Monthly Archives: October 2019

Yup, going to Antigua soon. And how fast can crabs run?

In my last post I reported that my crew had problems with their passports, both of them, with expiration within the minimum required six month window.    However, with some fast footwork and phone calls to Antigua, they were given the “green light” to come anyway.  I fully expect that we will encounter some resistance in Antigua when we check in but we “have names” and will say that we were told that it’s AOK.

Anyway, that’s all set for now.  I guess all I can say is “details to come”.    “Yes, officer, most excellent immigration person, we have flights booked to go home in a few days.  Not to worry we will be gone before our passports expire.”

Today I address the Salty Dawg fleet regarding our arrival plans for Antigua, checking in and other mundane issues. I’ll also talk about the week of events we have planned to celebrate our arrival.   I’m here to tell you that I am really excited about sharing all that.

It seems that we also have a pretty good number of kids on this trip and I’ll be reaching out to my contacts at the Antigua Yacht Club to see what we can come up with to keep the “younguns” happy.  That should be fun.

Yesterday I received a note from my contact Andrew at the North Sails sail loft in Antigua.  He’s putting on a reception for our group which I am sure will be great fun and now it’s going to be even better.  He’s proposing that we have “crab races”.   Yes, crab races.  “So, Bob, what are crab races?  What sort of crabs do the racing and how long is the race?”.

I have absolutely no idea but he sent me this photo of a “race”. As near as I can tell, the pink one is winning,  This sounds like fun and probably even more so after a few rum punches.

We have a full week of events planned and I’ll surely be gushing about each of them here as the week unfolds.  Wish me luck.  I’m all about Antigua.  Can ya tell?

From your end, you will be able to follow the fleet along as we make our way south as each boat will be checking in multiple times a day with a GPS tracker.  The page with all the boats listed will look something like this with tracks of the 70 odd boats that are making the run to various ports south.  The largest group is the one going to Antigua and perhaps after my scintillating talk today, perhaps even more.  That’s me, ever hopeful…

So, the page you should bookmark and refer to day and night by clicking here.  When you open the page put in SDR for the “group” and see everyone or just Pandora under “name”.    You can also select specific date ranges or just opt to see each boat’s most recent position.

Another option is to follow this link to see Pandora’s track alone on my Garmin page as I will be putting up a new position note every four hours for the duration of the trip.  You may have to zoom in to see where I am as the page often opens up with a “world view”.   Once you zoom in you can click on each position “spot” and see what our speed was at that moment.

But wait, there’s more!!!

I also plan to put up posts, perhaps as often as daily, about what’s going on aboard Pandora as we make our way south.  Alas, no photos as my SSB modem is PAINFULLY SLOW so words only.   If you want to send me a note along the way, feel free to send a note to my “at sea” email,  Remember that this is SLOW connection so please choose your words carefully.  Als0, if it’s rough I may not be in the mood to write.   If you want to get a “ping” when I post, sign up with your email.

We don’t know yet when we will be leaving as the weather picture isn’t clear quite yet.  It is important that we wait for a good weather window to make our run across the Gulf Stream, which can be really nasty when conditions are not right.   Not to alarm anyone, but they don’t call the area around Cape Hatteras the “grave yard of the Atlantic” for nothing.  Don’t worry, we will be careful.

So there you have it and today we begin our daily weather briefings so I expect that I will be able to put up more details soon.

And about that crab racing and exactly how fast can they run?  I guess we will both have to wait to find out.

In Hampton and (mostly) ready to go! Getting excited!!!

I arrived in Hampton on Friday morning at 07:30 with my crew Hank after an uneventful run from Annapolis.  There was hardly a breath of wind so we motored the entire way.  It was a pleasant overnight run and surely better than slogging into a strong southerly which is what we have today.   We met up at BWI where I returned my rental car, did a bit of last minute provisioning and were able to shove off of the dock and get underway around noon for the 120 mile run to Hampton. You can renew British Passport and start travelling again soon enough.

So, after months of preparation I am finally here and nearly ready to go.  Actually, if it was time to go, I wouldn’t be exactly ready as I am hard aground in mud.  I anchored here instead of going into the marina only to find that the wind direction put me into the shoaling area of the harbor which is tight at best.  Never mind though as the bottom is soft and while a bit more bottom paint is showing than usual, she will float off in a few hours.  Well, perhaps it will be more than a few hours.  As they say “time heals all” well, most of the time anyway.

At least I won’t have any slime on the bottom of my keel.  And, the part of the bottom that is showing looks pretty clean.  That’s good.

Another little wrinkle is that both Cliff and George, my crew have passports that expire in less than six months, less than the minimum time prior to expiration that is required on passports when entering Antigua.    Both may have to expedite expedited renewals for their passports but there is a question if that can happen fast enough to get them here in time for us to leave on the 1st or 2nd.  Ugg…

As Gilda Radner famously quipped “its always something”.

So, here I sit, hard aground literally and figuratively…

In the next few days I’ll be posting updates including how to follow along as we make our way south.  Stay tuned.

