Monthly Archives: May 2023

You name it (weather) we got it, plus, plus…

It’s been a few days since I arrived back in Essex and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind.

I arrived home on Monday afternoon after 11 days at sea, my longest northbound run to date.

And, less than 24 hours later I was on a train to MD to visit our grandchildren and back again.

The run from St Thomas was something…

We had every imaginable weather condition from flat calm, 75 hours of motoring, gales with gusts to 50kts in the Gulf Stream and sailing west and east, nearly to Bermuda while waiting for things to clear up north of us.

And to cap it off, after 1,750 miles, the shaft coupling for the prop came loose about a mile from Essex, our destination and we had to be towed to our mooring.

Even our departure was a challenge.  As you might recall, we were delayed in St Thomas with a leak in the engine circulating pump and then headed north but after an additional day in the marina we were underway.

As the days unfolded we caught up with the rest of the fleet that had left a day before us.  However, as we approached the latitude of Bermuda, conditions were still nasty to the north so we had to delay, first sailing west toward the US east coast and then backtracking east toward Bermuda while waiting for conditions to improve.

After a frustrating delay we finally turned north, directly for the Gulf Stream and CT.  We knew that conditions were going to be sporty but the wind ended up much stronger and as we crossed the Gulf Stream, we encountered sustained winds in the 40s with gusts to 50.

With the wind blowing from the south, perpendicular to the current in the GS, things were plenty rough.  And, to make matters worse, as the wind was directly behind us, we were unable to set ourselves up for a reasonable crossing and ended up stuck in the GS for a lot longer than expected, pointing more toward Nova Scotia than Montauk.

For hours we were pointing to far to the east, spending more time in the Stream than we were expecting.  We wanted to jibe but that wasn’t practical as that would put us nearly directly into the eastbound current, which would have slowed us even more. It’s impossible to get a shot of a wave that does justice to what we were encountering.  Every once in a while, a wave would hit the stern windward quarter and slew us around so we had to be constantly cautious not to end up in a violent jibe. As we made our way across the GS, we decided that we had to jibe at about 02:00 to keep from going to far to the east before exiting the current.   We must have spent about 15 minutes setting up the preventer and getting ready to switch tacks.  It was uneventful but plenty unnerving with more than 40kts on the stern.

With all that wind we spent hours going at double digit speeds and more than once were going upwards of 14kts through the water.    Earlier in the run we had also encountered winds topping 40kts and had been reduced to a third reef and a nearly fully furled jib.

For hours our speed was quite high and as we entered the Stream it was amazing to see how quickly the water temperature went up to the mid 80s and then just as quickly dropped into the low 60s after exiting the GS.  These transitions were very rapid, with a swing of more than ten degrees within about an hour.   It’s hard to believe how much hot water moves north with the Stream.  

I can only imagine what would happen to the climate if this enormous “conveyor belt” of heat were disrupted. An uncontrolled jibe in those conditions could have taken out the boom or worse. 

While the rough stuff was the most memorable, we had plenty of beautiful calm sailing and motoring.   More like a lake than ocean.

Every day I did a “walk around” to be sure that everything was ok.  One morning I found a nut on the boom gooseneck had backed off quite a bit.   I don’t even want to think about what would have happened if the nut had fallen off and the bolt backed out, allowing the boom to separate from the mast.  That would have wrecked our day, that’s for sure. We saw some amazing sunsets, including a “green flash” that was the most amazing that I’ve seen.  The sun set below the horizon and then there was a very bright green flash that was more like a flashbulb than a sunset.

We had wonderful sunrises.  I always do the last watch from 03:00 to 07:00 and the mornings did not disappoint. Nor did the sunsets.  Or, was this another sunrise?  Hard to say but beautiful, never the less. Our last sunrise at sea as we rounded the eastern tip of Long Island, Montauk.And the historic Montauk light. I always look forward to the run up Long Island Sound to the CT River and hope for a fair wind and favorable tide.  Wishing for a gentle sail to cap on the last leg to finish up a long passage is much like me wishing for a white Christmas when I was young.

