Monthly Archives: April 2022

So, how are you getting home from the Caribbean, Bob?

On Wednesday I’ll be heading back to Antigua to begin the process of bringing Pandora back to the US.   My friend Craig is joining me for the run to the USVIs where we will join up with my friend Alex and the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally back to the US.  Alex and Craig will do the run to the US with me.

I’ve already written about all the plans for upgrades to Pandora and at home, so I won’t repeat them except to say that from Antigua we plan a week cruising, stopping in St Barths and St Martin before meeting up with the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally fleet in St John.  When I head to the US, around the 10th of May, I plan on heading to Deltaville VA where I am having some work done on Pandora before taking her home to New England in June.

As I look at the current weather forecast I can see why Chris Parker suggests that we wait until mid May at the earliest to head north as the weather north of the Caribbean and Bahamas is positively terrible, a sort of “you can’t get there from here” mix of gales and wind from the north.

This is the weather map last week, for Wednesday April 20th, conditions that are typical for April and early May.   It’s not bad down in the Caribbean but any farther north than the DR, and there is no easy way to head north.   The best we could do would be to head to perhaps the Abacos, northern Bahamas and then on to the SE US coastline, perhaps Charleston, NC.   Fast forward a week and it’s still unpleasant with a major low heading east off of the coast.  It is this sort of pattern that is the norm until things settle down in the late spring, think late May, early June.   Sure, the wind direction NE of the Bahamas isn’t all that strong but it’s right out of the north.  Not good at all for heading to the Chesapeake. Sure, these two snapshots of the coming weather don’t tell the whole story but it’s clear that it’s way to early to try to “get there from here”.

I mention this as I have been fielding calls recently from folks that have deadlines or other reasons that make them want to leave to head to the US sooner than the rally.  Early spring weather, as in nasty, is why we planned the departure for the rally no earlier than May 10th.  I think that I convinced most of them to wait a bit.

I have a friend that flew down to Puerto Rico a few weeks ago, in the first half of April, to help bring a boat back to the US.   This qualifies as a  “You don’t know what you don’t know” sort of move, and it is clear that they left too early.   Their trip, made more difficult as the boat is only a 34′ lightly built costal cruiser, took weeks and I believe that they ended up making landfall in the US in Charleston instead of the Chesapeake, their planned destination, as they battled persistently strong northerlies.

Chris Parker did a very interesting webinar recently that characterized the weather that cruisers should expect on a springtime run to New England and the Mid Atlantic.  It’s worth looking at.

Chris breaks the run into three distinct legs as you make your run north, regardless of the specific weather that you might encounter on any given run.

The first half is his presentation and the second half, a Q&A session. The fact that questions took up another half hour, after his review, suggests that there is considerable uncertainty in the cruising community about the whole topic.  This is a must see for anyone considering such a run.In my discussions with skippers that are planning to make a run either north of south from the Caribbean for the first time, I try to stress that it is critical that they plan in a way that has the best possible opportunity for a fun trip or they may make one run and decide that there will not be a second trip.

I still recall someone we met on our first season heading south to the Bahamas, on the ICW just north of Charleston.  His advice to me, after hearing Brenda’s anxiety about the trip, was to caution me that I needed to do what I could to make the run good for her or there would likely not be a second trip, something that he had seen time and time again, over the years.

That was good advice and is a big reason why she flies and meets me in the Caribbean.  A decade later I am still grateful for him taking the time to “caution” me about stressing Brenda too much.

It’s hard to say how our trip will turn out but hopefully, my coming home for a few weeks and leaving a bit later than I would have liked, will make for a more pleasant run.

If you are interested in following along check out “where in the world is Pandora” or by clicking on this link.

Better yet, go to Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally page to following the entire fleet.  The link will be posted soon, or at least by the 10th, when the rally is scheduled to depart, as a button on this page.

Wish me luck.



Hail Columbia!

It’s been more than a week since Brenda and I left St Lucia, and returned to Antigua and we will be flying out on Sunday.

Normally, I would stay behind and wait for crew to arrive but this year I decided to make the trip back to the US to help Brenda prepare for the remodeling of our kitchen, a job that is expected to take several months.  However, it’s not looking great for a timely start for the job as our tile guy just bowed out of the job due to some sort of family issue.  That’s a real setback so it’s doubly important for me to spend a few weeks trying to get things back on track.

One of the reasons that we hustled back to Antigua was with the hope that I’d be able to get aboard Columbia a reproduction of a classic fishing schooner for the Classic Yacht Regatta, an event that brings beautiful yachts from all over.  There are plenty of great boats that would be racing but she was the one that I wanted to be aboard.

