Good afternoon y'all! Hard to believe we've been in Antigua for more than a month! It's been very busy since after our arrival November 6th. That and being naturalized third world digital citizens are the reason of our long silence. Never before were Digicel, Google-Fi and even local onshore wi-fi outfits - priced 3X than Grenada and working as badly - the object of such medieval anathemas as the ones that have been uttered from onboard Boundless. But I digress.
We got our PCR tests done in Carriacou last November 2, for a whopping 150 USD/ea. It was unclear when we'd get the results back and we were worried we wouldn't be able to show them in Antigua within the required timeframe - no later than a week from issue. Neither we wanted to miss an upcoming good weather window to sail. Luckily we got the results back fairly quickly so after provisioning, clearing out of Grenada and spending one last night at our beloved Sandy Island, we were ready to go.
The day before leaving Grenada, Renny our seafood and fresh produce "dealer" stopped by while we were in Tyrell Bay. We bought a chunk of delicious watermelon from him and we wished him the best with his business, including seeing it expanded into "Renny, Inc." at our next visit, which he found very funny.
We set sail for Antigua at around 7am on November 5th, full main and genoa on a starboard tack. We kept this combo for the whole passage although with a lot of sail trimming and a little reefing to adjust to changes in wind direction and strength. The forecasts spoke of increasingly lighter winds and we thought we'd be doing a lot of motoring. Scratch that. We got plenty of wind from the start, especially crossing the channels separating the various islands. We averaged 10 knots mostly on a close reach. We touched 14.5 and, during the night, 15.7 knots! And that, ladies and gentlemen, is fast.
Not a soul on the ocean except us, the flying fish (some can stay out of the water for so long that we started giving their "long jumps" grades like in gymnastics: 9.5! 9.0!) and the birds. The boobies for example seem to really enjoy hitching a ride on the air stream created by Boundless as she sails. Maybe her water displacement also stirs the fish under the surface making it easier for the birds to catch them. Either way, to watch them as they showcase their excellent aerial skills can be quite exhilarating.
At night Orion was very bright, really popping out of the dark sky and rivaling the twinkling man-made lights that laced the shores of Dominica in gold and amber. Later in the night, a loud "bang" over our heads was a gentle notification that a mainsheet boom strap had just broken. Jack be nimble, Jack be quick, the Cap'n jumped on the roof to rig a temporary fix. Fun fact: after landfall, in between putting stuff away and envisioning hot coffee and scrambled eggs, we found the broken piece of strap, which had been forgotten on the roof, still lying exactly where it had been left! It surprised us a little given the amount of wind (and some seas!) we just had and even if the First Law of Catamarans clearly states that no unattended object will roll onto a floor or over the side from any given surface.
Things got quieter as we passed behind Guadeloupe the morning of November 6th, so we switched to motor-sailing. The light winds of the forecast had finally caught up with us and we were also experiencing a lull created by the island mass. Squally clouds, some reminiscent of cotton candy, some like sheer veils or jellyfish with delicate tentacles of falling rain, soaked the colors of dawn and gave the hills of the island an enchanted feel. We left the lull - and the northwest end of Guadeloupe - behind once into the Antigua Channel and made a slight right turn to get into English Harbour. We did 270 nautical miles in 29 hours anchor to anchor, or "that will get you to church on time!".
The very last part of the passage was punctuated by somewhat frustrating phone calls with the harbor authorities whom we had called to inform of our arrival and make sure that we were clear to enter. "Nobody told me anything" was the message we got, together with an "invitation" to enter from St. John's, the commercial harbor in Antigua's capital city by the same name, about eighteen nautical miles north west of English Harbour. Ugh, I think we were all sailed up at that point. Luckily everything was cleared up with the help of our agent, whom we had hired to deal with the various procedures and bureaucratic requirements, and we could enter English Harbour as planned.
As you get into port at the end of any passage you immediately notice how quiet it all becomes. It's like someone toggled the audio switch from nautical wall of sound (wind, seas, boat interacting with both) to the sound of silence. English Harbor in particular felt like the quietest place we had been in a while (and Antigua Slipway, its boatyard, was closed, so no power tools were on). The better to enjoy its visual charms: one look at the beautifully reconstructed Nelson's Dockyard
, with the impressive Pillars in front of the Admiral's Inn, and you feel like you're back in the late eighteenth century, when this was Britain's main naval station in the Lesser Antilles. A look at the Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands reveals that Nelson was "stationed here in 1784 under Sir Richard Hughes, who had recently blinded himself in one eye while chasing a cockroach with a fork" (I hate when that happens...) and eventually took over as Naval Commander. He never quite "connected" with Antigua and its ruling class, nonetheless the dockyard was eventually named after him.
Back to the XXI century, we stowed the sails, coiled the lines, were visited by the health official who took our temperatures and declared us officially healthy (he turned a blind eye on the check mark for Medical Conditions->Other->Chronic Italian Craziness). In the afternoon, after meeting briefly with our agent for an additional exchange of papers and to get a Digicel SIM card which she was very nice to go purchase for us, we took a short walk around, including a stop by one of the chandleries, or "Toys'r 'Us" for marine folks. We also located a hair salon as we both were long overdue for hair maintenance.
