Exactly what do you do all day Bob?

I can still remember when I was working and a vacation was a week or two where we rushed around trying to accomplish as much as possible before our time off was up. Now that I have been retired and “hanging around” for winters aboard Pandora, going on a decade now, my perspective of time has changed.

We often quip about life aboard Pandora is that “nothing happens aboard Pandora till noon” and that is in spite of the fact that I am a very early riser, generally around 05:00. Any way you look at it, there is a lot of “nothing happening time” each day.

The arrival last winter of Starlink has even made our “pursuit for leisure” way worse, with easy access to newspapers and all matters of stuff. We think nothing of watching highlights of late night TV or how-to videos on YouTube and that doesn’t even begin to include the movies that we enjoy watching after dinner. It can really put a dent in a day. Nowadays compared to my years working, I am not all that productive when I am aboard.

I’ll admit that in spite of my recent upgrades to solar, the addition of a wind generator and lithium batteries, Pandora’s power consumption has increased in direct proportion to our available power. The good news is that lithium batteries don’t have to be fully charged each day and are quite content to be kept “sort of charged” which is good as that’s where they generally are.

Of course, there’s plenty to do that doesn’t use power including a swim off of the back of Pandora. It’s hot here and as spring approaches will be a bit hotter so spending time cooling off is a near daily ritual.

Recently we added a new twist the “evening float” complete with a glass of wine. Not a bad way to wrap up a day on the water.

A common question cruisers get from folks that have no idea what this lifestyle is all about is “what do you do all day?” Sadly, in spite of feeling like I am fairly busy much of the time, the simple answer is “not a lot” as everything takes so much longer on a boat than on shore. The simple act of grocery shopping may involve stops at more than one place and even then, they may not have what we are looking for. And, stock can be spotty so it’s not uncommon for us to visit a grocery store, generally a small market, nearly every day. And, bringing a dink to a dock, putting out a stern anchor and getting ashore, only to reverse the whole process when we return is a lot more time consuming than parking a car and running into a grocery.

And there is the near constant work of keeping the boat in shape and keeping the hull clean below the waterline. In that case, I have to get out the air compressor, all the gear and then spend upwards of an hour underwater with a coarse scotchbright pad, rubbing off the slime and growth. To keep things from getting too bad, I have to do that about every two weeks and from start to finish, getting set up, the cleaning process itself and then cleaning up and putting things away can take two hours.

Simple repairs can often be a game of “cat and mouse”. Example: A few weeks ago my speedometer/distance log began to function erratically and finally just stopped working. Absent someone to come out the boat with instruments to test things, I started pulling things apart to see if there were any shorts. After a few hours I gave up and realized that the fix was bigger than me.

When I was in St Lucia last week I had a tech come out to test it and the verdict was that the instrument was bad and, no, they did not have a replacement available. So, a week later, when we arrived in La Marin, Martinique, a place with a lot more services, I made the rounds until I finally found someone who could diagnose the problem with the instrument itself. So, I pulled it out, took it to them and then waited the 4 days until they could take a look.

The good news is that they were able to fix it. That was a shock to me as I had been told in the past that repairs weren’t possible on obsolete units like mine. Over the years as individual instruments have failed, I resorted to purchasing old equipment that had been salvaged off of boats when their instruments were upgraded.

In the US, with labor rates so high, it generally doesn’t pay to repair and the answer is always, “Bob, this stuff is so old. Just buy new stuff” That’s not what I want to hear as a full electronics suite replacement is upwards of $35k. Here in the islands there is a much greater willingness to fix as it’s so hard to get new stuff delivered, labor rates are less and fixing is generally encouraged.

Had my spedo not been repairable, I found that I could purchase a new unit that could be adapted to work with my old stuff. That option has never been offered to me in the US when I have been scrounging for used stuff. The bad news is that the new one was upwards of $600 but still a lot cheaper than a full suite replacement.

The good news is that they fixed it and for about $50 it was back on the boat and as good as new.

Another example was earlier in the season when I had to have some work done on the boom and instead of making me order new fittings, the holes that were elongated were just filled with new metal, bored out and returned to me in “like new” condition. No fuss, no muss. There was no way that someone in the US would “fix” it. Just order a new one. Easy peasy and besides, it’s not their money.

The oft repeated adage that cruising is nothing more than “boat repair in exotic places” is certainly the case.

So, what do we do all day? Well, in spite of being busy much of the time, it seems not a lot gets done.

We do spend a lot of time opening and closing hatches as short 5-10 minute rain squalls roll through. But the reward is a beautiful rainbow dropping out of the clouds over a palm covered beach.

Or sitting up on deck taking in the news of the day as the sun peeks over the horizon to begin a new day.

Another favorite pastime for me is “boat spotting” and there is plenty to keep me busy here in the Caribbean. While it’s the big superyachts that generally catch my attention, Grayhound was in the marina along with us in Rodney Bay last week.

She’s a reproduction of an 18th century lugger. Here’s what their site has to say about her. As luck would have it, when we departed for Martinique, she was underway as well. A beautiful site and was moving along at a good clip.

Their site says…“Grayhound was commissioned by Marcus and Freya Pomeroy-Rowden from the boatbuilder Chris Rees at Voyager Boatyard in Cornwall. She was launched on 4th August 2012. She is a 5/6th scale replica of a three-masted UK Customs Lugger called Grayhound that was built in 1776 in Cawsand, Cornwall. Our Grayhound carries a Category 0 licence for worldwide travel and is armed with two working cannon!”

This short video is worth watching.

My impression, when I walked by her at the dock was that she wasn’t quite a neat and tidy as this “walk through” would suggest. I expect, no am certain, that Brenda would not be comfortable aboard. In spite of my best efforts, Pandora is often below her standards and that’s not for a lack of trying.

I also spend a lot of time on Salty Dawg tasks and that consumes hours a day, whether it is talking to potential rally participants about their plan, offering advice, asked for or not, to those who are new to blue water sailing and helping them to understand that “don’t know what they don’t know”. Generally this advice is welcomed, occasionally not so much.

So, what do we do all day to keep busy aboard Pandora? I’ll admit that I am a bit unclear but I am busy.

Oh yeah, and I do spend a lot of time thinking about my next blog post and writing it. I know that I could probably spend a bit more time on proof-reading but I guess I am Ok with an occasional, or not so occasional typo or awkward sentence.

All of this has been about me. Brenda, on the other hand, always has a list of projects she is focused on. Today, as has been the case twice a month this season, she was teaching a class on tapestry to some of her more advanced students. She really enjoys it and has worked out the two camera system pretty well over zoom. This is a shot of her in “full battle gear”.

