Pandora at sunrise.

One of the best parts of being at anchor in Falmouth Antigua is the beautiful sunrises. While I’ll admit that I am partial to sunsets, a sunrise over the land in Falmouth is particularly beautiful. Over the years I have taken many photos at that special time of day, one more beautiful than the last.

With many conjuring images of, well, you decide…

I am getting excited about returning to Pandora in a week as we begin to wrap up the activities here in CT. It’s hard to believe that it’s only a few days until Christmas. Time flies as I have been away from Pandora for over a month and yet it seems like just yesterday that I arrived back at JFK. What a whirlwind…

This morning my friend Jay, who has been keeping an eye on Pandora while I have been away, sent me this photo, taken shortly after sunrise today.

Our flight takes us to Antigua next Friday and we will turn the page from the fun but hectic holidays. I do enjoy seeing family over Thanksgiving and Christmas but keeping up with all the details of managing a boat along with a home can be overwhelming at times. Just deciding what we need to bring with us to Antigua is complicated enough but getting the house ready, blowing out all of the water pipes, putting antifreeze in the toilets, washing machine, dishwasher, icemaker, is a real head spinner that takes nearly a half day.

We take great care to make sure that everything at home is immune to freezing as a power failure for even a few hours during a cold snap can reek havoc. One of our neighbors had a broken pipe last winter and their entire kitchen and den were destroyed. The ceiling came down, cabinets and floor destroyed. The only thing out of their den and kitchen that was salvaged was the granite top to their kitchen island. Half of the house was stripped down to the bare studs and a year later the repairs are not yet completed.

Fingers crossed that I won’t forget anything. I have been doing the winterizing for a decade now and even with long outages, we have never had any damage.

Our plan, upon arriving in Antigua, will be to move aboard for the night and than heading to nearby English Harbor for the New Year’s celebration the next morning after I clean the bottom. It is probably a mess after sitting for more than a month.

New Year’s eve in the Dockyard is an amazing experience. To sit on the bow of Pandora watching the midnight fireworks as we ring in the new year is an experience not to be missed.

While we are in the Dockyard we are hoping to organize a group to hang out on the docks after dinner but before the midnight display. It’s amazing to see how many locals show up to view the spectacle.

And, on New Year’s Day, another party in the dockyard. And we will be participating in a progressive cocktail party with other Salty Dawg boats.

They really decorate the dockyard for the holidays.

And, of course, lots of beautiful sunrises to look forward to this winter that will surely rival the New Year’s Eve fireworks display.

No, nothing quite like a sunrise in Antigua from aboard Pandora.

Soon, very soon…

So, where will Pandora go next? It depends…

In about two weeks Brenda and I will head back to Antigua and Pandora. Plans are mostly in place for getting some work done on Pandora in Trinidad next summer. After spending many years cruising the waters of the eastern Caribbean, Brenda has begun asking the question of why we have to do this for yet another season.

I’ll admit that I am not all that excited about heading to the same places yet again and frankly was looking forward to heading to the northern islands this season, and perhaps spending some time in the Bahamas again. However, the work that needs to be done, painting the decks etc, is just too expensive to do elsewhere so Trinidad it is. Of course, this whole exercise will be made even more complex due to the fact that I will need to change insurance carriers to one that will cover Trinidad for the summer.

Sure, it does seem a bit bratty to suggest that spending time on white sandy beaches and eating French food while others are up north braving sub freezing temperatures is something to tire of but these are our “golden years” and we want to make the best of them.

In my last post, I talked about the importance of having goals and while this is very common for folks during their working years, I believe that many retire, or perhaps put off retirement, as they just don’t know what they will do with themselves without a job to keep them occupied.

I have always been goal oriented and having goals in retirement is no exception.

So, Eastern Caribbean, been there done that… What’s next?

My dad, who was inspiration for this blog for many years, once said “Bob, wouldn’t it be great to see Gibraltar from the deck of Pandora?”. It’s been a decade since he left us but I have not been able to get that image out of my head and just about every year I turn my thoughts to “what about cruising the Med?”, always pushing it to the background.

Let’s face it, Brenda isn’t all that crazy about living for months aboard Pandora and yet she does, year after year. I am grateful for that and constantly feel compelled to do what I can to make the experience more rewarding for her. However, it does get harder each year. So, where does the Med fit into all this?

I have mentioned many times that Brenda and I met in high school back in the 70s and I should add that during that time she studied Latin. In college she majored in the classics, both Latin and Greek and as part of her studies, spent semesters in both Italy and Greece. She loved being there and yet we have not visited those places together.

Our boys have commented our time on the water “is a lifetime of Dad trying to make Mom like sailing”. That’s true and as someone who is self-described as “ever hopeful”, perhaps time in the Mediterranean could fill the bill as a next step. And, back to the Classics, I’d say that if Homer thought that the best way to tour the Med was by boat, who are we to say that he was wrong. Right? Yeah… I’m goin with that…

When you think about the nearly 50 years that Brenda and I have cruised together and the reality that I am still trying to find that elusive “sweet spot” for time on the boat with her, some might say that I am just about out of ideas. We have cruised the US East Coast from Maine to south Florida, all through the Bahamas, much of Cuba and most recently the Eastern Caribbean from the Virgins to Grenada.