My friend Franklyn had spent a lot of time aboard Columbia and put in a good word for me with the captain, Seth.   At first it didn’t seem too promising but when I showed up on the first day of racing as directed by the Captain, he waved me aboard.    After we all went below and signed in and were issued shirts, we assembled on deck for a briefing.

Captain Seth is very focused on safety and while he wants to win and expects a lot from his crew, he made a point that we were supposed to have fun and, of course, stay aboard Columbia.   At the end of his daily briefing, he led the crew in a rousing chant of “hail Columbia”, a great way to begin a day of racing.  It was awesome to be aboard such a spectacular yacht for three days of racing.   The wind was forecast to be breezy and that’s exactly what we got.  

Even getting her underway from the dock is a sight to behold. Each day we had different colored shirts, including those donated by Carib beer.  I love that brand and to have a bright yellow shirt and hat to match was great fun. What a thrill to be aboard and underway.  The “crew” from Carib beer.The crew thought nothing of climbing, no make that scampering, up the mast to untangle whatever.  To sail on Columbia in “sporty” conditions is nothing short of spectacular!  Blasting along in 25-30kts of wind made for a pretty wet ride.  At the end of this short video, watch someone be swept down the deck by a boarding wave. My primary job was to tail the port foremast runner.   Split second timing was needed to secure the line during a tack.  It took three of us to manage the lines.   The next three images compliments of Ed Gifford, a great guy, who was onboard as one of the photographers. This is what happens if you get the timing off, heading to the leeward rail too early.  When we were preparing to tack, the three of us would get into position just before the tack.  The captain would bear off a bit to gain speed and nd blue water piled up over the rail.  I was swept off of my feet once before I learned better.  Sometimes, it wasn’t possible to stay out of the maelstrom.One of the other visiting crew was swept down the side of the boat and while he stayed aboard, his pants came down, underwear and all, to his ankles.  Good thing that he was able to keep them from being swept over the side.   I doubt that he had a spare pair of shorts handy.  “Excuse me, do you have a spare pair of drawers? Mine went over the side.  I’d really rather you didn’t stare, or laugh, thankyou very much.”

The amount of water that swept aboard was remarkable.  What a view of Ashanti IV, a 110′ schooner that we were racing against.  When I saw these waves sweep the decks, I could only imagine what it must have been like to be in the North Atlantic in the winter fishing for cod when boats like Columbia were the norm.   These waves were pretty big and it was just a lovely day for sailing.   Imagine a storm…

Captain Seth was recognized by the race committee with the overall prize of a beautiful new Locman watch from Italy.  They were an official sponsor of the race.  With my birthday coming up soon, Brenda insisted that I get one too.   This photo is probably the coolest that I will ever look.   As much as I try, I am just not a particularly cool guy.  It is a really spectacular piece. The regatta was put on by the Antigua Yacht Club.  They are very supportive of the Salty Dawg Rally and are the center of the sailing community in Antigua.
Of course, where there is Carib beer, there are Carib girls.And a lot of spectacular yachts including Aquijo.   She is huge, at nearly 300′ long and billed as the world’s largest performance sailing yacht.   Check out her specs and photos.   To get a feel for her scale, notice the kayak on the water just behind the forward mast.Columbia is less than half of her length and is still a really huge yacht herself.  Yes, I realize it’s tough to see so here’s a closeup. Everything about her is enormous.  Note the size of the main boom with a member of the crew walking along the topAnd, she is as shiny as she is huge. Of course, what would a visit to Antigua be without spending time with our friends at the Antigua and Barbuda Royal Naval Tot Club, and we did just that. Of course, we had some “Tots” on the lawn in Nelson’s Dockyard.  And even a Tot aboard the lovely 110′ schooner Aschanti IV. Members of the Tot Club, including the owner of Ashanti IV, can fly the official burgee of the club, the White Pennant.  I have been saying for years that Antigua is the best place to begin and end the cruising season and being back here, our last stop before I begin running Pandora north and home.   We decided to treat ourselves to a few days on the docks in Nelson’s Dockyard, a wonderful end to a great season of sailing in the Caribbean.So, here I am, finishing up on what is likely my last post before heading home to the US until I return in a few weeks to begin my run home.

It’s been a wonderful season, and a lot different than we expected back in the fall when Covid was raging around the world.

All I can say is “Hail Columbia”, and Antigua.  It’s been a great season and I can’t wait until next fall to come back again.