accept that but now I can spend the next few months stressing about all that has to be done to get Pandora ready, and I mean REALLY READY for next summer and our planned trip back to Antigua in the fall.    that means all of the little projects that somehow get pushed off into the future when deadlines are tight and time short.

Planning ahead has always been a focus of mine and having a list of all the little niddly (is that a word?) things that need to be done, like that tiny persistent leak over the galley makes me feel like I am heading in the right direction.  However,  even the simplest fix often becomes a big job.  For example, that galley leak is probably coming from a loose fastening on the traveler but fixing that will involve lots of disassembly down below as well as on deck.  Easier said than done.

Yes, I am a  planner.  And, speaking of “strengths?”, I once worked for someone who liked to remind me that a person’s greatest strength was also their greatest weakness.  And, surely, planning, for me, is both a blessing and a curse.  A blessing for me and a curse for poor Brenda who has to listen to me go on, and on, and on, about what I plan for Pandora and our time afloat.

Let’s just say that I have lots planned and before I know it, spring will be here.  OH, I am so counting on that being true.  We’ll see, but I’ll keep busy, of that I am certain.  And no matter what happens, I am PLANNING on the weather improving in May.  That I can plan for with confidence.

Enough of that for now.  For those that visit this site from time to time know that I am drawn to all sorts of boats and I ran into this video the other day of a really neat launch that surely costs more than more than a even a few boats like Pandora.

This carbon fiber wonder would look pretty slick in any harbor.    It clearly says, “I have arrived” even before it even gets to the dock.  Check this out.
I wonder if it comes with a tux or whatever?  Their website is appropriately Contrast the experience of a proper bespoke launch with Pandora’s dink, nice canvas chaps and all.  A bit different? However, it could be worse…  Of course, this begs the question “how much does it cost to live on a boat?”  For him, perhaps a bit less than others. How about this launch, better known as a “launch limo”.  We spied this one in St Barths, the playground of some pretty well heeled boaters. Hard to say what yacht that “dink” belonged to but it could have been Eclipse, what was at that time, the second largest yacht in the world,  owned, by Roman Abramovich.   His life seems to be made up of many superlatives and while he has the second largest yacht in the world, he recently reached a new milestone when he settled on what has been reported as the #1 most expensive divorce ever reported as being over $400 million that went to his ex.   And, that’s on top of an earlier divorce from his first wife who only received a measly $150 million.  I expect that Roman would agree with the song “breaking up is hard to do”.

Don’t feel too sorry for the now somewhat poorer Roman as he still has Eclipse and the bulk of is $7,000,000,000 fortune.  Is that the right number of zeros?  That’s Seven Billion.

Roman is still doing OK as he also has a home in St Barths where we saw Eclipse two years ago when we visited the island aboard Pandora.    St Barths is a pretty rarefied spot as this post describesOf course, if you have a nice dink,  it’s good to have a convenient spot to put it like this “garage” on the starboard side of this yacht we spied in Ft Lauderdale.  And, I am sure that Kismet has a pretty nifty launch too.  She’s certainly large enough to fit one, or perhaps several.  I wrote about her and her owner in this post. Well, there you have it.  So may ways to get ashore, some a bit flashier than others.   Me, I just want to get somewhere…

For me, it’s still all about planning ahead and for now, I’m ashore.

I wonder if someone wants me to drive their launch for them?  I know how to steer, ya know…

The Windwards and Leewards, what is it really like? Armchair sailors unite!

It’s going to be a long winter with some saying that it’s going to be really, really cold here in the North East.

I for one, am not happy to be here in the North East when I should be sailing in warmer climes and after spending the last six winters in southern waters, it’s going to be a big deal for me.

As I have said in past posts, “live it once and tell the story for ever”.  And, to that point, I particularly enjoy giving talks about where we have been aboard Pandora and recently did two webinars for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, SSCA, one about our time cruising from the BVIs south to Dominica over the winter of 2017 and the other about cruising the waters of the southern Caribbean from Antigua to the Grenadines aboard Pandora in 2018.   Both presentations are free and you don’t have to be a member of the SSCA to view them.

