Monthly Archives: July 2019

Not in Maine but not so bad.

We left Newport yesterday and are now in Wickford.  Yesterday morning we were greeted with our first fog of the season, perhaps more than anything, a reminder that we are NOT IN MAINE, as planned.  Yes, the headliner, the cause of our delay, is mostly done but not perfect yet.  Stay tuned for more on that ongoing saga.

So, back to the fog.   This was the view that greeted me yesterday morning just after sunrise.  The shore was a lot closer than this photo suggests.  The fog was short lived and burned off as the sun rose. We’ve been on the move for about a week now, with a short visit to Maine (by car) where I gave a talk at the Camden Yacht Club about cruising the southern Caribbean.  Our visit was brief, only two days, and we stayed with our cruising friends Tom and Jane of Bravo, who we first met in Bequia, the winter before last.  They were very gracious hosts and we loved staying in their charming home, snug in Camden village.

On our first morning, Tom and I braved the light rain, making the short walk to the waterfront to take in the sights.  With the Camden Classics being held that week, there were many beautiful boats in the harbor, with more on the way as the week progressed, promising some 80 beautiful “temples to sail” in attendance by the weekend.

This boat, Belle Adventure from London, built in 1929 and designed by the legendary Fife, is a lot older than she looks.  Note the canvas covering her bright work that will stay in place until the owner shows up.  It’s a lot more economical, relatively speaking, to build canvas covers than to renew the varnish.  Out of the UV of the sun, the varnish will keep fresh longer. She has lovely lines and is probably in better shape than when she was launched so many years ago.   I’m pretty sure I have seen her before, perhaps in Antigua. It was painful to know that I would miss all the action of the regatta as we had to head back home the next day.

This much varnish clearly makes the point “I can afford it!”.  You will never see a yacht with this much perfect varnish that isn’t maintained by an owner, ast least one that actually sails their boat.   Interestingly, this boat was built only a few years ago and is modern in every way.  This sort of boat, looking like a classic and yet sporting a modern under body and rig, is called “spirit of tradition”.  Camden harbor is perhaps my favorite harbor anywhere.  It’s terribly quaint.  Being here reminds me of so many fun cruises to Maine in years past.
There is a babbling brook at the head of the harbor, and it was babbling away as expected.  I can recall time years ago when we were in this harbor when we had a huge summer downpour and the babbling become a roar. All of the traffic that heads for points east has to wind itself through the impossibly quaint center of town.  The buildings evoke an earlier, simpler time.  Well, it probably wasn’t simpler but that’s what we all say.
This is the Camden Yacht Club.  They host a “summer speaker series” with guest speakers, sometimes twice a week, on all sorts of topics.  I was thrilled to be invited to speak here as we’ve been coming to this friendly club for many years.  Our host Tom, was my sponsor and invited me to speak.   I really enjoyed the evening.
This view from the club, of the aptly named “Camden Hills” is beautiful in the afternoon light. Over the winter I had also organized an event with another group that I am a member of, the Corinthians, their summer cruise wrap-up dinner at the ApprenticeShop in Rockland.  However, as I didn’t make it to Maine with Pandora, we weren’t able to stay and participate in the dinner.  Just to be sure that all was in proper order for the event, we visited the shop and met with my contact Liz and the caterer Jenn.  I was sad that I wouldn’t be a part of the event that weekend but wanted to be sure that all was set.   Reports were that it came off well.  No surprise there as Liz and Jenn seemed to be quite buttoned down.

Liz gave us a tour of the shop, where some lovely boats were being built.  The lines on this lapstrake rowing boat are sweet. We were told that this boat, once completed, will be shipped to Europe.  There are a number like this being built at different shops, some in the US and some in Europe, to the same design, and they will all race together when they are completed, I think in Scotland. The ApprenticeShop is a place where students can enroll to learn a trade in wooden boat building and they have been successful over the years, with many graduates moving on to full time work in the business.  I understand that it is possible for “mature” folks, like me, to take a two month intensive course as well and that sounds like a great idea for down the road.  It’s not an inexpensive endeavor but you do get to take home a small completed rowing or sailing boat, which would be fun.   Something to think about.

