Monthly Archives: November 2023

7 years later, Antigua still loves the Dawgs

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years, since Brenda and I first visited Antigua.

I recall being smitten with the island when Brenda and first visited in 2017, after having made my original landfall in the BVI. From the BVI to the next island to the south (east actually) St Martin, was a terrible slog, directly into the wind, for nearly 100 miles. I recall being told that the run south to St Martin from the BVI, directly east and into the trade winds, “was fine if you waited for a cold front”. Sure, as long as you have time to kill, which we didn’t, so slog we did. It was a terrible way to inaugurate Brenda to cruising the Caribbean.

I have always said that the BVI was a perfect place to spend a week long charter but for the cruising set, not great. It’s crowded and most of the popular spots loaded with moorings. And, for most of our cruising friends, avoiding the charter boats, as they really don’t know what they are doing, is our goal. Anyway, I loved visiting the BVI when we flew there and stayed in a hotel years ago but as part of the cruising community, not so much.

When we visited Antigua the first time, I had no idea at all what to expect as I actually had never met anyone that had sailed there. That first visit to the island was in February of 2017 and I wrote about the final leg from St Barths to Antigua, my first post about the island that would become our favorite place in the Caribbean.

From that visit on, I made it my mission to convince the Salty Dawg board to send the rally to Antigua. I’ll admit that my first attempts did not go well. “Nope, the rally will continue to go to the BVI.” More than once I was accused for being too aggressive about pushing Antigua.

But I persisted. And, as luck would have it, if I dare call it luck, two hurricanes thrashed the BVI less than a month from when the 2017 rally to the Caribbean was to begin. As the BVI had sustained so much damage, we had to do something so I took the opportunity to set up a fairly large number of arrival events in Antigua, more than we had ever been able to muster in the BVI, and did so within a few short weeks. If the truth was to be told, for the last few years that the rally went to the BVI it was becoming increasingly difficult to get supporters there to welcome the fleet.

The real problem with the rally and the BVI is that the businesses there are more focused on the big spending one week charter and not on the slower paced cruising community.

The simple fact is that in order to have a partnership work, both parties must have goals that are in sync. And, there was always a bit of a disconnect with that the Dawgs wanted verses what the businesses in the BVI were looking for. The Dawgs were the tortoise part of the Tortoise and the Hare, and the one week, “slam bam, thankyou mam” approach of the charter crowd, was what they were looking for. The fact is that while cruisers spend plenty each season, they do not spend as much in a single week as charter boats spend.

It took another year or so but eventually the rally gave up on the BVI and now heads to Antigua every year.

Fast forward to this fall and amazingly, of those supporters that hosted events for us in the first few years, all but one have continued to host events every year since then. And, the one that skipped a few years, has again expressed an interest in doing something with us in late December. She’s a small art gallery and the pandemic hit her hard.

The simple fact is that what the Dawgs want from Antigua and those on the island want from us, are in sync. Our early season arrival is key as having 80 boats descend on them weeks before anyone else shows up is important to many businesses on the island. And many, probably most, of us arrive with broken stuff on our boats that needs to be fixed.

Having skippers and crew arrive ready to party with boats that need repairs is a magical combination for Antigua. Their season is short and to have hundreds of visitors come to the island to spend money a few weeks early, make our presence of outsize importance to the economy.

My friend Tom, who arrived on another boat a week before our rally showed up sent me this photo of the dockyard. Nearly empty…

Less than two weeks later the Dockyard filled to capacity, and nearly all the boats were from our rally.

I have gotten to know a lot of people on the island and have developed some nice friendships. Last spring, before I headed north and back to the US, I met with my friend Zoe for a wide ranging interview about Salty Dawg and my views on Antigua.

Not surprisingly, Zoe, like so many in Antigua, has a lovely British accent.  

It’s always nice to show up in Antigua and have so many say “hi Bob, welcome back”.   

This year the very first welcome was by my friend Isabella, who runs a lovely little French restaurant in English Harbor.  While I was waiting to be put on the dock that first morning in Antigua, I heard “Hi Bob” and saw Isabella waving wildly from the dock in front of her restaurant.   A moment later she sent out a skiff with some still warm croissants.   Here is a photo that she took of her skiff visiting Pandora.

So, here I am, home in CT on the last day of November, busy visiting family and enjoying the holidays. Lots to look forward to in the coming months. (I won’t talk about the terrible cold that Brenda and I have)

Oh yeah, it’s cold outside and I am wearing a sweater.

Next step, after a few weeks of whirlwind visits to family, back to Antigua in time to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks from the bow of Pandora.

For sure, Antigua still loves the Dawgs and the Dawgs love Antigua.

Landfall in Antigua: One in a thousand…

It’s hard to believe that Pandora is back in Antigua and I am here in NYC visiting family for the holidays. The fall was a whirlwind getting Pandora ready for the big run south to Antigua and after less than a week of fun, back home…

I have been doing the whole “snowbird” thing for a decade now and I’ll admit that I am tiring of the process, the weeks of back and forth each spring and fall. It’s a big bite out of our year.

With that in mind, this coming summer I will be taking Pandora to Trinidad where she will have some much needed repairs and maintenance. The good news is that I will have much less time consumed with running her back and forth and hopefully can do more of what Brenda wants to focus on instead of me being gone for a month, or more, each spring and fall.

Our plan is to spend a few weeks in northern Europe in September, which should be fun.

So, after a chilly start for the run south. a shot of Pandora’s crew on the dock in Essex prior to departure.

A little more tropical in Antigua.

Pop quiz: Can you tell for sure, which photo was taken in Antigua?

The passage was not particularly bad or good, just sort of average. We took about 12.5 days and sailed 1,850 miles from when we left Essex CT until we arrived in Antigua. We were bucking strong adverse currents much of the way until we passed Bermuda so that accounted for the additional miles, about 250 more than the actual point to point distance.

This is a highlighted graphic of our actual track, along with all of the other boats in the 96 strong fleet. Notice that everybody jogged to the east for a few days. This was to avoid a nasty low with very strong winds.

