Monthly Archives: June 2020

On our last leg(s)?

This morning we headed out from Hampton to begin our last leg north to Annapolis and bid the Hampton YC adios.  Dick and I were going to stop about half way there to sleep but since it’s flat calm we decided to keep going and should arrive in Annapolis around dawn tomorrow.   I didn’t plan on yet another overnight but heck, it’s only one and I am sick of being at sea.  Besides, that means that I can probably go see Rob and his family one day earlier and on to Essex and Brenda sooner too.  Perfect.

Below is a screen shot of the course we took from Ft Pierce to Hampton. By taking this curved course to the west we were able to stay in the middle of the Gulf Stream and maintain a good turn of speed, covering about 220 miles per day over-the-bottom with a through-the-water distance of approximately 160 miles per day.  The current provided a good lift.

The overall distance over the bottom to Hampton was 685 miles and yet we clocked only about 535 miles through the water with the balance being the northward “push” of the Stream.   We were in the Gulf stream all the way from a few miles out of Ft Pierce until we rounded Cape Hatteras so the GS gave us a lift of 150 miles over the course of the trip.    To put it another way, we moved through the water at a speed of about 160 miles a day and the current pushed us an additional 75 miles per day during that same period.   We tied up at the Hampton YC yesterday for one night, in part, because we had to address the misaligned roller foil and fix the rip in the jib.  Trying to do that at anchor, with the boat swinging to the wind, would have been quite challenging.

As I suspected, the problem with the jib furler was that two set screws had backed out of one of the joints which allowed the upper foil section to ride up and pull free of the connector.   As luck (planning?) would have it, I actually had spare set screws in my toolbox so the repair was very simple.

Less simple, was fixing the jib but I was able to smooth things out and put on some temporary repair fabric that should hold for the rest of our run.  Actually, with absolutely no wind the jib will remain furled so there will be no pressure on the repair for this run.   I pains me to have such a nasty tear in my brand new jib.  So much for that “new jib glow”.  I guess it’s about the same as getting all those nasty scratches in my no-longer-new paint job. All, sort of, better now.   This should make our sail maker happy.So, here we are, motoring along in flat calm conditions, making our way north.  Pandora will be at a small marina off of Whitehall bay.  Remarkably, the cost per month is only about 2/3 of the cost of a mooring in CT.   It will be a sort of “coming home” as we kept our “old Pandora” in the same marina, the one with the two head stays in the middle of the photo, way back in 2010.  I hope you are impressed that I was able to find this photo of that spot. It’s been a long time since I’ve kept a boat in the Chesapeake and what I remember most is that it is HOT!

With that in mind, we are exploring the addition of a generator as the simple fact is that it’s just too hot to consider being aboard without a way to run the AC.

Of course, being hot was somehow acceptable back in the day when we were young.   Not so much now.  How our perspective has changed.   That reminds me of someone I spoke to years ago who famously quipped that he would “no longer crew on a boat that was shorter than his age”, another way of saying that small, hot, you name it, discomfort is fine when you are young and we aren’t.

Of course, a new generator is a lot less expensive than a “proper size boat” for my age.  As my dad used to say, “you can talk yourself into anything it you work hard enough at it”.   Dad was right.


And, speaking of hot, our run up from FL was, mostly, uneventful if you set aside the fact that we had to motor much of the way and that it was HOT, HOT, HOT.  I am always amazed by how uncomfortable it is to be aboard a boat that is all buttoned up in the GS, surrounded by 80+ degree water.

We did have wind but it was directly behind us and not quite strong enough to keep us moving so we had to keep the motor running nearly the entire way, racking up a total of over 60 hours.

When we finally rounded Hatteras, and exited the Stream, things cooled down a bit and we had some wind for at least part of the last 100 mile run to the Chesapeake and were able to sail some of the time.

But even that wind eventually died only to pick up to 20+ for the last 6 hours as we made our way past the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel and into Hampton.   By the time we passed the bridge, against a strong 2kt outbound current of course, we were motorsailing on  a close reach at 10kts so our speed over the bottom was respectable.

With a strong wind against the current, things became quite choppy and provide perfect conditions for the navy to practice maneuvers in their stealth gunboats that roared past us time after time. Of course, in the time of a pandemic, they blasted along while keeping an appropriate social distance.  I would LOVE, LOVE a chance to get a ride on one of these.  What a rush that would be…

Nearby Norfolk has a huge military presence and there was a constant parade of cool stuff in the air and on the water.  And, who doesn’t love the USCG patrol boats. They say that form should follow function and this dredge is a perfect example of that.  No way to imagine the ship being used for anything but dredging up silt and sand.  I spoke to the captain who said that they just “wanted to make the world a better place”.