After our whirlwind Maine adventure, we headed back to CT and Pandora to get ready for the arrival of our friends Karyn and George who were joining us for a few days of of sailing.  Originally, the plan was to rendezvous in Rockland but after bagging that destination, we agreed to have them come to Essex and spend a few days exploring before winding up our adventure yesterday in Wickford.

Our first stop from Essex was a short distance to Fisher’s Island, west harbor.   Fisher’s is an exclusive and mostly private island but you can go ashore and do some exploring.  The Fisher’s Island Yacht Club is always welcoming and we tied up at their dock.  Interestingly, I had been introduced to the commodore of the club at the Essex Yacht Club the night before.  He and commodores of a number of other clubs were visiting with our own Commodore Klin for dinner.

As you’d expect, being late July and all, it was plenty hot in the afternoon and the girls went in for a dip.  They reported that it was bracing at first, and then quite pleasant.  I guess it was as they stayed in for a long time. The prevailing winds in the NE are generally from the SW in the summer but, as luck would have it, not, the wind was blowing directly from the SE and Block Island, our destination.   After a frustrating few hours tacking toward Block and waiting for the expected southerly shift, I gave up and turned on the motor.    We picked up the Essex Yacht Club mooring which was open.

Along the way, as we went through The Race, the narrow cut that marks the eastern end of Long Island Sound, we were passed by a ferry.  Knowing if approaching ships were on a collision course has always been a source of anxiety for us but as Pandora now sports an AIS transponder, we were able to see the name of the ferry, contact the captain who said he’d pass us to our stern.  AIS is one example of how technology can indeed make life better, and in this case, way less anxiety producing.  Snug in Great Salt Pond, we were treated to a perfect sunset.  The Essex Yacht Club maintains a few guest moorings in popular harbors and it is a real treat to go into the harbor and pick up a mooring for “free”.   I say that as the rental moorings in Block are always full and there is a mad scramble to get one when a boat leaves, with those waiting in the wings zooming up with their dinks to claim their prize.

This old Navy tug has been someone’s home for many years.   Legend has it that the owner, when he purchased the tug years ago, sold the thousands of gallons of fuel in the tanks, yielding almost as much as he paid for the boat.  True story?  Who knows, but it’s fun to tell. We were joined by our friends George and Bonnie and the six of us rented a van for the day and toured the island.  One of our stops was the North Light, a beautiful spot at the end of the most northern spot on the island.  In the distance, on a clear day,  you can see Point Judith. On the south east side, the now famous, and to some infamous, wind mills, the first of their kind in US waters.  I, for one, hope that they put out many more in the coming years.

These are huge, some 600′ tall from the seabed to the tip of their rotors.  Check out the sailboat on the right for scale.  We were told that the 5 generators in the “farm” put out enough power to serve some 17,000 homes.  Along the way we visited, as you’d expect given the fact that Brenda and Karyn are knitters, a fiber store near a farm with all sorts of exotic animals including camels, emus and, well, other animals, a few in bronze.  Brenda and Karyn have been friends for many years.  This coming week Brenda will travel to Cape Cod to spend a week with Karyn who’s hosting a workshop. Beginning with a visit to rural Fisher’s and then on to the summer hot-spot of Block what better next stop could there be than Newport, home to so many beautiful yachts.  We enjoyed a stroll downtown followed by dinner ashore and then a harbor tour on our way out of the harbor yesterday.  I am always blown away by the scale of some of these yachts.  Even more amazing is how much of their time they spend tied up at in a marina.  It’s a small world and I have seen this one before. A somewhat more diminutive but still big yacht.  We passed Harbor Court, the Newport home of the NY Yacht Club, once the summer home of the Brown family that founded Brown University.  The family made their money running opium to China in the clipper ship days.  I expect that the family doesn’t like to be reminded about that sordid little detail in polite company these days.  Somehow that little bit of history doesn’t seem to attract the same justly deserved animosity as the current problems facing the Sackler family, the makers of Oxycontin that has fueled the tragic opioid epidemic.  Forgive the starboard list as I was snapping shots while dodging moorings in a crowded harbor.   As a side note, Pandora will serve as “tender” to another boat on next week’s NYYC  Cruise next week and I’ll be attending the opening event of the week at Harbor Court next weekend.  Stay tuned for more on all that.