We often struggled to keep our speed up due to very light winds behind us but for the last 700 or so miles we really flew, logging nearly 200 miles each day. All and all, in spite of the fact that I am pretty sick of the run, we had a very successful passage.

We arrived around midnight last Sunday and picked our way into Falmouth harbor. After anchoring we had rum punch, two actually, and went skinny dipping. After two rum punches who wouldn’t?

Early the next morning we moved over to English Harbor and anchored to wait to be called to the dock. It is a lovely harbor. The building in the background dates to the time when the Royal Navy called the harbor their home in the Caribbean.

And then onto the dock.

The view. That place is the Galley Bar, a very popular watering hole. However, we didn’t drink water…

We stayed on the dock for much of the week, along with some local wildlife. Glad that they weren’t pooping on Pandora. I believe that the scientific name of this particular species is “pooping plovers, Exodosus”. Not confirmed but aptly named I think.

While I had to leave Antigua before the events were over, I did enjoy a number of them.

One highlight is the happy hour at The Admiral’s Inn. A group photo. 135 in attendance, a record.

Our boats completely filled Nelson’s Dockyard. Not an open spot to be had. A big contrast to a week prior when the place was basically empty.

The arrival of our fleet begins the season for Antigua a few weeks early and they just love having Salty Dawg in town. It is very rewarding to me to know that they want us there as much as we want to be with them.

Lot’s of fun, with events every day for nearly two weeks. Check out this link to the latest on what’s planned. And, I’ll be preparing more events for December and January to keep everyone in sync. After mid January much of the fleet scatters, and there are many other events in planning for elsewhere in the Caribbean and Bahamas during the season.

The run this season was not without challenges. One of our boats tried to bail into Oregon Inlet, near Cape Hatteras, ran aground and was damaged. This is a terrible inlet and unfortunate that they tried to get in that way.

Another boat tried to leave from Florida, bound for Antigua and was forced to turn back, for the second time in two years. Even though he wasn’t able to make Antigua, there are worse places to spend the season than the Bahamas. We do encourage boats to head to Hampton before heading south, as the wind direction from that departure point is much more favorable. Leave from points south of Hampton or Beaufort, just south of Hatteras, and you will end up sailing NE to Bermuda anyway, so better to start from farther north and avoid a lot of issues. It is pretty much a case of “you can’t get there from here” when it comes to a south east US departure. Better luck next year for him.

And yes, we did have a number of “issues”, which is expected when you are running nearly 100 boats into the ocean for a long voyage. However, this year we had an unfortunate “first” a death at sea. One of the crew fell ill and died on passage. I suppose that after 13 years, something like this is bound to happen but it does not make it any easier. In this case, the cause of death is not totally clear.

After several days of nausea, the crew member seemed to be recovering only to pass away in his sleep. Fortunately, tragedies like this are very rare but tragic.

I was very involved in the process of dealing with the arrival of the boat and crew, interfacing with the local authorities, a complex process that involved many on the ground in Antigua. Happily, the local authorities were very efficient and supportive and I can’t imagine things running any smoother, a testament to our contacts in Antigua and their goal to do what they could to ease a very difficult situation.

News of the death has been reported widely and I am proud of how the many volunteers in Salty Dawg helped with questions from sea and also assisting the family once the boat arrived in Antigua.

Boats in the rally are supported by our “shoreside” group around the clock for the duration of the rally.

On a brighter note, and in closing, it is important to note that what participants in the rally have accomplished, completing a major ocean voyage, is not to be understated.

With perhaps 70,000 sailboats in the US that are over 30′ long, only about 1,000 attempt to make a long run like our Caribbean Rally every year. And, the nearly 100 boats and upwards of 400 sailors that participate in our rally each year are part of a very elite group, and represent a vanishingly small number of sailors that can say that they have completed such a voyage.

One thing that is certain that those who complete the Salty Dawg Caribbean rally are truly “one in a thousand” and that is something to be proud of.

The fleet underway…

Congratulations to all the hearty souls that successfully completed an impressive run.

100 miles to Antigua!  Almost there.  Yahoo!

It is hard to believe that we are only 100 miles from Antigua.  We are into our 12th day at sea and it feels like it has been even more than that.  Can you say “forever?”

Frankly, I have had quite enough of sunrises at sea but for consistency, here is one more…

And, as there is not a lot to take photos of:  So, from the cockpit… Forgive me but there is not a lot to do at 6:00 in the morning on watch…

And speaking of 190+ mile days, proof of speed.  From right to left.  Wind speed, boat speed, wind direction and apparent wind and depth.  However, depth is not correct as it is more than a mile deep here. Depth instruments often read stuff in the water or even changes in temperature.

As we rock along at 8+kts, we do leave a bit of a wake.  Sadly, this does not do justice so you so suspend disbelief and go with me on this.  It is a big ocean out there/here.

When we left Essex the water temperature was a chilly 61 degrees and it was downright cold at night.  We even ran the cabin heat to keep things above 60 down below. 

Fast forward nearly two weeks from our departure, and 1,700 ocean miles later, it is plenty hot and humid and the ocean has warmed considerably, into the 80s. 

Each day the temperatures have climbed steadily but things did not really get unpleasant until two days ago when temperatures down below really climbed, into the high 80s.  Even with fans blowing on us, it has become hard to sleep. With waves breaking over the boat regularly, we cannot open any hatches lest we end up with buckets of water below.  A slow drip is bad enough.  Years ago I left a small hatch open in the gally and had to mop up several gallons of water that came cascading down in an instant.   I will not make that mistake again.

Since we entered the trade winds, we have not had to turn on the engine and have consistently reeled off over 190 miles a day.  Alas, never 200 but 190, 196 and such is quite respectable.  It is always a good thing when our speed picks up toward the end when we have all had just about enough sea time, thank you very much.   When will we get there?  Sooner than if we were going slower…

We expect to arrive in Antigua around midnight and we have not yet decided if we are going to go directly into English Harbor or perhaps duck into nearby Falmouth, anchor for a few hours and then move over to English Harbor once it becomes light.