Yesterday I’d have said that I am getting excited.  Now, it’s more like a nervous excitement.  Isn’t that always the way?

It’s almost time to go.

Well, it’s nearly here, the time for my departure for Antigua and my part in the Salty Dawg Rally.  Pandora is in Annapolis following the Sailboat show two weeks ago.  The show was great fun and I spent a few days there.   I was able to secure a spot to anchor in Spa Creek, very close to the show.  I had mentioned that I put on a new vane steering, which I used for a while on the run from Essex to Annapolis. I still have to figure out to balance the boat better so that it can keep a good track but it did work quite well when I set up the boat properly.  Details to come on that point.  Here’s a shot of the unit, mounted on the stern, sans the big red wind vane that goes on the top of the unit when in use. In the creek nearby was a Pearson Invicta yawl, sister ship to my old Artemis.  I have always liked the lines on this design, penned by Bill Tripp back in the early 60s.  Nearby a smaller sistersjip, a Medalist, somewhat smaller but in perfect shape.  I was told that the owner of this beauty purchased the boat new. As a member of the Essex Yacht Club, I was able to register to use the facilities at the Annapolis Yacht Club and enjoyed a meal there with Brenda and more than a few drinks at the busy bar.  The clubhouse burned to the ground a few years ago and has been completely rebuilt and is better than ever.  It’s a spectacular venue.  The burning of the clubhouse, sparked by a short on their Christmas tree, was a tragic turn of events with so much history lost. However, it’s back and more beautiful than ever.

It’s amazing how they transform downtown Annapolis into such a big event.  I have heard that only about 300 new sailboats in the 30′-70′ range are sold in the US every year, a tiny number at best.  However, that doesn’t seem to discourage builders from putting their wares on display.  We’ve heard a lot about global warming and while some seem to view it as a “hoax”, it seemed real enough when a particularly high “spring tide” came up during the show. Flooding downtown Annapolis has been a problem for years during storms or when the wind is particularly strong from the south but this is the worst that many have seen and I expect that it will only get worse as the years roll by.  In the 50 years of the show, it’s the first time flooding was so bad that they had to close the show early on two days. Even Alex Haley was up to his knees.  I wonder if the kids at his feet lost interest in his story as the water reached their chins. And speaking of Alex, author of the famous book Roots, this quote somehow seems particularly fitting given the threat of rising seas.

“Either you deal with what is the reality, or you can be sure that the reality is going to deal with you”  Alex Haley. 

Pandora is now in a small fairly scruffy marina near downtown Annapolis waiting for my return. Interestingly, my friend Dick suggested that I leave Pandora in that marina next door to his home and thought that the owners wouldn’t even notice as the marina isn’t really a “happening place”.  HA! Wrong!!!  When I was aboard for a night last week someone came up to the boat and said something like “what are you doing here”.  Oh and BTW, that will be $150 a day.  How long will you be staying?

After a bit of back and forth we finally settled on $1,000 for two weeks, a very stiff amount to be sure and more than I had ever spent on dockage.  So much for a free slip.  That really hurt, to be sure.  However, I really didn’t have much leverage as I was uninvited.  So much for local knowledge.  “Don’t worry Bob, they won’t even know that you are there!”  NOT!

Anyway, I guess that I’ll get over it.  Besides, it was only one boat dollar.

So, back to Pandora and the plan this weekend to move her to Hampton.  I’ll have a “friend of a friend” aboard, Hank, well recommended by my bud Ken who lives locally and has sailed with me many times over the years.

The run, will probably be a motorboat ride and should take something like 20 hours to cover the 130 miles.  With light northerly winds predicted, at least I won’t be slogging into stink.  Not sure if we will just push through in one shot or stop for the night on Saturday and continue the rest of the distance on the second day.  I would like to get to Hampton soon though to participate in all the run-up activities for the rally.

For now, I guess this shot of a sunrise on the last morning at the show sums it up nicely.  The dawn of a new season for Pandora as she heads south to the Caribbean.  Winter is on the way but this is what is ahead for Pandora.   Yes, this is what a sunset should look like in the dead of winter.

It’s almost time to go and I can’t wait.

Heading south. Leg one, nearly done!

As I write this it’s Tuesday morning and we are broad reaching down the upper  Chesapeake from Chesapeake City toward Annapolis at better than 8kts where we spent yesterday enjoying the charms of this beautiful colonial town.   Here’s the view as we make our way south.  It’s a cool day with a nice breeze out of the north.Today we are on the final leg of our delivery from the Essex Yacht Club where she was on the dock for nearly a week as we packed her with provisions for our winter season aboard.  Of course, my little truck, better known as “Pandora’s box truck” did the heavy lifting to the club.  We cast off Pandora’s lines at the Essex Yacht Club on Saturday morning at 04:00 and picked our way down the river in the pitch dark.  On board are my crew including Jim, who has sailed with me from the Caribbean along with Shawn, who works for Chris Parker the weather router.  Shawn wanted to get some offshore experience and Chris asked if I could bring him along.  A fourth, Steve joined us to get some offshore experience as well, Steve has been sailing for years but has not spent a lot of time in blue water.