And, tapestry isn’t all that she does, how about Nantucket baskets, knitting, some sort of handwork I can’t remember and well, a lot more. One thing she NEVER does is quilting so don’t ask her about that. FOr sure, she is never idle and is very focused on being able to say “I accomplished this, and this and this today. And, sadly, that’s never enough for her. Her most recent post is a bit behind her work but check it out.

Well, I guess I have beaten this just about to death so I will sign off now. It’s a beautiful day here in St Anne Martinique where I expect we will spend a few more days before heading north toward Antigua and our flight back to home.

Besides, I have to go for a swim, sadly without Brenda as she has a zoom webinar coming up. Never idle…

In a few weeks, back home for what will surely be a whirlwind two week trip for family visits in MD and NYC, along with loads of yardwork, back to Antigua again to run Pandora down to Trinidad where she will be for the summer and likely the rest of 2024.

So, what do I do all day? Well, I guess that depends on what is broken…

A new chapter dawns, with a nod to what was…

For almost two weeks we docked at Rodney Bay Marina in St Lucia, with our friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo, our mentors on our first run south in 2012 and now friends and cruising companions for over a decade. Nose to nose across the dock from each other.

We first met Bill and Maureen on the ICW in 2012 on our first run south. Kalunamoo looks the same after all these years.

And, Pandora, our “new Pandora” that replaced our SAGA 43 in 2015, is about to get a major refit in Trinidad, where Bill and Maureen have stored, and lived aboard, Kalunamoo for years now. No paint needed though as she still looks terrific. Well, that’s as long as you ignore a few chips. But, that will be fixed as well.

It is hard to believe that Brenda and I have been cruising winters for more than a decade now and in addition to our runs to the Bahamas, Cuba, for the last 8 seasons we have focused our attention on the eastern Caribbean.

After visiting many of the same harbors so many times, often twice or more in a season as we make our way south and north again, Brenda has been making noise that she doesn’t want to winter in this area any longer, a definite “been there, done that”. Along with the relative roughness of living on a boat, she still suffers from motion sickness and it’s plenty sporty between islands, something that she has never gotten used to.

Facing a decision between “swallowing the anchor” or trying to come up with something new, we have been talking about “what’s next” for much of this season as I am just not ready to give up cruising.

In addition to discomfort on passage for Brenda, both of us would prefer not to be away from family for so long each winter. Going for the entire winter without seeing our growing grandchildren for months at a time is tough even though we “see” them on video calls, it just isn’t the same as being there.

So, what next?

Many years ago, when Brenda and I first headed south to the Bahamas my Dad, now gone for a decade, remarked, “Bob, wouldn’t it be great to take Pandora through Gibraltar?” and that image has stuck with me.

We have quite a friends who have cruised the Med and after speaking to many of them over the years it seems like this is the right time to give it a go. Brenda studied the classics in college and did a semester in Italy and another in Greece we both think that it would be fun to explore the cultures of the Med as a next step.

The plan will be to do an abbreviated run in the Caribbean next winter, perhaps launching Pandora in Trinidad after Brenda’s birthday in January and then working our way north to Antigua. From there, at the end of the season, I would either take Pandora to Bermuda, another place that I haven’t taken my own boat to, and from there meet up with others for a Salty Dawg Rally to The Azores.

As is my custom, when I want to do something I always feel that it is best to involve others and make it an “event”. With that in mind, I proposed to the Salty Dawg Board that we do a trans Atlantic rally, which was greeted with a good deal of enthusiasm, more than I had expected, actually.

Once I arrive in The Azores, Brenda will fly in to join me and we will spend a few weeks to a month exploring the islands before she flies home and I continue on to Portugal where Pandora will be hauled until fall. At that time I will move Pandora into the Mediterranean where Brenda will join me for two months of cruising the coast of Spain. Instead of spending the entire winter away from family, we will spend two months in the spring and again in the fall. By focusing on the “hip seasons” we will avoid the crazy, crowded and expensive summer months and keep us home in CT when the weather is the nicest. Of course, we will also be in CT during the not-so-nice winter months but hey, I’ll take what I can get.

All of this discussion has caused me to reflect on the time we have spent aboard on our first run south so long ago. That along with all the emotion swirling around the terrible tragedy of the murder of Salty Dawg Members, Kathy and Ralph of Simplicity, has given most of us pause for thought as we look to the future with the hope of getting the most out of our lives. For the crew of Pandora, the next chapter will be to head “across the Pond”. Details to come…

I have written many times of our friendship with Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo and how they mentored us on our first run south. As we ponder this next chapter, it is fitting that we are tied up together in the same marina here in St Lucia. They too are feeling a bit wistful about the past and invited us over to their boat one evening last week for what they called billed as “nostalgia night” where Bill ran through photos that he took during that first season when we “buddy boated” together down the ICW and through Bahamas.

As Bill scrolled through hundreds of photos I couldn’t help but yell “Bill, I need a copy of that one, and that one…”

So here are some of those photos that brought back so many memories, laughter and a few tears…

Yes, I will admit that what follows looks an awful lot like “what I did on my summer vacation” but bear with me.

Brenda and I met Bill and Maureen for the first time, in St Marie’s Georgia where the townspeople welcome cruisers for Thanksgiving. A pot luck affair, supplied by cruisers and the locals supplying free turkeys, it was a wonderful experience. I wrote a post about that day in November of 2012, so if you are inspired, follow this link. I don’t know if this tradition is still going on but it was an amazing experience for us, our first thanksgiving away from family.

This is a terrible photo of the event where we met Bill and Maureen and we had no idea at the time that we would still be hanging out together more than a decade later. That’s me and Brenda to the left. Bill was the photographer behind the camera.

We left Pandora in St Mary’s for the holidays that year and when we returned in the new year, continued down the ICW to Florida where we reconnected with Bill and Maureen in Middle River, Ft Lauderdale. There we waited for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream to the Bahamas. Sometimes that wait can be weeks long as the easterly trade winds are relentless.

One thing that has always bugged Brenda is being away from family for her birthday, January 15th if you want to mark your calendar, and everyone made a big deal of that special day in 2013. She was more than a little homesick but a cake and celebration improved her mood.

Another couple, Melinda and Harry of Sea Schell, were also a mentor for us that first season, showing us the ropes as we prepared to cross and got our “feet wet” in the Bahamas.

I have always loved this photo of Brenda, surprised but enjoying the attention.

A few days later we planned to leave for the Bahamas. Being anchored in the middle of downtown Ft Lauderdale was a unique experience and every morning we focused on the coming weather reports from Chris Parker, the weather router that we have used for more than a decade. Sadly, nowadays, anchoring is prohibited in most places in Florida as cruisers are lumped in with the derelict boats that cause such an eyesore in the area.

We were anxious and also excited about the crossing to the Bahamas that had been so long in coming.

I can’t even begin to count how many times we have enjoyed sundowners in each other’s boats over the years.