The entrance to English Harbor is narrow and entering in the dark is daunting, well to me at least.  The idea of going nearly 1,800 miles and ending up on a rock ledge in the middle of the night is not my idea of a good way to “end” the run so perhaps Falmouth makes sense.

The simple fact is that at midnight we will be tired after a long run and that alone suggests that the prudent thing is to “do easy”.

So, as we reel off the last 100 miles all I can say is that I am very much looking forward to toasting our arrival with Matt and Peter and then for a swim.  Sans clothes?  That’s my plan.  Besides, it will be dark…

It feels good to be “almost there” but what I am looking forward to even more is “we have arrived”. 

Not to jinx it as we are not there yet, but next post, from English Harbor…

And, on a more random note, Brenda, who I can not wait to see when I get home later this week. I wonder if she would have said “I do” had she even suspected what lay ahead…

Now I am thinking: What I’ll do when we get to Antigua…

It is Saturday afternoon; the sun is out and Pandora is bounding along on a very close reach in about 17kts.  Of course, that means wet…

After yesterday’s post about the illusive 200 mile day, it is worth noting that our run from 10:00 yesterday morning till 10:00 today was a very respectable 196 miles. Not 200 but not bad.

I have mostly given up on trying to mop up the drips which seem to be coming from a few new places.  The problem is that leaks generally do not show up unless we are really pounding.  I think that the biggest leak is still coming from the mast fitting on the deck which needs to be removed, cleaned and rebedded.  I have not decided if I will tackle that myself or if I will ask a rigger to address it. 

The other leaks, a minor drips from the hatch near the galley and in the forward head are probably simple to fix but I will not go into that right now.  We will see.

Anyway, we are bounding along and I’d say it’s safe to say that conditions are “sporty”, or “salty” as Chris Parker, our weather router, likes to say.

I received a note from my friend Tom who has an Oyster in the eastern Mediterranean where he sails with his wife Sarah.  I understand that he helped deliver a friend’s Oyster from the US to English Harbor, where he is now.  Sadly, I will not see him as he will be flying back to his home in Florida before I get there.

There has been a lot of back and forth between me and others as we plan the arrival events for the next ten days or so.  It has been a bit of a challenge with intermittent connectivity with Starlink but way easier than in past years.   However, despite some schedule changes, and a lot of back and forth, I think that most events are now scheduled. 

We are 250 miles from Antigua now, with 85% of the run behind us.  It feels good to know that we will be there soon but it is now a case of the “longest mile” as we INCH toward our destination.

It’s always hard to say exactly when we will be there but the closer we get, the clearer it becomes.  At this point, it seems likely we will likely arrive somewhere between 10:00 on Sunday evening and early morning Monday, not to put too fine a point on it.  That will have made the run in 12 days, not my longest but LONG, never the less.

The biggest uncertainty is that we are sailing fairly hard on the wind now and if the wind were to shift even 10 degrees to the south, we will have trouble making landfall on the eastern side of Antigua.  If we must head to the western side, we will then have to motor directly into the wind and waves for hours to make English Harbor. I really hope that does not happen.

So, now that I am somewhat, kind of, reasonably, certain about the timing of our arrival, I am starting to think about all that I will NOT have to do aboard for much longer, like cleaning the head, moping up leaks along with dreaming up and cooking meals.  I have tried hard to make sure that meals are not particularly repetitive and I think it is going well but the pickings are beginning to get a little slim so it is a good thing we are getting close.

Sailing fairly close to the wind, is rough and it is quite hot and sticky down below, with everything all buttoned up, so I really don’t want to do much cooking.  When I asked what the guys wanted for dinner tonight, they both suggested egg salad wraps, exactly what I prepared last night.  That will be easy and I can spiff them up a bit so they are somewhat different than last night.

Brenda thinks I am a completely uninspired cook but after watching her spin her magic in the kitchen over the years, I am not quite the luddite that she imagines. Just almost, but not quite.  Besides, culinary expectations are not high when at sea, so everything tastes better.

After tonight, only one more dinner and then…

So, that brings me to the title of this post and what happens when we get to Antigua.  I have no interest in posting yet another photo of a sunrise, although I did try and get a shot of a beautiful rainbow this morning but, alas, it faded quickly.  No luck.

What I really want to think about now is being tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbor, becoming reacquainted with the “Tot Club” (I am a member, you know.) and then going out for perhaps pizza or a burger.  Did I hear someone say “rum punch?” I don’t think that I will get much pushback from the guys.  They are ready too…

And, from top to bottom… Antigua courtesy flag, Tot club and Salty Dawg rally flag. A great combination.

And, in English Harbor, what awaits when the fleet arrives. Pandora tied up with a bunch of other Dawg boats.  Tom tells me that the Dockyard is basically empty now but I expect that in three days’ time, they will be filled nearly to capacity. 

Pandora with her boarding passarelle in place.

It’s going to be great. 

As we basically start the season for the island, as there are no boats there now, everybody will be as happy to see us as we will be to see them.

I can’t wait to be back in Antigua!

That Elusive 200-mile Day*

It is Friday morning and we are about 450 miles from Antigua and solidly in the easterly trade winds.  After enduring days of slow going and motoring for what seemed like forever, it is good to be sailing along at a less leisurely pace.

We encountered a number of squalls overnight and shortly after dawn, one left a rainbow in it’s wake, just a sliver that went up behind the low clouds.

Or, a bit closer…

You may recall that when we were north of Bermuda, we had to delay our southward track to allow for a low near Bermuda to dissipate.  This meant that we had to sail to the east, making very little mileage south to our destination.  Over an 18-hour period we only made 60 miles toward our destination.  It was very frustrating.  And, to make matters worse, the constant slatting of the mainsail caused some damage to the gooseneck, the fitting that connects the boom to the mast.  I will have to get that repaired or replaced when I get to Antigua. 

