My very own guardian Angel.

Pandora’s been back in CT for about a week following an unceremonial tow for the last mile of our 1,750 nm run from St Thomas.

I’ll say that it is a bit strange to have her here in Essex and yet not be able to move her at all given the fact that her prop shaft is not attached to the transmission.  When we were heading up the river, waiting at the railroad bridge, the prop shaft pulled out from the transmission coupling so we had to take a tow for the “last mile” on our trip.

Remarkably, the shaft did not pull out over the 11 days that we were underway, it happened when we were nearly all the way to our destination.   Some might say that the timing was perfect.  Accident?  I doubt it.

For much of my life I have felt blessed with my very own guardian Angel sitting on my shoulder, helping me out of trouble when things get rough.

I can think of many instances when things could have gone terribly wrong and yet somehow I got a “nudge” that kept me from being in the wrong place at the wrong time, helping me step aside from the proverbial “speeding train”.

It’s hard to imagine that there is enough luck to go around to favor me with a mechanical breakdown just a mile from my destination in Essex after an 11 day run.   A simple “wow, that was lucky” doesn’t seem to explain how that sort of thing has happened so many times over the years.

After getting Pandora towed to the mooring my next thought was to try and see if I could fix the problem so a few days later I spent hours taking the coupling apart and putting it back together.

I contacted the Yanmar distributor in NJ for advice and the tech sent me a parts diagram for the coupler.  Taking it apart took hours and I spilt more than a little blood and sweat.   But, I got it back together.

Not a lot of parts. The back end of the transmission.  It seems that the end of the prop shaft, that inserts into the coupling, had slipped a lot and was quite chewed up.  I took a few more hours to put everything back together, satisfied that I had done the best job that I could,  I put the engine in reverse and revved it up to see if my work held…

It didn’t and the prop pulled the shaft right out of the coupling again.  Ugh…

I called the tech back and he told me that the scoring on the shaft meant that there was a lot less surface area left for the coupling to compress and it just wouldn’t hold.

Ok, ok, got it.  Time to haul Pandora and have the whole shebang replaced, shaft and all.  Ouch…

I’ll bet this is going to cost a few boat dollars.   Such is life, I guess.

As is always the case, there are a lot of items that need to be addressed aboard Pandora, some interior cabinetry modifications, re-bedding some fittings and a couple of hatches as well as myriad other projects to numerous to outline here.

Ok, enough of that for now.

Another thing that’s been on my mind since returning home is Starlink.  It’s been a bit of a head spinner over the last few months with the “rules” changing on a weekly and monthly basis.

When I first became aware of this service, I ordered a dish and had someone bring it to Antigua.  I was blown away by how easy it was to use and how FAST.   After a few “golden” months things have become a lot more complicated and confusing.   See my post about that wonderous moment when we first signed on to the service.

For the first few glorious months, we were able to use Starlink to access unlimited amounts of high speed data for a low price, about $130/month.  Then rumors flew that we would not be able to use it outside of North America and would have to go on a maritime plan for about double that amount.

Finally, a few months ago, I received a nastygram from Starlink explaining that according to the “fine print” in my terms-of-service, I could no longer use Starlink on the low cost plan except on land, lakes and rivers and perhaps not even outside of North America.   Lakes and Rivers?  Closer to home in the US? When does the Hudson River become the Atlantic Ocean and what about Raritan Bay.  Ocean, river?  Something else.  It’s unclear.

I contacted Starlink customer service several times and never got a complete answer.

Meanwhile I knew plenty of cruisers who ignored that email and stayed on the lower priced plan.  And yes, the service still worked in harbors even if they were not technically “lakes and rivers”.   One couple, also on the lower cost “land” plan, told me that the unit continued to work fine in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico until they went offshore to the Bahamas when it stopped working only to immediately resume when they were in the Bahamas.  And, in that case, it worked everywhere, even between islands.  They are now in the US, traversing the ICW and again, it’s working fine on the lower cost plan.

Being the good little rule follower that I (sometimes, every now and again, well at least occasionally) am, when I was told to switch to a maritime plan, I did so.  That plan, at $250/month only allows for 50GB/ month, which I used up in a little  more than a week, then I had to pay $2gb for data over that amount.   By the end of the month an additional $100, running my first bill to $350 for a single month, an unsustainable level.

To complicate matters further, Starlink offered me an opportunity to upgrade to the high performance dish for $1,900, albeit at a $600 discount off of the normal price.  And they said that I could keep the old dish and sell it if I wished.  That’s a pretty good deal.

However, once again, a number of details remain unclear.   I had heard that they would be coming out with an updated dish that is about the same size as the current dish but that it was going to be much more powerful, and I expect, more energy efficient.

The small dish that I have now is pretty power hungry and the offered upgrade uses twice the power, probably an unstainable amount aboard Pandora as we don’t have a house generator and rely on solar and wind to charge the batteries.   I have put in a support ticket on this subject and have not heard back anything except that my new dish will ship in a week or two.

Should I cancel the order?  Wait for the new one?   Who knows.

That’s a problem as I really don’t want the new dish if an upgrade will be out shortly that should use about the same amount of power as my current system.   One thing for sure is that my current dish, the RV, did not work well on passage when the going got rough.  Perhaps that was unique to service where I was at the time, within a few hundred miles of Bermuda.  Alas, yet another ticket looking for answers.  So far, radio silence…

So, the existential question is if I should cancel my order for the upgraded dish and risk having to pay an additional $600 to get one down the road.  Will the new dish be smaller and if so, cheaper?  Who knows.

One thing for sure is that Starlink is an awesome product and like everything else that Musk is involved in, fraught with challenges.  But, Elon does deserve to be rich as his products are truly groundbreaking.

When I ordered the new unit it was with a simple click of a button and I sure wish that getting good actionable answers to simple questions was as easy.

I guess I’ll just hold my breath for a few more days, with the hope of hearing from them.  If not, and I receive the new dish, that it will be easier to return it than it’s been to get answers from their support folks.

Well at least Pandora didn’t break down in the middle of the ocean, thanks to my personal Guardian Angel.


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