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Foggy Mountain
Sail from Jolly Harbor to Falmouth Harbor and Welcome Rain and Unwelcomed Squall
03/04/2011, 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.

Communications, Mass Media Withdrawal and St. John's
02/27/2011, Jolly Harbor Marina, Antigua

Along with "how much does it cost?" Probably the most common questions of cruisers is "what do you do all day?" Well communications, especially via telephone, can be very difficult and time consuming at best. As a general rule forget about those 800 numbers from out side the U.S. Except for U.S. territories toll free numbers don't work so before you leave get straight area codes and phone numbers for all the vital places that you think you might need while you are away. The reason that we didn't update the blog earlier this week is because we have been devoting a lot of our time to trying to find out if Pam's former employer sent her a particular form which they had sent her received last year. First we tried the email route to her former colleagues and despite their exhaustive efforts they were unable to get us a non-toll free phone number for the HR department. Then we tried the phone card route because a note in a local phone booth indicated that you could call toll free numbers from this phone booth. Wrong - dog breath! (Remember Hill Street Blues anyone?) So we went back to the email route as we had gotten a contact in HR but the replies were slow in coming. All that got us is a different toll free number. With St. Brendan's Isle, our mail forwarding service, we can view the envelopes of our mail over the web. St. Brendan's scans all the envelopes and posts them for us to look at. Once viewed we can decide on which ones we want sent to us and which ones we want shredded. It looked like a couple of the envelopes that they had were tax related, but we didn't want to have mail forwarded until we got to Falmouth Harbor. So we went back to try some other approaches via email, all of which came up empty. Then one morning I woke up thinking of the reality show "Amazing Race" that we use to watch. I remembered some of the contestants going to the front desks of hotels in foreign countries and asking to use their phones to make calls. I thought why not ask the marina office here at Jolly Harbor if it was possible to make a call to a toll free number in the U.S. We did and Pam got thru to a person in HR that was able to tell her that they did not send her the form this year. So, two plus days to accomplish something that would have only taken minutes back in the states. That is a long answer to the very short question of "what do we do all day?"

Since leaving the States I admit that I have missed the 60 plus cable TV channels and instant access to news. Doing the almost thirteen day passage to Antigua caused me to stop cold turkey. And since arriving her in Antigua we are still cut off from news. This didn't happen the last time we cruised the Caribbean back in 2000 because we received a news everyday from our INMARSAT-C satellite communications unit. But in the intervening years cost reductions have necessitated the elimination of the free service. So now I am getting my news from the internet, thank goodness for wifi. It's obviously not the same as the instant cable access but then again I have found that I'm less pissed off with less exposure to the political banter available on cable. I was a bit of a news wonk back in the States.

Yesterday, February 26th, we took the local bus for a shopping/sightseeing trip to Antigua's capital and primary city St. John's. The bus ride cost us 3.25EC per person each way, that's $1.21 in U.S. currency. The ride was about twenty to thirty minutes from here at Jolly Harbor and unlike the busses that we have use din the U.S. these drivers make change. The bus was air conditioned but it was hardly necessary as the temperature was in the high seventies with around 50% humidity - doesn't get much better than that in my book. During the ride we got a chance to see how dry Antigua is this time of year. Most of the vegetation is a very light green or light brown. Kind of like the lawn at the last house that we owned back in the early 90's. My friend Barry called it a sailor's lawn because a sailor wants to be sailing on the weekend not mowing or tending to the lawn. So in the spring he mows the lawn shorter than he probably should to stunt its growth. Sorry about the detour there. When we got off the buss in St. John's we were struck by the hustle and bustle. The bus station is right across the street from the market where the locals bring their produce and other products for sale. Pam didn't want to go to the market until we were on the way back so we followed our map to the shopping area downtown where the cruise ships pull in. There was one cruise ship in town and the taxi drivers were out in force. They were not as aggressive as we have experienced in the past but there were a lot of them. So while walking thru the shopping area, near the cruise ship dock, we must have gotten asked if we needed a taxi about every five to ten paces. They were all, generally, offering one our island tours. As I said they weren't overly aggressive so when you told them "no thank you" they moved on to their next potential client. We browsed most of the shops in that area and had a great pizza for lunch at "The Big Banana". An outdoor restaurant with trees growing up thru the roof. The Big Banana has free wifi a service that I saw several cruise ship passengers taking advantage of with their laptops. After lunch we wandered thru a few more shops and then headed back down Market Street towards the local market. We couldn't hear anything but bass tones in music played at ear shattering levels. Pam tried to talk to me several times and I told here not to bother because I couldn't understand here. The island music and rhythm reverberated and echoed off the buildings making me feel like I was walking inside a boom box. I always wondered what it would be like inside those cars that you have pass you on the street in the States where all the windows are up and you can hear the Rap or Hip-Hop music clearly outside. Now I know what it would be like inside those cars. When we reached the market the music subsided and we walked thru but Pam didn't see any produce that enticed here to buy. So, we boarded the bus, that didn't leave until it was full, for Jolly Harbor (bus #20). The bus has three fixed seats across, one on the left and two on the right, with a folding seat in the aisle. The last ones on the bus end up sitting in the folding seats so they must get up to let people off behind them when the want to get off. It was an interesting game of musical seats during the trip back to Jolly Harbor. When someone wanted to get off they just said "bus stop" and the bus driver would stop at the next one. The driver had better hearing than me because there were several calls that I barely heard that he must have heard.