As we made our way through the harbor I was struck by this family swimming off of their classic motoryacht.  What fun and said “summer” to me. So here I sit, the sun is just peaking up over the horizon in scenic Wickford.  Not a bad view to begin the day.  Yes, I know, that starboard list again.  It was 05:00 and I hadn’t had my first cup of coffee yet. It’s nice to be aboard again and on the move.  Yes, it’s not Maine but it’s not so bad.

It’s going to be hot today.

Maine or bust. Busted, totally!

On Friday, we left the marina in Chester to head out and begin our long delayed trip to Maine aboard Pandora.  I say “long delayed” because THE CANVAS GUY ran the headliner project all the way to the hairy end, finishing up, mostly, at 20:00 hours on Thursday night.

While he made the “final” deadline, I swear that every time he set another deadline and promised he’d be done, he just blew past it only to set another “don’t worry, I’ll make that” one, soon to be broken.  Yes, I understand that he had committed to too many jobs but it was pure torture to work toward a deadline, only to learn at the 11th hour that the work had not progressed at all.  This happened time after time and was just exhausting.

Another issue is that Pandora is a complicated boat and after sitting on the hard for such a long time (my last log entry was a trip to Sag Harbor June 6th 1018, over a year ago) all sorts of Gremlins crept into the picture, having nothing to do with the delayed canvas work.  These problems were discovered as I methodically tested each system in preparation for heading to Maine.

So the time had finally come and we headed out of the marina on Friday morning all ready to go.  As we cleared the marina I decided to check, one more time, I thought, all of the electronics including the radar and surprise, no radar.

Now, before you say something like my friend Chris, who feels that since generations of mariners sailed around the world without radar, that I should not rely on all that “newfangled” stuff and just keep it simple, hear me out.   Yes, simple is good and, I’ll agree that having three electric pumps on each of our heads seems a bit overly complex, but having the ability to “see” in the fog in a place, Maine, that is nearly always foggy and strewn with big hard rocks, is a must.

Besides, the coast of Maine is littered with the remains of hundreds, no make that thousands of shipwrecks and I have no interest in supplying the next one.  So, no trip to Maine until the radar is fixed and we stopped as we passed the Essex Yacht Club and pulled up at the dock with the hope that the “electronics guy” could fit us in on short notice to solve the problem.

The electronics guy was kind enough to come to my aid on Friday afternoon and after about an hour declared that he thought that it was most likely a cable problem.  Why the cable decided to fail, just like that, is a mystery but that seems to be what happened.   However, it wouldn’t be possible to fix it till the following week.

A few days delay is generally not a problem but in this case I had delayed using Pandora as long as I possibly could to keep her available for the canvas guy to do his work.   So, with all the delays, last Friday was just about the last day that I could leave for Maine.  Sure, if it hadn’t been a Friday, perhaps the repairs would have happened the next day but with the weekend looming, a departure on Tuesday was just not possible so no Maine this year.

Not to be deterred, I talked to my crew about an alternative.  How about going cruising for a few days?  So, off we went, arriving at West Harbor, Fisher’s Island at dusk where we picked up a mooring.

The next day, off to Newport, mostly because that was the best option given the wind forecast.  As we approached the harbor we saw more than a dozen 12m sailboats, past defenders and challengers for the America’s Cup, all participating in the 12 Meter Worlds, the largest assemblage of class boats ever.  They were everywhere.   What a sight.