So far, nothing has quite filled the bill for Brenda once the novelty has worn off. So, what’s left? Beyond the Med, I am just about out of ideas…

Additionally, we haven’t had a lot of success in getting our kids to join us in the Caribbean. Hey guys? Want to visit us in the French Riviera? Na… Oh, well.

I’d say that revisiting our youth and Brenda’s love of the classics. So, I’m thinking, follow in the footsteps of Homer.

It’s worth a try.

The plan, for 2025 although admittedly still in it’s infancy, is to launch Pandora after getting work done i Trinidad next summer, perhaps early winter and work our way north through the Eastern Caribbean. In the spring of 2025 I would run to Bermuda, onto The Azores and finally to Portugal where Pandora would be hauled for the season and relaunched in the fall for a run to Spain.

The run from the Caribbean to Portugal totals about 3,700 miles. Leg one, about 900 miles to Bermuda where perhaps I’d do a crew change. Then across to The Azores, another 2,000 miles and from there to Portugal.

Along the way I would stop in The Azores, a place that I never imagined going and yet have always been fascinated by. There are plenty of YouTube videos about the area but this piece is pretty good and is short, less than 5 minutes. It gives a pretty good feel I think.

The real gateway to the Med is Gibraltar. Brenda and I almost visited there when we spent a month in Portugal a while back. I think that this would be a great place to meet up with her. This is a short piece by Rick Steves, the travel writer.

Looks awesome. Dad was right.

Oh yeah, any video about Gibraltar shows the famous monkeys. When we were in St Kitts a few years ago Brenda had her “monkey encounter”. An omen?

In the Azores video there is a reference to the Pillars of Hercules. There is a rock formation at the entrance of English Harbor by the same name.

Pillars of Hercules in Antigua and Gibraltar? Coincidence? I don’t think so.

One big issue will be insurance and that may prove to be quite a challenge. Even insurance to run to the Caribbean during the “hurricane off-season” has become very expensive. I have been working on coverage for Pandora this coming summer in Trinidad and that’s proving to be a bit of challenge. My current policy only allows me to go as far south as Grenada, about 85 miles north of Trinidad. And, most applications require a survey within two years and my last full survey is only a few months more than that. I guess I should have moved forward on these plans a few months ago.

I know that spring of 2025 is still a long way off but without a plan, you don’t have much.

In spite of all this, who really knows what will happen next but thinking and planning is fun. Right?

As of now though, I do know that we will be heading back to Pandora in about two weeks and the answer to where Pandora is headed next is simple. The Caribbean, a nice place to spend the winter and that’s a pretty sure thing.

Where will she go after that? Well, it depends…

Doing what I must.

It’s hard to believe that Brenda and I are entering our second decade of winter cruising. We have visited so many places along the US east coast, Bahamas, Cuba and most of the islands between the US Virgins and Grenada and I have to say that we feel the most at home in Antigua. For anyone who follows our exploits and this blog, that statement will not come as a surprise.

Antigua has a lot going for it as a cruising destination beginning with its’ physical location, the eastern most island in the Windward and Leeward Caribbean chain of islands where just about any other destination is a reach or down wind.

Aside for those who cruise the area, the appeal of Antigua, and of the other islands south of the Virgins is not widely known. This is because most of the material out there is focused on the Virgin Islands. The simple fact is that advertising is critical to any publishing business and with advertisers heavily weighted toward the charter industry and the vast bulk of Caribbean charters focused on the British Virgin Islands, that’s what they write about. So, as the advertising goes, writers follow. Result: “go sailing in the BVI!”

If you pick up just about any consumer marine magazine you will see many articles about chartering, and often they only focus on the BVI and USVI area. As a result, in the popular press there is just not a lot of information about cruising the many islands to the south.

And, after speaking to so many first time seasonal cruisers in my role as rally director for Salty Dawg, I can tell you that there is often “asymmetry” with couples that are planning to cruise, with one, often the women, who is more reluctant to head out, especially to the Caribbean, which is so far from home. An obvious compromise when negotiating about plans, is to say “honey, we had fun chartering in the BVI, how about we go there?”. On the face of it, this makes sense but for practical purposes, for cruising, it doesn’t make a lot of sense as a landfall.

I faced this quandary, or information vacuum, when Brenda and I first began cruising the Caribbean and when we made landfall in Antigua that first time, I had absolutely no idea what to expect.

So, fast forward to now and a lot has happened. Historically the Salty Dawg Rally made landfall in the BVI and now is fully focused on Antigua. I have covered the reasons why in past posts but the simple fact is that Antigua has a lot going for it with the cruising set, beginning with the geographic location as the most eastern island in the chain.

Antigua’s location east of other islands means that whether you are heading south to Grenada, to the islands to the north or west of Central America, a reach to most anywhere, which makes for much better sailing. By contrast, if someone chooses to make landfall in, say the BVI on their way south, getting to other islands down-island means heading directly into the wind for hundreds of miles, a decidedly unpleasant business. The better option for visiting the BVI is to do so on the way home in the spring as it will be a down wind sail.

Nearly half of the boats that make the run to Antigua each season with the Salty Dawg Rally are heading to Antigua for the very first time and they have no idea what to expect, any more than I did the first time I headed there. This means that our group, SDSA and me as port officer for Antigua, find ourselves in the role of “concierge”, guiding skippers on what to expect and what sorts of services are available to them when they get there. I focus a lot of my efforts to this end, trying to cover everything I can think of to help them better understand what’s in store.