After motoring for days in very light wind, we finally entered the trades last night and our speed picked up a lot.  We can only motor at a pace of less than 6kts and when motorsailing with a little wind to give us a boost, upwards of 7.5kts.  Under sail things get a lot better and for hours now we have been averaging 8kts+ with a few periods of 9kts+.  It is nice to see the miles reel off as we make our way south.  ]

While the trades filled in yesterday evening, we continued to motorsail for a few hours and finally were able to turn off the engine.  It is common for skippers to track their daily miles and see how many miles they cover in a 24 hour period and as I log our location and mileage every two hours, I can see how we are doing.  So, for the last 24 hours we covered 182 miles with a mix of sailing and motorsailing, a very respectable distance.  Now, as we are deep into the trades and under sail alone, our speed has crept up and if we keep up the pace of the last 12 hours we will have covered 192 miles in a day.  

I mention all this as 200 miles in a 24 hour period is a “mythical goal” for cruising boats and to be even close to this is an impressive feat.  And, one that Pandora has come close to but never achieved. 

My friend George Day, editor and publisher of Blue Water Sailing magazine as well as a number of other publications, publishes a weekly newsletter, “Cruising Compass”, and in this weeks’ issue reflects on just how hard it is to push a cruising boat to cover 200 miles in a single day. 

George had crewed with me on my last run to Antigua and here is what he had to say about the “200 mile goal” and his time aboard Pandora.

“Last weekend, American solo sailor Cole Brauer, who is racing in the non-stop Global Solo Challenge, notched a 220 mile 24-hour hour run aboard her Class 40 First Light. She is the first skipper in this event to do so, despite the fleet being comprised of many super light offshore racing monohulls. To reach a 200-mile day, you have to average 8.33 knots for 24 hours. This is commonplace for maxi racing boats, IMOCA foiling monohulls, high speed performance cats and super racing trimarans. But in mere mortal monohulls and most cruising multihulls, averaging 8.33 knots is mighty hard to achieve. A year ago, sailing in the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, VA to Antigua with SDSA president Bob Osborn aboard his Aerodyne 47 Pandora –a very slippery and fast Rodger Martin design—we had plenty of wind from good angles and saw four days over 190 miles. But 200? Wasn’t to be. And a few years ago, sailing transatlantic aboard Steve McInnis’s Hanse 50 Maverick, another fast cruiser with a powerful rig that seems to sail at 8 knots all the time, we didn’t crack 200 miles once. It’s the “average for 24 hours” part of the equation that is so hard to do.  So, hats off to Cole Brauer –all five foot two and 100 pounds of her– and here’s to all of you who strive but most often fail to crack that ever elusive 200-mile day. If you have a 200-mile day story you’d like to share, send it to me at”

When Pandora really gets going, even if she does not go a full 200 miles a day, she is wet boat with water coming over the decks nearly constantly.  Unfortunately, there remains a persistent leak near the mast and in spite of my best efforts, water is still getting below.  Not a lot, but enough to damage the woodwork if I let it go. For those who follow this blog, I spent the summer chasing leaks and have made a lot of progress but have not completely solved the problem. Alas, one more job for the guys in Trinidad to attend to next summer. 

So, here we are, me mopping up a few drips here and there and Pandora reeling off the miles toward Antigua.  Not to jinx it, but it looks like we might arrive during daylight on Monday, a day sooner than we had expected.

That would be nice.  Let us hope that nothing breaks and that the leaks slow.

Looking forward to a rum punch and a burger, medium please, when we arrive.

*P.S.  I stole George’s title too. 

The home stretch, almost…

It’s hard to believe that we are into our 9th day at sea and are still 640 miles from Antigua.   Think going from NY to Chicago at 6kts.  That’s a long way.

The good news is that we are inches, feet, miles, a degree of latitude, well, at least some distance from the trade winds.  The wind was VERY light overnight but now it is beginning to fill in from the NE.  According to Chris Parker, our weather router, and the most recent GRIB files, we should begin to see sailable wind from the east within the next 40-80 miles, hopefully sooner.

As soon as we have wind on the beam (perpendicular to our course) of around 10kts, we should be able to sail.  That would be great as I will admit that I am a bit sick of listening to the drone of the engine.  Having said that, I am SO pleased to have enough fuel to handle all of the light wind.

Have I mentioned that we have been motoring a lot?  “Yes, Bob, you beat that drum FOREVER, on every passage.”

It is now becoming pretty, sort of, fairly, a little bit clear that we will be arriving either late on Monday or sometime overnight Monday/Tuesday.   Who knows, “we will be there when we are there”, as my Dad used to say.

Of course, what is a post at sea without a photo of the sunrise?  Another very pretty one. 

Zoom out and it looks a lot different. “Bob, Bob, it’s the same photo. Gimme a break!”

No, it’s not…

To prove that we were there. Pandora in the frame… Work with me on this…

And, as we motor along, really calm.

Other than that, not a lot to report.

I have been spending a lot of time refining the details of our arrival events for Antigua and while much of the schedule was in place months ago, there have been some shifting and additional events.  In some cases, frustration for some as plans change.  However, we get so much support from those who host our events in Antigua, I cannot complain and am grateful to everyone for helping to make the fleet feel welcome.

Oh yeah, Starlink has been working but is not flawless.  It sometimes takes forever to boot up and tends to drop the signal regularly.  However, having it, boogers and all, is so much better than any prior method of staying in touch.

The simple solution would be to purchase their high-performance antenna but it is twice the size of what we already have and draws more than 2x the power.  I have heard that there will soon be a new HP dish out and that it is about the same size as what we currently have.  It is worth it to me to wait and endure less than perfect connectivity for now.  Poor connectivity or not, it is AMAZING to have such technology aboard Pandora.

Sure, we are still a long way to Antigua but the wind should soon be with us and it will be great to turn off the motor and enjoy the last distance to our destination. 

So, we will continue to plod along and Antigua is still a long way off.  However, it does feel like we are on the home stretch… well almost.

Serendipity on the high seas!

Ok, another day at sea.  So what to talk about? 

Well, first, perhaps a photo of a sunrise.   “Not again Bob… Enough!  

Sorry but there is not a lot more to take photos of when all that is out there is “water, water everywhere”.

Taken from another, closer vantage.  Amazingly dramatic.