Finally, after an overnight from Florida, Brenda’s first and a bit harrowing with strong winds, squalls and uncertain navigation, we arrived in Nassau and tied up at customs, a rickety dock at best. Of course, our “Pandora” at the time was a SAGA 43.

After that we anchored together to collect ourselves and make plans.

Harry and Melinda lost no time in giving us our first taste of life in the Bahamas. I will say that they, along with Bill and Maureen, are a bit saltier than Brenda and decided to have us anchor on the ocean side of a nearby island. We launched the dink and headed ashore only to be immediately swamped by a wave that broke over the dink, filling it with water and sand and soaking us. Brenda was not amused and uttered something like “I WANT TO GO HOME!” I will admit that we both felt that we were roughing it a bit more than we had anticipated.

Perhaps not the best way to begin our journey of discovery, but everybody was smiling. Getting the wet and sandy dink off of the boat and back to Pandora was a bit damp. Sadly, Harry died suddenly a few years later. He is still missed.

I won’t bore you with a blow by blow of that first winter but if you are curious, the navigation bar to the right sorts posts by month and we were in the Bahamas from mid January through April when Brenda flew home and I ran the boat back to CT. Since that year I have run Pandora north and south most every year and this year marks the first when she will be left south. This year’s plan to have Pandora in Trinidad breaks that tradition and I am looking forward to NOT doing the run to CT for once.

For the next four seasons we headed to the Bahamas and, as always, hung out with Bill, Maureen.

I learned to love rum punch that season at Scorpios. Wow! Really strong.

That first season our sons, Chris and Rob along with Rob’s now wife, Kandice, visited. Chris has been back aboard since then but Rob and Kandice have too busy raising three children.

This is me snorkeling that first season and speaking of our boys, the shorty wetsuit was Rob’s when he was a teenager, and it still fits. Just sayin…

That first season was a blur of first time experiences and adjusting to living aboard in a space about the size of a bathroom. So far, so good although, our “new Pandora” is a bit larger.

For sure, no more landings on beaches where there are waves. Except when it can’t be avoided, of course. And, when that happens, Brenda is still not amused.

The future is looking bight as we contemplate what’s next, and it’s been a lot of fun to think back to that very first run south and meeting

And as we prepared to depart a few days ago. Old friends posed to celebrate our second decade and a nod to what was…

Sure we are all a little worse for wear but it is exciting to ponder what the new chapter may bring.

When the unimaginable happens.

The last week or so has been a blur with the tragic news of the murder of two members of the Salty Dawg Sailing Association, Kathy and Ralph of SV Simplicity.

Before they hijacked Simplicity, three young men escaped from jail in Grenada where they were being held for other serious crimes. It seems that their escape was a relatively simple effort, reported as them just opening a door with a faulty lock scrambling over a roof and jumping to the ground. In their desire to escape the island, they boarded Simplicity, anchored near shore at a popular spot in Grenada. About 13 hours later the couple had vanished, the boat abandoned, and anchored in a very exposed area off of the shore of St Vincent.

The three made repeated trips to shore, offloading most anything of value all, of which was recovered after their arrest soon after making landfall.

St Vincent is an island with few harbors that offer protection and with a reputation for lawlessness, causing most cruisers avoid the island entirely. For this reason, the discovery of Simplicity on these shores was particularly surprising.

A good Samaritan, a professional captain on a catamaran owned by someone from the US, who happened to be paddle boarding in the area thought that the boat, with shredded genoa and anchored in an exposed spot seemed out of place and took a look inside.

What he saw was evidence of extreme violence, and fortunately, he was able to find contact information for Salty Dawg and sent an email to our office. His note was forwarded to me and I called his WhatsApp number. He described the state of that boat and and agreed to go back aboard, take some photos and call the St Vincent Coast Guard. That exchange began what has become a quickly unfolding description of violence and murder.

Kathy, Ralph and their crew, aboard Simplicity, had participated in our 2023 fall rally to Antigua from Hampton VA, and as with all participating boats, provided an emergency contact. And it was at this number that I left a cryptic message. Some hours later I received a call back and shared the tragic news. To tell one of their sons of the death of his parents was a moment that I will not soon forget. As hard as it was for me to deliver the news, I can only imagine what their children felt. I would expect that they will struggle forever to attempt to process the details of the brutal killing of their parents.

The good Samaritan sent me this drone shot of him on his paddleboard with Simplicity in the distance. The peacefulness of the image belies the reality of the story behind it.

As peaceful as it appeared, the setting was anything but that, with Simplicity anchored and abandoned in a place that most cruisers would not go, in an exposed area, and with a tattered genoa.

After I spoke with the good Samaritan, he contacted the St Vincent Coast Guard and from there things quickly escalated to a point that news organizations from around the world were clamoring for information. I have never been involved in anything that has captured the attention of so many and it was breathtaking to see how fast news travels.

As I worked through reaching out to family, speaking with contacts at the US Embassy in Barbados, the only US consulate in the Caribbean, along with members of the coast Guard and police in St Vincent, I learned the brutal details, and was struck by just how difficult it was to satisfy reporters trying to cover the story as well as respect the wishes of a grieving family.

The story unfolded at breakneck speed, and the sons of Kathy and Ralph asked Salty Dawg to send out a number of news releases so suddenly Salty Dawg became a “source” and I quickly learned just how awkward that position would prove to be.

Early on I spoke with People magazine and was ultimately impressed with how balanced the reporting was in spite of their reputation of being a bit sensational. The result of that discussion can be seen at this link.

I also spoke with Fox news and once I was on zoom with the reporter I realized that I was way out of my depth. The interview was incredibly uncomfortable but fortunately, the portions of that interview that they aired were reasonable. While we all see interviews daily, it’s hard to conceive how complex speaking with the press is, with their own goals of capturing “eyeballs” and increasing their ratings.

Perhaps one of the most balanced pieces that I saw was published a few days ago in the Times of London, a paper that I have subscribed to for a number of years. I thought that the reporter was thorough and thoughtful about this terrible tragedy. Unfortunately, I don’t think that you can read that piece unless you are a subscriber. Try the link anyway.

So, here we are in the aftermath of an unspeakable tragedy, the “news cycle” has run itself out and reporters have moved on, chasing the next “nightmare” only to quickly abandon that and focus on whatever comes next.

The cruising community that Brenda and are a part of is very close knit and it will be a long time until the implications of this tragedy fades from our collective memory. For the family, I doubt that they will ever be able to get the images of the unspeakable violence that befell Kathy and Ralph and blatant disrespect for human life that ended their lives, out of their heads.

As tragic as this event has been, the outpouring of support from all corners of the cruising community has been heartening and we can take solace in the fact that the senseless violence that took the lives of two of our own was a random, if tragic, act in an area that is generally safe, the Eastern Caribbean, where so many of us spend months each season enjoying the beautiful beaches, clear waters and varied cultures.