This post from 2019 outlines a number of reasons why Antigua makes so much sense as a place to begin the cruising season.

To this point, I have become a sort of self styled “Antigua evangelist”, constantly looking for ways to bring boats to Antigua.

Beyond the physical location of Antigua, the next most important aspect is the protected harbors, mainly Falmouth and English Harbors. These are arguably the two most protected harbors in the Caribbean and Nelson’s Dockyard perhaps among the most iconic places to make landfall anywhere. This is English Harbor off-season, a fully renovated British Royal Navy yard from the age of sail.

Make landfall here and you will see for yourself why the Royal Navy make this wonderful harbor it’s base of operations in the Caribbean for hundreds of years. I was smitten by my very first visit.

As Salty Dawg brings so many boats to Antigua, and do so early in the season, our presence has an outside effect on the local economy. We have loads of special events and hundreds of skippers and crew bring money to spend.

The third reason to choose Antigua is the availability to get stuff fixed. A long ocean passage puts a lot of wear and tear on a boat and when we arrive in Antigua, there are businesses that can come aboard to fix just about anything that needs to be addressed. Take 80 boats onto the ocean for up to two weeks and that’s a lot of broken stuff. While I am always careful to be sure that Pandora is in top shape before heading out, there are some things that can be put off until Antigua where labor rates are less than the US by about 30% or more. It is still more costly than Trinidad where may boats stay for the summer.

As president of Salty Dawg I have often been called upon to talk about why our rally comes to Antigua and on three occasions now I have been interviewed by the local TV station to talk about Salty Dawg and our relationship with the island.

Last spring before heading home to the US I was interviewed live on the morning news to talk about Antigua and why we have come to think of the island as our home in the Caribbean.

When I retired my goal, and nobody should retire without one, was to focus my energy on something that I was passionate about.

Surely, sailing is a passion and has been for decades but Antigua and my desire to spread the word about this island and it’s people has also become a focus. 

While many cruisers desire to head to warmer climes when they can, very few know much about the islands in the South East Caribbean and getting that word out has become a passion of mine. 

And, to that end, one of my friends told me a few years ago that from his perspective, “the real Caribbean, begins in St Martin and the islands to the south”.  I have to agree. 

I feel blessed to be able to say into the second decade as “retired guy” I am blessed with a passion and the time to spread the word about Antigua and the islands of the eastern Caribbean.  

Everyone should be so lucky. 

7 years later, Antigua still loves the Dawgs

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 8 years, since Brenda and I first visited Antigua.

I recall being smitten with the island when Brenda and first visited in 2017, after having made my original landfall in the BVI. From the BVI to the next island to the south (east actually) St Martin, was a terrible slog, directly into the wind, for nearly 100 miles. I recall being told that the run south to St Martin from the BVI, directly east and into the trade winds, “was fine if you waited for a cold front”. Sure, as long as you have time to kill, which we didn’t, so slog we did. It was a terrible way to inaugurate Brenda to cruising the Caribbean.

I have always said that the BVI was a perfect place to spend a week long charter but for the cruising set, not great. It’s crowded and most of the popular spots loaded with moorings. And, for most of our cruising friends, avoiding the charter boats, as they really don’t know what they are doing, is our goal. Anyway, I loved visiting the BVI when we flew there and stayed in a hotel years ago but as part of the cruising community, not so much.

When we visited Antigua the first time, I had no idea at all what to expect as I actually had never met anyone that had sailed there. That first visit to the island was in February of 2017 and I wrote about the final leg from St Barths to Antigua, my first post about the island that would become our favorite place in the Caribbean.

From that visit on, I made it my mission to convince the Salty Dawg board to send the rally to Antigua. I’ll admit that my first attempts did not go well. “Nope, the rally will continue to go to the BVI.” More than once I was accused for being too aggressive about pushing Antigua.

But I persisted. And, as luck would have it, if I dare call it luck, two hurricanes thrashed the BVI less than a month from when the 2017 rally to the Caribbean was to begin. As the BVI had sustained so much damage, we had to do something so I took the opportunity to set up a fairly large number of arrival events in Antigua, more than we had ever been able to muster in the BVI, and did so within a few short weeks. If the truth was to be told, for the last few years that the rally went to the BVI it was becoming increasingly difficult to get supporters there to welcome the fleet.

The real problem with the rally and the BVI is that the businesses there are more focused on the big spending one week charter and not on the slower paced cruising community.

The simple fact is that in order to have a partnership work, both parties must have goals that are in sync. And, there was always a bit of a disconnect with that the Dawgs wanted verses what the businesses in the BVI were looking for. The Dawgs were the tortoise part of the Tortoise and the Hare, and the one week, “slam bam, thankyou mam” approach of the charter crowd, was what they were looking for. The fact is that while cruisers spend plenty each season, they do not spend as much in a single week as charter boats spend.

It took another year or so but eventually the rally gave up on the BVI and now heads to Antigua every year.

Fast forward to this fall and amazingly, of those supporters that hosted events for us in the first few years, all but one have continued to host events every year since then. And, the one that skipped a few years, has again expressed an interest in doing something with us in late December. She’s a small art gallery and the pandemic hit her hard.

The simple fact is that what the Dawgs want from Antigua and those on the island want from us, are in sync. Our early season arrival is key as having 80 boats descend on them weeks before anyone else shows up is important to many businesses on the island. And many, probably most, of us arrive with broken stuff on our boats that needs to be fixed.

