Sunday, December 25, 2011

My blog has moved!!!

It's Christmas and my blog has moved to a new location.   Imagine my surprise when my son Christopher surprised me with website at  While the site is primarily a blog now, I will be adding more functionality in the coming weeks.

From now on I will be posting there so please bookmark this location.  If you just hang out on this page for a few minutes you will be automatically redirected.  How cool is that?

I plan on making other changes to the new site, with help from Chris, as you can imagine, so that it will be easier to find posts on specific topics and let me share sites and information in a more structured way.

Merry Christmas!!!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

My idea of a good Gulf Stream crossing? I think not!!!

As I think forward to our trip to the Bahamas next winter I am very aware that our trip south had better be a great experience for Brenda.  I was encouraged when she suggested the other day that she wants to go to Cape May and Chesapeake City by boat.  On past trips to Annapolis, Brenda has always met me by car and I have used crew to make the run down the Jersey Coast.   Having her even suggest that she might join me for what is one of the longest outside runs is good news and I am clinging to it.

To the point of great experiences, I am pretty sure that if our trip next year isn't fun for Brenda that there won't be a second run south.   I am told that the Gulf Stream can be pretty nasty when the winds are up and from the wrong direction so we had better pick a good day.   Speaking of good, or bad, days...

This video of a run through the Southern Ocean in the last Volvo Ocean Race is exactly what I had better avoid. Is this a good run or bad?  You be the judge.

I am betting what we need to experience to make this fun for Brenda had better be excellent fodder for the most boring video footage ever.  For a dedicated knitter like Brenda, her idea of a really bad day is when she drops a stitch.  Hmm....

Friday, December 23, 2011

Where's Pandora or any boat for that matter?

So, how do you keep track of where a boat is these days?  Or, perhaps better stated, how to you let your land-locked friends keep tabs on you when you are cruising?  Of course, the question of "why would anyone care" is perhaps relevant but let's put that thought aside for now.  Besides, my Mom always wants to keep tabs on me.

As we plan for our first really big trip next fall to Florida and onto the Bahamas, I have been thinking about ways to keep my Mom, Dad and our friends up to date on where we are.  Yes, a phone call works well but having the boat show up on a map is just so much better.  So, I have been on the prowl, or should I say on a "voyage" to identify the best way to have Pandora show up on a map and track our progress along the way.

As you would expect, there are a number of options to choose from.  Some are fairly expensive and utilize the Iridium satellite system to display the location on a map while others utilize the AIS system.  

As an example of how this can work, I was fascinated to learn that there is a website that tracks every AIS equipped vessel in the world in real time.  To illustrate this feature, I looked on a list of sailing yachts and discovered a yacht that I had seen last summer in Maine.  Artemis, a beautiful sailing yacht caught my eye in Southwest Harbor as well as Frenchboro last August.  Here's a shot that shows just how powerful and sleek she is.   And big, really big.  
In case you are in the market for a charter, here's her particulars.  Besides, why settle for less when you can have an on-deck Jacuzzi and exercise room.  Not bad at all.  

So, after seeing her in Maine last August, thinking about my own "tracking" plans, I found myself wondering "where's Artemis?".   In case you are wondering too, she's in Martinique where it's a lot warmer than here in New Jersey.  I discovered this great site where you can look up any AIS equipped boat and see what she is up to right now.  Here's Artemis.  Perhaps when you look she will have moved.  This is pretty neat but it only shows a current location or track if she is underway.  However, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of historical information on track and distance by date. 

For that there is another, more expensive, option Yellow Brick (how great is that name?), out of England that shows the current location, speed and where they have been over a long period.  This example is pretty neat as it includes an integrated blog showing entries along the historical track.  The Iridium system us a group of satellites that will track an equipped boat, in real time, anywhere in the world.   

I am sure that there are plenty of options and I really want to put something onto Pandora as we head south.  For now, it's great fun to follow others and I guess that Bob the Armchair sailor is a description that will have to suffice.  

Perhaps you went on a cruise and are wondering where "your boat" is right now.  Try the look-up feature and put in the name of the boat in the upper left box to find out where she is.