For so many, making our way to the Caribbean is the culmination of a lifelong dream.  And for Kathy and Ralph, that dream was cut short.  Our community of cruisers, who live a lifestyle little understood by the general public, has been thrust into the public consciousness with this senseless tragedy with reporting my most major news outlets.   

Whatever each of us might be feeling, the family of Kathy and Ralph are facing a gaping void in their lives.

As tragic as this is, perhaps the one bright part, small as it may be, has been the outpouring of love and support from those who knew Kathy and Ralph and whether you knew them or not, these words from Nick, son of Kathy, and Bryan, son of Ralph, will surely illustrate the close-knit nature of our community. 

“We would like to say a few words about Kathy and Ralph that we wish all to know. We live in a world that at times can be cruel, but it is also a world of profound beauty, wonder, adventure, love, compassion, caring, and faith. Our parents encompassed all those values and so much more. If we have learned anything from this tragic event, it is that we know they left this world in a better place than it was before they were born. Ralph and Kathy lived a life that most of us can only dream of, sailing the eastern coast of the United States, living on their home Simplicity, making friends with everyone they encountered, singing, dancing, and laughing with friends and family – that’s who Ralph and Kathy were and that’s how they will be remembered in our hearts.”

Over the years I have been struck by how our community supports one another, always eager to help, whether it is to tow someone with engine problems into an anchorage, bring a needed package from the states or to share tools and expertise.

Cruising carries risk, and it is up to each of us to stay diligent and do what we can to stay safe.   At the same time, we need to remember that this event, as heinous as it was, is extremely unusual and that there is risk in whatever you choose to do in life.  What we’ve all chosen to do, sailing to faraway places, visiting tropical islands, is something that most only dream about.  For all of us to be a part of the cruising community is a gift to be cherished.

Sadly, for Kathy and Ralph, that dream was cut short as a result of unimaginable violence, but their memory lives on through those whom they touched in so many ways. 

Thar she blows! And we were there…

One of the things that most sailors long for is a photo of their boat under sail. However, unless you are willing to launch a dink with someone carrying a camera that is willing to sit there while you sail back and forth, you have to be satisfied with a photo from on board of the bow crashing through the waves.

However, once in a while someone that you know happens to be nearby and snaps a shot of your boat blasting along with a “bone in her teeth”.

So, imagine what might be the most unlikely shot and I doubt that you would ever imagine a photo of a whale AND your boat in the same frame. Well, I suppose that nowadays that’s possible with AI but the photo below is real and taken by a fellow cruiser the other day as we moved along the lee of Dominica.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to snorkel with an animal like this. And now that I think about it, I doubt that it is a good idea for boats to approach the whales at all. However, it does bring important recognition to these amazing creatures and hard currency to an island that badly needs it. Interestingly, the harbor that they leave from is Portsmouth, the very same harbor that we visit when we go to the island.

This video shows some remarkable footage of such an encounter. Seeing them from afar was amazing, but up close, I can only imagine.

When 60 minutes decides to do a segment on something, it’s a big deal. A very interesting piece on what is called the “Dominica Sperm Whale Project.”

Brenda and I were in awe being even close to such a remarkable animal, what is probably the largest animal ever to roam the earth.  

And we were there…

And we have a photo to prove it!  Thanks to our friends Francis and Laura aboard WNBAB (Why not buy another boat).  Ok, why not?

Happy 51st Valentine’s day, Brenda.

It’s valentines day here in Les Saintes, where Brenda and I have been on a mooring for more than a week. We have had all sorts of variety in the weather since arriving, from near calm and sunny to windy, rainy and more than a bit of swell to keep things “interesting”. However, in honor of this special day, it’s sunny and calm with a light wind.

While we are often apart on the anniversary of our very first date, October 28th, 1972, not to put too a fine point on it, as I am generally running Pandora somewhere, we have never been apart, as best as we can remember anyway, on Valentine’s day, as long as we have been together. Not to torture dates too much, while this is our 51st V day, we are into our 52nd year together. Who’d have guessed?

We also learned that our high school class will be having a 50th anniversary reunion in October. I think we will go. Besides, we believe that we are the only couple from our class that is still together.

Fortunately, on this V Day, after what seems like a particularly rolly season so far, the weather is nearly perfect. The humidity is reasonable, the harbor calm and the sun is out. Tonight we head out to dinner together to toast the beginning of our second half century together. Holly S#*% that makes me feel old…

Brenda likes to remind her friends who are jealous of our time in the tropics, away from the snowy Northeast, that we are “not floating around with umbrella drinks”. Well not all the time, I’ll admit but perhaps tonight’s dinner date will be sort of an “umbrella moment”. We did enjoy lounging floating around in the water behind Pandora last evening before heading out for sundowners with friends.

And, speaking of those sundowners, we enjoyed our time ashore with Muna and Fred at one of our favorite spots overlooking the water. The view was pretty amazing. And no, this photo was not touched up in any way. It just looked like that. And tonight, dinner for two in the same place.

It is amazing how different the sunset can look. This was yesterday’s from aboard Pandora. Different but beautiful.

While not a sunset, this photo, taken the same day by Melody in Central Park of our grand-dog Mila is a bit different. It’s hard to imagine a place where a snow covering is quite as beautiful as The Park.

Brenda has been working hard on her tapestry most days and yesterday was all set up for her twice monthly weaving class. She is doing this as a volunteer with a number of her students from prior classes. Between Starlink, Zoom and two cameras, one for her and the other to show her work, it’s seems to be going well.

To overhear her as the more than two hour class progressed, there seems to be a good amount of “girl talk” too, whatever that means. For sure, they are enjoying their time together.

Note that her phone is on a flexible holder which allows her to share a feed of what she is weaving. It took a few hours of practice for us to figure out how to toggle, sort of smoothly, between the phone and laptop cameras as she shares techniques. Alas, we did finally figure it out and, the result, being able to teach from aboard Pandora is quite amazing, actually.

While Brenda was teaching, I headed out for a walk up to Fort Napoleon, high up on a hill overlooking the harbor. This photo from Pandora doesn’t do justice to the height of the walk. There is a huge French flag on the peak, at the fort. It’s hard to see.

A few hearty folks walk up the road but most take golf carts or scooters for the climb. The view of the harbor is pretty amazing.

And a close up of Pandora on her mooring. As great as a smart phone is for taking photos, nothing matches an SLR.

Sadly, the museum in the fort was closed so I had to satisfy myself with a walk on the perimeter. I can only imagine how tough it was to build this place when the only heavy equipment was the stones…

As the French characters taunted the English in the Monty Python movie, “Quest for the Holy Grail”, “your mother smells like elderberries.” After a day lugging stones to build this place, I expect that the French smelled a whole lot worse.