However, this year, it didn’t disappoint. Finally, as we entered our 11th day at sea, the Saybrook Light marking the entrance into the CT River.We continued up the river, dropped the sails and contacted the Old Lyme Drawbridge.  George, who was at the helm, put the engine in neutral.

Finally, the bridge operator told us that he was going to open so we should come up closer.  George put the boat in gear and n-o-t-h-i-n-g happened.  The prop shaft had come out of the coupling and no amount of messing around could fix it.

After decades of being a member of Boat US towing, and never a tow.   Who’d have guessed that after sailing over 1,700 miles we’d have a breakdown within a  mile of our destination. As the tow began to build speed, the prop spun wildly and fully separated from the coupling, threating to back out entirely with nothing to hold it from dropping out to the bottom but the shaft zincs.  I had to secure it with an abrasive pad and Vicegrip pliers. After that, a side tow the rest of the way and a lot slower. Finally, on the mooring and a hearty thankyou to our rescuer.We made it.  A happy crew all around.  Every year I seriously think about leaving Pandora in Trinidad and never do.  And, about half way home I begin to really question my decision and this year was no different.

Having said that, the run this year was challenging, took way too long and was, at times, painful.   We had EVERYTHING, plus, plus.   Flat calms, gales, big waves and even mechanical issues.  Fortunately, we are home now and all that’s behind us.

And now that Pandora is back in CT and we can look forward to a summer of time on the water, I am glad that I made the decision to come north.

Now, I can turn my sights to getting Pandora ready for the run south next fall.  It will be here sooner than you think.

Better get going as the gardens won’t plant themselves.

No rest for the weary cruiser.

Chris Parker comes through again!

Yesterday when I did my last post, our plan was to continue north and take our lumps in the building NE/E winds.  However, yesterday afternoon I received a note from Chris Parker in response to a question from me that was in essence, “there has to be a better way”.

He suggested that we head east for about 24 to 36 hours and wait for the strong winds to shift from NE to a more easterly direction, a better angle for us.  Head farther west than we had planned and then turn north toward the Gulf Stream, behind the front where the winds would be less.

Additionally, he suggested we head due east toward Bermuda, staying south of the front, so that when we finally turned to the west and entered the strong easterlies we would have a better angle, with the wind aft of the beam.

What a simple and great idea?  Why didn’t I think of that?  We immediately headed east.  Unfortunately, the wind totally died overnight so the boat rolled and slatted in an alarming way.

But, rolling or not, I took time to admire the stars.  The Milky Way was clearer than I have ever seen it.

And night gave way to dawn bringing lovely shades of purple and red.Up came the sun. It’s 10:00 on Thursday morning and we have turned north toward home again.

As we approach the front we have a very light SW wind.  You can clearly see the dark line of the front out in the distance.  All of a sudden the wind did an abrupt 180-degree shift, in literally a few minutes, a shift that was faster than I have ever experienced. I’d love to share the weather routing information that we prepared based on Chris’s recommendations but can’t find a way to download the images from my iPad.  I guess I will have to show it later.

For now, light wind from the NE but in a few hours, as we cross the front, it will quickly build to 25kts+.

If things work out as Chris is forecasting, this won’t be a bad ride after all.  Fingers crossed.

While I don’t want to count my chickens before they hatch.  After a decade of working with Chris, once again, he came through.

I do so hate bashing to weather.  Perhaps this won’t be so bad after all.

Fingers crossed.

Thanks Chris.






All that stands between us and home is a nor-easter

It is Wednesday morning and we are motoring along in calm conditions.   There is not a lot to look at except the (very) occasional ship or yacht that crosses our path, heading to Europe.  I suppose that should not be a surprise as we are indeed, in the middle of nowhere, about 200 miles west of Bermuda and almost 600 miles from home.  The good news is that we are over 800 miles from our starting point in St Thomas.

It feels good to be on the second half of the run. However, it will clearly be the most challenging with some salty conditions up ahead.