There is a modest amount of wind but it is directly behind us so nothing to do but motor.  Besides, no reason to dawdle as it is, after all, a delivery.

We had a good sail for much of yesterday and ran our big code zero sail, perfect for wind under 15kts.  Unfortunately, the sheet, which is very thin and lightweight, chafed on the main boom.  Fortunately, Peter noticed it before it gave way.  Wrestling that big sail in without a sheet would have been messy. 

As of late afternoon, the wind dropped to less than 10kts and shifted to the north.  And as Pandora is not really set up for sailing dead down wind, we cranked up the engine.   This is fine as I always count on motoring a good deal of the time when on passage.  If I were to do a transatlantic, I would have to get a pole to hold out the jib so I could run wing and wing and have better dead down wind performance.  There is just no way to carry enough fuel to make a run across the Atlantic unless you are prepared to sail on nearly every point so sail you must, even if it is S-L-O-W.

Anyway, we have been motoring since late afternoon and expect that we will continue to do so until we reach the easterly trade wins, perhaps late tomorrow, Thursday.  From then on, we should have excellent conditions for sailing as much as 600 miles with moderate winds on the beam.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, we often go for days without seeing another boat but as we passed Bermuda, we passed, or more often were passed, by others, going to or leaving from Bermuda, bound for points south.

Late yesterday evening a big sailboat that had been gaining on us for the last few hours, hailed us.  “Pandora, Pandora, this is Nijad”.

I was off watch but heard the call and answered it.  He had just called to say hi but I somehow recognized the voice on the radio and asked who it was.  It turned out to be someone I knew, Jim, who had been the manager of the Deep River Marina where I had hauled Pandora for many years.   Jim is now retired but delivers boats in his spare time.   

For those who follow this blog, you have heard me gripe about a big marina company that has been buying up yards all over.  Well, they purchased that yard in Deep River some time back and in speaking to Jim last night, I will admit that I expressed sadness that the yard where we had met was no longer the friendly place that it had been.  He was very circumspect with his answer “well, things change”.  An understatement if there ever was one.

They are on their way to the BVI, where the owner, not on board, has a mooring.   What a small world. It is unusual enough to see a boat but to see one that has someone on board that you know, very unusual.

A few hours later, around 02:00 this morning, I contacted a tanker that was going to cross our bow, too close for comfort.  As a rule, I always reach out to any boat or ship if their CPA, Closest Point of Approach, is going to be less than 1.5 miles.  I contact them, explain the situation, and ask what they would like me to do.  Inevitably, the big ships tell me to “maintain course and speed” and they will alter course and go around me.   By and large, they are all very friendly and happy to help and often express gratitude that someone is paying attention.  Perhaps I am also bringing some excitement into their day when not a lot is happening.

So, I called T Matterhorn, a 600’ tanker and asked for instructions.  The skipper, or in this case, the second officer, said that he would alter course and give us a wide berth so not to worry.

Then, uncharacteristically, he (Karan) struck up a conversation with me.  He was asking, why there were so many small boats so far out in the ocean.  I explained that we were participating in a rally from the US to Antigua.  As he made his way east he must have gone right through the main part of the fleet.   Where we were, there really was nothing within sight for us.  I expect that he sees more as his radar is likely much more powerful than mine. One way or the other, he had been seeing a lot of boats, much more than is typical.

Wait until he sees this tracking map.  Pandora, one of many, many boats out here, one of the most easterly ones in the middle. Not sure, check out the fleet tracking map and cllick on Pandora.

He then goes on to ask many questions about what we are up to.   How many boats were with us?  Where did we depart from? Where are we going?  Do we have engines?  What do we do when the weather turns bad (pray, for one) and other questions, who is on board, who owns the boats etc.  This whole topic is so foreign to him and I enjoyed sharing information with a willing listener.

He was particularly interested I where we were going and what we planned once we got there.   I did say “parties”.  I think that he likes that idea. 

I gave him my email address, the address of this blog as well as the address for the Salty Dawg website so he can learn more about what we do.

Before we went our own separate ways, I asked where he was headed. Answer: Lavera, France in the Mediterranean. Now, that’s a place I’d like to go with Pandora. Will it happen? Who knows. There’s always a tanker… 🙂

When we signed off, I wondered if he would write to me and the next time that I checked my email, perhaps an hour later, there was a note from him.  He gave me his name, Karan Bhanushali, second officer for T Matterhorn and that he enjoyed speaking with me and had many questions. 

He also said that if I ever wanted to visit India, where he lives, I was welcome to visit.  And, that he plans to be in the US next year to visit friends and would love to meet. 

Frankly, I think that would be very interesting and hope that we stay in touch.   

I am not sure where he was heading but Matt thinks he heard him say that he was on his way to France. 

Will we connect again one day?  Who knows, but the experience really struck me as quite remarkable, two boats on the high seas, with someone aboard that I know or sort of know now, in a single night hundreds of miles from anything.   

The ex-manager of a boat yard in CT where I have had work done on Pandora for a decade, and an officer on a freighter that just happened to be passing by as we make out way south.  Who would ever guess?

So, what next?

Perhaps I will get a ride on a tanker?  That would be fun. many years ago my late father said, “Bob, wouldn’t it be great to see Gibraltar from the deck of Pandora?” What the heck, how about Lavera, France in the Med, wherever that is. I might even settle for that view from the deck of a tanker. Answer: Lavera, France in the Mediterranean. Now, that’s a place I’d like to go with Pandora. Will it happen?

No idea but it is certainly something to look forward to and an example of just how much serendipity can play a role in our lives.  Right place, right time?  Time will tell.

What is passage making really like?

As I write this we are passing Bermuda about 20 miles to port.  In spite of the forecast calling for very light wind, we are under sail and moving along nicely with 15kts on the beam.  Frankly, it feels more like gliding than sailing.  Pandora is making 7.5kts and is healing less than ten degrees, nearly level. 

Interestingly, when Pandora reaches 7kts she begins to hum.  Not sure why, but it is a soothing, gentle hum as she moves through the water.