Most businesses are open on the island but things are slow due to Covid. It seems as if the fact that this isn't going to be the "traditional" high season for Antigua hasn't quite sunk in yet. (It's worth noting, however, that if you want to get any work done on your boat, almost everybody tells you how busy they are, no matter if it's a last moment request or something you've scheduled with them months in advance...). On the other hand, a lot of super-yachts are pouring in here for the holidays and they are bound to bring some business.
We spent a week or so at anchor in English Harbor, partly to sit out another tropical wave - the one that later turned into Hurricane Eta and wreaked havoc in Central America. It rained in biblical proportions for days and the water in the harbor had turned brown from the rivers water flowing into it! If tropical waves could quip, this one would have said "Avec nous le deluge"!
When the weather finally settled, we sailed eastward to Nonsuch Bay for a weekend change of scenery before spending the following week at a dock at the Slipway. Also, things were starting to get a little crowded due to the Salty Dawg Rally
boats coming in from the States. We anchored in Rickett Harbor, Green Island, at the southern entrance of Nonsuch Bay. Snorkeling on part of the reef that extends north of the island was nice, but the treat was to see big sea turtles on a daily basis! Onshore you could see many of the tall and bright yellow stalks which the century plants (Agave Americana) produce at the end of their life cycle. Some of the stalks had also pretty yellow blossoms at the top.
The water here is definitely colder than the 86° Grenadian summer waters we had gotten used to. It's not too big a difference, true, and the Cap'n says he is getting used to it. It's taking me a little longer and I'm not ashamed to admit I went snorkeling in a full wetsuit... that's what happens when your body is short on natural thermal insulating layers!
Once back in English Harbor, brought back by a nice sail on sapphire waters albeit a bit nautical a departure from Green Island - motor sailing into open ocean from sheltered waters and shallower depths, pointing into the wind and chop can make for some exciting conditions! -, we docked at the Slipway the morning after arrival and were there for a week, give or take. The new main sail was installed by the folks at North Sails with help from the Captain and that was the thing that required the most time, including adjustments, tweaking, etc. Also, work was done to the starboard lazarette hatch to prevent water from leaking in. This is the lazarette that hosts our water maker, so it's... an important location. Cap'n also took care of a loose screw responsible for some leaking from the starboard hatch area in the salon (good thing it was such a small culprit, otherwise he was getting ready to re-bed the whole hatch) and projects were taken care of as it's in a boat's nature to generously provide you with even when you don't need them (but now we have, for example, freshly installed, brand new, tone-on-tone toilet seat bumpers, which are the envy of the entire marina).
Off the dock and to Falmouth Harbour, English Harbour's neighbor on its west side and as prime a piece of marine real estate as English if you're looking for a safe place where to park your galleon fleet or from where to teach a lesson to those Spaniards once and for all. The listing describes it as "easily defensible, with immediate access to the trade winds, yet protected enough to careen a ship and be safe in a hurricane. Open House Sunday 1-3 pm"). Falmouth is very beautiful, and the eye loses itself in capturing its views, natural and man-made: at night, the docks of the Antigua Yacht Club are a forest of immensely tall and lit-up masts.
We were in Falmouth until two days ago, partly at the dock of the Catamaran Club - where we've had a new genoa furler assembled and installed by Antigua Rigging. The genoa itself, which we removed in between arrival and unleashing of the biblical flood, was at North Sails in the meantime, being done a once-over before being put back in place. After careful examination and much thought, we'll also have a new genoa and staysail made. Then: put Cap'n up the mast a couple of times to insert some screws in the old staysail furler... and to install a new masthead wind vane - check; run miscellaneous errands on land - check; take a look at the big yachts while passing by with the dinghy - check; couple of nice lunches onshore - check; removed staysail for North Sails to pick up and measure - check; food shopping and haircut - check. So what do you do on a boat the whole day?
And finally Friday we hoisted the new main, the old genoa (something old something new) and sailed west and then north, all the way to Deep Bay, with the remains of Fort Barrington perched up the hill, the shipwreck, a small part of which is clearly visible outside the water, and...tourists from the beach resort on jet skis...I'll say no more. The sail was very pleasant, mostly on a broad reach, averaging 10kn, and it gave us the chance to test the new main. It looks like there will be some adjustments: its foot is a little too long and we'll probably need a new bag for it, as stowing it in the existing one doesn't quite work. Also there are some wrinkles up top, which will be cured by tightening the battens. Other than that it works great!
Our current plan is to stay here in the... Upper West Side of the island for the holidays and gradually make our way back down to Falmouth, doing some day stops. Molto bene
. I'm gonna leave you now and go pull out my Christmas decorations. Nothing crazy, just a few accents. Although there are definitely boats around which are more decorated and lit up than The Christmas Store!
I have to apologize for the length of this post but you don't have to read it all at once, I usually recommend one paragraph after each meal.😊 As usual, I invite you to visit our Gallery and check the Map if you're having one of those "Yes, but where exactly are they?" moments. Also, a big thank you for your comments and emails which we truly enjoy reading and the Cap'n and I wish you and your loved ones the Happiest of Holidays!