To divert or not to divert? Waterspouts in Pandora’s future?

Yes, I know.  I’ve been home for a few days now and haven’t put up a post.  Some of you who follow my blog (Yes, both of my loyal readers.  Mom, are you there?) have been calling and sending emails wondering “what happened Bob.  Are you home?  I see that Pandora is in Hampton?  What’s going on?”.  Yes, yes, I know. I’ve been bad but the grass was really long and needed cutting and I did have to visit Mom too.

To set the record straight.  I arrived home in Hampton VA and tied up at the dock at the Blue Water Sailing Center at 05:00 on Tuesday.  I have to say that it was awesome, no make that AWESOME, when I shut of the engine and Pandora was totally silent.  No sound of wind or water rushing by the hull.   We didn’t move an inch.  So quiet.  We made it!  After we celebrated with a “wee tot” of fine rum from Martinique, time for a nap.  Less than two hours later, up again to begin getting cleaned up for the arrival of Customs and to get Pandora ready to leave in her slip for a month.

Yes, it’s been too long since my last post on Sunday, “penned” while we were bounding along hundreds of miles from shore.  As you know, our original plan was to head directly home but in my often twice daily discussions with Chris Parker, it became clear that if we were to continue on that “getting there would NOT be half the fun”.  And, based on Wednesday’s, summary forecast , we made the right call.  This is what he wrote about where we were heading, a few days out.

“Cold FRONT trailing S from LO (moving NE thru the OhioValley) will pass the region thru early evening. Strong winds will remain from a S-SW direction even after passing. Squalls ahead of FRONT will be severe with potential for damaging winds, torrential rainfall, and waterspouts”

WATERSPOUTS!  What the F%@#?   Sailing in the ocean is tough enough on body and boat and to add really nasty weather with gale force winds to the mix was not great.

Besides, remember the water in the fuel tank?   Well, that was only the most recent problem to report.  During our day spent crossing the Gulf Stream with 6-9′ “square” waves and opposing wind and current, the boom-vang hydraulics failed so I was no longer able to flatten the mainsail.  That mean that there was no way to sail close to the wind.    To have continued north and into really nasty weather, with that problem would have really complicated things.   As far as the vang is concerned, it’s being fixed in Hampton by a rigger and the fuel tanks will also be cleaned.   Remember the “water in the fuel thing”? Perhaps while the tanks are open the guy can figure out why my fuel gauges don’t work.

So, we made it, to Hampton anyway, and I’ll be returning in late June to bring Pandora the rest of the way home.

I thought that it would be fun to share a few highlights of our trip before I break.

We departed from Nanny Cay marina, a really nice spot in Tortola with a great beach bar, of course. And a pool.  I forced myself, against my better judgement, to sit there for an afternoon.  Tough duty? Indeed!Once underway, the trip included just about every weather option you could expect on an ocean passage.  Days of motoring in nearly flat calm…And plenty of fast sailing with a fresh breeze on the beam.  For hours blasting along at 10kts sustained with bursts to 11kts with phosphorescent glowing waves breaking all around us on a moonless night.

Fabulous sunsets.That changed by the minute as the sun winked out below the horizon.   Pandora’s mascot Louis enjoyed standing watch as we made our way north.   Recall that Louis joined us in St Martin with the hope of “seeing the world, Pandora style”.  Someday Louis will go to live with our granddaughter Tori when she’s old enough to hear about his adventures with YaYa and Grandpy.Pandora’s crew, Cliff and Jim during a particularly tense part of the trip.  Jim “striking a pose” with his morning coffee  Amazingly, these guys were the FIRST ever to be aboard Pandora to choose decaf.  Imagine, three sailors, including me, who don’t want high test and all aboard Pandora?  There’s probably 4 or 5 more out there but I haven’t met them.
Plenty of time was spent at the helm on the chance that the autopilot would pull yet another “crazy Ivan” and head violently off on a new course which it did sometimes more than once an hour and sometimes not for days.  All this became routine when the plotter at the helm failed.  While the plotter is dead, it was still flickering, now and again, and seemingly sending confusing signals to the autopilot.
And, speaking of failed plotters.  I called Raymarine today, spoke with a tech guy, and received some really bad news that my plotter could not be fixed.  He said that the only option was to replace the other one as well as the radar. Such bad news and I don’t even want to think about what all that would cost.

However, not to be deterred and as Brenda says, “Bob and the dog, ever hopeful”, I called my “friend” at one of the local marine electronics installers on the off chance that he might have an “old” plotter from a boat that he worked on that was still functional.  Remarkably, he told me that he’s pulling one off of a boat next week that’s probably never even been turned on.  That owner had replaced the plotter two years ago and never launched the boat.  Now, he’s doing a full electronics suite replacement and is tossing all of his “old” equipment.  Go ahead, toss one my way!  Perfect!  I can get a “new” plotter for a fraction of the price.   Come to think of it, I think I’ll purchase some of the other instruments to keep as spares.  Am I lucky or what?  A new “obsolete” plotter for a discounted price and I don’t even have to pay postage to get it.

It’s remarkable just how isolated you are when sailing offshore.  We were hundreds of miles from “anything” and went for 4-5 days without seeing more than one or two ships and for several days, nothing at all.   You are really on your own.

We were visited by pods of dolphins (notoriously difficult to photograph) on a few occasions.  ‘They departed as quickly as they appeared. Of course, each morning we found flying fish on deck and in the cockpit.   I used some of the larger ones as bait but we didn’t catch anything.  However, something caught the bait.  And once, the lure was taken too with the wire leader broken.  I wonder how “big the one that got away” was?  Perhaps I don’t want to know.  I have been cautioned never to use “really large” lures as there is a relationship between the size of the lure and the size of the fish.  In fishing, it seems, that indeed, “size matters”.

Of course, If you’ve been following on “where in the world is Pandora“, you’ve seen the course we took as we headed north.  For me, it’s endlessly entertaining to see the actual track from our 8 day voyage from Tortola to Hampton VA, a distance of about 1,200 miles.   It’s a pretty straight shot and you can even see where we were set north-east by the strong current of the gulf stream, 100 miles wide running to the NE at about 4kts.   That’s a lot of moving water. So, there you have it, Pandora’s safe and sound and her crew, none the worse for wear.  I’ll be back aboard to finish the trip north in late June.

When I head back south to rejoin Pandaor, I’ll be able to visit our new granddaughter Tori.  Tori was very excited, as you can see, when she learned of our pending visit and jumped up on her father’s shoulders.  Grandpy’s coming to visit.  Who’s Grandpy?So, there you have it.  That’s my report and I’m sticking to it.  Perhaps I’ll close with a sunset photo which is fitting as our arrival in Hampton signals, sort of, the end (sunset?) of our 2016/2017 season afloat as I’ll be hauling Pandora for a few months of maintenance and repairs in July.   Besides, I have another bathroom to remodel. Yes, leaving Tortola when we did and diverting to Hampton were good calls as if we’d left later or kept heading north.  Who knows?  Waterspouts, gale force winds.  I don’t want to think about that.

I guess that’s it for now.  Time to put down some more grass seed.  It just wouldn’t do to have bear spots on the lawn, would it?


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