So, which system for Pandora?  For that I guess you will be the second to know.

More importantly, where's Pandora?   For now you will have to take my word that she's safe and sound but not anywhere interesting at all, for now, anyway.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pandora and Papeete, what's the connection?

Yes, it's an odd title for a blog post.  Let me explain.   Two years ago Brenda and I were sailing in Maine aboard Pandora and had stopped for the night in Merchants Row on our way back to Rockland.  As I have mentioned in past posts, it is my habit to introduce myself to someone in most anchorages that we visit.  It's amazing to me that most folks never stop over to say HI (at least us) but when I introduce myself, nearly everyone is very inviting.    That's not to say that I end up chatting with everyone that I approach, but it's clear from the first few moments if we will hit it off or not.  Besides, it's so much fun to enjoy a "sundowner" with someone else to learn about their experiences along the way.

So, why am I bringing this up?  Or, put it another way  "BOB, GET TO THE POINT!".

Ok, Ok, back to Maine two years ago.  I looked around for someone to say HI to and decided that the boat nearby flying a flag from Germany seemed like a good option and made the decision to stop by in the morning to introduce myself.  However, not to approach empty handed, I mixed up a batch of biscuits, and I do make great biscuits, to bring as an "ice breaker".  Besides, with an offering in hand, who wouldn't invite me aboard for coffee.  I would, for sure.

So with the biscuits about ready, I was about to jump into the dink and what should happen but the German boat pulled up their anchor and motored out of the harbor.  What to do?  Hmm...

All was not lost as I then noticed another boat that had been partially hidden by a big schooner and it too was flying a flag that I did not recognize.  Quickly I looked it up on Google and, what do you know, they were from Austria.    Now it was getting interesting so off I headed, biscuits in hand or should I say biscuits in mixing bowl, to say hello.

The couple, Josef and Eva aboard Sanuk II, told me that they were on a world cruise and that Maine and the Eastern Coast of the US was just the beginning with plans to transit the Panama Canal and cross the Pacific.   I hurried back to retrieve Brenda and the four of us had a great visit.  In the course of conversation we learned that they were headed to the Chesapeake and wanted advice on where to leave their boat for a few weeks while they headed back home to Vienna, Austria for a visit.   As we had kept Pandora in Annapolis a few times, I did know were they might be able to get a slip, made a few calls, and found a spot for them.

Well, it's now two years later and, out of the blue, I get an e-mail yesterday from Josef with this photo of him and Eva in Hawaii.    Doesn't he look like a sailor?  Perhaps a bit like a pirate actually.  Nice hat.
Josef reports that they are now in Papette, in the South Pacific.  Wow!  That's a really long way from Maine and there they are.  No kidding.  Now, more than two years into their circumnavigation, they are about half way home.  Really impressive.  On top of that they look like they are actually getting regular showers.  Who knew?

Well, back to reality, here I sit here in New Jersey, it's raining and 45 degrees.  Not exactly like the weather that our Viennese friends are enjoying.  However, there's always next summer and our trip to the Bahamas to look forward to.

I guess that the moral of the story is to always make a point to say HI.  You never know who you will meet and where it might lead you.  I hope that Brenda and I have an opportunity to meet up with Josef and Eva again soon.  Perhaps in Austria.  Wait, that's a landlocked country.  Never mind.

So, Pandora and Papeete, what's the connection?   Glad you asked, I guess you could say that the connection is only a biscuit apart.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

We need more water!

In early October I headed to Annapolis for the boat show to begin the final stages of preparing Pandora  for more extended cruising.  The big item on this year's list was a water maker.  Actually, more correctly a reverse osmosis unit.  While water is readily available in the States, it's tough to come by outside of the US and is often of questionable quality.  In the Bahamas, where we will spend next winter, water isn't free and it can cost upwards of $.40 a gallon.  It will also be considerably easier to manage water usage when we can make our own.   Interestingly, we only use about 15 gallons a day without doing much conservation so that's not a lot to make.