Even though there is not a lot to look at except flying fish skipping from wave to wave, and phosphoresce off the stern at night, we are seeing many Portuguese Man-O-War jellyfish floating by.

They look so delicate with their “sail” moving them along in the breeze.  It is hard to see in this photo but they are quite colorful with a bit of red on one end and translucent bits of blue on the sail.

As pretty as they are, don’t be fooled, as to touch one of the tentacles that trail along upwards of 10’ below, pack quite a punch.Brenda and I have seen many of these as we sailed along the US east coast, particularly off Florida when we were spending our winters in the Bahamas.  There was a time when we were in Boca Raton and several were blown thru the inlet and into the harbor.   Brenda was inspired to do a tapestry that she titled “blown off course”.I think that this piece is one of her best and others seem to agree as she has received several awards at shows and the piece was featured in a national fiber arts magazine last year.   It is worth noting that the “braids” affixed to the borders are a Japanese technique that she does.  These intricate silk braids are hard to do but she has had a lot of practice.

And speaking of Japanese fiber techniques, Brenda is still in Japan, having just finished up on a “fiber tour” of the country.  She is staying in Tokyo for a few more days with a good friend before flying back to NY later this week. I am very much looking forward to seeing her again and learning more about all the great places that she visited.

So, back to what lies ahead and title of this post.

Since the beginning of this run a week ago, we have been watching the weather north of Bermuda with the hope that the constant parade of low-pressure systems that have been moving off the Coast will moderate.

To some degree, they have but we will be sailing into some sporty conditions beginning sometime tomorrow afternoon.  From there north to where we cross the Gulf Stream, several hundred miles, will be a bit challenging with wind sometimes gusting to 30+kts.  The good news is that the wind is not likely to be quite as bad as we feared based on earlier forecasts but whatever we face will last for about 24 hours longer.

The angle of the wind should be on the beam so it should be manageable.

After that we cross the Gulf Stream which should be reasonable.  We expect to run into strong winds north of the Stream but they will be behind us, which is better.

Given the amount of motoring we have done, we switched fuel tanks yesterday and shortly after that, the engine began to slow down and stall.  I know that the tank is full but there must be some crud clogging the pickup tube.  Just to be sure, I replaced filters on the engine and switched to the third tank.  Everything seems to be OK for now.  Just in case we motor more than expected we took time to dump about 15 gallons from jugs into the nearly empty tank.  In light conditions like we have now, it’s easy but if it’s rough not practical to siphon fuel without the risk of getting water into the tank.

However, I do not want to run out of fuel, as unlikely as that may be so better safe than sorry.

So, for now, we are sailing along in light conditions and I am hoping that “the blow” will not be quite as bad as it was looking a few days ago.

I guess all I can say is details to come.

Not sure I will be putting up anything when it is “sporty” but time will tell.  Not to worry, we will still be posting our position every two hours on the tracker.

For sure we will be moving along well for most of the rest of the trip.   If conditions are no worse than forecast, it should be manageable.

Perhaps we will be home on Sunday.

Wish us luck, please…

Half way home.

We have been at sea for 5 days, entering our 6th and are half way between St Thomas and CT, about 200 miles SW of Bermuda and 700 miles from Montauk, the eastern most point of Long Island where we will enter Long Island Sound and head home.

Winds continue to be light and we have motored for 40 hours.  That is not a lot of engine time compared to our trips south over the years when a total of between 100 and 150 hours is typical.   However, the run north is generally better for sailing as it takes advantage of the easterly trade winds for the first half and the prevailing SW winds off of the US east coast, for the second.   However, this spring has seen particularly active cold fronts rolling off the US east coast so the trade winds have been suppressed.

Another contributor to the low hours is that I am trying to time my arrival at the south side (entry point) of the Gulf Stream to avoid the strongest of the winds that will accompany a particularly strong front that is expected to exit the NE Coast later in the week.   Being in the GS with a strong NE wind is just not a good idea.

The strongest of these NE winds will have gusts into the low 30s, which is pretty sporty.   Generally, anything over mid 20s is annoying and just too much like work to be fun.