As of the moment we are waiting for the wind to abate which is predicted to happen the middle of this week. Right now it is blowing well over twenty knots, 16 plus here in the sheltered marina, out in the open waters. Right now we are hoping to leave for Falmouth Harbor on Wednesday - we shall see.

Making Land Fall
02/27/2011, Jolly Harbor Marina, Antigua

I am a little late in getting this off but here is my impression when we made land fall in Antigua.

It was wonderful to see land even though on my watch the first sight was this awesome glow in the dark. I took Jeff's word that it was Antigua. Also, there were about 4 cruise ships that were entering Antigua and they were lit up like a city in the ocean. We could have just followed them in except they were going into St. Johns, the capital of Antigua, and we were going to Jolly Harbor. The channel makers are pilings in the water with red and green reflectors on them. Not has modernized as the US but they do the trick in getting you in safely. We pulled into the Customs Dock with no help from the Customs officials they just stood there and watched. When I first stepped foot on land after the 12 plus days at sea it was like having to learn to walk all over again. My legs were wobbly and a little week from all the on board aerobics I had been doing. When we approached the customs official I was all apologetic because our last shower was about 5 days ago, we had been living pretty much in the same clothes for most of the passage and the boat was all salty, not the way we wanted to present ourselves to a customs official. The officer said no problem he understood. Then the AC hit me and the building started to rock and I told the official I need to go outside and sit down because his building was moving! He laughed and said no problem. So I left Jeff to deal with the paper work but he made friends with the official because when we were done the officer said to me "Happy Birthday" and he had give Jeff a suggestion as to a nice restaurant to take me to to celebrate. It was afterwards that we have heard the officials here in Jolly Harbor are not all that friendly, but we did not find that at all. We had a good experience with them. I think the key is to treat them with the utmost respect. Both Jeff and I immediately removed our hats and sun glasses before entering his very small office. The land motion continued for the better part of that day and then it finally went away.

A couple nights later, I had a moment when I thought we were still at sea and woke Jeff up to ask him why he wasn't on watch and where his life harness was. Poor Jeff he was in a sound sleep and just told me we were at the dock and to go back to sleep. It did seem weird at first not to be wearing my life harness but that to soon passed.

Now we are enjoying Jolly Harbor and we have evening music from the Sports Bar just about every night to put us to sleep.

Stay tuned as our adventure continues.