Having skippers and crew arrive ready to party with boats that need repairs is a magical combination for Antigua. Their season is short and to have hundreds of visitors come to the island to spend money a few weeks early, make our presence of outsize importance to the economy.

My friend Tom, who arrived on another boat a week before our rally showed up sent me this photo of the dockyard. Nearly empty…

Less than two weeks later the Dockyard filled to capacity, and nearly all the boats were from our rally.

I have gotten to know a lot of people on the island and have developed some nice friendships. Last spring, before I headed north and back to the US, I met with my friend Zoe for a wide ranging interview about Salty Dawg and my views on Antigua.

Not surprisingly, Zoe, like so many in Antigua, has a lovely British accent.  

It’s always nice to show up in Antigua and have so many say “hi Bob, welcome back”.   

This year the very first welcome was by my friend Isabella, who runs a lovely little French restaurant in English Harbor.  While I was waiting to be put on the dock that first morning in Antigua, I heard “Hi Bob” and saw Isabella waving wildly from the dock in front of her restaurant.   A moment later she sent out a skiff with some still warm croissants.   Here is a photo that she took of her skiff visiting Pandora.

So, here I am, home in CT on the last day of November, busy visiting family and enjoying the holidays. Lots to look forward to in the coming months. (I won’t talk about the terrible cold that Brenda and I have)

Oh yeah, it’s cold outside and I am wearing a sweater.

Next step, after a few weeks of whirlwind visits to family, back to Antigua in time to see the New Year’s Eve fireworks from the bow of Pandora.

For sure, Antigua still loves the Dawgs and the Dawgs love Antigua.

Landfall in Antigua: One in a thousand…

It’s hard to believe that Pandora is back in Antigua and I am here in NYC visiting family for the holidays. The fall was a whirlwind getting Pandora ready for the big run south to Antigua and after less than a week of fun, back home…

I have been doing the whole “snowbird” thing for a decade now and I’ll admit that I am tiring of the process, the weeks of back and forth each spring and fall. It’s a big bite out of our year.

With that in mind, this coming summer I will be taking Pandora to Trinidad where she will have some much needed repairs and maintenance. The good news is that I will have much less time consumed with running her back and forth and hopefully can do more of what Brenda wants to focus on instead of me being gone for a month, or more, each spring and fall.

Our plan is to spend a few weeks in northern Europe in September, which should be fun.

So, after a chilly start for the run south. a shot of Pandora’s crew on the dock in Essex prior to departure.

A little more tropical in Antigua.

Pop quiz: Can you tell for sure, which photo was taken in Antigua?

The passage was not particularly bad or good, just sort of average. We took about 12.5 days and sailed 1,850 miles from when we left Essex CT until we arrived in Antigua. We were bucking strong adverse currents much of the way until we passed Bermuda so that accounted for the additional miles, about 250 more than the actual point to point distance.

This is a highlighted graphic of our actual track, along with all of the other boats in the 96 strong fleet. Notice that everybody jogged to the east for a few days. This was to avoid a nasty low with very strong winds.

We often struggled to keep our speed up due to very light winds behind us but for the last 700 or so miles we really flew, logging nearly 200 miles each day. All and all, in spite of the fact that I am pretty sick of the run, we had a very successful passage.

We arrived around midnight last Sunday and picked our way into Falmouth harbor. After anchoring we had rum punch, two actually, and went skinny dipping. After two rum punches who wouldn’t?

Early the next morning we moved over to English Harbor and anchored to wait to be called to the dock. It is a lovely harbor. The building in the background dates to the time when the Royal Navy called the harbor their home in the Caribbean.

And then onto the dock.

The view. That place is the Galley Bar, a very popular watering hole. However, we didn’t drink water…

We stayed on the dock for much of the week, along with some local wildlife. Glad that they weren’t pooping on Pandora. I believe that the scientific name of this particular species is “pooping plovers, Exodosus”. Not confirmed but aptly named I think.

While I had to leave Antigua before the events were over, I did enjoy a number of them.

One highlight is the happy hour at The Admiral’s Inn. A group photo. 135 in attendance, a record.

Our boats completely filled Nelson’s Dockyard. Not an open spot to be had. A big contrast to a week prior when the place was basically empty.

The arrival of our fleet begins the season for Antigua a few weeks early and they just love having Salty Dawg in town. It is very rewarding to me to know that they want us there as much as we want to be with them.

Lot’s of fun, with events every day for nearly two weeks. Check out this link to the latest on what’s planned. And, I’ll be preparing more events for December and January to keep everyone in sync. After mid January much of the fleet scatters, and there are many other events in planning for elsewhere in the Caribbean and Bahamas during the season.

The run this season was not without challenges. One of our boats tried to bail into Oregon Inlet, near Cape Hatteras, ran aground and was damaged. This is a terrible inlet and unfortunate that they tried to get in that way.

Another boat tried to leave from Florida, bound for Antigua and was forced to turn back, for the second time in two years. Even though he wasn’t able to make Antigua, there are worse places to spend the season than the Bahamas. We do encourage boats to head to Hampton before heading south, as the wind direction from that departure point is much more favorable. Leave from points south of Hampton or Beaufort, just south of Hatteras, and you will end up sailing NE to Bermuda anyway, so better to start from farther north and avoid a lot of issues. It is pretty much a case of “you can’t get there from here” when it comes to a south east US departure. Better luck next year for him.