We generally don't go to docks very much.  I have to say that Brenda isn't all that fond of approaching a dock although she has become quite adept at managing the 25,000+ bulk of Pandora in confined spaces.  It's amazing just how big Pandora seems when you are near a dock and yet how small she seems far from shore in rough conditions.  As far as dock-going last summer, we only went to a dock a single time between July 2nd and September 2nd, two months, and that was to get water, not fuel.   During that time we only used about 35 gallons of fuel and yet I was filling Pandora's water tanks on a regular basis via 5 gallon plastic jugs.  I have to say that the idea of making our own water instead of the laborious "water runs" in the dink is really appealing.

There are a few problems with these units.  First, they are really expensive and run in the range of several thousand to ten grand or more.  Other factors include water volume output, energy consumption per gallon of pure water and complexity of maintenance.

After looking at perhaps a dozen different units at the show, I settled on a unit that is widely used by cruisers and it is also quite energy efficient.  While I don't want to think about the cost per gallon of water produced, I feel very comfortable with my choice.  The unit that I purchased is considered to be fairly bullet proof and is actually the same model that is used on the Volvo Ocean Racers.  The brand name "Cape Horn Xtreme", certainly suggests that it is tough.  It sure looks complicated.  I am not sure if they choose the model because of it durability or just because they wanted to get one of the most expensive units.

This video clearly demonstrates that my new watermaker is probably about the only thing that Pandora has in common with the Volvo boats. Well, Pandora does have a plumb bow. I guess that I had better not go out in weather like these guys seem to enjoy if I expect Brenda to continue sailing with me.

Perhaps I should hire a video production company to do a promotional video for Pandora.  Perhaps not as it would likely take my entire year long cruising budget and that still wouldn't be enough.

I expect that the VOR boats have this unit on board also because it's very energy efficient.  Energy efficiency is very important on a boat like Pandora as the making and using of electricity has to be very carefully managed to be sure that we aren't making less than we are using.  I have written a lot about Pandora's solar panels and small portable generator so I won't repeat myself.  It's sufficient to say that this unit should be great and only uses about 1/3 of the power of most others on the market.  Water makers are actually very popular today and are based on a fairly simple concept.  Perhaps more than you want to know about penguins but this article is a good primer on the subject.

There's lots more to do to Pandora this winter to get her (and us) ready for your big trip south next fall and I will be writing more about it in the coming weeks.  For now, I have to get through Christmas and into the new year.  2012 will be a very interesting year with lots of exciting experiences aboard Pandora with sailing in New England waters this summer followed by a trip down the Inter coastal Waterway to Florida  and the Bahamas beginning next Fall.

It is indeed a bummer that Pandora is on the hard again but at least I can look forward to next winter when she will be heading south and won't need to be winterized.  However, I don't want to get ahead of myself so that's enough for now.   More about that in a future post.

For now, I will have to satisfy myself with planning and reading the blog of our friends Roger and Ilene aboard their SAGA 43 "Ilene" who are headed back to New York over the next 7 months from the island Grenada.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Shelter Island NY and a Corinthians weekend

The season is winding down for us now that we have returned from Maine and back to "real life".   We have enjoyed our summer aboard but it's time to get serious again about catching up in everything that we have neglected while aboard for two months.  Brenda made an interesting comment the other day to me that she felt that being aboard was actually simpler than being home as there just isn't as much that needs attention while being aboard Pandora.  That's certainly true for me as our home is just so complex with the demands of maintenance and the items that need attention constantly.  When we returned home I spent most of the Labor Day weekend doing yard work to fix what had overgrown while we were away.

Fortunately, we had yet one more trip aboard to look forward to with this weekend's visit with the Corinthians, a great group that I am involved with.  Each spring and fall the group has a rendezvous out on the eastern end of Long Island or Connecticut and this year's fall event was on Shelter Island.  On Friday evening we were treated to a visit at a Corinthians past master's home on the water for a lovely cocktail party overlooking one of the lovely harbors on the island.  The weather was perfect and company just great.  I'd say that about 30 showed up for the gam, some by boat and the others by car.

