So Bob, what is the plan for heading south?

Every year I make plans, generally months in advance, on how the season will unfold. I spend the summer thinking about what work has to be done to Pandora to make sure that she is ready for the run. I also work hard to have the right mix of “stuff” aboard so that Brenda is comfortable and happy for the time away from “her people” and in the cruising community.

A few months ago I discovered that there was dampness in the side decks and that they need to be opened up, dried out and replaced. That’s a big job and one that I can’t even contemplate dealing with here in the US as the cost of labor, and it is a VERY labor intensive job, is so high. I have heard of horror stories about deck work costing $50,000, a number that I don’t even want to contemplate.

So, fast forward to today and we have decided that we will take Pandora to Trinidad for next summer and to have the work done there. I have been speaking with a vendor that some of my friends have spoken highly of and am getting close to “pushing the button” on the job. Ideally, I’d like to have the work done in Antigua but the labor rates there are just too high so Trinidad it is.

My original plan for the season was to make landfall in Antigua and spend the winter working our way north to the USVI, west to the Dominican Republic and north through the Bahamas before heading home to the US. All that was tossed out the window with the plan to run to Trinidad.

Additionally, a few weeks ago I discovered, more or less by accident, that a seal on our bow thruster had failed and needed to be replaced so out of the water Pandora came, for the second time this season. As of today she will be back afloat and the real effort of last minute provisioning and preparing for the run south will begin.

I hated the idea of hauling a second time this summer but at least her bottom has had a bit of last minute paint touchup and she will head south with a clean bottom. I had painted some special antifouling on the prop in June but was disappointed to see that even with minimal use this summer, some of the paint had worn off. I didn’t realize that there was a brush-on option and added it yesterday. The prop looks nice and, well, grey. It will be interesting to see how it holds up. At least I know that the paint is fairly thick to start.

I have written about the new prop before. It is a pretty nifty folding Gori that is quite streamlined when sailing. Actually, this shot doesn’t show it fully folded, so you will have to use your imagination.

I wrote extensively about the problems with the old prop and the expense of getting the new one installed. The phrase, “it’s always something” surely applied to this summer. However, it could have been worse. I saw this 70′ Pershing fast cruiser in the shed at the yard yesterday. It can go 40kts. No surprise when you see these propellers. I was told that this running gear would set you back a million or so. That makes my own prop issues seem insignificant.

Just keeping her in the shed for the winter set the owner back $21,000. Now that’s a “big boy boat”. Big? You know what they say about huge yachts that go fast with owners that wear fat gold chains? Big boat, little…

Anyway, back to Pandora, a boat that goes very slow. BTW but I am confident in saying that there is not a great correlation on engine size. Sad, but true.

So, she splashes today and back to Essex to begin final provisioning in anticipation of a departure at the end of the month. My plan was to head to Hampton and leave from there but the need to haul made that impractical.

I’ll admit that I am a bit anxious about heading south from New England into the North Atlantic in November as it is a lot farther from the Gulf Stream than Hampton. However a last minute haul made it impossible to first head to Hampton and start the run from there. Here the Gulf Stream is about 300 miles from Essex, and several days at sea, before we would be across the Stream verses Hampton where you can be across in about 24 hours. That means that a good weather window has to be about four days up here verses a bit over one day from Hampton. And, this time of year the windows are short, sometimes only 2-3 days. All this is because you DO NOT want to be in the Gulf Stream when the wind turns to the NE, which it does when every front comes off the coast.

Fortunately, according to Chris Parker, our weather router, the patterns of fronts exiting the coast right now seem to be about a week long, so that would give us enough time to get across the GS between North Easters, which is a good thing. We will know more in about a week so stay tuned for updates. I surely will.

Provisioning and deciding what will be aboard Pandora this season will be a lot more complex as we will have to assume that most of what is aboard when we head out will have to be aboard Pandora until we bring her back here in two years. In the past we always knew that we’d be back in the spring. Not so this year.

As a result, Brenda and I will be going through the boat and carefully considering what needs to be taken home now and what stays. I guess that much of what we transfer on and off Pandora each season will have to stay, meaning that we will now have a lot more duplicates than in the past.

Trinidad has always been a mystery to us even though we have heard a lot about visiting there over the years. Last weekend, our very good cruising friends, Stephanie and Jim, from Hero, visited us and told us how much they enjoyed their time in Trinidad last year and have offered to join us as crew for the run there in the spring. We will likely take them aboard in Grenada or somewhere in the vicinity, for the run south.

Brenda and Stephanie. Adorable.

I guess that’s about all for now. Lots to do and in spite of well laid plans, who knows? It does seem clear that Pandora will not be heading home next summer but beyond that…

Time will tell, as it always does. Best laid plans…

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