And yes, we did have a number of “issues”, which is expected when you are running nearly 100 boats into the ocean for a long voyage. However, this year we had an unfortunate “first” a death at sea. One of the crew fell ill and died on passage. I suppose that after 13 years, something like this is bound to happen but it does not make it any easier. In this case, the cause of death is not totally clear.

After several days of nausea, the crew member seemed to be recovering only to pass away in his sleep. Fortunately, tragedies like this are very rare but tragic.

I was very involved in the process of dealing with the arrival of the boat and crew, interfacing with the local authorities, a complex process that involved many on the ground in Antigua. Happily, the local authorities were very efficient and supportive and I can’t imagine things running any smoother, a testament to our contacts in Antigua and their goal to do what they could to ease a very difficult situation.

News of the death has been reported widely and I am proud of how the many volunteers in Salty Dawg helped with questions from sea and also assisting the family once the boat arrived in Antigua.

Boats in the rally are supported by our “shoreside” group around the clock for the duration of the rally.

On a brighter note, and in closing, it is important to note that what participants in the rally have accomplished, completing a major ocean voyage, is not to be understated.

With perhaps 70,000 sailboats in the US that are over 30′ long, only about 1,000 attempt to make a long run like our Caribbean Rally every year. And, the nearly 100 boats and upwards of 400 sailors that participate in our rally each year are part of a very elite group, and represent a vanishingly small number of sailors that can say that they have completed such a voyage.

One thing that is certain that those who complete the Salty Dawg Caribbean rally are truly “one in a thousand” and that is something to be proud of.

The fleet underway…

Congratulations to all the hearty souls that successfully completed an impressive run.

100 miles to Antigua!  Almost there.  Yahoo!

It is hard to believe that we are only 100 miles from Antigua.  We are into our 12th day at sea and it feels like it has been even more than that.  Can you say “forever?”

Frankly, I have had quite enough of sunrises at sea but for consistency, here is one more…

And, as there is not a lot to take photos of:  So, from the cockpit… Forgive me but there is not a lot to do at 6:00 in the morning on watch…

And speaking of 190+ mile days, proof of speed.  From right to left.  Wind speed, boat speed, wind direction and apparent wind and depth.  However, depth is not correct as it is more than a mile deep here. Depth instruments often read stuff in the water or even changes in temperature.

As we rock along at 8+kts, we do leave a bit of a wake.  Sadly, this does not do justice so you so suspend disbelief and go with me on this.  It is a big ocean out there/here.

When we left Essex the water temperature was a chilly 61 degrees and it was downright cold at night.  We even ran the cabin heat to keep things above 60 down below. 

Fast forward nearly two weeks from our departure, and 1,700 ocean miles later, it is plenty hot and humid and the ocean has warmed considerably, into the 80s. 

Each day the temperatures have climbed steadily but things did not really get unpleasant until two days ago when temperatures down below really climbed, into the high 80s.  Even with fans blowing on us, it has become hard to sleep. With waves breaking over the boat regularly, we cannot open any hatches lest we end up with buckets of water below.  A slow drip is bad enough.  Years ago I left a small hatch open in the gally and had to mop up several gallons of water that came cascading down in an instant.   I will not make that mistake again.

Since we entered the trade winds, we have not had to turn on the engine and have consistently reeled off over 190 miles a day.  Alas, never 200 but 190, 196 and such is quite respectable.  It is always a good thing when our speed picks up toward the end when we have all had just about enough sea time, thank you very much.   When will we get there?  Sooner than if we were going slower…

We expect to arrive in Antigua around midnight and we have not yet decided if we are going to go directly into English Harbor or perhaps duck into nearby Falmouth, anchor for a few hours and then move over to English Harbor once it becomes light.

The entrance to English Harbor is narrow and entering in the dark is daunting, well to me at least.  The idea of going nearly 1,800 miles and ending up on a rock ledge in the middle of the night is not my idea of a good way to “end” the run so perhaps Falmouth makes sense.

The simple fact is that at midnight we will be tired after a long run and that alone suggests that the prudent thing is to “do easy”.

So, as we reel off the last 100 miles all I can say is that I am very much looking forward to toasting our arrival with Matt and Peter and then for a swim.  Sans clothes?  That’s my plan.  Besides, it will be dark…

It feels good to be “almost there” but what I am looking forward to even more is “we have arrived”. 

Not to jinx it as we are not there yet, but next post, from English Harbor…

And, on a more random note, Brenda, who I can not wait to see when I get home later this week. I wonder if she would have said “I do” had she even suspected what lay ahead…

Now I am thinking: What I’ll do when we get to Antigua…

It is Saturday afternoon; the sun is out and Pandora is bounding along on a very close reach in about 17kts.  Of course, that means wet…

After yesterday’s post about the illusive 200 mile day, it is worth noting that our run from 10:00 yesterday morning till 10:00 today was a very respectable 196 miles. Not 200 but not bad.

I have mostly given up on trying to mop up the drips which seem to be coming from a few new places.  The problem is that leaks generally do not show up unless we are really pounding.  I think that the biggest leak is still coming from the mast fitting on the deck which needs to be removed, cleaned and rebedded.  I have not decided if I will tackle that myself or if I will ask a rigger to address it. 

The other leaks, a minor drips from the hatch near the galley and in the forward head are probably simple to fix but I will not go into that right now.  We will see.