We took a mooring at the Shelter Island yacht club in Deering Harbor on the north side of the island just across from Greenport.  The club is wonderful and the staff very attentive.  Of the many clubs that I have visited, the dining room and bar opening onto the water, were perhaps the nicest views of the water and harbor of any that we have enjoyed.
The view is enhanced by the large fleet of 12 1/2 day sailors, a class designed by Herreshoff of Bristol RI back in 1914 as a small keel boat for young people to sail.  The design has endured over the years and they are still being built to the original designs to this day albeit in fiberglass.  The SIYC fleet must be one of the largest around totaling nearly 60 boats.  These boats are actively raced and it must be a sight to see the 25 boats that generally show up for a race rounding the marks. I have always loved the look of this classic design but have never seen so many in one place.
As many 12 1/2s as there are here, all the boats in the harbor don't have classic lines with varnish.  This is a very modern take on the day sailor concept.  What a sleek craft she is. Very crisp design.  I'll bet she goes well.
However, don't drop something on the deck of the cockpit that can roll as it will shoot out the back in an instant.  Whoops, where's little Buffy?
There is a ferry that runs from Shelter Island's north end over to Greenport so we decided to head over there for lunch on Saturday.  There are four ferries running continuously and as a passenger you don't have to wait long to take the 15 minute run over to the mainland.  These boats really move along and the loading and unloading of cars is very efficient.  I just love boats where "form follows function" and these are good examples of that.  While not particularly pretty, they get the job done.  The bridge is set high and gives the pilot great visibility.  With engines at each end, they don't even have to turn around, just start the other engine and head the other way.  Wait, that means port and starboard as well as fore and aft depend on which way she is headed. Confusing.
As we pulled out another was headed into the slip.  With 4 boats underway at all times, we didn't have to wait long.  I would expect that for cars it's another story as the lines do get long on a busy weekend.
Shelter Island is home to many wealthy people and the architecture spans the decades from Victorian to the most modern.  Privet hedges are very popular and often quite elaborate as this one attests.
There are a great variety of boats on the waters here.  However, one common theme is that it tends toward the expensive end of the spectrum.  I'll bet that this one burned more fuel in the time it took me to take this shot than Pandora uses all season.  It does give the feeling of power which might be the appeal.  I expect that the greater the horsepower of the yacht, the less hair on the head of the owner.  Better get some sunscreen on that dome.  Hmm...
On Saturday morning I was treated to a beautiful sunrise.  The start of a very nice day, it would turn out.
Today we head back to Mystic and will likely motor most of the 20 miles.  Perhaps we will get lucky and have the forecast easterlies shift a bit toward the south.  Oh well, better to be motoring into a modest easterly than siting on the hard.

Monday, September 5, 2011

So, what did we do this summer? Had a great time in Maine.

When I left Mystic on July 1st to head to Portland with almost the entire summer of sailing ahead of us it seemed like the summer would never end.  With some two months in front of us to explore the Maine coast, it was hard to even think about heading home, ever.  The longest that we had previously been aboard with Pandora in a single stretch was just over a month and two.  Well, that seemed to me in early July like it would be FOREVER.

So, you think that two months is a long time?  Enter live aboards...   Through the SSCA, over the last few years, we have met so many couples that live on their boats or at least spend 4-6 months a year aboard cruising, two months doesn't seem like a lot of time.  It's interesting that when we move aboard for an extended period your perspective adjusts to a much different frame of reference.  You are not in as much of a hurry to move to another anchorage, simple tasks take longer and you aren't in as much of a rush as when it's just a weekend or a week or two.

Someone said to me this summer that "the most dangerous piece of equipment on your boat is the clock".   That's actually true as most of the uncomfortable times we have had aboard are because we felt pressed to go somewhere to keep a schedule when we should be in port waiting for a weather window.

Returning from Maine this year is a good case in point.  With Hurricane Irene pushing up the coast, beyond making sure that we would be safe, I spent a lot of time thinking about taking Pandora back to Mystic.  My friend Roger, who was supposed to help me bring Pandora back was stuck on the West Coast due to weather delays and I JUST HAD TO GET BACK around Labor Day.  The weather window was going to open and close in just three short days and my crew couldn't make it in time.

