It’s October 31st and the weather for tomorrow, the first of November, our nominal departure date, bound for Antigua, is expected to be favorable for a departure. Well, if you discount the possible hurricane that may spool up in the Gulf of Mexico next week make us think twice about heading out. We will know for sure what the plans are this evening when we get a final briefing from our weather router, Chris Parker.
Pandora is ready to go and as much as I am bummed not to be in Hampton with most of the boats in the Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally, it is very nice having her near me here in CT. She is at the Essex Yacht Club dock, where I have been working on her for the last week or so, bringing stuff aboard and taking stuff off that has accumulated over the years and is probably no longer needed. The weather on Saturday was amazing, the temperature was nearly 80 and sunny. Not so much for the last few days when the temperatures plummeted into the 40s with rain.
In case you are wondering, the white stuff on the lawn isn’t snow although today, it is cold and but not cold enough to snow. Nope, those are white rose petals from a wedding held there a few days ago.
There’s not a lot going on around her and most of the moorings in the harbor are now vacant.
Much of last week was consumed by last minute items, moving stuff aboard, removing stuff that we don’t expect to need this season. I was also looking for a persistent leak and removed forward hatch and re-bedding it, with the hope of stopping an illusive dripping down the cabin side when the going gets sporty. Alas, after removing it and cleaning up all the old adhesive caulk, I could not find any evidence of moisture. Big hole in the foredeck with the hatch removed. I heard that a large catamaran sunk last week when two of her hatches failed off of Cape Hatteras. I can imagine that a boat would sink PDQ if a hole opened up on this scale.
After hours of removal, prep and reassembly, I realized that this wasn’t the source of the leak and finally found it in a nearby turning block for the jib. I am doubtful that I caught the only remaining leak but hope that I’m getting close. When I purchased the boat the seller told me of “THE leak”, the only one on the boat. HA! Seven years later, I am still identifying new leaks. I do put a lot of miles on Pandora each season so things loosen up. I expect that he wasn’t aware of some of the leaks as they only come to light when the going really gets sporty. Not sure I will ever completely conquer the leaks but I am pretty close, I hope, and probably more on top of the problem than most owners.
Another thing that I have been thinking about is Starlink and how that technology has changed the cruising game. Some years ago I was on a delivery of a large yacht from The Hamptons to Ft Lauderdale and was blown away to find that the yacht had broadband on board. I had a blast putting up posts with photos and never imagined that one day that would be possible aboard Pandora. However, that system cost upwards of $5,000 a month, certainly above my paygrade.
Well, now with Starlink, we have a “sort of” affordable option at $150/month and $2GB for data when underway at sea. Yes, it does add up but the service is AWESOME! and Pandora, along with just about every other boat in the rally, has Starlink aboard. This system, developed by Elon Musk, offers relatively low cost broadband and it is generally fast, and often faster than our cable service at home.
I first heard about the system last October when a boat in the rally joined a webinar from offshore, complete with high quality video. I didn’t think much about it until I was in Antigua a few weeks later and saw one of the antennas on a friend’s boat. I just had to have one and found myself as one of the “early adopters.” I was able to get a fellow Dawg to deliver one in their luggage from the US.
Here we are a year later and nearly every boat in the rally has the service. I still have the older style RV antenna and hope that it will work better this fall than it did on my way north last spring when I had trouble keeping a signal.
I have heard that the RV version that I have has better reception now as the software has been improved. I had the opportunity to upgrade to a maritime dish but the power consumption was twice as much and the unit is twice the size of what I have now. And, rumor has it that there will be a more efficient antenna out soon that isn’t a lot larger than the one I have.
Here’s the antenna mounted aft, adjacent to my solar panels.
Perhaps a better view of how it is situated aft to port.
So, we will have to see how well the service works on this run. Fingers crossed as I have not activated my Iridium Go, as that service costs about as much and is REALLY SLOW.
Well, hopefully, tomorrow, Wednesday morning, we will head out, bound for Antigua. It is possible that we will head for Bermuda in case we need to stop and wait for better conditions.
I’ll know more this evening when we get our weather briefing.
You can follow the fleet at this link, compliments of Salty Dawg and Predict Wind, and see the more than 90 boats that will be making their way south to either Antigua or The Bahamas, departing from Hampton VA and Newport, RI and of course, Pandora from Essex. Note that a number of boats have already left and there’s plenty to follow.