The timing of what could technically be a gale, or a Nor’easter, is a bit uncertain so I am taking a conservative view of things, trying to move along a bit slower and let the worst of it clear out before we get there.  These fast-moving lows are quite difficult to forecast and the actual timing isn’t generally clear until just a day or so before they arrive.

Our best guess is to plan on arriving at the south wall of the Stream (and the edge of the GS is quite abrupt and you can actually see a change in the water color, temperature and wave configuration, hence: wall) around mid-day on Friday.   With that in mind, our plan is to adjust our speed to an average of 6.5kts do we arrive at the right time.

It’s a bit difficult to accurately titrate our speed for the next 500 miles to the GS as the wind will vary anywhere from less than 10kts to near 30kts, a huge swing.  When the wind is strong, we will be going upwards of 8-9kts but less than 6 when we are motoring.  How to manage to get the average to come out at 6kts, assuming that the front moves at the planned speed, is tricky.

So, for now, a lovely sail.  It’s quite calm with a beam wind of only about 10kts. Mike relaxing, keeping an eye on things.  However, we have not seen much for days beyond an occasional ship or two.One way or the other, we will sort it out and just deal with whatever comes our way.  For now, easy sailing.

Beyond that, the crew of Pandora has settled into life at sea and one day just rolls into the next.  The middle of a run like this is the most pleasant as we are not close enough to our destination to ask “are we there yet?” or far enough away to think “OMG, we have not even covered 10% of the run.  I hate this!”

Our days now are pretty much taken up by keeping watch, sleeping, eating, and thinking about the coming weather.

Down below, everything is stowed and set up to be comfortable and yet protect the cushions from salt and excess wear.  Note the canvas covers on everything to keep things clean.George is using the aft cabin, Mike to port (left) and me on the right.  The center of the boat, the main cabin, has the least motion.

As to “when are we going to get there?”, it’s a bit too soon to think about that (even if I am) as we still have nearly half of the trip in front of us.   However, with the coming winds, what lies ahead will surely be faster than the first half.

So, when will we get there?  I expect that Sunday is a good guess but we will just have to see.

One thing that is certain is that we are in fact half of the way there.

Really glad we have a motor.   

It’s Monday morning and we have been motoring for over 24 hours.  After all the problems with the engine cooling system, I am so pleased that we were able to find someone in St Thomas to replace the leaky gaskets and confirm that the water pump is in good shape.

Having watched the tech remove and replace the pump makes me realize just how difficult it would have been to do at sea.  I generally worry about breakage when I am offshore, hundreds of miles from anything and the idea of making the repair while underway is too much for me to even think about.

I knew that this was going to be a slow trip with lots of motoring but had hoped that by the time we left the forecast was going to be for more wind.   However, with all the strong fronts that have been rolling off the US East Coast, the trade winds to the south have been suppressed so motoring it is.

As I write this post we fully expect to have another 24-36 hours before winds from the NE begin to fill in.  And FILL IN they will with steady winds in the 20s and gusts to near 30 are expected.  And, to ensure that things will be plenty sporty, the wind will be forward of the beam so we will be pounding into seas.

The big issue for us is what conditions will be like when we reach the Gulf Stream, currently about 650 miles from us.  And given our estimated speed, I expect that we will reach the Stream some time on Friday.

Timing our entrance into the Stream is critical as when there are strong winds from the NE or E conditions will be quite nasty and dangerous.

Chris Parker, our weather router, says that the forecast five days out is still quite uncertain so it’s hard to say when conditions will begin to settle down and make it reasonable to cross the GS but he is currently estimating that we will have reasonable conditions by sometime on Friday.

For now, it’s fingers crossed.  For now, we will continue to motor along.

I guess I will close with some shots of today’s sunrise.  As I have mentioned, my favorite time of day is dawn and to be on watch as the eastern horizon begins to glow is a magical time.

It began with a blue/purple glow in the east.Getting brighter and brighter as the sun began to peek from behind the low clouds showing off the lacey clouds above. The sun, nearly above the horizon, a testament to the majesty of nature.  A beautiful day has dawned. Well, to be clear, it’s a beautiful day with no wind.