Anyway, we are bounding along and I’d say it’s safe to say that conditions are “sporty”, or “salty” as Chris Parker, our weather router, likes to say.

I received a note from my friend Tom who has an Oyster in the eastern Mediterranean where he sails with his wife Sarah.  I understand that he helped deliver a friend’s Oyster from the US to English Harbor, where he is now.  Sadly, I will not see him as he will be flying back to his home in Florida before I get there.

There has been a lot of back and forth between me and others as we plan the arrival events for the next ten days or so.  It has been a bit of a challenge with intermittent connectivity with Starlink but way easier than in past years.   However, despite some schedule changes, and a lot of back and forth, I think that most events are now scheduled. 

We are 250 miles from Antigua now, with 85% of the run behind us.  It feels good to know that we will be there soon but it is now a case of the “longest mile” as we INCH toward our destination.

It’s always hard to say exactly when we will be there but the closer we get, the clearer it becomes.  At this point, it seems likely we will likely arrive somewhere between 10:00 on Sunday evening and early morning Monday, not to put too fine a point on it.  That will have made the run in 12 days, not my longest but LONG, never the less.

The biggest uncertainty is that we are sailing fairly hard on the wind now and if the wind were to shift even 10 degrees to the south, we will have trouble making landfall on the eastern side of Antigua.  If we must head to the western side, we will then have to motor directly into the wind and waves for hours to make English Harbor. I really hope that does not happen.

So, now that I am somewhat, kind of, reasonably, certain about the timing of our arrival, I am starting to think about all that I will NOT have to do aboard for much longer, like cleaning the head, moping up leaks along with dreaming up and cooking meals.  I have tried hard to make sure that meals are not particularly repetitive and I think it is going well but the pickings are beginning to get a little slim so it is a good thing we are getting close.

Sailing fairly close to the wind, is rough and it is quite hot and sticky down below, with everything all buttoned up, so I really don’t want to do much cooking.  When I asked what the guys wanted for dinner tonight, they both suggested egg salad wraps, exactly what I prepared last night.  That will be easy and I can spiff them up a bit so they are somewhat different than last night.

Brenda thinks I am a completely uninspired cook but after watching her spin her magic in the kitchen over the years, I am not quite the luddite that she imagines. Just almost, but not quite.  Besides, culinary expectations are not high when at sea, so everything tastes better.

After tonight, only one more dinner and then…

So, that brings me to the title of this post and what happens when we get to Antigua.  I have no interest in posting yet another photo of a sunrise, although I did try and get a shot of a beautiful rainbow this morning but, alas, it faded quickly.  No luck.

What I really want to think about now is being tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbor, becoming reacquainted with the “Tot Club” (I am a member, you know.) and then going out for perhaps pizza or a burger.  Did I hear someone say “rum punch?” I don’t think that I will get much pushback from the guys.  They are ready too…

And, from top to bottom… Antigua courtesy flag, Tot club and Salty Dawg rally flag. A great combination.

And, in English Harbor, what awaits when the fleet arrives. Pandora tied up with a bunch of other Dawg boats.  Tom tells me that the Dockyard is basically empty now but I expect that in three days’ time, they will be filled nearly to capacity. 

Pandora with her boarding passarelle in place.

It’s going to be great. 

As we basically start the season for the island, as there are no boats there now, everybody will be as happy to see us as we will be to see them.

I can’t wait to be back in Antigua!

That Elusive 200-mile Day*

It is Friday morning and we are about 450 miles from Antigua and solidly in the easterly trade winds.  After enduring days of slow going and motoring for what seemed like forever, it is good to be sailing along at a less leisurely pace.

We encountered a number of squalls overnight and shortly after dawn, one left a rainbow in it’s wake, just a sliver that went up behind the low clouds.

Or, a bit closer…

You may recall that when we were north of Bermuda, we had to delay our southward track to allow for a low near Bermuda to dissipate.  This meant that we had to sail to the east, making very little mileage south to our destination.  Over an 18-hour period we only made 60 miles toward our destination.  It was very frustrating.  And, to make matters worse, the constant slatting of the mainsail caused some damage to the gooseneck, the fitting that connects the boom to the mast.  I will have to get that repaired or replaced when I get to Antigua. 

After motoring for days in very light wind, we finally entered the trades last night and our speed picked up a lot.  We can only motor at a pace of less than 6kts and when motorsailing with a little wind to give us a boost, upwards of 7.5kts.  Under sail things get a lot better and for hours now we have been averaging 8kts+ with a few periods of 9kts+.  It is nice to see the miles reel off as we make our way south.  ]

While the trades filled in yesterday evening, we continued to motorsail for a few hours and finally were able to turn off the engine.  It is common for skippers to track their daily miles and see how many miles they cover in a 24 hour period and as I log our location and mileage every two hours, I can see how we are doing.  So, for the last 24 hours we covered 182 miles with a mix of sailing and motorsailing, a very respectable distance.  Now, as we are deep into the trades and under sail alone, our speed has crept up and if we keep up the pace of the last 12 hours we will have covered 192 miles in a day.  

I mention all this as 200 miles in a 24 hour period is a “mythical goal” for cruising boats and to be even close to this is an impressive feat.  And, one that Pandora has come close to but never achieved. 

My friend George Day, editor and publisher of Blue Water Sailing magazine as well as a number of other publications, publishes a weekly newsletter, “Cruising Compass”, and in this weeks’ issue reflects on just how hard it is to push a cruising boat to cover 200 miles in a single day. 