Everywhere you looked, these beauties were being towed out to the racecourse.  It was amazing to see all these iconic names and all out on the course at the same time. These are remarkable, powerful machines. And the spectator boats, none the less impressive.   I loved the lines of what is probably an old Huckins.   What an elegant, classic yacht. Of course, where there are big money yacht owners, there is a photo chopper, flying over the fleet documenting the excitement.  Later at the awards dinner they would be selling their work to excited owners and crew even more enthusiastic after a few drinks.As we approached the harbor we passed Brenton Point, the day’s site for a kite flying contest, it seems.  What a sight. As we passed, I was struck by some of the particularly large kites like this octopus and whale.  I wonder how hard it is to hold on to such a huge kite.Of course, what better spot to watch all the fun than from the lawn on one of the historic inns?  “Jeeves, I’ll have another gimlet, and make it snappy.  Muffy will have a third mimosa while you’re at it good man.”  There’s clearly no shortage of money in Newport where a “dink” has over 1,000 HP.  How about one with four outboards?The evening festivities for the regatta were to be held at the International Yacht Restoration School, known for rebuilding small boats all the while teaching a new generation of builders and restorers the art of wooden boat repair.   The most popular design for the school is the restoration of Beetle Cats, and there are plenty of tired hulls to choose from.  Buy an old boat, they will fix it up and sell it to you.  Easy!
So there you have it, a failed run to Maine but all is not lost.  I’ve already spoken to Brenda about moving plans around so that we can do a bit of cruising and enjoy what’s left of the summer before I head south in the fall.

As I write this me and my crew, none to the worse for wear, are enjoying time in Block Island.   This was our view from Pandora last evening while we watched the sun set.  Oh yeah, and about that headliner.  The canvas guy might think he’s done but oops, not quite as there more than a few details that seem to have escaped his guy’s attention when he finally stepped onto the dock from Pandora on Thursday evening.   I’ll be calling and I’ll be sailing.

In that order?  Hard to say but I WILL BE SAILING.

Busted or not, life isn’t all that bad.  No indeed.


Why do we work so *&%$#%$ hard to go sailing?

I can’t believe that it’s nearly mid July and I am still &^%$#@$ around getting Pandora ready to sail.  We are supposed to leave for Maine in two days and the headliner is still not completed.

Well, I say not ready as each time the canvas guy blows past yet another deadline, I have to pick and choose what I am doing myself to move other projects, beyond the headliner, ahead on my end.    I find myself below, looking around at the seemingly tiny bit of daily progress asking myself, “what can I do today?” and the answer is usually, not much.  However, somehow I still spend hours a day working on the Pandora.

Having said that, there is a bright side to all of this as I have been able to tackle some projects that I would have set aside for another year, like renewing cruddy old aluminum trim on the opening dodger window with some really nice plastic extrusion.   I ordered some really nice new plastic trim and installed it today. The window, while it looks square, is actually a trapezoid,  but only a few degrees off of 45 on each corner.  Getting the mitered corners perfect was very difficult, but I got it after a lot of trial and error. The new trim is a big improvement on the old corroded aluminum. The trim was never properly bedded so the stainless screws ate away at the metal. Now, it looks a lot better, better than ever. I also ordered new fender covers to protect my expensive new paint job.  They are a lovely grey with Pandora’s logo on each of them, six in all.  They are 10″ in diameter and pretty big fenders. Anyway, it’s mid July and I am still messing around and trying to get Pandora ready to head to Maine.  Every day it seems to be getting a bit hotter.  Did I mention that it’s going to be 90 today?  It’s hard to believe that when I started really working on Pandora on a nearly daily basis way back in March and recall wondering how I was going to be able to work comfortably aboard with such cold temperatures.  I purchased a portable propane heater and used it just about every day for weeks on end.  No need for that heater now.

So, here I am, nearly four months later, and I am still working to get her ready to head out.  Yes, she’s in the water but still not quite “ready”.  Despite looking lovely and seemingly ready for anything?  Don’t be fooled, there’s still more to do till we had off on Friday.  Without the headliner in place I can’t really put much aboard like cushions, bedding and clothing.  All the stuff that makes living on a boat fun and with two days till “liftoff”, this isn’t feeling even a little bit like “fun”.

It seems that this headliner job has turned out to be like a gas, filling the space available, with every step S-L-O-W-I-N-G down to fill the time left before the next deadline.