So glad that Pandora has an engine.  I want to add “that works” but don’t want to Jinx it.

So far, so good.  Fingers crossed and it’s a good thing that I am a member of the “cup is half full” club.

Now I can worry about the Gulf Stream…


Motoring along, making time.

It’s day four of what will likely be a 10 day passage from St Thomas to CT and home.

Brenda’s still in Japan on a fiber tour and it sounds like she is having a wonderful time.  Amazingly, with little communication it turns out that 4 of her friends also signed up and are there with her.

Thanks to WhatsApp and Starlink, I have been able to talk to her a few times in spite of the 13 hour time difference.  It seems that the best time to catch her is in the morning here, or around bedtime for her.

When I think back to our first few years cruising beginning in 2012 when we first went to the Bahamas, I am amazed how different things are now.  Back then, we had to purchase a cell sim card in the Bahamas and there was no reasonable way to call family in the US.  We used Skype but that never seemed to work.  And forget finding a decent Wi-Fi connection.

As difficult as that was, it was a piece of cake compared with our time in Cuba, the two months that we spent cruising the island meant that there was just no way to talk to anyone.  Forget phone, not allowed.   And email was very difficult and required us to purchase a scratch off card, good for 30 minutes, with a code that we would type into a computer kiosk at the government owned hotel.   And the speeds, on a cable from Venezuela, were horribly slow, think dial-up.

With here we are a decade later and it still blows me away that I can fire up the Starlink and call Brenda half a world away and 13 time zones ahead and talk.   And, the connection generally sounds like she is nearby.  No delay or odd sounds.

So, here I sit, typing away in my “office”.  I spend a lot of time sitting here as the cockpit can get crowded with the guys reading and keeping watch.And, my blog, which I have been keeping for more than 13 years now, is so much simpler.  In past years, when I was on passage, I put the blog text into an email and sent it to Brenda or whomever was available to post it for me and they would log into my blog and put up the post for me.  And, getting a photo to them.  Forget it.

Now, if I am willing to spend the bandwidth, I can post as easily as I do from home with speeds that are actually faster than home.

The pace of change is staggering, that’s for sure.

Until this morning, since leaving St Thomas four days ago, we have been sailing.  No always particularly fast but it was nice to spend days sailing along without the sound of the motor.

With nearly a third of the distance under our belt, conditions have been benign and we used the big Code 0 headsail again yesterday.   However, as the wind clocked more to the south, I cranked up the engine in anticipation that the wind will get even lighter for the next few days.

As Pandora has a very large alternator to charge the lithium house batteries, I can run the smaller of the two AC units right off of the engine as I had them wired to run off of the house DC/AC inverter.  This doesn’t cool the entire main cabin but does make a big difference and takes a lot of the humidity out of the air.  As the engine is under the galley, all that heat radiates into the cabin and makes it quite uncomfortable.  The ability to run the AC, at least when we are motoring, is a big help.

One of the things we spend a lot of time focused on is the upcoming weather and this trip is no different.  The key issue is what conditions will be like when we cross the Gulf Stream and if the wind will be favorable.

The Gulf Stream runs north from the Florida Straits up to Cape Hatteras and then kicks out to the NE and into the North Atlantic.  At some point we will have to cross the GS and it is critical that we not do that when the winds are strong, especially blowing from the NE or East as that means that the wind and current would be opposing and that kicks up dangerous and steep seas.

This time of year, and it is still early in the season, cold fronts exit the US East Coast every few days and these fast-moving systems bring with them unfavorable winds, especially in the GS.   Given how fast these systems move, it’s hard to predict more than a few days in advance when they will actually happen.

As we sit here on Monday our current speed and direction suggest that we will likely encounter the GS around Friday and according to Chris Parker, our weather router, that’s about the time that a strong front will be in our path.  It’s hard to say exactly what the timing will be but for sure we will have to be certain that we time our entrance into the southern part of the GS to avoid the strongest N/NE winds.  In this case, the winds are expected to top out at more than 25kts, a lot of wind.

