We are back! Wow what an experience but home is home and it really feels great to be back.
We handed the boat over to the new owners on the morning of the 27th. This was a rather tight schedule because our flights out were booked for the same day and had we had a problem we may have missed our flights. Fortunately the operations manager one Mr. John Shirley was satisfied with the vessel and signed it off. We had to get a taxi to Beef Island where the airport is located. Taxi on Tortola means a large pick-up truck with modified load box to take passengers seated in 5 rows of benches. Terry had a flight, to the USA, much earlier than the rest of us but we decided to all go to the airport together and share a last few cups of coffee together. We arrived at the airport somewhat unprepared for the baggage weight requirements. This ended up in a U$100 penalty but the education was worth it and we sorted it out in London before we boarded there.
Flights are my nemesis but Shaheda loves flying and she coped best of all with this. However all the stop overs was a bit of drag. We boarded in Tortola and flew to Antigua (pronounced Antiga, why don't they just spell it like that!) the home of Sir Viv Richards the West Indies cricket hero. They have an International airport here called the V.C. Bird International Airport, whoever he/she may be. We had 4 hours before boarding our connecting flight to Gatwick. With time in hand and a rather ratty airport we hoofed it over to the Stanford Cricket ground a short walk from the airport. We had a light meal at the Sticky Wicket a really nice restaurant at the cricket grounds. This cricket oval is absolutely superb. I am sure they employ the world's top manicurist to trim the turf with a comb and scissor. With tummies filled we headed off into the airport as Shaheda was keen to see what was on offer in the duty free shops. This was a rather disappointing affair, mostly cheap Chinese trinkets with Caribbean printed on it and one very exclusive jewellery store. However I did manage to find some fine Caribbean rum here though but as usual at a premium price, nothing is cheap in the Caribbean.
Boarding a plane in Antigua is unlike boarding anywhere I have ever been. They first call up the premium flyers, business/first class. Once they boarded they call up the row numbers and only once your row number is called may you go through the turnstile. Then there is a walk of close onto a kilometre to the plane. Once all the formalities were done we took off on our 7 hour flight to Gatwick. No sooner had we taken off when Shaheda noticed that the plane was leaking from a panel next to her. We called the flight attendant who informed us that it is the air conditioner and it is completely normal for it to leak onto the passengers, "just poke a tissue into the gap". Shame on you British Airways or should it be shame on Boeing, either way this is a poor showing. Other than that the flight went ahead without any further drama.
From Gatwick we had a rather challenging trek to Heathrow. There was the sail bag with the spinnaker and related equipment that weighed in at 35kg as well as a single bag that Shaheda and shared also over 35kg. We decided to take the bus, at 20 Pound Sterling per ticket. For the price of the two tickets you could travel one way from Cape Town to Johannesburg on a Greyhound in South Africa. But it got us to Heathrow with the minimum amount of fuss except that the bus driver and his assistant nearly ripped their arms off when trying to unload our heavy bags, the looks we got from them was not what you could call friendly. Once in Heathrow we headed straight through security and Shaheda was singled out for a full body search, I don't know why she seems to attract so much unneeded attention. However that was a small price for her to pay to get into the Heathrow duty free shopping mall. Shaheda seems to think that our credit cards have a target attached to them despite my ramblings that it is a limit not a target.
We arrived dead on time at Cape Town where we were met by Che in the arrivals hall. It was really great to see him again after such a long time. We missed him so much, he could not maintain his dismissive teenage veneer and he could not stop hugging us and telling us how much he missed us.
We are still trying to catch up on sleep and trying desperately to restore our sleeping patterns, no more 3 hours on 6 hours off. I don't know if my body clock will ever be the same again.
I had an experience I had always wanted, Shaheda did it on knee jerk. I learnt a lot about myself, sailing, people and the sea and so did Shaheda. Will I do it again, well it depends, I will not do a delivery again. I don't like the idea of passing all these places that I always wanted to see but not being able to stop off because of a deadline nor will not do it on a catamaran again. But when I can afford it I will definitely love to go cruising on my own yacht. All I need to work out now is how do I fund this. All donations of boats, cash and kind can be sent directly to me ;-)
Thanks to all those who followed our voyage, the many emails, the comments and the support.
A HUGE Thank-You from me to Shaheda for sharing this experience with me.
We wish you all the very best for 2008, till we do this again.
Be kind to the Earth and as always Respect!
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