If the depth of the channel is important to you than he’s doing his job.  I expect that the Navy would agree. So, about the bow of the ship.  If form follows function, I have no idea what the what the function of this form is. So, here we are, still motoring along, making our way north, the last leg of our trip, for the moment, hopefully for a more than a few moments.

For me, I’ve had about enough of passage making for a while and I do feel like I am on my last leg but hopefully, not on my last legs.

Get me home!

Nearly there…

It’s Monday morning and we are about 125 miles from making the turn at Cape Hatteras and toward the Chesapeake Bay.  We still plan to stop in Hampton for a day or two and then will make the final 120 mile run north to Annapolis where Pandora will be moored for at least the next month.

From a few miles after leaving Ft Pierce, I have worked to keep Pandora solidly in the middle of the Gulf  Stream with the hope of squeezing the most out of the northward current to push us along.  Chris Parker gave me a good number of way-points and I put them in the plotter with the hope of capturing as much of the favorable current as possible.

We have been motoring for the entire way even though there has been wind behind us, especially over the last 12 hours (more about that in a bit) as we want to keep our speed up.  At minimum, I have set the RPM of the engine high enough so that with the modest lift from the light winds and the engine, we keep moving though the water at about 6-6.5kts.

The gulf stream, sometimes referred to as an enormous “heat transfer conveyor belt”, moves northward at a respectable rate, often near 4kts.  The water in the Gulf Stream is in the 80s and serves to move an enormous amount of heat from the tropics north.   Being in the middle of all that hot water makes for some sticky conditions, especially in late June.

The Gulf Stream roughly parallels the US East Coast until it reaches Cape Hatteras where it is “kicked” east by the shallow water of the Cape.   It is there that we will exit the stream and head north to the Chesapeake Bay.  Once we leave the GS, we will still have over 100 miles until we reach Hampton.

Some boats are well set up for running dead down wind but Pandora isn’t one of them.  On this trip the wind, when there has been more than say, 10kts, has been nearly directly behind us and that makes for difficult conditions.   Take our forward movement, away from the wind, along with a current of several knots and the “apparent wind”, what we feel aboard, has been around 5kts, not enough to really sail.

Trying to keep the sails full and not banging around is nearly impossible with so little wind and after hours of the main slamming around yesterday, I finally gave up and took the main down.  My concern was that the constant slamming of the boom and sail as the boat wallowed in the swell, would cause breakage and chafe.

That concern was heightened late yesterday afternoon when I rolled out the jib and discovered that the foil on the jib, the part of the system that runs up the forestay and furls the sail, had come loose, with one of the sections separated from it’s mate.  That left a gap in the support for the bolt rope that threads up the extrusion on the jib to hold it in place.   As a result, the two extrusions had rubbed back and forth and cut right through the edge of the sail and ripped the front of the sail back about a foot.  The resulting mess looked quite precarious and I had no interest in going up to put a temporary fix on the sail so I just rolled up the sail and that’s that for the rest of the run.

I expect that we will be in a good position with wind from a good angle after turning at Cape Hatteras but I’ll have to see if it makes sense to put the jib out part way so that the rip is covered and supported or if I will just continue to motor.  I hate to make such a long run with the motor running the entire time but I have enough fuel so that might be the sensible thing to do.

My plan, when we reach Hampton, is to go into a marina and unfurl the jib so I can go up the forestay in the bosun’s chair and see what I can do to secure the separated sections of the aluminum foil and get the two separated sections back in place.  I expect that the repair may be as simple as a missing set screw but a simple temporary repair might be to put some strong tape on the foil and then a temporary repair to the rip in the luff of the sail.

That should stabilize it for the rest of the run to Annapolis and then I can remove the sail and send it out for repair.  It’s unfortunate to see the damage as the sail is new as of last fall.  Bummer.

Other than that, it’s been pretty much an uneventful trip.  Dick, who I have known for many years, is good crew member and I trust him.  After living on his own boat with his wife Anne, for ten years, he knows his way around and I am completely comfortable having him aboard and on deck when I am sleeping or down below.