Beginning today we will be entering a windless zone so we will be motoring, likely for another two or more days, until we enter an area with favorable wind.

With some luck, we will be able to continue on and cross the GS at a time that is benign.  As Chris Parker like to say “well, that’s a long way off and things could change”.   Yes, I expect that they will.

I guess I’ll leave it at that as it’s nearly time to whip up some sandwiches for lunch.  Keeping watch, sleeping and eating.  That about it on passage.  And, writing blog posts, of course.

More to come but for now, just motoring along, making time.

One more thing.  Don’t forget that you can follow along with the fleet at this link.


Starlink four months in:  Too good to be true?

As I write this we are clipping along at about 7kts flying the big code zero on a beam reach.  I am always nervous about flying that sail when the wind is gusty, especially when we are on a broad reach and the true wind is upwards of 15kts.

While the apparent wind isn’t all that high, as we are running down wind, if we were to round up unexpectedly, things would go head pretty quick and I don’t want to think about what would be involved in pulling down a torn sail that big.

Anyway, with the guys on deck keeping an eye on things, we are probably ok.  The problem is that the wind is not quite strong enough to rely on the small jib and main alone and we really need to keep the boat moving at a decent speed if we hope to get home in a reasonable amount of time.

Sunrise this morning was impressive.  Generally I take the last watch from 03:00 to 07:00 which gives me an opportunity to get some sleep (sort of) and be on deck when the sun comes up. Just one year ago I purchased an Iridium Go transponder that allowed me to get email and weather information in an easy-to-use package.  Between the unit and external antenna it cost me about $900 and I did the installation myself.   The unit worked very well and didn’t use much power.  However, it was very limited and I could only get email from a dedicated address and it was VERY SLOW: think dial up speeds.

The slow speeds, and data limited email and weather information, while adequate for use on passage, was just to expensive, at about $140 a month, to justify using it for any time beyond passages offshore.

Fast forward a year and Starlink came along.  The cost, at least in the beginning, was about the same as the GO and it was lightening fast, giving data speeds that exceeded those that I have at home.

That pricing and unlimited data usage only lasted a few months and by March I learned that I would have to upgrade to a much more expensive package of $250/month with limited 50gb of data while offshore.

Supposedly, there was another option for unlimited data while inshore, in a harbor I guess, at $120/month but how to toggle between that and the offshore data plan was, and remains, very unclear.

I have reached out to Starlink support more times than I can count and am still completely flummoxed by the options.  Can I subscribe to onshore use at a lower price and then upgrade to offshore when I am on passage?  It is unclear to me and no matter how many times I asked for help from support, I never got a clear answer.

I have many friends who also have the RV unit, like mine, that isn’t supposed to work offshore but it seems to, although it does drop the signal sometimes.  It’s hard to say how it will work over time given my limited experience with it, but others have said that they have used it successfully across the Atlantic.

Starlink does sell a maritime unit for $2500 that is designed to work offshore, while moving and I recently received a notice that I could upgrade and get a $900 discount, and keep my current unit.  That option is pretty appealing as the net-net cost to me would be pretty low, especially if I sell the “old” unit to someone who wants to use if for camping or some other non-ocean use.

I have noticed that the RV unit takes longer to boot up when we are offshore than when we are anchored and it seems to be less stable and drops the signal regularly.

I guess by the time I get to CT I will have a better feel for how well the unit functions and if it continues to be less stable, it might make sense to do the upgrade.

To be fair, the Starlink service is in its infancy with a very limited number of satellites in orbit but as more are launched and the software is updated, I may find that it works better.

In January I wrote a post “Starlink, too good to be true?” and one thing for sure is that it is a game changer but how that will work out from a cost standpoint remains to be seen.  At $250 a month for 50GB of data plus $2/GB beyond that amount is not sustainable for me or likely other cruisers.  To give that context, a typical household uses about a half of a TB every month and that would clearly break the bank for just about everyone.

Sure, the unit is super-fast but that makes it even easier to blow by the allowed usage and run up some really alarming bills each month.