So, I will be clearing out today at the customs office/laundry, Tomorrow we head south to Saint Pierre in Martinique, one of favorite places, when it’s not rolly. We hope to stay a few days and then head down to Fort de France, to enjoy the post-carnival city, after the craziness is over, mostly.

With some luck the anchorage will be settled. For sure, the view will be spectacular. It always is.

Perhaps I can pick some flowers for Brenda too. Sadly, here not to much to pick.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Definitely an “umbrella in a drink sort of day.”

Climate or weather? A rare west wind.

We are here in Les Saintes where we headed to prepare for challenging weather and while it is a bit choppy, the conditions are so much nicer than we had experienced in Dominica where we rolled terribly for days.

Having said that, between winds that were out of the north, followed by southerly winds, both strong, followed by no wind, the weather has been a bit crazy this season. However, after a week of rolly conditions in Dominca we decided that we’d backtrack to Les Saintes with the hope of calmer conditions.

We were not disapointed.

Shortly after our arrival, we enjoyed a lovely dinner out with friends at a wonderful French restaurant. What an idyllic spot with the water gently lapping up on the beach.

I really do not understand the fascination with posting photos of meals. However, of wine? What’s not to like?

For several days Chris Parker had been warning boats that an unusual weather event was in the forecast. A front moving through the area with winds expected to come out of the west. A forecast like that was an unusual occurrence in an area where winds are generally very predictable and almost always out of the east. Perhaps a bit north or south of east, but from the east. His advice was that boats should prepare to find shelter from what were likely to be strong west winds. This sort of issue is common in the Bahamas where cold fronts come crashing down from the north, often more than once a week. These fronts bring strong winds that clock from east to south, through the west and back to the east, all within a 24 hour period.

During the four seasons that Brenda and I spent in the Bahamas we tired of the weekly need to run for cover in an area with precious few options for safety. This is one of the reasons we decided to spend our winters in the Caribbean.

The issue in the Bahamas, as well as the Caribbean, is that many popular anchorages are not protected from the west and what is normally a secure place to anchor can become a dangerous lee shore, pummeled by big waves bringing a risk that you will be pushed onto the beach and pounded in the surf.

Chris is always careful to provide a “worse case” scenario in his forecasts so that his clients can be fairly confident that conditions will not be worse than he is forecasting. Better to overstate it as opposed to having clients later remarking “Chris, it was a lot worse than you said it would be!”. It is certainly better for his business for them to say “Thank goodness that you warned us. It wasn’t all that bad and we were prepared.”

Because of his abundant caution, some feel that Chris overplays risk and feel that he can be an alarmist. As a result, they don’t always take his warnings seriously and the other night was a good example.

The problem was that the GRIBS seemed to show that while winds would be clocking from the south through the west, but it would be very rapid, giving the impression that seas would not have an opportunity to build much as the wind shifted. Chris did not see things the same way and urged caution.

His forecast was that overnight there would be west component winds as strong as 25kts with gusts to 40 in squalls. And, along with that there was a risk of 10′ waves driven by those strong squalls, something that the GRIBS really did not capture. He strong recommendation was to find shelter from west winds and that anyone with exposure to the west could find themselves on a nasty lee shore.

Oddly, in spite of that forecast a lot of our boats did not move into an area offering good protection and found themselves in difficult conditions, fighting to stay off of a lee shore.

Fortunately, none of the Salty Dawg boats were lost but in a number of harbors boats broke loose and ended up on the beach or rocks. Here are a few photos of boats that met their fates as posted by Salty Dawg members.

In Dominica, we had faced some really nasty swells the prior week, and even when there was no wind, conditions were very rough. This boat is about the same size as Pandora was driven up on the beach. I have no idea how they are going to find someone to pull her off as there aren’t a lot of commercial boats in the area.

When a boat ends up on the rocks, there are often holes in the hull and the boat fills with water and sand stirred up by the surf. Not good for this boat in St Pierre. This area is one where we have anchored many times. It’s an open roadstead and even under perfect conditions, it can be rolly.

You can imagine, even if the hull isn’t breached, the force of the waves breaking over the boat can down-flood into the interior quickly. The power of water an not be overestimated. More than once we have pulled our dink up on a beach only to have her swamped by a single wave filling her quickly with water and a load of sand. Imagine the mess after hours of crashing waves. It doesn’t take long until the boat is trashed beyond repair.

There really can’t be much hope in removing a boat intact under those conditions, especially in a location where sophisticated salvage services are not available.

Here is a shot of Deshaies that I took recently, when things were settled. A lovely spot. It’s worth noting that the town dock is designed in a way that allows them to pull off the entire deck so that the waves can break over and through it and not do any damage as all that is exposed is a metal framework.

It doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse as witnessed by this short video from a fellow Salty Dawg of the waterfront in Deshaies taken the “morning after”.

I had written about the work that Mark and I did on a dock in Dominica last week. We were pretty proud of our work.

The same dock less than a week later. It must be depressing to work hard to keep things in shape only to have them trashed a short time later.

There is no doubt that many cruisers were surprised by how quickly things went south and fortunately nobody in our fleet lost their boat. There was some damage including overturned dinks and I am sure other issues given how bad conditions quickly became.

The following morning I called Chris back to get his thoughts on why conditions had deteriorated so much and so quickly. His answer was that this had been the worse cold front that he had seen in this part of the Caribbean in 20 years.

After more than a few seasons here in the Caribbean the weather seems to be weirder than ever and it makes me wonder. What about easterlies? Southerlies, Northerlies, wind from the west? What gives?

You do have to ask yourself if this is weather or climate? Strong winds from the north, south and west, all in a week. All I can say is that it’s wierd…

Well, at least there are croissants, and baguettes, and cheese, wine… Well, you get the idea.

From gale to calm to rolling and for now, really calm.

They often say that if you don’t like the weather, wait a few hours. In the case of the Caribbean, one thing you can sadly count on is that most of the anchorages can not be counted on to be calm. Sure, there are places that are predictably calm, but they are not the norm. More often than not, it’s uncertain as to whether you will be sitting pretty or perhaps holding on to your wine, hoping for the best.

After a week of really strong winds in Deshaies, we were pleased to head to Dominica for the Salty Dawg Rendezvous, a harbor, more of a roadstead, that is generally pretty calm.

However, not this time and while it was very calm when we arrived, within a few days there was a long swell coming into the harbor, something that we have not seen there very often. And, to complicate things, there was almost no wind so we rocked back and forth in a very unpleasant way, hour after hour. Our friend Bill on Kalunamoo has a “roll-scale” that rates the severity of rolling at anchor on a scale of 1-7 with 1 being the most benign and 7, well not so great. At the worse, we definitely had a 7, making it difficult to sleep or move around the cabin. And, with no wind, uncommon for the Caribbean, it was hot and sticky too.