Shortly after dawn, a shower passed and left behind a lovely rainbow.   You really get a feel for just how expansive the ocean is with this photo, rainbow, clouds, and a tiny spec of a sail, if you look closely, on the horizon.

A pod of dolphins visited us this morning but true to form, they resisted my attempts to get a photo. 

Close to Bermuda we saw a number of small boats out fishing as well as several sailboats as they headed for the harbor.  Other than that, it is rare to see another boat when we are on passage, hundreds of miles from land, except for an occasional ship, miles away and unseen, appearing on the AIS tracker.

After being at sea for a week, I would love, love, love to stop in Bermuda for a few days but I am loath to drag the run out to two weeks or longer.   If I did not have a schedule, and was with Brenda, for sure we would stop.   Alas, we are in a rush and it is, in the end, a delivery…

We are about 150 miles short of the half way point of the run, (a mouthful, I know) and the rest of the trip is likely to be much faster as a good part of what remains will be in the easterly trade winds.  Today is day 7 and I expect that we will be in Antigua sometime next Monday or perhaps Tuesday for a total run of 12-13 days.

That would make his run a lot like others I have made but with a lot less “excitement” given the fact that the wind has been quite light to moderate.  And, it is quite possible that the last 600 or so miles will be a lot of fun, sailing on a beam reach with reasonable winds of 15-20kts.  Perfect for Pandora.   I hope that the current conditions will continue and prove the forecast wrong.  That would be nice?

It was just two days ago, that I was estimating we would use perhaps as much as 80% of our fuel on this run.  But, after sailing much of yesterday and sailing again today, we may end up using as little as 50% of the fuel if the wind fills in just a bit.    Who, knows, not to jinx it…

The up and down mix of expectations and changed assumptions about sailing, motoring and arrival dates, is par for the course on passage.  Every time I prepare for a long run, I try to guess how long it is going to take and, more often than not, I am wrong.

This trip, with a few exceptions, has been mild with reasonable wind, when there was wind, and only a few squalls.  The biggest problem has been needing to delay our progress, to let bad weather to our south clear out.

As of this morning, we have motored less than half of the way, in spite of the very light winds. I am becoming more confident that when we hit the trade winds in a few days, our speed will pick up a lot.

This sort of variety and uncertainty with conditions is typical on passage and as we head south our miles per day will hopefully increase and the sailing better.

Overall, sailing in the ocean is often quite benign, but with “moments” I will admit, made fewer, hopefully, as long as you follow the advice of a weather router.  And, having Starlink and the availability to check email and keep up with the every changing forecast, makes it a lot better.

A typical day aboard is spent reading, sleeping, napping, eating, and doing minor chores to keep everything in good shape.

Yesterday Matt and I replaced a float switch on the main bilge pump, something that has been bugging me for some time now.   I did not have the exact same model to replace it with but was able to get the new one into position. I will order a replacement when I get home and then put it in place more permanently.  It buggs me that something called a “super switch” does not last very long, but they do not and I have replaced many of them over the years.

Cleaning is also a big thing and a good amount of time is spent on dishwashing, sweeping up the cabin and of course, cleaning the head.    With three guys living in a small space, often with bad aim in the dark… things get a bit gamy, as you can imagine.

After a few days at sea, a certain rhythm sets in and everyone knows what must be done.  Matt and Peter tend to keep an eye on things up in the cockpit, adjusting sails and keeping an eye on things. 

I tend to stay below, keeping a log of our progress in a notebook.  Every two hours I log information like our position, latitude, and longitude, along with wind strength, direction, boat speed etc.  The idea is that if something happens to our electronics we can always go back and look at my notes to determine where we are or at least, where we were recently.

To pass the time, I read for hours a day to pass the time.  So far, basically a book a day.  Before a trip I sign up for Amazon Kindle Unlimited and download a dozen books.  I also keep a supply of hardback books, just in case.   Brenda will confirm that I do not do “idle” well.

We also make a point of checking fittings on deck each morning to see if there are any signs of chafe or other issues.  For example, today I found the head of a rivet laying on the deck and after some sleuthing, I was able to track it down to a fitting on the boom that holds one of the mainsheet blocks.  The problem probably would not lead to a failure, but as a precaution, we worked up a Dynema (super strong line) sling from the block to the boom so that if something does break, the line will hold things together and avoid a catastrophic failure.

But perhaps the single thing that separates offshore sailing from coastal or day sailing is when things line up just right, and they do, for at least a while on every run, when you are able to set the sails and go…

To sail at or above hull speed, reeling off the miles for days at a time with barely an adjustment.  Those who have never been offshore can hardly imagine what it is like to point the boat and only do minor tweaks for days and hundreds of miles. 

There have been plenty of times at the Yacht Club bar when other sailors have spoken of times when they set the sails and went for hours, barely touching trim or wheel.  I too have boasted about those experiences.

Passage making has those moments too but on a very different scale.  To spend the afternoon reading a book while the boat tends to herself, make dinner, sleep for a few hours, get up to stand watch, have breakfast, lunch and still have the boat moving along and making time, day after day.  That is something…

That is passage making and there simply isn’t anything else quite like it.

Well, of course, that is setting aside the strong squalls, hours/days of endless motoring and having waves break over the deck when things are not quite so benign.

During those times, what comes to mind is more like “So, Mrs. Lincoln, other than that, what did you think of the play?”

Or, put another way, “sailing is hours of bliss punctuated with moments of sheer terror.”

For now, we are having a lovely sail and that is what I will focus on.  And, of course dinner. 

Tonight, teriyaki salmon with roasted potatoes, sauteed peppers, onions and a green salad. 

Tomorrow, who knows?  If it’s not all that benign…Perhaps soup…

Repeat after me… Conserve fuel!

After years of doing the whole “north-south” thing, I have talked ad nauseum and written plenty about the number of hours that I run the engine on the Antigua run.  On some runs, I have clocked as many as 140 hours of engine time and have often found myself worrying about running out of fuel. 

Two years ago, when one of my three built-in fuel tanks sprung a leak in Antigua, dumping a full tank, 35 gallons, into the bilge and over the side, my total fuel capacity was reduced from 135 gallons to 100, not nearly enough to make a run, if history was to be any guide.  

