February 2011 - Sailing Antigua

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Tracks may be viewed using Google Earth; *.KMZ files prepared as described here.

1 February.  84F.  Winter here in central Massachusetts has been miserable; over 50 inches of snow so far and more coming.  Sheila and I left the house at 3:30 AM (20F) for a 5:30 flight to Miami.  Met up with Cathy and Kathy at Logan.  Delighted to get out just ahead of two more storms today.  Flights in the Northeast were being cancelled due to equipment not arriving!  Very easy connection to Antigua_2011 via Miami.  Unlike years past, we decided to spend the first few days ashore and wind down to island time.  Jackie at Horizon Yacht Charters put us in touch with Johanna who manages several villas at the Jolly Harbor Resort complex.  It is a very big place, set behind a guarded main gate,  a few shops, a huge marina, Epicurean (a nicely stocked grocery) as well as several restaurants.  Perfect!  The villa complex was exactly what we wanted; clean, nice views, and a quick golf cart ride to the conveniences.  No wonder folks (mostly Brits) have places here; easy, slow, nice views, flip-flops, beach,  and a cold drink.  Stayed in a two bedroom unit; living area on the first floor, a small kitchen, patio, and even a dock.  Too bad we didn't bring a boat.  After a run for some groceries and liquid refreshments, dinner at Al Porto.  The place has an impressive wood burning oven for pizza.  Did I say that today was 2 for 1 pizza night!  The place chaos, but the food was great; pepperoni and eggplant pizzas really hit the spot.  One of the nice things about Antigua_2011 at this time of year is that the nights are just warm (70'ish F).  The tired crew slept very well and dreamed about a day ashore in the AM.

2 February.  82F.  Everyone slept in; no surprise given local time is one hour ahead of ours.  After breakfast, Kathy and I took the golf cart, roamed around the complex and checked out the beach (very nice beach indeed).  We also stopped at Horizon and introduced ourselves to Jackie before going over to the boatyard to explore.  The yard was well equipped; many boats were held in place with hurricane straps.  Most were in various states of refit; I was surprised to see many still had canvas while on the hard.  In the afternoon, Cathy, Kathy and I took the local bus to St. John's.  Wandered the main street, checked out the cruise ship terminal, watched some of the cruisers debark from the local tour boats.  Apparently, the only thing served on these day boats was rum punch.  One poor lady was being carried off as we strolled by.  Oh well.  Picked up some fresh vegetables at the big market across from the bus depot.  Dinner at Al Porto again;  much less crowded, nice table along the water, pizza and calamari for our last night ashore.

3 February.  84F.  Charter does not start until noon, so in no rush.  Leisurely breakfast, packed up.  Kathy and I headed for the boat while Sheila and Cathy made a grocery store run.  The folks at Horizons were not quite ready for us; the provisions we just going aboard (Sheila helped to verify what we had).  What, no dodger on the boat and no inflatable/outboard ready!  Jackie and Al didn't seem to understand why we were eager to get going!  They obviously needed to spend some time in a Boston winter.  After frustrating delays, Kathy and I sat with Al for a chart briefing.  He did a very thorough job, and explained which areas of Antigua were not safe to navigate.  Unlike the BVI, Antigua is surrounded by numerous reefs.  Much of close-in sailing is done in fairly shallow water!  Considering our expressed interest to go north to Barbuda, we also discussed weather forecast.  Unfortunately, the outlook was less than ideal.  Typical conditions for the next week were 20+ knots from the E or ENE with seas 12-15 feet.  Oh good.

Aboard the 2010 Bavaria Cruising 40, Tardis; a disappointment - real chart plotter was not installed at either of the dual helms, just a small Garmin unit at the navigation station below.  Given that these cruising grounds have often shallow waters, this was very surprising.  Fortunately, I had my own Garmin GPSMAP76Cx loaded with the southeast Caribbean Bluechart G2 data.  Eugene reviewed all of the boat systems with us and re-installed the dodger (which had been taken off for a minor repair).  Finally, a Zodiac from another boat was brought over.  After one more run for tonic water and beer, headed for Dickenson Bay.  Motor-sailed northwards in 20 knots of wind with gusts to 25.  Seas were ~10 feet (6-8 second period).  Dickenson Bay provided a reasonable anchorage.  Following Al's suggestion, dropped the hook about 100 yards off the beach with 5 feet under the keel.  Sandals resorts has a huge resort complex ashore.  Finally, Happy Hour onboard.  Enjoyed Sheila's grilled marinated chicken, and the sunset over Montserrat to the southwest.  Green track