George had crewed with me on my last run to Antigua and here is what he had to say about the “200 mile goal” and his time aboard Pandora.

“Last weekend, American solo sailor Cole Brauer, who is racing in the non-stop Global Solo Challenge, notched a 220 mile 24-hour hour run aboard her Class 40 First Light. She is the first skipper in this event to do so, despite the fleet being comprised of many super light offshore racing monohulls. To reach a 200-mile day, you have to average 8.33 knots for 24 hours. This is commonplace for maxi racing boats, IMOCA foiling monohulls, high speed performance cats and super racing trimarans. But in mere mortal monohulls and most cruising multihulls, averaging 8.33 knots is mighty hard to achieve. A year ago, sailing in the Salty Dawg Rally from Hampton, VA to Antigua with SDSA president Bob Osborn aboard his Aerodyne 47 Pandora –a very slippery and fast Rodger Martin design—we had plenty of wind from good angles and saw four days over 190 miles. But 200? Wasn’t to be. And a few years ago, sailing transatlantic aboard Steve McInnis’s Hanse 50 Maverick, another fast cruiser with a powerful rig that seems to sail at 8 knots all the time, we didn’t crack 200 miles once. It’s the “average for 24 hours” part of the equation that is so hard to do.  So, hats off to Cole Brauer –all five foot two and 100 pounds of her– and here’s to all of you who strive but most often fail to crack that ever elusive 200-mile day. If you have a 200-mile day story you’d like to share, send it to me at”

When Pandora really gets going, even if she does not go a full 200 miles a day, she is wet boat with water coming over the decks nearly constantly.  Unfortunately, there remains a persistent leak near the mast and in spite of my best efforts, water is still getting below.  Not a lot, but enough to damage the woodwork if I let it go. For those who follow this blog, I spent the summer chasing leaks and have made a lot of progress but have not completely solved the problem. Alas, one more job for the guys in Trinidad to attend to next summer. 

So, here we are, me mopping up a few drips here and there and Pandora reeling off the miles toward Antigua.  Not to jinx it, but it looks like we might arrive during daylight on Monday, a day sooner than we had expected.

That would be nice.  Let us hope that nothing breaks and that the leaks slow.

Looking forward to a rum punch and a burger, medium please, when we arrive.

*P.S.  I stole George’s title too. 

The home stretch, almost…

It’s hard to believe that we are into our 9th day at sea and are still 640 miles from Antigua.   Think going from NY to Chicago at 6kts.  That’s a long way.

The good news is that we are inches, feet, miles, a degree of latitude, well, at least some distance from the trade winds.  The wind was VERY light overnight but now it is beginning to fill in from the NE.  According to Chris Parker, our weather router, and the most recent GRIB files, we should begin to see sailable wind from the east within the next 40-80 miles, hopefully sooner.

As soon as we have wind on the beam (perpendicular to our course) of around 10kts, we should be able to sail.  That would be great as I will admit that I am a bit sick of listening to the drone of the engine.  Having said that, I am SO pleased to have enough fuel to handle all of the light wind.

Have I mentioned that we have been motoring a lot?  “Yes, Bob, you beat that drum FOREVER, on every passage.”

It is now becoming pretty, sort of, fairly, a little bit clear that we will be arriving either late on Monday or sometime overnight Monday/Tuesday.   Who knows, “we will be there when we are there”, as my Dad used to say.

Of course, what is a post at sea without a photo of the sunrise?  Another very pretty one. 

Zoom out and it looks a lot different. “Bob, Bob, it’s the same photo. Gimme a break!”

No, it’s not…

To prove that we were there. Pandora in the frame… Work with me on this…

And, as we motor along, really calm.

Other than that, not a lot to report.

I have been spending a lot of time refining the details of our arrival events for Antigua and while much of the schedule was in place months ago, there have been some shifting and additional events.  In some cases, frustration for some as plans change.  However, we get so much support from those who host our events in Antigua, I cannot complain and am grateful to everyone for helping to make the fleet feel welcome.

Oh yeah, Starlink has been working but is not flawless.  It sometimes takes forever to boot up and tends to drop the signal regularly.  However, having it, boogers and all, is so much better than any prior method of staying in touch.

The simple solution would be to purchase their high-performance antenna but it is twice the size of what we already have and draws more than 2x the power.  I have heard that there will soon be a new HP dish out and that it is about the same size as what we currently have.  It is worth it to me to wait and endure less than perfect connectivity for now.  Poor connectivity or not, it is AMAZING to have such technology aboard Pandora.

Sure, we are still a long way to Antigua but the wind should soon be with us and it will be great to turn off the motor and enjoy the last distance to our destination. 

So, we will continue to plod along and Antigua is still a long way off.  However, it does feel like we are on the home stretch… well almost.

Serendipity on the high seas!

Ok, another day at sea.  So what to talk about? 

Well, first, perhaps a photo of a sunrise.   “Not again Bob… Enough!  

Sorry but there is not a lot more to take photos of when all that is out there is “water, water everywhere”.

Taken from another, closer vantage.  Amazingly dramatic.

There is a modest amount of wind but it is directly behind us so nothing to do but motor.  Besides, no reason to dawdle as it is, after all, a delivery.

