WE DID IT!!!
20 December 2018
The passage from Rio Dulce, Guatemala to Jolly Harbor, Antigua is DONE, HECHO, GETAN, FAIT, FATTO.
We dropped anchor in Five Island Harbor, Antigua at 19:30 AST, December 18. We departed Rio Dulce November 10, quite a passage. Here are a few highlights:
Guatemala to Grand Cayman Island
Four days and four nights, fairly easy sailing with some powering in the lighter areas. Then the engine stopped working. I tried changing the fuel filters to no avail. So with about another 200+ miles to go and no wind we just sat and waited. It finally started filling in and we had a beautiful sail to the island. When we arrived I contacted Port Security to advise them of our situation. They were incredibly helpful to include dispatching a police RIB. We had to decide what to do, we asked if we could be towed to a marina inside the reef on the north side. No takers. So I thought we might sail out to sea and wait for morning when we could be lead through the reef. The Police discouraged us due to a frontal passage with big winds. So we sailed around to Spot Bay and the Police stayed with us all the way to even finding us a mooring and helping us as we sailed to the mooring.
Long story short, we got the engine going by bypassing the tank and filters putting a jerry can of fuel next to the engine and running the supply and return lines into the can. We powered around to the reef entrance, were met by a small boat and were lead to the marina where all repairs we successful.
Grand Cayman to Porto Antonio, Jamaica
Some sailing away from Grand Cayman until the wind shut down, back on with our once again trusty Yanmar and we powered most of the way due to very light winds on our nose.
Port Antonio, Jamaica to Boca Chica, Dominican Republic
We decided to bypass Haiti and plow onward to the DR. We had checked the GRIB files while in Jamaica and knew there were big winds coming in a couple of days. It was getting too close time-wise to when the weather would turn bad so we sailed into a harbor close to Cabo Beata and sat for two nights. We got anxious to get going so after dark on the third night we pulled the anchor and took off to round this famous cape. Arg. I think I've written about this passage in another blog, it was probably our toughest with big seas, strong winds and then loosing all electrical power. Being out at sea, when stuff happens you have to be ready to find solutions to keep going.
Further along on this passage, again in the middle of the night we ran over a lobster pot buoy line and had to stop the engine; moderate seas, light winds, sailing to Boca Chica. It took a while tacking back and forth getting ever closer and closer. I called the marina and asked for a tow through the tricky entrance channel. In hindsight we could have sailed to the dock but with falling winds and reefs on both sides I think I used better judgment to seek assistance. Problem solved by diving and cutting off the buoys and lots of line.
Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico Crossing the Mona Passage
Our plan was to sail from Boca Chica to Ponce, Puerto Rico via the Mona Passage. We sailed the Mona Passage passing very close to the southern side of Mona Island, winds and waves tolerable. We arrived in Ponce by 15:00, checked in with US Customs and Immigration and settled in for a pleasant night at the Ponce Yacht and Fishing Club marina. Next day we were off early hoping to sail directly to Antigua about three days to the east. But, the weather gods had other ideas for us. Again big winds on our nose, tacking through terrible wind angles making very slow progress along the track, so I decided to bail out, sneak in behind a string of islands and power to an anchorage for the night. Ah so, peaceful. Same thing again the next day on another attempt to get to Antigua, so again we bailed out and dropped anchor in a place called Pasillas, where there were four other cruisers, WOW. Our first time seeing any other boats.
Puerto Rico to Antigua no matter what!
Early the next morning we made the commitment to go no matter what the weather conditions because the GRIB files were indicating a window of lighter winds in the Monday - Tuesday time frame and bigger winds starting late Wednesday and Thursday. It was Sunday morning so we had three days to complete the 250 mile passage. We saw it all, six to eight foot seas, winds in upper teens on our nose and then as forecast it all started to change about 30 - 40 miles south of St. Croix island. True wind down to eight knots, mild seas and we were powering. Winds down to four - five knots true and seas almost calm, Yippie, we were getting really close with sufficient time to arrive before things started falling apart. Our last night at sea was super, almost full moon, cruise ships everywhere and we were trucking toward our destination. We knew there would be a slight impulse as we were rounding Nevis so we decided to sail. OOPS, the main wouldn't come out. It was jammed. That's one of of the Oh S**T, moments. We tried sailing by jib alone, heading was south of Montserrat, not so good right? We tacked back when we would clear Nevis and sailed for several more hours before the wind impulse finally gave up and we were back to five knots true and calming seas. Antigua here we come.
Landfall was 19:30 AST dropping the hook in one of our favorite Harbors, Five Island Harbor. Safe, tired, and the passage was complete. Almost 1600 miles as the crow flies, yet with tacking, going to the Caymans, I figure we added a couple hundred more.
November 10 to December 18: 38 elapsed days
Days lost to engine fuel problem: Four
Days spent checking in and out of countries: Four
Days lost to fouled prop: Two
Days spent waiting for weather: Six
Days being tourists: One
Days actually on the water sailing: Twenty-one
Average daily on-the-water progress: 85 miles
Average daily overall: 47
It's interesting that way back before we started and were make all the plans I made reservations at the Jolly Harbor marina for 12/28 and I figured we needed to make close to 50 miles per day. So all and all these two ole fogies did pretty well, not to shabby don'tcha say!!