For now I plan on using the service sparingly and will suspend it at the end of the month.  By the time October rolls around and I am preparing to head south for the winter, hopefully there will be a plan that makes sense for folks like me.

After getting used to having unlimited fast data this last season, I am surely hooked and let’s hope that Space X comes up with a plan that works for us “little people”.  If they do, I can only imagine how many cruisers will opt for the service in the coming years.  And, to make things even more interesting, Amazon’s Blue Origin program plans on launching a competitive product by 2024 which should have an impact on Starlink pricing.

Fingers crossed that Starlink doesn’t end up being too good to be true and that they will come up with a plan that makes sense.  If they get this right, Starlink will continue to be just about the biggest thing to hit the cruising community since GPS.



On our way home.  Making time.

We have been underway for about 24 hours and have covered about 150 miles or so, an average speed of about 6kts, a respectable speed but not as good as I would normally expect.

My crew, Mike and George are settling in and we are all spending a lot of time reading and just hanging out.  During the day, there is no formal watch schedule and everybody just keeps an eye on things.  At night we split up time on deck with one watch going from 8:00 to midnight and then a second watch till 3:00 and then I come on for the final watch before it gets light around 6:00.  It’s an easy time when conditions are calm and having one on deck is fine unless things get dicey like needing to put in a reef when it’s good to have another on hand.For much of the run we expect that the winds will be light and while we had to put in a reef last night and were doing better than 8kts much of the time, since just before dawn the wind has been behind the beam and has dropped to about 10kts.   After more than a year, I broke out the big Code 0 headsail so we are now going a bit faster, 5-6kts. The winds for the trip, util we approach the Gulf Stream, are not expected to be very strong, so I don’t expect to make big mile days.  Anything upwards of 170 to 190 miles a day is considered fast but I don’t expect to do that for the next few days at least.  Once we get north of Bermuda, we may encounter some adverse strong winds so it’s hard to say how that part of the trip will work out.

It is still early in the season and cold fronts continue to roll off the NE Coast every few days. They are getting generally weaker than in the winter but still pack a punch with strong N and NE winds that will make it tough for us to make our way for the last few hundred miles.

Of course, that is a week from now so who knows what the timing of the fronts will be as we make our way north.

We were a day late in leaving due to repairs to the engine cooling system and are playing catch up with the rest of the fleet.  However, I am so pleased not to have to worry about the engine (I hope).  As we have been sailing much of the time since we left yesterday, I have not really tested the repairs.

I am so pleased that I was able to get a tech to pull the water pump and replace the seals. I was particularly happy to see that the pump itself is in fine shape and should not have to be replaced any time soon.

Slow or not, we seem to be catching up with the rest of the fleet that left a day earlier as our wind at the beginning of the trip seems to be a bit stronger than the earlier boats had.

Starlink is working well although it takes more time to boot up, about 10-15minutes, than it takes when we are sitting at anchor.  However, once it stabilizes the reception is amazing so I will be able to put up my posts myself instead of sending them as emails to someone on shore as I have done in the past.  And, I can also put a few photos up, which will make it a bit more interesting, I hope.  I spoke with our son Rob this morning and he was amazed to hear how clear the call was.   Me too.

I have to watch my usage as it can add up quickly, even at $2gb.  I had a total of 50gb included in my monthly allowance before the bill goes over $250 but I did not realize that my phone and iPad were backing up to the cloud so I burned all of my data in a few days of usage. Live and learn.

Starlink is an amazing service but there are still a lot of kinks to work out regarding how they charge for usage as they continue to tweak the plan and what is included in the monthly fee.  It is interesting that it takes a lot longer to boot up at sea than when are anchored.  I guess it has more difficulty in finding the satellites. And, after I had it turned off for a few weeks it took about a half hour before it was working, as it downloaded software updates, perhaps the location of the satellites.  Who knows but after that, it worked really well.

I expect that by next fall, they will have worked things out and there will be an affordable package that will work for me and other cruisers.   For now, I have to suck it up, on the over charges, and hope for the best.  I plan on suspending the plan for the summer and hopefully by October all the kinks will be worked out so I can really understand what I am paying for an what it will cost to use the system.