As I could not have a new fuel tank fabricated before I made it home, I decided to get a 50-gallon flexible fuel bladder and bring it back, following a state-side visit.  Fortunately, Pandora has three vented lockers in the cockpit and two of them are large enough to hold a bladder that is about 5’ long, not a small thing to stow.  As an added benefit, unlike plastic jugs, the bladder can be folded up when it is empty and takes up very little space in the locker.

I had to work out all the fittings for the bladder, a fill port, line for transferring fuel and a bleeder hose to get any trapped air out,  as well as to find a way to get the fuel from the bladder into the deck fittings for the three, (at that time, two usable) tanks.  This involved a long enough piece of hose to reach each deck fill as well as a high-capacity electric transfer pump.  Curious about all that?  You can see all the stuff that made up my “kit” at this link

With the new tank, the addition of the bladder and my usual six 5-gallon plastic jugs, I now carry 180 gallons of fuel, enough to run about 9.5 days under power.  You would think that would be more than enough fuel to get to Antigua but this year I could very possibly motor as many as 170 hours, using perhaps 140 gallons with just 40 to spare. 

Many of the over 80+ boats that are making this trip will have to divert to Bermuda just to get fuel and I am pleased to be able to pass it by. (Oh boy, I hope that I am not jinxing things by saying that) It has already been a long run and I do not want to add any more days at sea between me and Antigua.

Despite being into our 6th day at sea, we have only made it about a third of the way south.  So, with 500 miles between us and Essex, as the crow flies, we have logged almost 650 miles through the water.  That is an additional 150 miles of bucking currents and sailing in the wrong direction 🙁 

On the bright side, slow or not, the sunrise today was lovely.  It began slowly with spot of light to the east.  It was darker than this photo suggests. Then it began to brighten.

Became brighter and brighter as the sun appeared.

A dramatic beginning to a new day.

And, better than that, sailing!

I will enjoy it while it lasts as soon enough we will be motoring again.

When we were first heading out, I thought that perhaps it would take 10-12 days but it is not looking like at least 13 days, as many days as my longest run. 

When I am talking to folks about this run, a question that inevitably comes up is “how long does it take to get to Antigua?”  My answer is generally “well, that’s sort of like asking, how much does a car cost?”  It depends, but I will say that the southbound run takes anywhere from 10 to 13 days and this year will not be a big difference. 

It is generally a mix of great days and slow days but we get there eventually.

One way or the other, It is going to be a long trip.  And, speaking of S-L-O-W, I log our position and many other stats every two hours on passage, and when we were jogging along with adverse currents and the need to wait for better conditions for more than a day and a half, we logged 144 miles under the keel and managed to gain mere 60 miles south in the direction we wanted to go, about 40 miles a day. A pathetic showing. 

Not great given the fact that when conditions are good, we can make about 250 or more miles in the same timeframe.

Anyway, we are now sailing toward our destination, and have been for hours now, but by tomorrow, early Tuesday morning, I expect that we will again be motoring, and that could continue for as many as 3-4 days based on the current forecast of very light winds to the south of us.

The good news is that the weather models suggest that the last 500-600 miles of the trip will be great sailing so fingers crossed that it holds.

I am not particularly concerned about running out of fuel, well, not yet anyway, but to be estimating that we will use more fuel on this run than any other to date is a bit sobering.  I guess that my little “guardian angel” is still with me and perhaps that is why she decided to make that tank leak two years ago so I would have to purchase a fuel bladder. 

If it were not for her, I would surely be making a stop in Bermuda for fuel and then guarantee that the run would extend to at least a full two weeks.  All I would be able to say to that would be ugh, no make that double-ugh.

So, as we continue to move along under sail, it is clear that we will be doing plenty of motoring before we get to the trade winds and ultimately to Antigua.

With that in mind, the “thought of the day” and for days to come will be conserve fuel!

Yes, repeat after me “conserve fuel”, and I will.

Do you anchor in the ocean at night? 

One of the most common questions that we get from folks that are not familiar with the cruising lifestyle is “at night when you are on passage do you anchor so you can sleep?”  Answer: “No, not really.”

Oh, and the second question is often “so, when you arrive in the islands, what resort do you move into?”  Would not that be nice.  “Please, I would like a room with a water view.  Is it available for four months?”

Last night I did find myself feeling like we were anchored, hanging out, drifting actually, several hundred miles north of Bermuda, 500 miles from anything, waiting for a small, but nasty, low (storm) to move out of the area to our south, near Bermuda.

Chris Parker, who knows that it is in his best interest to keep his clients out of the nasty, or as he likes to call it “salty” stuff, has been very aggressive in telling us not to go below 37 degrees north until sometime late Sunday.   What he was trying to convey is that if we did not follow his advice, we would find ourselves in “extreme salty” conditions, something that I have no interest in.

A few boats went south of that line anyway (one didn’t get the memo it seems) and have found themselves with adverse winds of more than 30kts as well as a lovely (read: extreme salty) mix of squalls and thunderstorms.  

By lingering north of 37 degrees north latitude, we were in an area with almost no wind, think 5-10kts.  So, for much of the last 24 hours we have been moving east along the 37 degree boundary at around 3kts, with two thirds of that speed due to an easterly current. 

As of this morning, and it is 08:00 Sunday as I sit down to write this, we are about 80 miles north of where Chris wants us to be as of dusk this evening so we decided to turn on the engine and go slow, in the 5kt range. 

The water temperature is in the low 80s and while the evenings are cool, it is comfortable with a light sweater.  We do have a full enclosure so it keeps us snug, even if it is raining.  When we first left Essex, the water temperature was in the low 60s and it was very cold, even down below in the cabin, think 60.  Fortunately, I have a cabin heater that I can run from the engine when it is on and a diesel heater for when we are sailing. 

The comfortable cool conditions will not last much longer and as we get farther south it is going to be a lot hotter.  The biggest problem is that we have to keep the boat fully buttoned up to avoid getting water down below.  With the engine running, which is located under the galley, it gets pretty stuffy.  Right now, quite nice, short sleeve weather.