We had a good sail for much of yesterday and ran our big code zero sail, perfect for wind under 15kts.  Unfortunately, the sheet, which is very thin and lightweight, chafed on the main boom.  Fortunately, Peter noticed it before it gave way.  Wrestling that big sail in without a sheet would have been messy. 

As of late afternoon, the wind dropped to less than 10kts and shifted to the north.  And as Pandora is not really set up for sailing dead down wind, we cranked up the engine.   This is fine as I always count on motoring a good deal of the time when on passage.  If I were to do a transatlantic, I would have to get a pole to hold out the jib so I could run wing and wing and have better dead down wind performance.  There is just no way to carry enough fuel to make a run across the Atlantic unless you are prepared to sail on nearly every point so sail you must, even if it is S-L-O-W.

Anyway, we have been motoring since late afternoon and expect that we will continue to do so until we reach the easterly trade wins, perhaps late tomorrow, Thursday.  From then on, we should have excellent conditions for sailing as much as 600 miles with moderate winds on the beam.

As I have mentioned in prior posts, we often go for days without seeing another boat but as we passed Bermuda, we passed, or more often were passed, by others, going to or leaving from Bermuda, bound for points south.

Late yesterday evening a big sailboat that had been gaining on us for the last few hours, hailed us.  “Pandora, Pandora, this is Nijad”.

I was off watch but heard the call and answered it.  He had just called to say hi but I somehow recognized the voice on the radio and asked who it was.  It turned out to be someone I knew, Jim, who had been the manager of the Deep River Marina where I had hauled Pandora for many years.   Jim is now retired but delivers boats in his spare time.   

For those who follow this blog, you have heard me gripe about a big marina company that has been buying up yards all over.  Well, they purchased that yard in Deep River some time back and in speaking to Jim last night, I will admit that I expressed sadness that the yard where we had met was no longer the friendly place that it had been.  He was very circumspect with his answer “well, things change”.  An understatement if there ever was one.

They are on their way to the BVI, where the owner, not on board, has a mooring.   What a small world. It is unusual enough to see a boat but to see one that has someone on board that you know, very unusual.

A few hours later, around 02:00 this morning, I contacted a tanker that was going to cross our bow, too close for comfort.  As a rule, I always reach out to any boat or ship if their CPA, Closest Point of Approach, is going to be less than 1.5 miles.  I contact them, explain the situation, and ask what they would like me to do.  Inevitably, the big ships tell me to “maintain course and speed” and they will alter course and go around me.   By and large, they are all very friendly and happy to help and often express gratitude that someone is paying attention.  Perhaps I am also bringing some excitement into their day when not a lot is happening.

So, I called T Matterhorn, a 600’ tanker and asked for instructions.  The skipper, or in this case, the second officer, said that he would alter course and give us a wide berth so not to worry.

Then, uncharacteristically, he (Karan) struck up a conversation with me.  He was asking, why there were so many small boats so far out in the ocean.  I explained that we were participating in a rally from the US to Antigua.  As he made his way east he must have gone right through the main part of the fleet.   Where we were, there really was nothing within sight for us.  I expect that he sees more as his radar is likely much more powerful than mine. One way or the other, he had been seeing a lot of boats, much more than is typical.

Wait until he sees this tracking map.  Pandora, one of many, many boats out here, one of the most easterly ones in the middle. Not sure, check out the fleet tracking map and cllick on Pandora.

He then goes on to ask many questions about what we are up to.   How many boats were with us?  Where did we depart from? Where are we going?  Do we have engines?  What do we do when the weather turns bad (pray, for one) and other questions, who is on board, who owns the boats etc.  This whole topic is so foreign to him and I enjoyed sharing information with a willing listener.

He was particularly interested I where we were going and what we planned once we got there.   I did say “parties”.  I think that he likes that idea. 

I gave him my email address, the address of this blog as well as the address for the Salty Dawg website so he can learn more about what we do.

Before we went our own separate ways, I asked where he was headed. Answer: Lavera, France in the Mediterranean. Now, that’s a place I’d like to go with Pandora. Will it happen? Who knows. There’s always a tanker… 🙂

When we signed off, I wondered if he would write to me and the next time that I checked my email, perhaps an hour later, there was a note from him.  He gave me his name, Karan Bhanushali, second officer for T Matterhorn and that he enjoyed speaking with me and had many questions. 

He also said that if I ever wanted to visit India, where he lives, I was welcome to visit.  And, that he plans to be in the US next year to visit friends and would love to meet. 

Frankly, I think that would be very interesting and hope that we stay in touch.   

I am not sure where he was heading but Matt thinks he heard him say that he was on his way to France. 

Will we connect again one day?  Who knows, but the experience really struck me as quite remarkable, two boats on the high seas, with someone aboard that I know or sort of know now, in a single night hundreds of miles from anything.   

The ex-manager of a boat yard in CT where I have had work done on Pandora for a decade, and an officer on a freighter that just happened to be passing by as we make out way south.  Who would ever guess?

So, what next?

Perhaps I will get a ride on a tanker?  That would be fun. many years ago my late father said, “Bob, wouldn’t it be great to see Gibraltar from the deck of Pandora?” What the heck, how about Lavera, France in the Med, wherever that is. I might even settle for that view from the deck of a tanker. Answer: Lavera, France in the Mediterranean. Now, that’s a place I’d like to go with Pandora. Will it happen?

No idea but it is certainly something to look forward to and an example of just how much serendipity can play a role in our lives.  Right place, right time?  Time will tell.