Well, one day out we are reeling off the miles at a steady pace.  It’s nice to look out the back of the boat and see the tropics setting over the horizon.

We’re heading home, making time and that’s a good thing. Let’s hope that the next few days are as easy as our first day out of St Thomas.

Ok, now we are really leaving and I MEAN it!

They say that cruising is fixing boats in exotic places and the end of this season is no different.  I’ve been dealing with engine cooling system problems for a few weeks now and yesterday as we left the marina the leak, that I thought was fixed, happened again.

So, back to the marina and a frantic look for a tech to solve the problem.  Why I didn’t think to find someone to put in the seals that I had purchased a few days ago is a mystery to me but I did find someone near the marina to come aboard and take off the water pump yesterday afternoon.

Talk about a guy willing to get his hands dirty.The offending water pump.  And yes, he was as sweaty as he looks.After a few hours of work the pump went back in.  Today, and it’s still early, he comes back to inspect and be sure that everything is still good.

Then, we head out (I hope) and this time we really mean it.

And again, with feeling.  Onward to Essex CT. Remember, you can follow the fleet at this link, and me, Pandora.

On our way today. Destination, Essex CT!

It’s Wednesday morning and we are just about ready to head out from Red Hook St Thomas.   My newest crew member, Mike flew in from San Francisco a few days ago and between him and George, who has crewed with me a number of times, we are just about ready to head out and get underway.

1,500 miles to go and that is a long way.

The weather for a trip that I expect will take about 9-11 days is obviously uncertain as even the best weather models does not see out much more than 4-6 days with any sort of certainty.  However, the long range forecast that Chris Parker gave us last night suggests that we should not have much, if any, adverse weather which is better than was the case just a few weeks ago when gales were plaguing the waters in the north Atlantic.   The most uncertain part of the trip will be what we encounter north of Bermuda, the second half of the trip.  As we are still early in the season, conditions can be nasty up there and it is possible that a strong cold front will exit the US coast and bring with it a NE Gale.  A lot of this depends on timing so we will be monitoring the weather forecast closely.

The image below is what the forecast suggests as a route for us.  Each line represents a separate forecast model with assumptions about the sailing characteristics of Pandora.

The blue areas are those without wind and red, in the mid 20s or higher.   Anyway, I won’t say much more about all that but the weather right now and into the next week suggests that we should be ok and hopefully can make it all the way to Long Island Sound without diverting somewhere else along the way. One area of some uncertainty is my engine cooling system which has been acting  up a bit over the last week or so with a small drip/leak on the front of the engine.  I have taken some areas apart, tightened a few key bolts and the problem seems to have been solved.  Just for fun, or not, here’s a shot of the area in question.  You can see the red antifreeze puddling slightly.   The engine, in this area looks a bit nasty but hey, it’s an old engine. The leak is coming through a seal that is part of the water pump.  I have no idea if my “fix” will hold but a proper repair is a fairly big deal that will require removing the water pump and replacing some seals and gaskets.  With that in mind, I ordered a set of parts overnight from the US and picked them up at the other end of the island yesterday.

I guess I subscribe to the idea that if you carry an umbrella on a cloudy day it is less likely to rain.  So, let’s hope that with parts on hand it won’t rain.  At least I am ready although making a repair at sea isn’t appealing.  Fingers crossed.

So, all that is left is to stow things properly, fill the water and get everything on deck ready for the run.

I will be posting regularly as we make our way north and may include some photos as well, a first due to our Starlink unit.  Unfortunately, I had a glitch in how I set up the account and used a lot of expensive data already so will have to limit my usage to keep the bill from spiraling out of control.

You can follow along and see how my track is going on the Salty Dawg Homeward Bound Rally tracking page. 

There are also some details on this blog about tracking Pandora individually, under the tab “where in the world is Pandora”.

I guess that’s about all for now as we still have a few items to square away before we head out.

Wish us luck.

I’ll be in touch.