That meant a day long scramble to get the boat ready, get Brenda ashore and home and to find someone to help move Pandora.  It all worked out but the stress was absurd.    The point is that having a schedule makes boating a total pain.   After this trip I said to Brenda, "this is the last time I am using crew to move Pandora with a tight deadline".    The proper way to handle a delivery like this is to continue to cruise and wait till the weather is just right and make a break for it.

My cruising friends almost never sail in less than perfect conditions and yet cover great distances.  It's all about having a flexible schedule.  Something to strive for.  I guess that I will just have to work on that.

Enough ranting on that point for now.  Better to reflect on what we saw and enjoyed during our two months aboard.  Perhaps a bit of a somewhat random tour of what we saw along the way.

We saw a remarkable number of bald eagles including one that flew about 30' from Pandora one evening when we were siting in the cockpit.  This one was drying out on a rock following a thunder storm near Snow Island in Casco Bay
 While we had great weather, there were an "appropriate" number of good old fashioned thunder storms with dramatic views to make the point. 
We were there through two full cycles of the moon.  Nothing like a full moon rising over the water on a calm summer evening. 
I did my fair share of blog posts, over 30 actually and many done first thing in the morning in the cockpit with an amazing view.   
And there were endless scenic anchorages to choose from.  We have been going to Maine for 15 years and never tire of the scenery.
There are plenty of mega homes in Maine but some of the best are diminutive.
Brenda knitted 4 sweaters and read 7 or so books.  Lots of time to stop and smell the roses.  In this case, Betsy Wyeth of the famous artist family was also knitting in front of her island home.  How many knitters can say "I knitted with Betsy Wyeth".  Well, actually Brenda can't say that exactly.  But she can say "I knitted while watching Betsy watch me knit while watching...".    Well, something like that did happen and I have the photo to prove it.
There isn't any shortage of big yachts in Maine.  This one even sports it's own private cannon to salute the sunset.  Some of our cruiser friends blow on a conch shell, perhaps a somewhat more gentile way to celebrate the end of a day.
Some just seem to be sailing off into the sunset.
And some are really roughing it like these kids in one of the Outward Bound adventure boats.  Not my idea of  cruising.  I do need my shower most days.
Of course, there's an endless number of lighthouses to love like this one in Port Clyde.
But, none is prettier than the Owl's Head light. Perhaps my favorite.
The passenger schooners that take out groups for a day sail are a sight to behold indeed.   Here they await their next trip.
So many quaint villages and towns to choose from like Belfast with wonderful old buildings carefully maintained.

Some views can't be believed and a great place to curl up with a trashy novel.
And, always plenty of  magnificent yachts to wonder about how they afford such luxury.  It's particularly nice when money and taste are combined.
But taste doesn't have to always be about money.  Brenda has a great way with flowers and there are always flowers on board Pandora.  Her hand woven table cloth, flowers and her knitting.  Now that's good taste.
She also collected her share of treasures on walks in the woods.
Sometimes we were running between the raindrops.   Perhaps I should say "sailing".
Some views are best enjoyed from afar like this lookout high above Camden.
Some views are much more up close and simple.
Some are dramatic.
Some views, or should I say trails, are well groomed and well worn trails like this one around Bubble Pond on Mt. Desert. 
There is no denying the importance of the Maine State Ferry System to make everything possible on the many islands. 
We had our share of fog in early August.  Sometimes it was so thick you couldn't see 100'.
Plenty of beautiful backdrops for Brenda to knit by. 
A lazy day of sailing makes you want to take a nap.  It's always nice to have a hammock strung and ready for action, or should I say "inaction"?
This schooner captain hot-dogging it in Pulpit Harbor was an impressive display of seamanship or perhaps I should say "hotdogging" in a crowded anchorage. 
Of course, you can't forget to eat.  And, eat we did and often. 
What did we do this summer?  We had a great time with lots of wonderful experiences and more than a few great sunrises.  
Now with the summer drawing to a close there's always next year and the Annapolis Boat show to look forward to.
Yes, we enjoyed being afloat in Maine on Pandora very much.  What a great summer.  Bummer that it's almost over.  Here we are and it's Labor Day weekend and you can almost hear the iron gate of summer slamming shut.