4 February. 82F.  After breakfast, sailed downwind to Falmouth Harbor.  Continued strong winds from the east required only a partial headsail.  Navigating the Goat Head Channel requires multiple dog-leg turns to stay in navigable water.  Further offshore on the reef, several dive boats anchored just inside the surf line.  As we turned east into the 20 knot headwind and 12+ foot seas, an even bouncier ride began.  Pulling into Falmouth Harbor was quite an eye opener.  Many MEGA yachts, both motor and sail including the Maltese Falcon.  Picked up the last of Sea Pony's convenient moorings.  An impressive collection of boats!  Went to explore the Antigua Yacht Club surrounds.  A few small shops, a store and a coffee bar with WiFi!  Showers at the hotel gym up the hill!  Wandered around drooling over the MEGA-$$$$$ tied up at nose length.  Short walk over to Nelson's Dockyard, restored Georgian-era facilities dating to the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.  Originally a Royal Navy base of operations with Horatio Lord Nelson once in command.  Nice to sit on the patio of the Admiral's Inn, enjoy a rum punch.  More boat envy; English Harbor looked like a mill pond.  Dinner at the newly opened Trinity Steakhouse (ribs, shrimp pasta, chicken).  The food was good and reasonably priced.  Definitely on vacation now!  Red track

5 February.  82F;  It didn't take long (despite the 20 knot headwind and seas) to go around corner to English harbor.  Decided to anchor on the east side of the channel as space was very limited.  To cut a long story short,  tried to anchor in three different places.  Could not get the anchor set to our satisfaction in the 25 knot gusts.  Kathy was doing a great job maneuvering the boat in tight quarters but everyone's patience worn thin.  Instead of heading back to Falmouth Harbor, considered taking a stern to spot at the dockyard.  The big crosswind gave pause, so tied up at the Antigua Slipway fuel dock instead.  We quickly made friends with the dock master who found us a dockside spot for the night.  Lots of boats around in various states of repair, and what seemed like abandonment.  Long chat with a local who had his crew re-bedding the cast iron keel on a 35 footer and repairing blemishes on the hull; canvas was in shreds, so this project had a very long way to go.  Dinner aboard; grilled mahi mahi, barbequed chicken Sheila's salad washed down with a chardonnay.  Purple track

6 February.  82F.  Wind/wave forecast looked favorable so we turned left just outside of English Harbor hoping to make Nonesuch Bay; turned that is into 25 knots on nose and 15 foot seas.  Crew was not happy or comfortable.  Turned tail for Deep Bay, on the northwest side instead.  Just abeam of Carlisle Bay near the Goat Head Channel entrance, sky turned black behind us.  Nowhere to run, so did a 180 and into the teeth of the squall.  Just enough time for some raingear.  Visibility down to ~ 100 feet for 10 minutes with 30+ knot gusts; good wash down.  Upon arrival, Deep Bay looked inviting; the mast of a wreck just outside the port entrance with several boats anchored inside.  Tried to set the hook in two spots, which only dragged.  Given limited options, 5 feet under the keel, 25 knot winds and concerns about being blown against the rocks behind us, ran downwind to Jolly Harbor.  Deep ($hit) Bay will have to wait.  More rain south of Pelican Shoal!  Grabbed a mooring and commenced Happy Hour at Jolly Harbor.  Sheila delighted the crew with pasta with parma rosa sauce and grilled sausages.  Tired crew in their berths early.  Blue track

7 February.  Still 82F;  Wind up, decided to stay put.  Sheila cranked out a big breakfast; everyone lounged about.  Tooled around Jolly Harbor; beers and wifi at Melini's.  Afternoon hot dogs, low key day.

8 February.  80F.  Wind abating?  Topped off fuel and water; hoped to make Merton's Harbor, not far beyond English Harbor.  Just beyond the Goat Head Channel, ran into gusts of 30 knots and 18 foot seas; several waves washed over bow.  Here's a brief video clip of that ride.  Headed into Falmouth Harbor and picked up the same mooring ball as before.  Winds still 20-25 so wet ride to the other side of the harbor in the inflatable.  More big boats; including, would you believe it, our very own Senator Kerry's 72 foot custom mono hull Isabel!  The crew were re-doing her bright work.  Obviously, Antigua has a favorable tax rate on boat repair.  Roamed around the adjacent boatyard and decided on a large maxi for our next charter (see picture below).  Finally, a Ting at the bar.  Steak and BBQ chicken on Tardis.  Bouncy overnight with the wind up.  Orange track

9 February.  83F.  Blowing hard; staying put  Some exploring, some relaxing.  Kathy off to a nearby beach/resort.  Dockside lunch at Catherine's in English Harbor; yummy quiche, lobster salad, rum/raisin ice cream.  Another day of leisure all around; leftover night on-board. 

10 February.  82F.  Nice day but wind still up.  Pushed crew for an early departure.  Indeed, a rough downwind ride until Carlisle Bay.  25 knots on our stern, surfing down some 18 foot closely set waves.  A good workout at the helm.  It eased off on the leeward coast of the island.  Picked up a mooring at Jolly Harbor; Sheila served up a big breakfast, crew packed up.  Gene and his helper met us at the fuel dock to bring Tardis to a slip. Post cruise lunch next to the airport at the Sticky Wicket.  The restaurant and associated Antigua Athletics Club belonged to disgraced Texan investor, Allen Stanford.  His alleged crime, " a massive ponzi-scheme".  The (surprise surprise) adjoining Stanford Cricket Ground is much beloved.  It seems he had to do something with the money, was considered (by some) a local philanthropist.  Did make for interesting conversation.  No matter; home go we to the cold.  Yellow track


Pictures by Kathy and Bob


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