|Crew:||Jack Markin, Debi Dennis|
I am suffering from reverse culture shock. It really hit me in the supermarket -- everything is from the US and Mexico and super expensive compared to Spain and Portugal. Brands I haven't seen for a long time suddenly familiar again. I wonder how the people here are able to live on the 4 month season service industry wages. Also, socializing with Americans -- they, I mean we, are different and familiar at the same time. There are a bunch of boats here from the Salty Dawg Rally, which leaves from Virginia and usually goes to Bitter End in Virgin Gorda but this year went to Antigua because of the hurricanes. We were invited to a happy hour with them and got some advice on sailing back. Most of them are still heading south before going back, if at all. But they've done it multiple times. We are almost done fixing and cleaning. Yesterday Jack worked at cleaning the topsides while I tried to clean the rust and salt off the metal. There was so much salt encrusted on the sides that he had to make several passes with straight vinegar to get it off. While we worked we watched a drama unfold across the fairway where a small fishing boat had sunk while tied to shore(there's been a ton of rain). For a long time the one guy worked to free and raise it alone. Then he recruited a guy to help pull and finally a couple of cruisers came over in their dinghy and pulled from the water until eventually they got the gunwales above water and he could bail it out. Sadly it looks like a pretty new engine on the back of it. Hopefully he can get it going again. Most every night we enjoy live music from one of the bars nearby. Tonight it's a little jazzy. The other night was a really good steel drum band. We received our new satellite router. We had to pay a broker $60US to collect it from FedEx at the airport, but we got it and it works. We are still waiting for our boat registration from the US coast guard. It's also Fedex, but they say that an envelope will be delivered to the marina. Once we get that we will head out to an anchorage and then off to Nevis. Today we walked a half hour to a really nice beach. The beach is next door to a very high end resort that is surrounded by a fence topped with both barbed wire and razor wire. The least expensive room is about 1500 US per night, the guy who told us about the beach thinks the villas highest on the hill of the place are in the 5000 range. There is a beach close to us, but it’s pretty crowded probably because it has a bar/restaurant. Anyway walking is good for us after so long on the boat. There was a nice little (5 vendors) farmers market here yesterday where we stocked up on vegetables, got some homemade yogurt and a tropical fruit which neither of us remembers the name of, but we do know it is something apple or vise versa. It was very tart and had an extreme peach like pit. The skin was like a very dry lemon. I think the lady selling it said the besides eating fresh it is used to make chutney. If any one says good wifi is a luxury they are either a luddite or a butt head, and you are not a luddite if you are wearing a suit. The last 9 months have been an exercise in learning to live with poor Internet access. I know that throughout history mariners have been cut off from family and friends, hence the note in a bottle. But it is still frustrating when there is Internet in theory but not in practice. God forbid this is not what the new net neutrality reality will be like.
Another day of nonstop repairs and cleaning, interrupted occasionally by trips to the chandlery for parts and supplies and by visits with friends from the other side who happen to be here too. At first I was surprised when I heard someone calling my name, but now I almost expect to see people I know. It's not that surprising given the small size of the islands here and the number of boats that cross over from Europe I guess. It's still raining several times a day, which apparently is not normal. We were told that it usually rains once a day for a short while. In other Antigua news, the first of the rowers are expected to arrive on the weekend. I am sure they will be happy to be here. Actually, they are not much slower than we were. We have not been able to get any guidebooks for the BVI or Bahamas yet. Each day the chandlery tells us maybe tomorrow. We will just keep looking, in the meantime we'll use word of mouth and what we can find online. Pretty sure our next island will be Nevis and St Kitts, then maybe St Barts, St Martin, then the British Virgin Islands. We're going to take our time, look for good weather and easy sailing. Maybe we won't have to make so many repairs then.
