“What do you do aboard Pandora all day? Really!”

It’s Sunday morning and we have been here in Antigua for nearly three weeks, with no end in sight.   Our plan, when we arrived here, was to stay for a week and then move south to Guadeloupe and explore some of the other islands near there and then return to Antigua and meet up with our son Christopher for a week.

However, as is so often the case, boat repairs and more recently, weather, has conspired to keep us here.  So here we are so I thought that take a moment and share what a typical day aboard Pandora is like as we sit here.  Did I mention that we have been in Antigua for nearly three weeks?  Thought so.  It’s been a long time but it’s better than Cleveland in March for sure.

In my last life, when I was working,  my day got off to a rousing start really early, usually in the dark, immediately breaking out in a cold sweat, wondering what trauma I’d be dealing with when I got to the office.  That would be quickly followed by a quick cup of coffee before I headed to the office where I would “run” non-stop for something like 12 hours and then return home exhausted, eat dinner, sleep and begin the whole process all over again.  That went on for more than a few years but not nearly as long as it might have so I feel lucky, very lucky.

Our new life?  Well, it’s different.   “Like no kidding Bob”.   There are similarities but it’s a lot LOT less structured, and much SLOWER.   Actually, not much of note really happens before late morning, even though I get up quite early, usually before it’s even light out, a cold sweat isn’t a regular occurrence.   And, the work nightmares, they stopped, mostly, after about 5 years.

One question we get a lot from “land based” folks is what we do all day and “don’t you get bored” on the boat.  Well, I suppose that we do get bored, sometimes, but more often than not, living aboard has a nice rhythm to it and there is always something that needs attention on the boat like today when the little Honda generator was acting up while we were trying to do laundry.  Dosn’t that sound fulfilling?  A awkwardly running generator?  Yes, Pandora has a washer/dryer but we have to run the Honda in order to do laundry.  Well, the generator kept dying but after I changed the spark plug, checked the spark arrestor and changed the oil (it really needed it, oops) it seems to be running better.  I think that there is a problem with the fuel filter but that doesn’t seem to be serviceable unless I take it to a dealer.   And, while we are doing laundry, we also have to run the watermaker full blast to make up for the water that we use doing a load of wash.    A load uses 8 gallons for a load according to the manual.

Anyway, the day begins when I wake up.  No alarm except when I have to get up to listen to Chris Parker’s weather briefing and am afraid that I will oversleep.  However, more often than not, I am awake anyway.   Not to be indelicate, but my bladder works very well as an alarm and other guys of a “certain age”, and you know who you are, will understand.

When I get up it’s generally still dark and the first thing I do is put on the coffee.  Sound familiar?   And just so you don’t think that we live a fully deprived life, we have capuccino most mornings thanks to the miracle of a stove-top espresso maker, a low tech and wonderful device.  We also have a milk frother that runs on 110v and is powered by the inverter.  In goes the milk, push the button and, voila, in a few moments, perfect warm foamed milk.  We use “box milk”, the sort that can sit unrefrigerated on a shelf for months, when we are aboard. The brand sold in the U.S. Parmalat, tastes odd to us so we were very pleased to find a number of brands here in the islands, from France mostly, that actually  taste like real milk.  Fresh refrigerated milk is also available here but it is terribly expensive.  Think $10 a half gallon.   Anyway, the boxed, stabilized, keeps for a year unopened on the shelf.  It isn’t cheap but it’s actually less than in the U.S. and a lot better tasting.

So, back to the beginning of my day.  I generally wake up while it’s pretty dark, more like twilight (Is that what not-quite-light in the morning is called?)  and turn on the coffee, which I put on the stove the night before so all I have to do it turn on the gas and go.   It’s also a good idea for me to be quiet because if I wake Brenda up that early, well, it would be a CLM,  a Career Limiting Move.   Better to be quiet.

While waiting for coffee I turn on the “hotspot” on our phone, which lets us get e-mail and the NY Times on our iPad so I can hear yet again, now crazy things are in Washington.  And, to make it even more fun, I get my news through the NY Times, a bastion of balanced if completely and unapologetically liberal thinking.

Getting the news and our e-mail on board consistently is a treat and something that we haven’t enjoyed until this year, well not reliably anyway.  When we were in Cuba, well forget Internet except in Government hotels and during our years in the Bahamas, it was very tough to find wifi on shore, was always terribly slow and usually only available for a fee.  We had a phone hotspot while we were in the Bahamas but it never worked very well.  So, this year with connectivity much easier, it is a nice change of pace.

Anyway, I get up pretty early in spite of the fact that there isn’t anything at all that’s pressing.  I guess that old habits die hard or perhaps it’s simply the bladder thing, probably the bladder.

Tonight there is a full moon.  At least I think it’s tonight and the view of the moon for the last few nights has been positively amazing.  This is what the moon setting over the mountains behind Pandora looked like this morning.   I woke up just in time to catch it dropping behind the hills.  What a view. Perhaps even more remarkable is that my camera, with image stabilization, could actually take that photo.  Not perfectly crisp but a nice shot.