The Days Just Fly By and Island TV
02/22/2011, Jolly Harbor Marina, Antigua

They say time flies when you're having fun. Well that's true but time also flies when you are cruising because it takes longer to accomplish seemingly simple tasks. Two days ago we decided to get the propane tank that ran out during the passage re-filled. We were told to ask at the guard shack at Jolly Harbor Boat Yard and they would direct us. Pam stayed aboard to work on other projects while I soloed the re-fueling project. I loaded the propane tank and a five gallon jerry jug for diesel fuel on to our two wheel cart. I figured I'd be efficient since the fuel dock was at the boat yard. When I asked the guard about getting a propane tank filled he looked perplexed. He then said that I had to talk to "Donny", turned out that the guys name is Danny. The guard pointed across the street and said, "Donny is driving the tractor in dee bock." In the direction that he pointed I knew that there was a storage yard where it looked like they put boats long term. I asked the guard if he could contact "Donny" somehow. He picked up a phone and called someone speaking that West Indian dialect that I do not understand. When he hung up the phone he again pointed across the street and said, "Donny is driving the tractor in dee bock." I kindly said, "OK thank you I will find him." I then proceeded on my quest to find a guy named Donny driving a tractor somewhere in the storage yard. As I walked down the road I saw a guy come out of the storage yard wearing blue coveralls and a hard hat. Was this garb for driving a tractor??? Who knows??? But maybe he knows Donny. When I told him that I was looking for Donny he said, "I'm Donny." I said, "that's great, I understand you are the man that I need to see to get my propane tank filled." He replied, "yes, you give me 70 EC now and I will get it filled and you can pick it up at the guard station at 5:30 pm." Great I think, back to the guard station again. Oh, and trust this guy that I have never met before to take my 70 EC and my tank to re-fill it and return it to the guard shack - yah right. But what choice did I have but to trust him. After all the last time we cruised the Caribbean we left one of our tanks beside a road to get it filled and returned later in the day to find it there filled. So I gave Danny the 70 EC (about $26 US) along with my propane tank and then set off for the fuel dock hoping that I would see our propane tank again. The rest of my day was spent wheeling jerry jugs of diesel fuel back to the boat from the fuel dock. I made four trips that day five gallons at a time. Why didn't we just go to the fuel dock you say. Well we have a Floscan fuel metering system on the boat and I'm still calibrating it so I have to be very precise when I put fuel into the daytank that the engine draws from. So at this point I have decided to pump the fuel directly into the daytank rather than putting it into one of the other tanks and then transferring in into the daytank. In any case the two wheel cart only holds on jug at a time, so it was a very tedious process. Of course before pumping the first jug of fuel into the daytank I decided to check the Racor filter that filters the fuel pumped into that tank and found that it had water in the bottom of the bowl. Before I could transfer the fuel I had to drain the water. As a side note, the water probably came from the aft fuel tank which is the only one that we transferred fuel from during the passage. By the time the four jerry jugs of fuel were pumped into the daytank it was close to 5:00 pm. So I decided to walk over to the guard station a little early just incase Danny was early. He wasn't so I spent about 45 minutes sitting on a rock in the shade near the guard station looking in all directions for Danny to appear. Fortunately Danny arrived with my tank and two others in the back of his SUV. Mission accomplished! Until the next day when I finished the re-fueling by making three more trips and discovered that the propane connection to the re-filled tank now leaked. Perhaps it had been slowly leaking because that tank didn't last our usual six months. In any case I troubleshot the problem down to the new style propane tank connector, the one with the green plastic screw-on fittings. These are a right-hand thread and don't require a wrench to tighten them like the old style left-hand threaded ones that require a wrench. I decided to replace the new style with an old style pigtail hose that I bought at Budget Marine which is at the boat yard. Right now the old style one appears to have resolved the leaking problem. After that experience I plan to pick up another old style pigtail because I think the new one is just a bad design. The old style has two rubber seals that mate rather than the single one that the new style relies on.

On a lighter note, as was our tradition the last time we came to the Caribbean, we connected our TV antenna and turned on our TV to see what we could pick up. A channel search found two channels of which only one actually has anything on it. The have a morning show called "Good Morning Antigua" and it appears during the middle of the day they like the USA Network and today they played the soap "Bold and the Beautiful". Lately night time programming has been all over the place from the Cricket World Cup to the "Jefferson". Oh yes, late this afternoon they had "Sesame Street" on. We have also seen some political programs and what a surprise the government here spends too much money too. Their news programs haven't mentioned much about anything happening elsewhere in the world. In fact, one big report a couple of nights ago was on a big fish caught in one of the villages. They actually sent a reporter and cameraman out to get video and file a report on the big fish. For me, it brought new meaning to the the words - "slow new day." When we get to the two sailing regattas at the end of April it will be interesting to see if the news team reports on them. Also, due to cut backs by the BBC the Caribbean doesn't any longer get support in the world news arena by the BBC.

Final Tally for Passage
02/19/2011, Jolly Harbor Marina, Antigua

Now that we have topped off fuel we now know that we used 37.5 gallons of diesel for the trip. We powered a total of 51.4 hours so if you do the math we burned .73 gallons per hour. Which historically is right in line with the .75 gallons per hour that I have assumed for this engine in the almost 20 years that we have owned Foggy Mountain. In fueling the boat here at Jolly Harbor I did discover that one of our tanks had water in it and some of that water made it to the tank that the engine draws from. Fortunately the Racor between that tank and the engine caught the water before it got to the engine. Today I drained the water from the filters that had it and now we are polishing the fuel in the day tank that supplies the engine. If we don't find any more water after the polishing we should be fine.