And for our week long visit there was nearly always a swell, tossing Pandora back and forth uncomfortably and on a few days, right up there with the worse we have ever encountered. Dishes were crashing back and forth in cabinets and anything that was not tied down and well secured, was tossed to the floor. It was exhausting and as you can imagine, Brenda was not amused.

On Monday, following the big final dinner in Dominica, we headed, no escaped, to Les Saintes, about 25 miles north, and one of our favorite places.

As a rule, this place can be rolly as well because it is somewhat exposed to the north so any sort of northerly swell, wraps right around into the harbor. When we were experiencing the very strong winds in Guadeloupe, this place was apparently totally untenable, with swells coming into the anchorage that were terrible.

When we headed up here yesterday we really didn’t know what to expect and to our happy surprise, we were able to get a mooring close in and it is as calm as we have ever seen it. What a relief.

It is a really beautiful bit of France in the Caribbean.

Les Saintes are a small archipelago of islands just south of Guadeloupe. Just to put this in context, here’s a chart that shows the islands from Antigua, upper right, do Dominica, to the south. Pandora is the red mark.

For a closer look… Again, Pandora is where the red mark is. That is the primary island and while there are a few cars, most of the island transport is via golf cart and scooter. The streets are buzzing, literally, with every form of small transport. Every day hundreds of tourists stream in via ferry to the island.

The island is very French and there is a good variety of food in the shops and a bakery that sells all matter of baked goods. Nothing like a warm baguette or croissant in the morning.

We have been here many times over the years, but this earlier post gives a good feel for what the French islands have to offer and Les Saintes in particular.

This shot is of a local fishing boat coming back. There was a good crowd working to put the nets out to dry.

I didn’t see any evidence of the catch as I expect it had been hauled away by the time I was on the scene. However, that didn’t stop the locals from hanging out with the hope of snagging castoffs.

As we sat in Dominica and were tossed aside in the swell, we were anxious to get underway to Le Saintes with the hope of finding a more settled spot to spend a few days before heading south again, this time to Martinique, one of our favorite islands.

After a week in Deshaies, with crazy winds, down to Dominica for a nice visit that began with calm conditions but ended up crazy rolly and now back here in Les Saintes, with some of the calmest conditions we’ve seen here, ever, we are reminded once again that things change. But for now, it’s beautiful and we are enjoying the peace and quiet.

It seems that more than a few Salty Dawg boats had the same idea of escaping to Les Saintes and the swell of Dominica. Now, with a number of Dawgs in the harbor, I thought it would be fun to organize a cocktail visit at one of the local eateries on shore for tonight.

Brenda has a zoom fiber event but will be done around 6:00 so that’s when we will head ashore.

Yes, I’m glad to be back in France again. I’ll take another baguette, croissant, some wine and… Well, the lists just goes on and on. But first cocktails with the Dawgs

But, best of all, it’s great to be in the calm again. Well, at least for now. Fingers crossed…

Heck, being in France makes me want to head to the Med, but that’s another story so stay tuned for more on that score.

From gales to calm. Calm is good…

We have been in Dominica for a few days participating in the Dominica Salty Dawg rendezvous, hosted by a local Dominican group PAYS, Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security. This group does a lot to organize tours, dive trips and parties to keep the cruisers coming back. It’s a great group and makes visiting what was once a fairly dangerous island, a lot of fun and very safe. With upwards of 20-25 Salty Dawg boats here for at least a week, it’s nice to see the group come together again and to make new friends. We arrived a few days early as the winds were forecast to drop to near nothing for nearly a week after blowing upwards of 30kts, with gusts to 40kts, while we were in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Dominica, often referred to as the “nature island” is very different than Guadeloupe with it’s shabby European vibe. It’s very rural, poor and has very few hotels. For those who enjoy the rainforests, it’s just about a perfect place to visit.

We’ve been here for a few days and it’s been a mix of rain and sun, with a generous dash of rolling swell which for the first few days made things a bit unpleasant. But, even with a nasty swell the beauty of a post-shower rainbow is amazing.

The weather has changed a lot from day to day since we arrived. That sunny day was followed by a full day of rain, unusual for the Caribbean where short squalls followed by rainbows is more typical.

During the rainy day, it was beautiful but very humid as we had to keep Pandora all buttoned up. This schooner, one of a number that spend time here with paying guests, anchored nearby. It was hard to even see the horizon. It looked like a vision that might have been seen here 200 years ago.

Prior to heading to Dominica we visited Deshaies Guadeloupe, our first stop heading south from Antigua, is impossibly quaint village that is best described as shabby chic. There are some very nice restaurants to choose from, French, of course. The 50 mile run from Antigua was particularly sporty with strong winds and big seas. I was sorry that it had to be that way as it was the first run of the season for Brenda.

While we were in Deshaies we met a very nice German couple on Grey Hound, an aluminum boat about the same size as Pandora. They came aboard to talk about cruising the Med and Brenda was intrigued. Well, intrigued with visiting Spain at least. I’d like that. Fingers crossed. Perhaps we can head to the Azores in the spring of 25. Something to look forward to. (note: Brenda hasn’t agreed yet… Ever hopeful)

There is a small river running down to the harbor through a cut in the mountains. It was a short walk into the woods, complete with a wonderful swimming hole. Nothing like a fresh water swim after a short hike. And into water that is considerably colder than the harbor.

Another place we always make time to visit is the local botanical garden, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, a short drive from the harbor via their own van.

It’s hard to decide what the best things to highlight from our visit to the gardens but here goes.

As you enter the gardens there is a wonderful reflecting pool…

Complete with a large family of koi. Each between 12″ and 18.”

And now, a wonderful mix of textures among the many amazing tropical plants.

It must be a big pump that powers this 6′ high water tower.

These charming little parrots are fun. They live in a large aviary that you can enter and interact with them. They eat nectar out of a cup that you can purchase.

Of course, there is also a number of wise old McCaws happy to check you out.

This little guy scampered away when I got too close.

I loved the way that the light shown through these fronds.

Looks delicate and soft but is large and spiny.

These grasses are actually is as soft as they look.

This succulent looks delicate and velvety but is anything but at about 5′ from side to side.

Everything is supersized. Each of these leaves is more than 2′ long.

The giant papyrus, with the fluffy tops, is one of my favorite water plants. We grow a clump in a caldron each summer at home.

Not so fluffy, the trunk of a massive tree. Looks like the folds of elephant skin.

These flowers grow just about everywhere. I understand that the locals here in Dominica make their intricate baskets with fibers in the stems. Brenda purchased some baskets yesterday as gifts when we rented a car yesterday but that will have to wait until the next post.

And, closely related to the one above another “wild flower” that is every where. The frond is about 18″ long.

Of course, many of us in the freezing north grow these as house plants. Here the leaves get more than 2′ long and carpet the ground in huge areas.