All and all, it’s been a good trip so far and I am hopeful that we will be in Hampton by Tuesday evening.  The big determinant is if we hit the mouth of the Bay with a flooding tide or at the ebb.  The Chesapeake Bay is the outlet for a huge body of water and the currents run hard at the entrance so arriving at the mouth of the bay at the beginning of the flood can make a huge difference in how fast we will make our way the final miles to Hampton, with the outbound current subtracting from our forward speed.

And, speaking of miles, as I write this, we have gone about 2/3s of the nearly 700 miles of our trip to Hampton in just two days.  With the help of the GS current, we have covered about 220 miles per day, over the bottom, verses in the neighborhood of 150 miles a day through the water.  That’s a boost, from the current, of about 40 miles a day.  That’s a lot of current.

After the difficult run from St Lucia to Florida with Brenda, I’ll admit that I am not too interested in passage making so as far as the Gulf Stream is concerned, I’ll take all the help I can get to get us there sooner.

Here’s to continued luck and a safe arrival in Hampton tomorrow.   We’re nearly there, I am thankful for that.

In the Clutches of the Gulf Stream

It’s Sunday morning and we are making good time and are about 1/3 of the way to Hampton, VA, our likely stopping point before we head up the Chesapeake to Annapolis, our final destination.  We are currently about 90 miles offshore from Georgia and have turned toward the NE to follow the Gulf Stream.

The Gulf Stream roughly parallels the coastline and the edge of the Continental Shelf, where the bottom drops from 200′ or less to a half mile or more and after going north along the Florida coast, we have worked our way to a more North East course and as the coastline bears more to the NE, so does the current of the Stream.

We departed Ft Pierce yesterday morning in near windless conditions, as expected, based on our discussions with Chris Parker who said that he expected us to pick up decent SW winds sometime on Sunday, today.

However, even though the winds have filled in pretty well, now in the mid-teens, it’s from the SW and pretty much behind us so the apparent wind isn’t quite enough to make any decent speed.  As a result, more than 24 hours into our trip we are still running the engine, albeit at a somewhat lower RPM, given the push from the wind behind us.  That’s good as it conserves fuel, although I have plenty given the fact that our total run is only about 700 miles and we do expect to be able to sail perhaps 1/3 of the way or more.

As of today I’ve been aboard for a week and I am happy to be underway.  Getting to Pandora last Sunday and having to address the leak in the new refrigerator was really frustrating and having someone aboard installing the new forward AC unit, tiring.  In retrospect, that install was quite simple and I expect that I could have easily done it myself.

However, I am really glad to have the unit in place an even though the aft unit remains to be dealt with, and being able to retreat to the forward cabin when it is hot a real treat.

Interestingly, the forward AC unit is wired to work underway via the inverter, so when we are under power, in flat conditions, which they are, I have been able to run the AC, through the inverter, which has made a huge difference in comfort.   I have never tried this before and am surprised at how well it works.

Dick and I have taken turns sleeping in the forward cabin that has been kept at a very comfortable mid 70s, which is a lot more comfortable than the 90 degrees of the main cabin.  Actually, with the AC unit running and the door to the cabin open, it’s keeping things aft somewhat cooler.

Most of my long runs in the past have been on the wind and I would hesitate to run the unit in those conditions as the water rushing by the water intake, while heeling, creates some suction and puts strain on the water-cooling pump for the unit.  Additionally, the condensation from the drip pan on the unit would have spilled all over the place.  With this in mind, the next time Pandora is out of the water, I will install a small scoop on the water intake, much as I have done on the watermaker and refrigeration to avoid that suction problem.  Additionally, I will install another condensate drain outlet on the port side of the new AC unit so that it can drain regardless of which tack we are on.  At the moment, the only drain is on the port side, and that means that if we are on a port tack, heeling to starboard, the pan will spill over and make quite a mess.  I’ll be sure to do that on the aft unit as well.

However, an overflowing drip pan isn’t an issue on this run yet as we aren’t going very fast, about 6-6.5kts, and are sitting quite level, and the unit seems to be performing nicely.

I should note that while our through-the-water speed is modest, our over-the-bottom speed, with the GS adding an additional 3-4kts, our speed made good is a very respectable 9.5 to 10.5kts.  We are making quite good time and will remain under the influence of the GS until we get to Cape Hatteras, the bulk of our trip.

We were thinking of stopping somewhere, perhaps Charleston, for a few days but with good passage conditions and the threat of Covid-19 just about everywhere on shore, we decided to just keep going and not to stop until we get to the Chesapeake.

