Sail from Jolly Harbor to Falmouth Harbor and Welcome Rain and Unwelcomed Squall
04 March 2011 | Falmouth Harbor, Antigua
On 3/2/2011 we left Jolly Harbor Marina bound for Falmouth Harbor which is only about a twelve mile trip on rhumbline courses first to the south and then east. If you have been following our exploits you know by now that when we head east it is upwind. This trip was no exception, we only had a beam reach south along the west coast of Antigua. Once we rounded the southwest corner we hardened up to beat the rest of the way to Falmouth Harbor. There is a short cut that runs right along the southwest coast that runs between the coast and an offshore reef. But we decided not to try that way for several reasons. One was that the sky was completely overcast and without the sun to highlight the reef and shallow waters around it we didn't want to chance running aground. Also, we wanted to sail and given the wind direction we couldn't sail thru the passage anyway. So we sailed the longer way round and had a spirited beat to Falmouth Harbor. We started off the beat on port tack to the southeast and as time went on we got a lift which allowed us to sail a bit north of southeast which made port tack the favored tack. We milked this tack for all it was worth and then tacked over to starboard tack which headed us basically north north east. We took the starboard tack all the way in as far as we dared. When I saw what looked like shallow water ahead I asked Pam to check the charts on the computer and she reported that we better tack soon. The depth sounder showed 37 feet so tacked back over to port. Now the pressure was on could I call the tack at the right time to make the entrance to Falmouth in one more tack. Also, at this point the wind freshened to 18 to 20 knots up from the 14 to 16 knots that we had enjoyed thus far. Pam asked if we should reef, as she always does in these situations, and I said no, as I usually do, deciding instead to reduce power in the sails. After flattening out the mainsail with the out haul and dropping the traveler to leeward a bit more we reduced the power enough to make the gusts to 20 knots manageable. Then the moment came when we had to recall back to our racing days, we had to decide when to tack over to make the entrance to Falmouth Harbor. We tacked over and hit the entrance right on the money. We had hoped to sail all the way into the harbor but were thwarted by the wind dying on us, we assumed the headland near the entrance was blocking it. So we started up the engine, got the sails down and proceeded to find a place to drop the hook (that's drop the anchor for you dirt dwellers). Pam steered the boat while I went below and got our two way short range radio transceivers that have an earphone and boom microphone that fits around the back of of your head. They have a little box that is actually the radio which clips to your belt. This system allows us to power around an anchorage area while we calmly discuss our options. In the past we used hand signals and tried to talk over the sound of the engine when we were discussing our options. This system is so much more civilized. Eventually we picked a spot and lowered the anchor put out the proper amount of chain for the water depth and attached the snubber to the chain. For the uninitiated, the snubber is a length of nylon line with a chain hook on one end and the other end tie off to one of your bow cleats. After attaching the snubber you release some more chain to form what is called a cantenary or slack area. By doing this you take the strain on the line and the cleat not on the windlass and the nylon line acts as a shock absorber because there is no give to the chain. Without the snubber a sudden shock load on the chain could damage your bow cleat or pull the anchor out of the bottom. Either one would be the beginning of a bad day. Back to our anchoring, after attaching the snubber I had Pam put the engine in reverse to pull hard on the anchor to set it into the bottom. When she did this I watched and felt the snubber looking for it to show signs of the anchor dragging. I did and we were, the anchor was skipping along the bottom of the harbor. So, since we had had the right scope (length of anchor chain) out and had done everything else that we had done in anchoring hundreds of times before, we decided to try a different spot further into the harbor. After retrieving our gear we proceeded to look for another location. In picking our spot we wanted to be fairly close to the dinghy dock but far enough out to get wind for the wind generator. We found another place that filled the bill and this time the anchor took hold very well. After backing down on it we took bearings of fixed points on shore that would allow us to tell if we were dragging.
About two hours after we got the hook down and were thinking about how it would be nice to have some fresh water to wash off the salt from our beat over here, it rained. It was a great rain in that it was well timed and hard enough to rinse off most of the salt. After the rain stopped we went out with chamois and towels to dry off the boat to remove the last of the salt. So that total overcast sky wasn't such a bad thing after all. It did however sap our battery charging for the day because the lack of sun didn't allow the solar panels to keep the batteries topped up. It is this lack of sun that has prevented us from sending out this update earlier. We just didn't want to run the batteries down too low to run the computer. That first night on the hook was a somewhat sleepless one for me as I was awakened at about midnight by rain coming thru the hatch above where I was sleeping. Pam's half of the bunk is not under the hatch so she continued to sleep. I got up closed the hatch and then in listening to the wind decided to go take a look around on deck. We were being hit by a nasty squall in which it was raining so hard that I could no longer see the ample number of lights on shore. The boats around us were mere shadows in the rain. It reminded me of a fog shrouded anchorage in New England low those many years ago when we had the good fortune to sail there. Given the conditions I decided to sit up until the squall subsided. My concerns here were us dragging, as the anchor had just been set about ten hours ago and the boats around us dragging down on us. I sat under the protection of the dodger watching all the boats around us for any sign of them getting closer or moving strangely. One boat off our port bow caught my attention because it was lying across the wind rather than being lined up with the wind like the rest of us. I grabbed a flashlight and shined it on the boat but was not able to figure out what was causing him to lie so differently. Perhaps he was aground or perhaps he was hung up on another boat's anchor line. The good thing was that the boat didn't seem to be getting any closer to us. After about thirty minutes, based on the sound of the wind generator, the wind started to subside but the rain continued. I stayed up in the cockpit for another hour until about one thirty in the morning before I felt it had calmed down enough to go back to bed. In any case we had no more squalls that night but woke to virtually a complete overcast sky the next day along with light winds. Now the batteries were down to about an 85% charge. We the absolute minimum operating charge for us is around 60%. I don't like the batteries to get below 80% if I can help it. So we ran the engine to boost them enough to get us through the nigh in the hope that the next day would bring a more typical sunny Caribbean day. And it did, so we were back to 100% charge by 1500 (3:00 pm) which has allowed us to get on the internet and also send this blog update. Hopefully, the energy filled days will continue and we can give you more updates and maybe some pictures very soon - stay tuned.