Coming full circle. The second decade…

Pandora was hauled a few days ago to repair a damaged prop shaft.  It pains me to be in this position as it’s one of those “invisible” upgrades that are essential, cost a lot, but don’t show to the casual eye.   And, to make matters worse, as is always the case, it now appears that the project is bigger than expected.

I’ll need a new shaft, cutlass bearing, prop and repairs to the linkage that failed to hold the shaft as well.  Oh yeah, after 16 years, my Autoprop is also in need of some serious love.   Sadly, after a careful evaluation, in spite of years of happy service, I have decided to go with another brand, a new prop.  More about that in a later post.

I replaced the shaft in our last Pandora, a SAGA 43.  That was a pretty big deal and more than a few boat dollars.  In that particular case, some fishing line, wrapped around the shaft and migrated into the cutlass bearing and created some grooves in the SS shaft.  Hard to believe that nylon line could wear stainless but it did.

The good news is that all the plans for the shaft, prop and the rest of the gear in that general neighborhood is in place so I expect that Pandora will be back in the water in about 10 days.  To keep myself sane when facing thousands of dollars in repairs, I like to think “happy thoughts”, like what we will do next season.

And, speaking of  “next season”, setting aside that we are technically in season  for most here in the North East, this year our “off season” will be more “on” than in the last few years as I am hosting an event here in Essex for the Salty Dawgs and Ocean Cruising Club.  And, I am also planning a “mini cruise” with some of these folks in early July.  More trips out I expect during the summer before I get serious about getting ready to head to Antigua.

Sure, we are now “post” Memorial Day and there are a lot more boats in the harbor.  I am always amazed to see how many boats are not in the water by Memorial Day, the “sacred weekend” a deadline that always loomed large when I was part of the working world.  In all of my “pre-retired” years of sailing I believe that I only missed two memorial day weekends, rain or shine, on the water and those were not for a lack of trying.

So, back to the title of this post and the question of what we are planning for next season.  It’s particularly timely as we are now into our second decade as “snowbirds” and as much as Brenda would like to think otherwise, there is no obvious end in sight.  So far, so good.

After our arrival in Antigua in November, I expect that we will head north, perhaps south first to Guadeloupe for some rum, but then begin our run north, heading to St Martin and onto the Virgins.

I am in discussions with the Nanny Cay resort in the British Virgins about doing a rendezvous there in early March.  The BVI got a bad rep after treating cruisers badly during the pandemic, impounding boats for the most trivial of transgressions and most cruisers have abandoned them for the much more friendly USVI which are only a few miles away.

Hoping to put things right, the manager of Nanny Cay Marina contacted me and wants to see what he can do to bring the cruising community back.   I do think that it would be great if we could put a rendezvous together.  The last time I was there was in the spring of 2017 when I participated in my first Homeward Bound Rally with the Salty Dawg Sailing Association.

The facility was trashed in a hurricane a number of years ago and has been completely restored.  It will be interesting to see what it’s like.  It was pretty nice years ago.  This is a post I did after that visit.

From there perhaps we will spend some time in the USVI, the Spanish Virgins, Puerto Rico, The Dominican Republic and then up through the Bahamas.  At the end of the season I expect we will make a run to the US, perhaps for a time in Charleston before I run Pandora back to CT.

All of that would bring us full circle.

Back in 2012, and our first run south, we visited the Bahamas and continued to do so each season until 2016 when we headed to Cuba and then, in recent years, to the Caribbean.

We really enjoyed the Bahamas which are blessed with some of the clearest waters in the world.

The Bahamas are very shallow with an average depth of about 6′ and with a tidal range of 18″, and with all that water flowing in and out twice a day nearly half of the water in the entire country is replenished every day.  And, as the waters adjacent to all that shallow water is thousands of feet deep, the water coming into the shallows is very clear.

I was blown away when I first encountered water that clear.   After sailing in Long Island Sound, where two to three foot visibility is the norm, I didn’t quite know what to make of seeing upwards of 100′ underwater.

Imagine hanging off of the back of your boat and seeing the anchor in the sand…We sailed over 1,000 miles in the Bahamas that first year.  That was partly because every few days a cold front would come crashing down from the north bringing unfavorable winds so we had to move somewhere else and scramble for cover as there is very little in the way of 360 degree shelter in the Bahamas.

We met many characters along the way like this guy who was cruising with friends.  He was a nice young man but would have been my worse nightmare if I had a daughter.   “Daddy, this is my new friend Jason.  He has a sailboat and has invited me to cruise with him.  You like boats, right?”ShBrenda is still creative aboard and completes projects afloat every season.  </p

And I can still fit into this wetsuit, a decade later."<br

On our first run south in 2012 we met Bill and Maureen aboard Kalunamoo and still hang out with them every season more than a decade later.]</pNot sure about this shot but it seemed like a good idea at the time.We also got to know the owners of Ariel, now our Pandora.  After years of arriving in port hours after them we now own her and beat most other boats to anchor.   She’s now a lovely grey color but still the same great boat.The biggest problem with cruising the Bahamas is that when a cold front exits the US it comes crashing to the south, bringing with it clocking winds that force everyone to run for cover lest they find themselves on a lee shore.  There are very few places in the Bahamas that have protection from the west winds that follow a cold front.

It’s also a very rural area with minimal infrastructure so there aren’t many places to eat out.  And, if you can’t take a lot of sun, like Brenda post melanoma, there’s not a lot to do.  There are beautiful beaches and the water is great but not so great for the sun adverse.

However, it’s a beautiful place and there will be a certain symmetry in heading back to the islands that began our winter cruising more than a decade ago when we headed south to begin our first big voyage.

A lot of water has gone under the keel since we first ran down the coast of New Jersey to begin or lives as snowbirds and what a ride it’s been.

And as we posed for this picture on our first stop in 2012 at the Fayerweather Yacht Club in Bridgeport CT.  In it’s own way, that was a full circle too as that’s where we kept our very first boat, our 20′ Cape Cod Catboat back in the early 80s. I only regret is that I am now 68 which seems pretty old to me.  Or, at least a lot older than when we used to go sailing on Tao, our 20′ catboat.

Or, as one of our boys said to Brenda on her birthday so long ago, “Happy Birthday Mom, you are really old now”.  He meant that as a compliment from at the time as from his perspective older was better, the way the very young look at the process of aging.

Out of the mouths of babes, no truer words were ever spoken.

I may be old but grass isn’t growing under our feet any time soon.

Poor Brenda, being dragged all over Hell’s half acre and a plan to head back to the Bahamas one more time, bringing things full circle after all these years.

At least she is smiling.  That’s my girl…


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