Where’s Pandora going? Try nowhere… Time to buy more sweaters.

It’s been nearly seven years since I retired and every winter Brenda and I have headed south in the fall for a winter of cruising in warmer climes.   We’ve done the ICW a number of times, Bahamas for a few years, two months in Cuba, and, for the last two seasons, the eastern Caribbean.  However, that unbroken run seems to be coming to an end.    Actually, it would be more accurate to say that it’s “taking a break”.  Well, I sure hope it’s only a break.

As I have written recently, Pandora was in the shop for painting and some engine work and, as planned, she splashed the day after Labor Day so that I could begin the long process of getting her ready for the run south with nearly two months to work my way through the long list of tasks and upgrades.

After several years of hard use, Pandora was surely in need of a face-lift.  Her paint was looking pretty shabby and the heat of the tropics had caused problems with some of the foam backed headliner in her cabin which has begun drooping and worse.   As I negotiated the projects to be done by the refit group, the cost of fixing the headliner was just too high so I decided to do it myself once she was re-launched in late summer.  Some of it has come down completely.   Note the “puffy” look to the right.  The foam backing on the vinyl has totally broken down from the tropical heat.

Nasty, right?
To fix the problem when the Pandora was painted, I was quoted at something like $5,000.  Way too rich for my blood so I opted to do it myself.  It’s going to be a nasty job and will involve removing hardware, molding and… Well, I don’t even want to think about all that.

So, back to the day after labor day and Pandora’s launching.  As planned, she went back in the water.  However, as I was checking to see that all was in working order I discovered that the engine work had not been completed.  Yes, the paint work was terrific but the  mechanical work was not done by the sub-contractor and it seemed that nobody noticed.  So, out of the water she went and after three more weeks, the work was finally completed.

The good news is that the contracted work is all done.  The bad news is that my two month window shrunk to less than a month and I am now seriously wondering if I can get the boat ready in time to head south.

A month sounds like a long time but the unknowns with the interior work was bad enough and then “the other shoe dropped”.   You know that, with a boat, it’s always something”.  And that particular something may have driven the last “nail in the coffin” for going south this season.

As I fired up the instruments when I left the dock, everything was in working order but after about an hour the screen on the primary chart plotter began to get dim and an hour later it went dark and failed entirely.   That was particularly bad news for me as there is no way that I would head offshore without everything in working order.

It’s worth noting that the plotter at the helm failed last year so the unit that is there now was a replacement, purchased from a dealer as “near new”.  It had been taken off of a race boat that had not been used for several years and I was told that it had very few hours on it.

Getting a plotter fixed or even replaced isn’t a big deal, well at least not compared to getting a boat painted,  except that Raymarine has discontinued that series and is no longer supplying parts or doing repairs.   I spoke with the tech people and the local dealer and learned that Raymarine  hasn’t supported that model for the last three years.

But wait, it gets worse.  To replace that, now obsolete plotter, will require that I replace the other plotter, the radar and the dozen individual instruments and repeaters that are scattered in the cockpit and down below.   We’re talking BIG DOLLARS, and that’s before we even think about all the work in running cables throughout the boat to connect all the stuff.   NOT HAPPENING and certainly not in less than a month.

All of this gave me, what my father used to say, “a cold rush of S**T to the heart”.   Not a good feeling.

What next?  “Let me Google that for you.”  Actually, if you are one of the three people on earth that doesn’t know about Google, this video will help you learn now.So, after refreshing myself on how to “Google that”,  I spent some time searching with phrases like “e-120 backlight repair”, “e-120 interface” and whatever else I could think of to avoid a complete instrument upgrade.

Good news!  Success!  On e-Bay there’s a guy, some sort of electronics geek, perhaps related to the LMGTFY guy, that takes these units apart and replaces the high voltage backlight, the part that I am told is usually the problem, and puts in a low voltage LED backlight.   I contacted him and he told me that he is able to repair the units he receives about 90% of the time.  So, I’ll be sending him the unit as well as the one that failed 18 months ago.  Yes, I saved the broken one as, EVERYONE knows that you really never know when a broken plotter will come in handy.   You knew that, right?

So, fingers crossed that one or both of these will be repaired and I’ll be looking at a repair of under $350 to $700 for the pair instead of, well, I don’t even want to think about what “new” would look like.

I can say for sure that if only one can be repaired I am going to purchase another used unit to keep on board as a spare, just in case.  New backlight or not, it will still be old and to be 500 miles out to sea and have the plotter crap out…  Well, let’s just say that  it doesn’t inspire confidence.

So, after six seasons south, so little time left until departure and a daunting list of stuff that still needs to be done…  Oh yeah, did I mention that I just found out that I need a new jib?  Well, I do.

Well, I guess it may just be time to put Pandora on the hard for the winter, just this once.   As a point of fact, she was launched in 2007 and this will be the first winter that she has not been in service.   And while that’s pretty amazing, it’s still pretty crappy news to me. 

So, what’s a CLOD (cruiser living on dirt) to do to keep warm during the cold winter nights?  Brenda’s got some ideas.  And I know that because it’s been discussed.  How about remodeling the third bathroom, the guest bath off of her studio?  I could do that.

I just finished the guest bath upstairs.  My third bath remodeling job.  It turned out pretty well, if you ask me. There’s even a tub with a curvy side. And, besides, I have been wanting to build an outdoor “beehive oven” for years so now I can, if I stay home.  I’d better hurry as it’s going to be getting really cold soon.    I got this idea from a place that Brenda and I visited in Maine back in 2011.  I wrote about the experience in this post.

We had a great time that day with a bunch of folks that we had never met.  Drawn together by pizza.  S0unds good to me.

Here’s an idea. I’ll go to Maine next summer and resume our southern travels next fall.

As The Little Engine That Could once said, “I think I can.  I think I can…”So, there you have it.   Me trying my best to make lemon aid out of lemons.

Oh yea, one more thing.   Remember our granddaughter Tori?  She’s growing up fast. I’ll get to see her more.And, the twins.   I’ll be able to take them off of their father’s hands, if only for a moment. Yes, that would be nice.  I guess that I’d better buy a few more sweaters.

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