“We can’t work on the headliner because it’s too cold for the glue to cure.”  Didn’t happen and now it’s in the 90s.  I was taking Pandora to my event, weeks ago.  Deadline missed…  Had to leave the marina because the rates were going up terribly, nearly two weeks ago.  Deadline missed…and I am in a different marina. Heading to Maine?  I don’t want to think about that right now…

Of course, for anyone who follows my musings, there is simply only one reason that I am delayed and that’s the “canvas guy” blowing by deadline after deadline and it’s still not done. It feels like he is slowing down the process a bit more each day so that the job will get closer and closer to completion and yet NEVER BE DONE.  It’s odd.  You’d think that he’d want me out of his hair. Wouldn’t you?  How long can he stand hearing from me every day, day after day, week after week?

There’s also an emerging issue of some electronic gremlins that crept into the picture over the near year that she was out of commission.   Oddly, the near-new AIS stopped working.  The XM radio wasn’t working and a number of other details that needed ironing out.

Things break and there is nothing quite as deadly to a boat than not being used and in her year out of the water, that’s what happened.

Well, I am really ready to use her now and can’t wait to head out.  The good news is that the “electronics guy” said he’d be here on Monday, two days ago and he showed up as planned, surveyed the issues, came back the second day and I expect that things will be resolved in time.  Wasn’t that easy?  Fingers crossed…

Delays or not, I have been moving forward as fast as I am able with the plan of not putting stuff down below that will get in the way of the “headliner installation from Hell” project.    I did put back the newly varnished salon dining table a few days ago.  It looks great if you don’t look all that close.  Yes, it’s very shiny but there were a few drips along the way.Opened up it’s pretty impressive, “boogers” and all.   Actually, if I squint just a tiny bit, it looks pretty much perfect. I heartily recommend Epifanes varnish.   It’s wonderful stuff. I can’t believe that it took so many years for me to “discover” it. Part of the reason that I have tried to be understanding of the delays on the headliner is because I learned from the canvas guy that he had a few customers scheduled to leave on their vacations as of last Wednesday and he had to get their jobs done.

I understand that as these people probably have jobs and to delay a once in a year two week trip, well, that’s not acceptable if you’ve told the boss and are ready to head out and scheduled someone to come in and water the plants.  Yes, I get it.  They have less flexibility than I do but it’s still stressful to know that I have to get Pandora to Maine and me back in time to head to MD for the first birthday of the Twins.  Miss that event and Brenda will likely tell me “go ahead, toss those dock lines and NEVER COME BACK, EVER!”

The biggest problem is that while I am not scheduled to leave until Friday, two days from now, I have held off on moving all of the stuff back aboard.  But, I am simply running out of time so today is the day and I have to move things aboard this evening, headliner or not.

I mention all of this because right now, as with so many other times, I am wondering what it is about being aboard that makes me so willing to put in hundreds of hours into keeping Pandora in good shape, not even including all the money it costs to do just that.

I was reminded of the answer to this question last weekend when Brenda and I  visited the Wooden Boat Show at Mystic Seaport where there were some spectacular boats on display.    There was a Dyer regatta going on, run by my friend Liz, that was a fitting reminder of the draw of the water.It looked like such fun, to be on the water in a small boat.  Yachting is often described as a rich man’s sport, but it doesn’t take a big bank account to mess about in small boats.  Sure, sometimes sailing can be complicated and there were plenty of boats for the well healed.  This little beauty  may be small but she’s clearly designed for an owner with means.Every detail is exquisite, down to the partially balanced bronze rudder. Something as simple as a paddle can be a work of art.  This one is made out of my favorite wood, cherry.  The grain is fabulous.  Cherry is a pretty heavy wood for a paddle, but what a sight. The often say that “God is in the details”.  If that’s the case, this wheel is divine.This dink is as much a work of art as a means of transportation and to row her would be transporting indeed.A boat doesn’t need to be big to be fun.   At 24″ long, this remote control racer is  a replica of the famous Gold Cup racer, Miss America.  What about these passengers?  It must have been a rough ride. And speaking of a rough ride,  how about an ulralight racer with a huge motorcycle engine and handle bars to match?  Not Brenda’s first choice for a relaxing cruise on the river.  “Where’s my cup holder?”Boats have always been a part of our history.  The Mayflower, just finishing up from a multi-year restoration, will be launched in September.  Some have said that there is nothing that typifies art and design like a boat.  Look at the detail in her stern. So much detail in her construction. Unfortunately, we will be out of town when she splashes in September.

