Monthly Archives: September 2023

So much to do, so little time…

Each summer I hope to have time to laze around and enjoy the hot long days but somehow it never seems to happen.  I am always busy balancing the needs of keeping a home up along with a boat and somehow both feel like “fixer uppers” in spite of putting tons of money into both each year.

And as summer draws to an end, it always feels like a scramble to get Pandora ready to head south and this year has been no different.  I’d be lying if I said that I am always happy with the pace of projects that need to be done and this year feels even worse.

While I am a card carrying member of the “cup is half full club”, I have found this year to be a bit overwhelming.   Perhaps it’s the sound of all those boat dollars pouring out of my cup.  My cup has not “runneth over”, it feels like the bottom just dropped out…

Arriving in CT with a damaged propeller coupling and then having to replace the entire mess, prop and all, didn’t set the tone for a lazy hazy summer.

I did get away with a friend for a week but otherwise, Pandora hasn’t left the river and yet I’ve been aboard, working on her most every day.

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind trying to get things settled including the installation of a new water heater.  The old one, recently out of warrantee, started to leak fluid back into the engine from the internal heat exchanger so I had c0ugh up nearly a whole “boat dollar” to set it straight.

Here’s where the heater lives, ready for the install. I had to move a huge amount of stuff to make room for it.  Here’s the finished install.  “Water heater?  I don’t see no stinkin waterheater. ”  Trust me, it’s somewhere back there. I also finished the upgrade to the solar array.   Last summer I learned that the old style panels, those that are more than a few years old, degrade at about 5% a year and the four original 80w panels that came with the boat when we purchased her were only putting out about half of their designed capacity.   Las summer I upgraded the  80s four 15ow panels, leaving me with a single 290w panel over the davits that I had added when we purchased the boat.

So, I did some research and learned that I could upgrade the 290w panel with three 150w panels and only increase the footprint by about 5″ in length, with three smaller panels taking the place of the one large 290w panel.  The newer designs put out a lot more power per square foot.

This photo is of the “new” 290w panel when I installed it in 2015.  It’s still huge.  Amazingly, I was able to put three 150w panels into the same space with only an extra 5″ of overhang aft of the original davit supports.  An amazing increase in capacity. These panels make the four 150w panels forward look small but it’s only a matter of perspective as you can see from this shot from forward.  In order to be sure that the three new panels are well secured to the davits, I had to fabricate a half dozen custom brackets made up of starboard and 1/4″ marine grade aluminum.  They were a lot more complex than they look to get in place with properly drilled holes.   This version on four corners. And these in two spots on the aft end to support the middle of the panels. In summary, this meant that by replacing all of the panels, between last summer and this, with seven 150w panels, I was able to bring the total wattage for the mix to 1,050w from 610w, a near doubling of the capacity of the array. 

And, all this, in addition to the wind generator and the lithium bank, I now have enough power to run everything on the boat directly from the batteries, all maintained by wind and sun.

Oh yeah, and Uncle Sam paid for 30% of the entire bill under the Inflation Reduction Act that covers green upgrades including boats if they are your primary or second home.  And yes, I checked with my accountant, a very straight shooter, and he said that I was good to go.  It saved me over $10,000 in direct tax reductions.

Among the items that I run directly from my inverter.  Note that we don’t even have a house generator.  A washer.  No, not the dryer but we don’t use that and let the relentless wind in the Caribbean dry things.  This unit doesn’t draw much power in wash mode anyway. Our Starlink, a pretty power hungry unit that I power from a small 600w plug in inverter. It is amazing how many appliances we have to plug in each day.  In the last few years I have added a number of USB ports in the nav station. And, I have gone out of my way to procure some low voltage lighting including this wonderful table lamp.  I saw it noted as the “must have” lighting in fancy dining places in NYC as written up in the NY Times a year or so ago.And, these nifty rechargeable lights that Brenda got for me.  They can be made to dim and change color.  I use them down below on passage for soft red night lighting in the galley.  We also hang them in the cockpit when we head ashore so it’s easier to see in the cockpit when we return later.    And, of course, rechargeable bluetooth speakers.  We use these to listen to music and also to extend the sound from our laptop if we watch movies in the cockpit.  We also run or watermaker every other day for a few hours to fill the tanks and run the waterheater each morning for about 30 minutes to heat hot water, all off of the batteries.

Prior to the upgrades to the batteries and solar, we had to supplement our electricity with a small portable Honda generator but now we are able to run everything, including our electric hookah compressor that I use to dive and clean the bottom of the boat, and never have to use our engine or generator to charge the batteries.

Of course, if we were to get cloudy weather for a week, that would be problematic but that is generally not a problem in the Caribbean where it is usually sunny and plenty windy to get power from the wind generator anyway.

So, this brings me to heading south and in the next few weeks I will bring Pandora to Hampton, VA where she will sit until I head back at the end of October to meet up with the nearly 90 boats that will be heading for points south, some for The Bahamas but mostly to Antigua.

Yes, things are plenty busy and I still haven’t settled on crew but hope too soon.

So much for those hazy lazy days of summer.

So much to do, so little time…


Jimmy Buffett, and the doors of summer slam shut.

It’s Labor Day weekend and it’s been chilly in the mornings, a clear message that fall is on the way.

I recall years ago, a friend Port (he was a sailor and yes, that really was his name) once remarked that on Labor Day, if you listened closely, you could hear the “doors” of summer slam shut.