Flowers like this make me wish that I could grow topicals at home.

The gardens are high on a hill overlooking the harbor where we had moored Pandora. Brenda and Maureen surveying the harbor.

After days of near gale force winds in Deshaies, making Pandora strain on her mooring, the wind dropped to near dead calm once we arrived here in Dominica. When the wind is very light, and it rarely is, it is quite hot down below.

Fortunately, there is a breeze today but still with calm conditions. With that in mind, I took time to scrub the slime off of the bottom of Pandora. I use a small compressor with a long hose. An abrasive pad with a handle and air from the compressor, I am able to stay below for the 45 minutes that it takes for me to completely scrub the bottom. I try to do it every two weeks during the season so it doesn’t get too nasty.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. When the surge was at it’s worse, we visited our friends on Kalunamoo for cocktails and while their boat rolled from side to side, our dink was caught under their boarding ladder, puncturing a hole. Flat dink.

I actually found two holes, by spraying Windex all over the pontoons, after pulling it out on the beach. It took two days with careful prep and a day for the bond to cure. I used a special two part rubber adhesive that I borrowed from my friend Mark. The dink looked pretty sad deflated and covered with sand.

She’s back in the water, holding air… I hope.

I also took some time with a friend to fix up the local town dock where the cruisers go to get ashore. The dock has been in very rough condition for years and after I suggested an upgrade, with free labor, the PAYS guys agreed to supply materials, boards, screws etc. Fortunately Mark had some power tools aboard to speed the job along. We both worked for a half day, with a few of the PAYS guys, to add some refinements to the dock.

First, an extra 4′ of dock on one end. That’s Mark. Notice the step to make it easier for those of us that are older, get up on the big dock.

We also added a wood strip on the edge to tie dinks to. It doesn’t look like much but to those of us trying to get ashore when there is a surge running up on the nearby beach, having an easy way to tie up is important. That board, mid dock, is a handy way to grasp and climb ashore. There is also a board below the dock to keep dinks from being stuck under the dock at low tide. We’ve seen plenty of dinks get damaged when they grind against concrete. It is always advisable to put out a stern anchor to keep the boat away from harm.

Mark and I were assisted by three of the local PAYS guys. An enthusiastic group. Notice the guy on the right with a “joint” in his mouth. A number of them are half stoned much of the time. It was a fun project.

Later that night there was a barbecue with all the rum punch you could drink. And there were a lot on hand to have that punch. The next morning it was clear that I had a bit too much.

So, here we are for a few more days of fun before we head on to another island. As the wind is expected to be from the south for much of the week, which almost never happens, we may backtrack north a bit to Le Saintes, just below Guadeloupe, one of our favorite destinations to wait for the wind to shift back to a normal easterly direction.

After that, on to Martinique. We were going to attend Carnival but I don’t think that we will this time as we won’t be able to get there soon enough to secure a spot to anchor in what will surely be a very crowded harbor.

After weeks of strong winds it’s nice to be enjoying calm conditions after a very windy week in Deshaies,

Calm is good…

Anxious to move on… for croissants…

It’s been three weeks since we arrived in Antigua and I will admit that I am becoming a bit restless to begin heading south. In past years, the “Christmas winds” tend to be a bit lighter toward the second half of January but this year the winds were quite reasonable earlier in the season and not so much recently.

For the last few nights we have had strong squalls where it went from sort of windy to quite windy with heavy rain only to lighten up ten minutes later. The good news is that it washes off the decks. The down side is that we have to jump up to close all the hatches with no warning except drops hitting us in bed.

Nighttime is beautiful in Falmouth with all the yachts brightly lit. I can only imagine with that costs as a KWH is about $.75. I have been told that some of the yachts run up electric bills of thousands a week. I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

The view of the yachts in the marina at night is pretty impressive. For the purposes of scale, note that a mast that is over 100′ tall has to have a red light. Lots of red lights…

The one with three masts on the right is the Maltese Falcon, that I wrote about recently.

She left the harbor a few days ago. It was impressive to see her unfurl her sails. Amazingly, a few hours later she was back in the marina. Imagine taking a 300′ sailboat out for a day sail? “Ok, let’s head back to the dock. Enough of that for today. I don’t like the whole wavy thing at all.”

Every day I look at the GRIBS (computer generated wind models) along with Chris Parker’s forecast with the hope that lighter winds are on the horizon. It is possible that we can head south to Guadeloupe on Monday but that is a very narrow one day window and the winds will quickly become strong again. The good news is that we may be entering a period of lighter winds in about a week but that’s a long way off so I guess we will just have to see how that goes.

With that in mind, we headed to Jolly Harbor today, a short 15 mile downwind run. There is a nice grocery in Jolly as well as a place to check out with customs. Tonight we will have dinner with our old friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo. You may recall that they were our mentors on the very first trip south in 2012. We are all a bit older now and somewhat worse for wear.

Here’s the view from Pandora when we arrived in Jolly. A beautiful day with lovely clouds.

Hopefully Monday will not be too windy but the waves are expected to be between 7-10′ on the beam. Windy yes, and a contrast to the view of our home in CT, here with a dusting of snow. Thanks to Mike and Heidi for sending this shot and for keeping an eye on our home this winter.

Yesterday was laundry day and with the strong winds everything dried PDQ with the first load ready to fold and put away as the second one came out of the washer.

I have tried to do what I can to help Brenda feel productive aboard Pandora this winter. It is no secret that she misses “her people” when she is here in the tropics. To ease all that, this winter she is doing a bit of teaching for some of her more advanced tapestry students. Here she is during her first two hour session. We have things set up with a second camera so that she can demonstrate techniques as well as share photos from her computer along with commentary. It seems to be working very well and she’s enjoying the time .

Fortunately, many of her groups are using zoom, even when they are being held in person. This is good as many members can’t get to live events as easily for various reasons like age, weather or, in Brenda’s case, thousands of miles of ocean between her and the meeting. Perhaps not as good as “being there” but she is smiling as I write this, participating in a bobbin lace meeting.

Yesterday I had a meeting at one of the big marinas and took advantage of the moment to take some photos of some awesome sailboats visiting to participate in the upcoming Caribbean 600 race, one of the top ocean races in the world.

These three trimarans seem to be of identical design.

One of them is Argo. At 70′ she is a beast, capable of upwards of 40kts. She’s a handful and I can only imagine what sailing one of these boats must be like. Read this first hand account of what the experience is from Sailing World.

Better yet, watch this short video of her under sail. Hard to imagine sailing one. Perhaps easier to imagine crashing or flipping one if you don’t know what you are doing.

The cockpit on Argo is all business. And, they are tiller steered with three rudders.

The rudders and foils look like they would snap under the massive loads. I guess that they do on occasion.