Conditions are overcast, compliments of the low south of us but somehow, boring or not, I need to include a photo, or two, I the post.  So, here is a view to the north, behind us.  See how calm…

Not a lot to look at. Grey to the southeast and REALLY grey to the SW where the low is located. Hope it gets better before we get there.

We are hopeful that the nasty stuff will have dissipated as we work our way south near Bermuda.  From that point, we should have light wind and a good deal of motoring before we hit the easterly trade winds. 

It is possible that by being delayed, we will be able to avoid some of the very low wind areas but we will have to see how that goes.  Some of the weather models suggest that there will be more wind and not dead calm.   One way or the other, we should be able to sail briskly in good trade winds for perhaps the last 500-600 miles.

I will admit that last night did feel like we were anchored in an exposed roadstead, made particularly uncomfortable as it was rolly and noisy but way better than close reaching into 30kts and big seas.  We did sleep well but kept watch even though we were not moving.  With the main up with two reefs, it did a good deal of slatting and jerking.   Not great. 

Well, I guess the answer to that common question is “Yes, we do anchor in the ocean at night but not the way you think.  No, it was more like drifting along with no place to go.” 

I thought that it might be interesting to put up parts of a daily notice I get from Shoreside support for the rally.  There is 24/7 coverage for all boats in the fleet.  Mindy, who wrote this, is in London in St Mary’s Docks for the winter.  She coordinates a team of individuals that volunteer to be on call, around the clock, until the last boat gets into port.  Every day she sends out a notice of what’s going on and who might have issues.  We also have an Emergency Response Team (ERT) that helps boats with issues, mechanical and otherwise. 

So, here’s what came out last night…

We had 4 departures today, 5 diversions, and lots of issues. Dune Buggy has returned to Hampton due to the weather. I will give the 2 returned boats a day or two to rest before asking what their plans are. Other than those two returned boats, we have 2 boats in the Chesapeake and 1 in Florida who have not departed. 

We currently have 75 boats underway, a great deal of whom have erratic tracks as they try to keep themselves north of the weather. Some are so close together I imagine they feel like they are in a flotilla this year; hopefully they are having a good time. It has not been a good time for the handful of boats who ended up in large seas and unsettled conditions further south. In addition to our weather diverted boats in Bermuda, we have several new arrivals in NC & SC, and 2 repair diverted boats in NC (see issues and concerns section). We appear to have a few boats who might be diverting to points further south. 


  • Incognito departed for Antiga
  • Stella departed Hampton for Antigua
  • Alacrity departed Hampton for Marsh Harbour
  • Serenity departed Hampton for Marsh Harbour

Diverted or Resumed Boats

  • Life Above Zero, Oestara, and Raftan are diverting to Charleston.
  • Wayfinder diverted to the Cape Fear River, NC
  • Les Noble joined Summer Bird in Beaufort. Kiwi Dream is in Wanchese.
  • Mystic, Nomad, Pangolin, and Mary Darline are waiting for weather in Bermuda. Pagolin & Mary Darline are thinking about departing Monday. I haven’t heard back from Mystic or Nomad. 

Arrivals at Destination:


Boats with Concerns, or Issues:

  • Cinchona (Bahamas, offshore route) has lost their steering and is using an emergency tiller. They are also having furling problems with their mainsail. They said they did not currently require assistance and will try to make repairs when the weather calms down. Chris Parker is aware of their problems and they have corresponded with the Emergency Response Team (ERT).
  • Editor:  Steering problems come up every year and some decide just to continue on, with others turning back.  I have a windvane and a spare driver for my autopilot. I also have mine serviced by the manufacturer every few years.  I live in fear of loosing steering.  Of course, something else can also fail that I haven’t even thought of.
  • Mor Childs Play (Antigua) requested some technical assistance with an intermittent autopilot problem. The ERT is working with them. 
  • Carosy (Bahamas) is having tracking problems and has lost their topping lift. They have requested help from any Bahamas boats still in the US.
  • Yesterday, Tim sent a weather warning message to several boats who had moved into Chris’ danger zone. Tranquility had not seen the forecast. Chris Parker worked with them and determined that although his emails were sent to the correct email address, they were not ending up in Tranquility’s inbox. This is a good reminder to me that not every boat is getting their weather even when they are being sent to the correct email.  
  • Betwixt, Once, and Flash have lost their Starlink (maybe others as well) but they are still able to communicate and update tracking with other devices. Parallax’s inReach died and they will be updating their position manually. As usual, Tim and Allen continue to work with any boats who stop tracking or have communication issues, and advise them how to get their forecasts with alternate devices. 
  • Kiwi Dream (Bahamas) is having major repair work done. He hopes to continue with the rally soon, but also recognizes that may not be possible.   
  • Editor: A few days ago, Kiwi Dream tried to transit Oregon Inlet, a terrible inlet near Cape Hatteras, I guess to avoid bad weather.  They hit the bottom and sustained significant damage.  I can’t imagine what they were thinking as even local fishing boats have difficulty there. 
  • Summer Bird (Bahamas) is in Beaufort for a generator repair. They hope to be ready to go on Monday afternoon, weather permitting. 
  • Zephyr-McGuire (Antigua) has arrived in Portsmouth. They are interested in finding a Delivery Captain for December. If anyone has any good recommendations, please pass them along to me
  • Editor: A day out of Newport, Zephyr’s new engine transmission failed.  It was a huge disappointment so they had to divert back to Newport for repairs that will likely take weeks.  They still want to head south so are considering hiring a captain and delivery crew to move the boat in December. 
  • Dune Buggy (Antigua) did not like the weather and turned back. He has arrived in Hampton. I will follow up in a couple days about their plans.

At least all systems are still in order aboard Pandora and reading about all the issues that the fleet is encountering is one of the reasons that I am so cautious. 

Glad to be moving south again.  Hope that it does not get too nasty.  

Oh yeah, we will not be moving into a resort when we return to Pandora in mid-December.  That is a bit above my pay grade.