Forget the Pilgrims.  Evidence suggests that the Vikings arrived in the New World long before the better known European explorers.  Open boat crossing the Atlantic?   Not for me.  As I am told I once said, when I was “little”, “don’t get my wet!”   Those viking guys must have been tough.  I still don’t particularly like getting splashed with salty spray.  The Beetle Boat Company, with their wonderful little catboats, reminds me of all our years as catboat owners and our time on the board (steering committee), of the Catboat Association.   That seems like several lifetimes ago.   Beetle boats has been building this exact design out of wood, since 1921.These sweet little boats have a loyal following with owners passing their cherished Beetles down from generation to generation.   Beetle has a program, “mooring to mooring”, where owners call to tell that they are done for the season, Beetle comes to pick up the boat and returns it in the spring to the same mooring.   In that case, not a lot of effort to head out sailing but clearly makes the point that “Whatever it takes. Whatever it costs” is the answer to getting out on the water.

Perhaps nothing quite makes the point of how welcoming time aboard can be than a pineapple, the universal sign of “welcome”, in this case, Welcome Aboard. but don’t forget to take your shoes off.
Brenda sent me a link to a letter-to-the-editor that she read recently in the NY Times, a letter about the virtues of rowing a small boat, spending time aboard.    There are a few passages that stood out.

Being aboard can be clarifying…

“Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its upsets separated from you by water.”

Getting out on the water can often take determination…

“Learning to row a dinghy requires surrendering to the illogical: You need to first accept the seemingly counterproductive fact that to move the dinghy forward, you have to face backward, toward the stern, and so you can never see where you are going. But absurdity promotes ingenuity.”

Small boats can take you someplace better…

“In short, my past — even a past I was trying to forget, like the island that looked nice from a distance but when I disembarked sucked me up to my knees in mud — could help steer me to a better future.”

It can make you a better person, or at least better balanced…

“As an adult, I came to understand that dinghy rowing is not like dart throwing; the point is never only to hit the bull’s-eye. Instead, rowing provides an opportunity to regularly identify and assess my imbalances, many of them a result of years of unthinking behavior. “

Like so much in life, rowing may be tough to master.  I submit that if something is not easy, it’s often not worth doing and to master something can make you a better person…

“If you find rowing difficult to master, you are not accepting your inner imbalances, which are never going away, and so you must learn to always correct for them, as celestial navigators know to always correct when plotting their courses, because the North Pole and the North Star are not and never will be the same thing.”

And, Being on a small boat can solve problems..

“If you want a less solitary challenge, take a friend with marital troubles on a row around an island. Nothing facilitates problem solving like being in a small boat, face to face with another person, the world and its big and little upsets separated from you by water.”

But, and perhaps best of all, sometimes all you need is to be alone and to take the time to set things right…

“…try spending time with yourself. Let the troubled friend be you. Mornings are best, before the wind picks up, because the water is glassy and promotes reflection. You can ask yourself hard questions about everything as you watch your past recede, and use its gradual disappearance to steer by. What awaits you, you cannot see. With the help of a rock or a tree, however, you can take aim. You can reassure yourself: This is not your last chance to get it right.”

So here I am, two days before heading to Maine and while I am overwhelmed by all that has to happen before we can leave, I cling to the idea that it’s all worth doing in spite of all the “issues” that we encounter along the way.

Let’s hope I am right about all this…

It doesn’t need to be this hard.  Please tell me that’s true.

But, Pandora’s going to be AWESOME when she’s ready to go.  Friday?