Since I retired in 2012 Brenda and I have spent our winters cruising and have covered a lot of ground including the US Intra Coastal Waterway (ICW), the Bahamas, Cuba and most recently the eastern Caribbean.

Over the years I have given many talks, mostly live and I am often asked if they are available on the Web.  Until now, the message was sadly no, but these two presentations have been recorded so you can see them if you are so inclined.  And, better yet, aside from the time it takes to view them, they are free.

These are not just travelogues, those tortuous, “I went 6kts from this island to that and look at what I ate for dinner.”  On the contrary, I work hard to give you a good feel for what sorts of weather you should expect and how it feels to interact with the local residents.  Of course, I also try to share the wonder of what it’s like to visit these remarkable islands and to spend months at a time afloat.

Many of you have probably chartered in the BVIs and these talks will give a good feel for how different the islands to the south are from the bustling charter bases that you may be more familiar with.

Cruising the Leeward Islands, the BVIs south to Dominica.  There is no charge to view this recording although I am told that there will be a modest fee to SSCA after 120 days, so view it now. The Windward Islands:  Antigua and South, “where the REAL Caribbean begins”.  From Antigua to the Grenadines.   Yes, this one is free too. I enjoyed preparing for and giving these talks and would appreciate your feedback on what I might do to make them more interesting or perhaps other topics that you’d like to hear.

Oh yeah, one more thing.   If reading is more your style, check out these articles that I wrote for Blue Water Sailing Magazine.

Cruising Cuba, a First Timer’s Perspective from October 2016.  Brenda and I spent two months cruising Cuba and toured the south coast, around the NW point and to Havana before returning to the US.  Cruising the Windward Islands.   This article appeared in Blue Water Sailing magazine in August of 2018.   It’s a shorter version of the story I told at the SSCA webinar mentioned above. And finally, the cruise that introduced us to the eastern Caribbean in 2017.  Into the Leeward Isles, cruising from the BVIs south, the northern half of the eastern island chain.   This article was published in Blue Water Sailing Magazine in February of 2018.Yes, it’s going to be a long winter but at least I have lots of friends that can keep me posted on what they are doing, cruising in the beautiful waters of the Caribbean.

Yep, I too can be an “armchair sailor”.  Not perfect but it’ll do for one winter at least.


So, how much does a dink full of water weigh?

Well, that’s it.  Yesterday evening Pandora was hauled for the winter.  It’s over and we won’t be sailing again until next Summer.  It’s the first winter in her decade of service that she has been on the hard for winter and I am not happy about it.

With boats it always seems that “it’s always something” and the last week or so hasn’t disappointed.  In the aftermath of the huge hurricane, Florence, that slammed into the Carolinas, the much weakened storm headed up through our area and dumped a remarkable amount of rain as it passed through CT.

As is my custom, I had left our dink up in the davits on Pandora but on this occasion I neglected to pull the drain plug.  That turned out to be very bad oversight as the nearly 7″ of rain that fell overnight filled the dink, which, as you recall, was hung up in the davits, nearly to the point of overflowing.  Between the rain that landed directly into the dink, along with the rain that ran off from the big solar panel above it, there was hundreds of pounds of water sloshing around when I returned to Pandora the next morning.

The dink and motor alone weigh in at around 175lbs and add to that perhaps another 500lbs of water at 8.3lbs per gallon, and you can see how quickly the weight added up.   Our davits are pretty strong but that massive weight proved to be too much for them to bear and the starboard leg of the davits, the outboard motor side, bent down 3-4″.   Oh boy, was I sad when I saw that.

I knew from past inquiries, that there isn’t a mobile stainless guy anywhere so this repair was going to have to me done by MOI.  I thought about this for several days and finally settled on a plan.