And, to continue on that vein, how about last evening’s sunset.  You know how I like sunsets. Ok, while I am at it, I’ll toss in today’s sunrise.  Yes, I know, it looks a LOT like one I put up a few days ago.    But it’s nice. Ok, one more thing.  How about a double rainbow?   While every day is a sunny day, it often rains several times for a few minutes.  The sun goes away as a dark cloud passes overhead , we run to close all the deck hatches, it rains, it stops raining, a spectacular rainbow appears, we say “Oooo…Ahh..” and we open up the hatches again until the next shower.

So, not a lot happens in the morning worth noting but we somehow manage to keep busy, at least sort of, until around noon when we gain enough momentum to head ashore.   This generally includes a quest for faster wifi as what we have on the boat isn’t fast enough to pull up websites or anything faster than email.

I bring my camera with me everywhere, always on the lookout for something to write about.  How about a donkey? And a very calm one that seems to be saying to say “Don’t worry, be happy.  I’m on island time Mon”.  You are probably wondering “Bob, now can you possibly know what he’s thinking?  Actually, he’s probably just waiting until you step behind him so he can give you a swift kick.”.   I don’t know how I know but I just do.  He’s a very calm donkey.  I am completely confident on that point.  The last time I put up an equine shot was in ST Martin and that was a horse walking past a bakery.  No doubt, I had a mouth full of baguette at the time.   Oh, how I do miss the food of the French islands.  Antigua food?  Ok, at best compared with the French islands.

One thing that occupies my time endlessly, is to watch the comings and goings of massive mega-yachts.  One appeared on the horizon today.  Nice view all around and you can see it in the distance.  Big boat.As she came into the harbor she just dwarfed the boats owned by “mere mortals” like us.   I do wonder what these guys do to make enough money to own and operate one of these giants.  Given the secrecy surrounding who owns what, I expect that they would rather we not know. Really, really big. He probably burned more fuel just entering the harbor than I burn in a whole year of cruising.   Watching one of these behemoths approach a dock is like watching ballet. they make it look easy but I’ll bet that it isn’t.  This one came in around 07:00 and had to leave and head back out as the marina they were approaching wasn’t open until 08:00.  I guess that even those guys have to wait sometimes.   Not often, but sometimes.

And, of course, part of each day is devoted to making sure that, Louis, Pandora’s mascot, enjoys his time aboard.  Louis joined us in St Martin.
His long range plan is to sail with us for several years, see the world and then go to live with our granddaughter Tori when she is old enough so that she won’t just pull his ears, arms and tail clean off.  He’s very concerned about that but we have assured him that we will make it clear to Tori when he goes to live with her, that pulling his arms, ears and tail off isn’t  what nice girls do to mice, especially such a well traveled and refined French mouse as Louis.

And Tori is already thinking about what sort of image that might appeal to Louis, such a cultured and oh-so-French  mouse.   She knows that high fashion is very French. In spite of my best efforts, I am not confident that I have done a very good job of describing what a day aboard is really like.  I should add that I spend a lot of time writing too.  There is always some sort of deadline coming up for an article that is due as I write for a number of newsletters and magazines and don’t forget these scintillating blog posts that just come pouring out of my tangled head, like this one.

And while I’d like to avoid thinking about it, there’s always those pesky whack-a-mole issues to keep up with although things don’t seem to break quite as much when we are just sitting at anchor.   I probably shouldn’t say anything as I might jinx it.  Besides, the SSB still isn’t fully operational as it’s just been too windy to get to a dock so the electronics guy can easily work on the final touches that need to be done.  Happily, the wind seems to be settling down so perhaps tomorrow we can get into the marina and he can finally finish up the job.   I’d like that as it will good to know that all is settled for me to get my daily weather briefing form Chris Parker when I head home in May.

And, speaking of heading home,  it’s been challenging  to find decent flights that will get Brenda to CT in April from Antigua but I think we have finally settled on a plan.  She will fly to JFK in NY, as that’s a non-stop flight, and then she will rent a car for the two hour drive home.  It’s complicated and will be a very long day but at least it’s only one long day.  The alternative from the “you can’t get theah from heah” Antigua to Hartford, in less than 30 hours, quandary had to be NYC and a car rental.  That’s actually pretty good since it avoids a hotel room for her along the way.

There is a gap of several weeks from when Brenda leaves, my friend Craig comes to Antigua to help me run Pandora to the BVI and my crew arrives for the return trip in mid-May so I plan to head home as well for about two weeks to help Brenda get the house and gardens ready for summer.  After that, I’ll head back to the BVI to meet up with crew and bring Pandora to CT.

For sure, the time I am away from Pandora will be a lot more action packed than our typical days aboard Pandora.  However, I am looking forward to being back in CT as the summer will soon be here and it will be lovely.  And, we can go for a ride in our little red car.
Oh yea, as an added bonus, I will even be home for Mother’s day for the first time in several years.  Brenda and my mom will like that.

Mom, are you listening?  I know you are as Karla tells me that she’s reading my posts to you.  Thanks Karla.

Well, there you have it.   A blow by blow description of what happens aboard Pandora while we are in port.  Not much but it’s not boring.  Well, at least not to us.

I had better break off now as there’s got to be something that I have to attend to. Hope so because I  don’t want to get bored.

I’m not bored, really.   It’s a beautiful day.  Is that a rain cloud coming over the mountain?  Quick close the hatches.

See? Plenty to do.

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