So, off we went in the cold and dark.  Cold enough to risk frost, the first of the season, I was warned.  Time to head south for sure.

Everyone arrived on Friday and after a short night, getting up so early, we headed toward Long Island Sound and Annapolis.  Some years ago Brenda and I decided to purchase a set of good quality audio headsets to keep on board and allow us to communicate from helm to bow in a normal speaking voice.  They  sure proved their worth on Saturday morning as we picked our way out of the river in the dark.  As I piloted, Jim stood up on the bow with a powerful flashlight, calling out marks along the way.  The headsets were great as we could easily hear each other in a normal speaking voice.  It made a stressful run in the dark much simpler.

So finally, Pandora was on her way to Annapolis, my first big trip since heading north from Antigua in the Spring of 2018.    It’s been a long road with many projects completed over the last 18 months including a new paint job along with other projects and upgrades too numerous to mention.   Although, if you follow this blog you’ve heard about all of them in excruciating detail by now.

And that would include plenty of whining about the “headliner from Hell”, a project that it seemed would never end.  Happily, the job was finally completed and turned out well, beautifully actually, if a few months late.  Chad, the canvas guy, ultimately did a beautiful job and I am really happy with how it turned out.  The problem is that he took on too much work and the guys he hired to help weren’t able to produce the quality he expected and so he ended up way, way,  behind.  Delayed or not, he ultimately did a great job and everything looks great.  I’m happy now.

As is so often the case, as the deadline for our departure approached I decided to tackle yet another job with precious little time to spare before leaving.  This time, to install a Hydrovane wind vane, which will steer the boat by wind only, something that I have wanted to do for many years.   Getting it installed in time for departure was a tough as I didn’t even order the unit, shipped from England, until a little less than two weeks prior to shoving off.  While it only took one week to get to me, which was amazing, I only had less than a week to do the install.

Installing the unit was pretty straight forward over three days but involved drilling more than few holes in Pandora’s transom, something that I positively had to get right.  There was a lot of head scratching, measuring twice and drilling once, well actually measuring many, many times but it turned out very well.

There remain a few details to work out with regards to how to best stow the dink when underway as the unit is now sticking out on the transom.  Not sure exactly how to resolve that but I expect I will find a way.  I was able to try the unit on the run down  for a while and after fiddling with the boat balance it worked quite well.   Unfortunately, I didn’t take pictures of it steering happily with a rooster tail spraying up as it sliced through the water at close to 10kts and I’ll have to remember to take some photos when I use it again.   It’s an impressive sight and pretty neat to see it steer to the apparent wind for hours at a time, using no electricity at all.  As my electric autopilot is very energy hungry, that’s going to be good for my batteries on passage.

We spent much of the first 24 hours of our run motorsailing as it was critical that we keep our speed up and make it far enough south before the wind shifted to the south and directly against us.  While the wind was behind us at about 15kts for much of Saturday the apparent wind speed is only half that and not nearly enough to keep our speed up enough to make it to our waypoint by the time of the expected wind shift from north to south, anticipated to be around midnight Saturday.

With more favorable winds, we would have set a course directly for Cape May at the mouth of the Delaware River but because of the expected adverse winds, we instead headed to a waypoint about 50 miles offshore and east of the Delaware river.  The idea was to head south and as the wind began to shift, adjust our course an follow it around, ending up on a reach to the river mouth up the river to the C&D canal with a south wind behind us.

This approach, suggested by Chris Parker, would allow us to move faster and be more comfortable, even if the distance is a bit farther.  Happily, it worked and the strong southerlies didn’t actually kick in until around 04:00 Sunday, about three hours later than expected, giving us the opportunity to make our waypoint and enjoy some fast if bumpy sailing on the final leg to the river.

We anchored on Sunday night on the DL just north of the Canal entrance and then headed into the Canal and Chesapeake City on Monday morning.  With an expected wind shift back to the north on Tuesday we decided to wait a day and enjoy the quaint colonial town before continuing south to Annapolis.  Main Street has some really lovely old buildings.  The view from the town green of the harbor shows how quaint a spot it is, with plenty of space to anchor. Pandora riding comfortably in this tiny harbor.  The bridge that towers over the village is a dramatic contrast to the colonial era homes.  I’ll bet there was plenty of controversy when that bridge was proposed.  On the one hand, it made the town much more accessible so perhaps it was welcomed.  With a few more hours of sailing in front of us, it’s a lovely day to be on the water and Pandora is happily moving south to our final destination, Annapolis.   

I’ll be in town for much of the week, giving a talk at the Annapolis Boat Show on Thursday morning and enjoying the boat show and visits with friends.   Brenda arrives on Friday and after that, we will head to Baltimore to see our son and his family before heading back to CT.

When we leave I’ll put Pandora in a friend’s slip close to downtown Annapolis for almost two weeks before I return to bring her to Hampton to prepare for the run to Antigua and the Salty Dawg Rally.

Other than that, noting much going on.

I can’t wait to see Brenda.