It's been hard to find time and energy to write this, but I will give it my best shot. A week ago we were sailing along with the idea that we might make Antigua within a week so we emailed the marina in Jolly Harbour to ask about berthing and their advice for a night arrival. They sent back two voluminous emails which used the last of our satphone minutes and didn't completely download. We figured out how to get more minutes but at the same time our satellite router also stopped working. We tried debugging as best we could but to no avail. And that is why we couldn't post until we got some wifi at the marina. The last five days were relatively uneventful. The wind was still with us and there were a few and sometimes many squalls every day and night. We carried on with few changes. Gradually we saw more ship traffic and once called a freighter who altered course to avoid us, but we never saw any sails until we could actually see the island. In the last day we started seeing birds. It rained a lot and we got a little tired of it. Also it became clear that it would definitely be dark when we arrived. But we studied the charts and information we had about Jolly Harbour and it looked like we could get to the edge of the anchorage even in the dark. Jack said he just hoped it wouldn't be raining when we were trying to get anchored. Unfortunately it did start to really pour just as we approached the channel but in spite of our disagreements about what we were looking at we managed to find our way to the edge of the channel and dropped anchor just outside it. After cleaning up on deck we settled in with a glass of wine and some lomo iberico--our first alcohol since before leaving La Gomera. Within 20 minutes we were both sound asleep. It was so quiet, but there was the new sound of water washing up on shore. In the morning sun we could see that we were actually in an ok place. One of the first things we noticed about Antigua is how green it is. One of the next things we noticed is how frequently it rains -- no wonder it's so green. The weather here reminds us of Alabama, really hot and humid. After breakfast we found our mooring lines, put out fenders, raised anchor and slowly motored through the anchorage to the customs dock. We saw a few boats we recognized from the other side. It took some getting used to seeing so many US and Canada ensigns. We're definitely not a novelty any more, except for the antique nature of our vessel. The customs dock was very straightforward, a pontoon that you could come along either side. And it was super long compared to the European short ones we were used to. While Jack checked in with customs, immigration and port authority all of which are conveniently located side by side Debi snoozed in the cockpit and stared at the superyatchs. After radioing the marina we made our way over to it and were met by some very nice marineros (what are they called in English? Europeans translate it as "sailors" but I am sure that is not what they are called here) Anyway William and Hutson were super competent and helped us into the box stall with no mishaps. William said that the rowers from Antigua were "only" 600 miles away. Once we were tied up we got to work establishing some order and changing over from passage making to coastal configuration. We have been going nonstop since then. We can't remember all the things we fixed yesterday but Jack did arrange to get our boat registration renewed and sent to the marina here. Last night we went out to eat and had jerk chicken and west indies curry. Today we spent most of the day fixing the reaching pole, yes again! This time the line that extends it had chafed almost all the way through. There were many snags, but eventually we got it done. Sorry, no pictures yet but will try to get some soon.
We arrived Antigua late last night, anchored out in pitch black pouring rain, cleared in this morning, currently nicely tied up in Jolly Harbour Marina, have a few things to fix including satphone router which is why we couldn't post. Love you all. Will write later
We are making slow progress to the west hoping that since the squalls have come back that the wind will come back too. We are continuously amazed at the lack of life here. It's beautiful in its own way, but desolate. Lanzarote, in the Canary Islands, is beautiful in an arid volcanic sort of way. But it is almost devoid of visible life, beyond humans who despite the place have tried to make it support them. It does, sort of. There are no large animals, only birds and lizards and not many of those. There are fish both commercially and recreationally harvested. In this section of the Atlantic Ocean it is endless water and blue, but it seems also a desert devoid of visible life. There are some fish, but not enough that they are visible or easily caught. Almost everywhere else we have sailed there were birds, dolphins, some other wildlife. Here none. There have been almost no shipping, no signs of jets, no sailboats. It is a wet desert as Lanzarote was a dry one.
We know that it is cold at home (Wisc, Ill, Mich, Ind, N Y, Mass, etc) but here it is warm enough to bathe in the cockpit with salt water from the tap and a fresh water rinse also the same temperature as the ocean around us, and we are much cleaner for the experience. I can not imagine what it must of smelled like on a large ship full of unwashed men even 50 years ago. There are a lot more flying fish to be seen here than just a few days ago. When they are in the air their movement is a little like swallows, They skim the undulating surface of the water, staying the same height above the water as waves rise and fall below them. They either are alone or sometimes in schools of 10-20. Are they schools below the water and flocks above? So far almost none (2) have been caught on deck so we have not had any for eating. Fishing we have done, but so far no catching, so our fish for meals has been out of cans.We downloaded a bunch of Podcasts before we left but for some reason the only ones we can play are Hidden Brain and Live from the Paula Poundstone Institute. Last night I listened to a Hidden Brain episode on Deep Work, It was about the blocking out time without frequent distractions. It was reinforcing of our mindfulness leanings and is something for all of you who work in an environment of constant texts, emails and alerts might want to take note of. From here on out our intent is to head west at the same latitude as Antigua until we arrive there which is the basic format of trade wind sailing. Sailing can be a super present activity. Last night I decided it was time to reef the sails for the remainder of the night based on the sound and the feel of the boat, without regard to the wind speed, it was based on how the sound and feel had changed and how I expected them to continue to change. Don't get me wrong there was no clairvoyance, just tuning in, involved as we have learned that speculation and expectation are worthless considerations most of the time. Happy New Year we look forward to being with you all in it.