Noteworthy points from the trip, thank you Canvas Designers of Riviera Beach. Fl for the flying fish and spray proof dodger that kept us dry. Thank you Florida Rigging and Hydraulics of Riviera Beach, Fl for the fine job you did on the standing rigging that has our mast still standing after that 1500 plus mile beat. A shout out goes to MaxSea navigation software that not only gave us navigational information but allowed us to display Grib weather files and calculated the most efficient route for us to sail going forward. The weather routing almost from MaxSea almost always agreed with the routing advice given by the two weather guys we consulted on the passage Chris Parker and Herb Hilgenberg.

And last, but way from from least I thank Pam for hanging in during this difficult passage. She not only held up her end on watches and navigation but she prepared every meal. I am a lucky guy to have her in my life and as my co-captain on this adventure.

Close Call During Last Night at Sea and We Made It- Yahoo!!!
02/15/2011, Jolly Harbor, Antigua

First the previous day's stats. Our run from yesterday at noon to our arrival time here in Antigua at 0830 was 100 miles, total for the trip was 1571.02 nautical miles in 12 days 23 hours which works out to an average speed of 5.05 knots. This is the slowest average speed for a passage that we have ever had but it is also the first passage where more than 90% of our time has been spent beating. And, guess what point of sail we were on for most of the day yesterday. Yup, for those of you that have been following our passage you know we were beating again. The predicted wind direction was ESE and actually was closer to SE. We were basically trying to hold a course just slightly east of directly south. So we started out yesterday sailing as close to the wind as we could but, with the 6 to 8 foot swell we were only able to hold a course just west of south hoping that eventually the wind would back to the ESE later in the day. As the day went on the wind toyed with us occasionally backing to the ESE only to return to the SE. However, the further south we got the toying stopped and the wind finally backed to the ESE. But because we had lost easting for the earlier part of the day we had to sail close hauled again to gain back our easting. With our concerted effort last night we managed to crawl our way back upwind far enough so that we could relax a little. Another good thing was that once we got in the lee of Barbuda (Pam called it Big Buda), the island just north of Antigua, the seas flattened out because Barbuda was blocking them for us. We also had no squalls last night, which was welcome relief from the previous nights adventure. One final number to wrap up, after her 15th flying fish kill Foggy Mountain never victimized another one during this passage.

Last night was not without its drama though. Pam woke me up with the comment that we had red lights flashing on the AIS system and she wondered if I would check it out because she was watching a possible squall cloud. So I pulled out the iPad to check it out. There was some initial concern because the iPad displayed a ship with a coordinates very close to us but the iPad's GPS hadn't located us yet so it wouldn't display the closest point of approach information that is so vital in these situations. All I knew was that the ship was off our port side and not very far away. Pam looked in that direction but initially didn't see anything. Probably due to a squall between us and the ship reducing both of our visibilities. Then suddenly and fortunately the iPad's GPS located us and my concern further elevated. We were on a collision course with this 700 and some foot tanker headed for St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands. So I got on the VHF and called the ship by name asking them if they could see us and that my AIS indicated that our crossing distance was going to be less than a half a mile. They responded immediately saying that they could see us and that they were going to alter course to widen that crossing distance. Collision averted, thank you again AIS.

Our final morning at see was sailing close hauled, what else a surprise, in basically ideal conditions - 10 to 12 knots of wind with a one to two foot chop and no swell. We beat up into the entrance of the channel to Jolly harbor, doused the sails and went in to clear Customs. After tying ourselves up at the Customs dock, no one available to help us we had a pretty uneventful almost enjoyable clearing in process. Everyone was very friendly and the process took about an hour. After clearing in we called Jolly Harbor Marina for a slip. We decided to pull into the marina so we could wash down Foggy's salt caked decks and to attend to some problems that have cropped up during this punishing passage. Primarily we want to attend to a leak in our port side deck before we do any more sailing and we figure we can better do it here at a marina where we should be able to procure everything we need to fix it. Of course we won't know that for sure until we tear apart the overhead of the cabin in the area where we found the water. But we won't tackle that tomorrow because it is Pam's birthday. And our friends here on the island have invited us to their house for the night. We have taken the slip for a week so hopefully we can get all of our projects done in that time frame. Wish us luck, I'm going to bed now.

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