Imagine the loads on the dagger boards that require blocks to move them up and down.

What is on the “water end” looks impossibly fragile.

One thing for sure is that this sort of boat needs someone with deep pockets.

And, speaking of deep pockets. I would love to get aboard Nahlin, owned by Dyson of the vacuum family.

And, of course, Nord, fresh from the builder’s shed. I have written about this boat recently but it’s worth noting that in past years, the owner’s last boat, Scat, held an end-of-season cookout on the dock for all comers. The day I took this photo, the office staff of the marina had been invited aboard for lunch. I suspect that most owners aren’t quite as open.

And, for bespoke yachts, bespoke tenders. And, usually more than one. Not a bad ride.

And speaking of “rides”, how about rowing across the Atlantic in an open boat? The first arrivals of boats in the Talisker’s Whisky Challenge have begun arriving in English Harbor. You can see where all the boat are on that page too. They come in with great fanfare.

Seeing them step on shore for the first time in over a month of rowing is quite a sight.

A lot of hugging.

And tears…

Family comes from all over to welcome them. It’s quite a moment.

It’s been nice to be here in Antigua for the last few weeks but I am anxious to move on. Off to Guadeloupe on Monday, I hope.

Love those French islands! Croissants, baguettes and oh yeah, wine in our future.

These guys are one in three million.

We are still in Antigua and hope to head to Guadeloupe next weekend. The problem is that the winds are quite sporty and to head out on a 50 mile run, my first of the season with Brenda in what Chris Parker, our weather router, calls “salty” would not be a great way to set the tone for the coming months.

The sunrise was beautiful yesterday, like nearly every day.

And when the sun peaked above the hills a few moments later…

So, for now we are hanging out and enjoying the sights. And those sights include some of our neighbors, some of which I have written about in the past.

This yacht Moonrise, is owned by Jan Koum, a co-founder of WhatsApp. He was born in 1976 so has plenty of years left to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Moonrise is over 300′ long and a real stunner. With a crew of 32 it is no surprise that it costs upwards of $20m to run her every year.

Of course, these days, even the biggest yachts don’t have enough room to store all their toys so they have a support yacht. This one, Nebula, shadows Moonrise. If Moonrise was big enough to support all the toys aboard the “mother ship” it would be too large to fit in most any harbor. This is quite a yacht in it’s own right and the “hanger” is big enough to accommodate a helicopter without folding the rotor along with all the other toys. This link shows just how elaborate this “tender” is.

I have written about Maltase Falcon in the past. She was commissioned by Tom Perkins, an early venture capital founder behind some of today’s biggest tech companies. Tom passed away and she is now active on the charter circuit. When she was built, she was the most sophisticated sailing yacht ever launched.

It’s worth watching this video about this remarkable vessel. To date, there are only two yachts in the world using this unique rig design.

In spite of being one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, she looks tiny next to some of the other yachts in the marina.

And speaking of unique, this boat, Norn, is owned by Charles Simoni, one of the developers of Microsoft Office. Norn is brand new and bigger than his prior yacht, Scat with many of the same characteristics. Check out this link to the builder’s site for Norn to get a feel for what such a yacht looks like down below. They both have a military look to them. The owner also has the distinction of being the only civilian to go up to the International Space Station twice, as a tourist.

While there are plenty of massive motor yachts to choose from here, I should note this huge sloop, Sarissa, owned by Lachan Murdoch, who runs News Corp. Launched in 2023, she is a luxury racer/cruiser, designed to take him and his family just about anywhere. Check out these photos of her?

This morning has been a very busy day for arrivals of the biggest yachts here in Falmouth harbor. This yacht is called Dreamboat. She is owned by the founder of Home Depot, Arthur Bank. Launched in 2019 she cost a staggering $180M. He also owns two sports teams. Of course he does…

I doubt that many of the materials were purchased from Home Depot but the money surely came from there. Check out this link for photos and a description of this amazing yacht.

Dreamboat has a nice spot suited to sundowners, I’d say.

Of course, you have to have a proper tender on such a yacht. When they get this fancy, they are called limos.

A favorite of mine is Naulin, launched in 1930 and carried King Edward for a tour of the Med before he abdicated the throne. After decades of neglect, she was fully refurbished by James Dyson, the vacuum guy. She was steam powered and now is converted to twin diesels. This link will take you to an interesting brief history. She is over 300′ long and only 35′ wide, a much smaller yacht than a yacht of similar length today. A classy lady, to be sure.

Ok, one more although, not with a particularly creative name. Here comes the Sun, she was once owned by a Russian but no longer. Interestingly, she recently went through a refit and had about 40′ added to her length. Sounds complicated.

Wonder what the “down below” looks like? It’s hard to pick which of these massive yachts to include as there are so many to choose from. However, Here Comes the Sun has a great video tour.

So, enough about the .oo1% gang that seems to be everywhere. How about “a day in the life of the little retired cruisers?”

With that in mind, the other day we rented a car with some friends to do a bit of exploring.

Here’s something that you don’t see everyday, especially aboard mega-yachts. Along the way we had to stop to wait for a herd of goats to get out of the way. It was hilarious to see them trot down the road, parting to get around our car and reforming behind us.

Once the goats cleared, our first stop was the Saturday farmer’s market in St John. It was a crazy experience with vendors set up on every street corner.

I wonder if some of those goats were headed for this meat market? It was alarming to see how fast the guy moved the meat through the band saw blade and how close his fingers came to the blade.

Or, better yet. I wonder what this machete sharpener guy was preparing for?

We are certainly not slumming it aboard Pandora but it’s a bit hard to reconcile how different the lives of those mega yacht owners and the typical Antiguan.

However, even the most extravagant wealth isn’t much use if you can’t enjoy your toys. Back when Putin invaded Ukraine all the Russian owned mega yachts took off with moments to spare lest their boats be impounded. Most of them are now in Turkey or the Middle East where they are safe from sanctions. However, one that didn’t get away, supposedly because they did not have enough fuel aboard, was Alfa Nero.

She is still here two years later, now under the control of the Antigua government and it’s unclear as to what will happen next. Some think that the Antiguan government has bitten off more than they can chew as they are now required to keep the boat in perfect condition, an expensive proposition for a yacht that costs thousands a day just sitting there.

These big kids come and go all the time so you get the feel that being a part of such a club is common. However and to get a feel for how rare the billionaire set is, there is one billionaire on the planet for every three million people, about 2,500 of them. And to say that a billionaire is “one in a million” understates it by a factor of three.

But to be a Russian billionaire right now isn’t what it used to be. While most of the Oligarchs got out of town when Putin invaded Ukraine, feel sorry for the owner of Alfa Nero that wasn’t fast enough on the trigger to leave Antigua and can no longer enjoy his toy. Well, that assumes that he hasn’t got another one stashed somewhere.