I do expect that we will opt to stop somewhere along the way but if the sailing is good, who knows.

For now, it’s nice to be underway, on my way home and away from the torment of fixing broken stuff.  Sure, there’s still more to do but that can wait until Annapolis.

For now, I am happy to be moving along in the clutches of the Gulf Stream, helping us make our way north.

That’s all for now.  Stay tuned.

The next leg toward home and I wonder what the future holds…

Pandora is still in Ft Pierce and I will be heading there next weekend to bring her to Annapolis with my friend Dick.  Brenda and I buddy-boated with him and his wife Anne years ago when we first headed south and spent time in the Bahamas.

At the time Anne and Dick owned Nati, a catamaran that they lived aboard for a number of years before “swallowing the anchor” and moving ashore to Florida where they live now.

The Bahamas, where we met Anne and Dick, was our first winter adventure after heading to Florida via the ICW, Intra Coastal Waterway.  Since then, we have sailed many thousands of miles and visited places I never imagined we would go, much less do so aboard our own boat.  Cuba? Who knew?

This is “old” Pandora anchored off of Chubb island shortly after clearing into the Bahamas back in 2014.It seems like just yesterday when we spent months with Anne and Dick moving from place to place in the Bahamas.   I guess that Dick never listened to his mother who surely told him NEVER to stand up in a moving vehicle.  “Down boy, down boy!”   With Anne aboard at least she kept him moving at a stately pace.
At that time we owned our “old” Pandora, a SAGA 43.  She heeled a LOT and to sail along with Nati, a cat that was always level and smooth, was totally annoying, especially to Brenda who often felt she was hanging on for dear life as I pushed Pandora to try and keep up.  While we had to stow everything that wasn’t nailed down, Anne and Dick would just wave to us while taking at tiny sip of coffee as they glided serenely by.We did a lot more fishing back in those days.  Now, I am less inclined to get all the blood and guts aboard as we have found that the biggest problem with fishing is that we catch stuff and when landed I wonder how I am going to deal with ALL THAT FISH.  This was one of my biggest catches that year, a Mahi Mahi.  Notice the beginning of the whole “blood and guts” thing on the cockpit settee.We all had a bit more hair back in those days.  Well, at least it was a lot better distributed.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see about Dick and how his mane has fared.  In terms of sheer volume, my hair is pretty long these days as I haven’t had a “professional” haircut since February but somehow it has become distributed differently, a sort of gravitational migration leaving my own personal “north pole” mostly vegetation free.

I still remember when I had my very first “outdoor” haircut that year in Black Point, Long Island.  It was only time I ever spotted a ray while I was getting a hair cut.  This isn’t me ‘under the knife”, but you get the idea.   That’s Ida, doing the cutting.   And, of course, back in those days, see the guy with the laptop, the only way to get email was to go to a hotspot as cellular Wifi was not as usable as it is these days.  Every day was a scavenger hunt for connectivity.  And, later that same year, a random sighting of what would one day be our current Pandora on a mooring in Newport RI.  We never imagined that we would one day own her ourselves. So, off to Florida and Pandora in less than a week.  And, while I am not enthusiastic about getting on a flight, that’s exactly what I am doing next weekend.   You can bet that I’ll be fortified with my slightly used N95 mask, germicidal wipes, killer spray, hand sanitizer, my own food and well, you know the drill.  Actually, my hope is that EVERYONE else on the plane knows th drill and takes it seriously.  If not, it will be my last flight for a very long time.  Bad flight or not, I hope that I don’t become “positive”, which I suppose could make it my “very last flight, ever” which would be very bad.  Based on our experience in Florida when we arrived there last month aboard Pandora, I am not optimistic about the “locals” taking the risk seriously.

And, fast forward to the fall, am hoping against hope that we will be heading south again but it’s very hard to say what will happen next as Brenda isn’t crazy about that idea and with the pandemic still a threat and no certainty about what island to island travel will look like, who knows…

I guess I shouldn’t stress too much about what the future holds as there is really no way to know what that might look like.   For sure, it will surprise and delight me, if history us any guide, and to think back to that winter in the Bahamas, a lot has happened that I would never have predicted anyway.

It’s been a few years since I have seen Dick too so it will be fun to spend time together.  Perhaps he will have some answers.  Dick?

Here’s to the great unknown and wondering where Pandora will take me next.

Well, the “next” it seems will be Annapolis with a few stops along the way.

Stay tuned and you will be the second to know.