A few years ago I had hired a yard in Ft Pierce FL to straighten the bow pulpit and having watched that process, I realized that it was going to take a tremendous amount of pressure to bend two 1.5″ stainless tubes several inches.

The bow pulpit process took a remarkable amount of pressure too and it was only 1″ tube.  I wrote about the process in this post.  So, back to my sagging davit.  I knew that it was going to take a lot of pressure, hundreds of pounds at least, to push the sagging stainless, 1 1/2″ tubing and a brace of the same diameter back into place.  And to get it to settle at a level point again would mean that I’d have to push it up way beyond level so that it would end up where it belonged when I released the pressure.

In addition, this would put a huge amount of upward pressure on the aft deck fitting and I was fearful that it would rip the arch right out of the deck or at least crack the deck as the base of the main davits was only about 2″ square, not counting pretty hefty below deck backup plates.   That’s not a lot of surface are to spread perhaps a thousand of pounds of upward pressure.

I thought about this for several days, and some sleepless moments at night I’ll admit, and settled on a plan.  I needed to offset the upward pressure on the davits I’d be applying by lashing a 50 gallon drum to the side of the radar arch and filling it with water, 50 gallons at 8.3lbs per gallon, over 400 pounds of downward pressure.   The theory was that while I was going to push up on the bent davit with many hundreds of pounds of pressure, this upward force would be somewhat offset by the pounds of water hanging on the side of the radar arch in the barrel.

I also ran a line from the top of the drum through a snatch block on the arch and down to a winch so I could release it when I was done.   As it slowly filled the line running to the arch made some alarming squeaking sounds.  Interestingly, even with all that weight the starboard stern only settled about an inch.

I also needed to protect my shiny new paint job from being scratched by the drum so I put a soft moving blanket between it and the new paint.  Here’s the setup.   Additionally, I drilled two small holes in the base of the barrel and attached a messenger line to a cleat on the dock so that after I was done the water would slowly drain out and I’d be able to turn the barrel over and drain it.  My fear was that the barrel would be too heavy to deal with and I wouldn’t be able to retrieve it.

I also prepared a 4×4″ post that was cut to the right height and attached plywood shims on the top of the post to ensure that it would not slip off of the stainless tube that I would be pushing against.   If the post was to slip off of the tube, it would ram right through the solar panel and put a big hole in it.   That would really have made me sad.

I used a car jack, rated at 6,000 lbs and put that on some heavy timbers so that it wouldn’t be able to move as I pumped up the pressure.  The jack has wheels and I was afraid that it would slip out as I jacked it up so I chose a timber that would rest securely between the back wheels. The moment of truth.  I pumped the jack up and up, wincing with every pull on the lever, expecting to hear the cracking of the deck or perhaps a weld breaking.  I didn’t.  I should note that I removed the bolts holding the aft end of the solar panel in place out of fear that the movement would put too much stress on the aft end of the panel and break the bolts or, worse,  the panel. After several rounds of applying pressure with the jack and then releasing it, I the stepped back and viewed the davits from several vantage points to see if it was level again.   I took a spirit level to the swim platform and compared that to the davits.

I looked at the rig from on Pandora’s deck, from a nearby dock and every which way I could think of and was pretty convinced that it was level again.   As nothing is level on a floating boat, it was hard to be sure but it seemed to be about right.

Frankly, I still can’t believe that it worked but I guess it did.  Whew!  No, make that double whew.

Amazing, actually.

So, for the third time in so many months, Pandora is back on the hard again.  Big boat, big projects await.  My mother says I’m big.  Perhaps she’d feel differently if she saw Pandora. so how much does a dink full of water weigh?   A LOT….

And now I won’t worry so much when I climb into the dink when it’s strung up in the davits.  Now I know that it takes at least 40o lbs to bend the davits and as the photos above shows, compared to Pandora I’m a long way south of that figure.

And, speaking of south, Pandora will be a long way north of south for the winter.

Say it isn’t so.