For most this weekend marks the end of yet another summer season that went by way too fast.  “What happened to summer?  It seems like yesterday that it was Memorial day.”

Yes, summer is over in more ways than one with the passing of singer Jimmy Buffett, THE original summer guy, marking the end of decades of summers that he shared with millions around the world.

On Friday Jimmy Buffet died in his home in Sag Harbor at the age of 76.  It has been reported that he died of lymphoma, a complication of melanoma, in itself a sad reminder of the dangers of living an “endless summer”.  For a guy that embodied “summer” that was a particularly cruel end.

To be sure, Jimmy had a lot of fun over the years and inspired generations to kick back and enjoy life in a world where it seems that everyone is scrambling to climb to the top.  I expect that there are thousands that have taken stock of their lives, in no small part, inspired by the words of his songs.  Perhaps his passing will inspire more to head out for adventure before it is too late.

He wrote in his memoir “You know that Death will get you in the end. But if you are smart and have a sense of humor, you can thumb your nose at it for awhile.”

In a way, the timing of his passing, on Labor Day weekend, the official end of summer was sadly fitting.

Along with being a talented singer and song writer, he also wrote a number of books and when I turned 50, 18 years ago not to put too fine a point on it, a friend gave me copy of his book “A pirate looks at 50“.    You can order a copy from Amazon for about five bucks. It is a touching and amusing book about his life and a trip that he took to mark his half century, seen through the eyes of someone who was crossing the threshold from young to “old” or at least into the second half…

When I remarked to the friend that shared a copy, the message of the book resonated with me but my friend was quick to point out that “your turning 50 is NOTHING like Jimmy Buffett turning 50”.  Fair enough.

For me though, it was a timely read as we had sold our company and I knew that I’d be retiring within a few years, by my 55th birthday, my goal since I was in my early 20s.  It turned out, compliments of the “great recession” that I had to work an extra year and retired six years later at 56.  Not bad for a “newly sort of old guy” that I had become.

Like Jimmy, I too had no particular idea of where life would take me if I looked back when I was young.  The idea of heading to the Bahamas was the extent of it and that was a stretch, never imagining that I would end up in the Caribbean, sailing thousands of blue water miles and would now be leading a group that runs rallies there every year, Salty Dawg.  In many ways, my involvement in this group has come to define my “later years”.

I have been thinking of Buffett more lately as when I was in Sag Harbor a few weeks ago I saw Buffett’s boat.  In spite of being worth an estimated one billion, he still owned a small boat, his 49′ Pacific Seacraft built “Drifter” and it was there.  She is only a few feet longer than Pandora but probably cost 3x as much. Her accommodations are amazing. I’m guessing that a lot of Margaritas were served in her cockpit.

The coolest of his vehicles though, was his Grumman Albatross flying boat.  An awesome plane that I believe he flew on and piloted during the trip that inspired his book “A pirate looks at 50”. This is a walk-thru of a sister ship of Buffett’s plane.  It’s a remarkable “yacht” or “camper” as it’s described in the video.   Enjoy.This link will take you to the sale listing for the plane at the broker.   The listing is from 7 years ago and I doubt that it’s still on the market.  However, at the time, the asking price was $375,000.  For a machine of this complexity, I expect that the annual maintenance is plenty.  What a plane.  Land this baby on a lake somewhere and enjoy the moment. Makes me want a margarita.

And, speaking of margaritas, here’s the a video posted over the weekend by CNN, a short summary of “the man”, Margaritaville himself and all that flowed from his laid back island vibe.I guess he had plenty boats, planes etc, appropriate for a guy with a net worth of a billion.

When he built his sailboat, Drifter he had downsized from a Delta 125 which he sold ostensibly because he didn’t use it enough.  His last boat, built in 2019 was also blue, appropriately names Last Mango.  is blue as well, like his sailboat “Drifter:.  Here’s Last Mango, Jimmy Buffett’s last boat.I have no idea if Pandora will be our last boat but this coming season, as have noted in past posts, takes me and Brenda into our second decade of winter cruising.

I have booked a slip in Hampton, VA for the month of October to allow me to run Pandora down to VA before the weather gets too cold.  An easy trip might be wishful thinking as according to our weather router, Chris Parker, even late September may prove to be a bit challenging for southbound traffic as the  weather windows for southbound runs are already getting shorter.    Wish me luck on that as it’s only a few weeks until I begin to head south.

On October 26th, a month later, I will head around to downtown Hampton to join in the rally departure festivities, leading up to the start of our run to Antigua on November 1st, weather permitting.

I wonder how many have “cast off the docklines” and headed out to cruise the world, or at least the Bahamas and Caribbean over the years, inspired by Jimmy Buffett.

In my own small way, I hope that I too have done the same for at least a few others that have decided, over the years, after listening to may many webcasts on the Bahamas, Cuba and the Caribbean, to head south to warmer climes,

When it begins to get cold up in the north, Labor Day arrives and the “iron doors slam shut” another opens as the warm tropical waters beckon for yet another season afloat.

Soon enough it will be winter and those who are not lucky enough to head south to the mythical Margaritaville will have to take solace in listening to the laid back summertime ballads of Jimmy Buffett.

And yes, after all those lazy summers, it seems that his passing makes the iron gates of summer slam just a bit louder than normal.

Perhaps a good place to end is with this live recording of the Margaritavill man himself from a concert way back in 1993, no less relevant 30 years later.   This song always makes me smile as much as it did when I first heard it so long ago. Makes me feel old but I still like margaritas and they will always make me think about Jimmy Buffett.