In this post are a few of the pictures taken during and after the races, as well as at the boat parade. Especially noteworthy for me was the participation of the Norwegian vessel Sincerity. We saw her here last year too, when she was reported to have King Harald of Norway on board. No King this year, but we know they ate like kings after returning to their slip each day: we noticed the crew was celebrating with what looked to be gravlaks and øl one afternoon.
As I mentioned in the previous post, Good Friday is by law a holiday on Antigua during which no alcohol can be sold or dispensed, so there were no parties scheduled for that night. A night at Regatta without a party? That could not be permitted to stand. Dave and Trudie (Persephone) approached Jack and Jo (Bodacious) and it was decided to have a dinghy concert off the stern of Bodacious. Dave and Trudie performed — Dave on guitar and Trudie singing. Patrick (Island Dream) was also asked to perform, and he was the opening act, singing and playing the ukelele. Dave arranged to have professional-style speakers and sound equipment, including lights. They performed on the upper deck of Bodacious, with Bill (Dolce Vita) as sound man and myself as the “official” photographer. At least 60 dinghies attended, each with their own libations and with nibblies to pass around.
On April 13 we motored down from Cocoa Point, Barbuda back to Five Islands, Antigua, where we spent the night before moving on down to Falmouth Harbour, where much of the Regatta activities would be centered, and where Barb and I and many of our friends would attend that afternoon an organizational meeting for Regatta volunteers. We received our volunteer T-shirts and our assignments and enjoyed complimentary drinks and sushi. On the 15th Barb and some others went for a walk east of English Harbour and happened upon a restoration project of a historical building. That night gazillions of folks gathered at the Mad Mongoose for an informal social organized by Tom (Farhaven) for participants of the Coconut Telegraph, the SSB net convened every morning at 8 am on USB 8070. The place was packed, a testament to the popularity of the “Nut Net”, as it is informally called.
Wednesday, April 16, was the first of the official parties for the Regatta held at the Antigua Yacht Club lawn. We got there early, which was fortunate, since we learned on our arrival that Barb and I were among those on “clean-up duty” during the party, which meant that we were to patrol the lawn and the nearby eating area and keep the tables (and lawn) cleared of empty cups and plates, etc., an assignment that we had somehow missed at the volunteer meeting on Tuesday. Barb dashed back to our boat to get our official volunteer T-shirts, and we spent the next couple of hours performing duties somewhat below our educational levels. It actually wasn’t such a bad gig since we got a free dinner and had plenty of time to chat with friends and listen to the band. At the end of the evening the Mount Gay sponsors gave away the coveted red hats that were not collected by Regatta crew members. Due to our duties, we were there to collect two of them — thank you!
Thursday we gave our livers a rest and stayed on the boat, missing the activities associated with the Single Handed Race.
Friday, we joined 18 others on board Nirvana for an expedition out among the boats racing on the first of four days of general races. Anticipating the problem of dealing with stowing the many dinghies used to arrive at Nirvana for the voyage, Morgan had set a separate anchor with two large buoys attached. As guests arrived, passengers would be let off at Nirvana, the dinghy driver would go to the dinghy float and attach the dinghy and then be brought to Nirvana with a dinghy reserved for the task.
The different categories of racers started at different times. Some categories had already begun, but our venture out to the race venue was delayed, because some of Morgan’s intended guests were volunteer “wranglers” — drivers of dinghies used to assist the competitors in leaving their slips (and getting back into their slips at the end of the race). Morgan was idling some distance from the dinghy float while awaiting the arrival of the wranglers, when he noticed that a would-be competitor was approaching the float as if to tie on. He shouted out a warning that the floats (and dinghies) were not securely attached to the bottom but were merely on an anchor. The skipper responded “we will only be five minutes!” Yah, right. They approached the floats from the wrong side; the wind blew them into the floats. The painters on the dinghies and floats became entangled with the keel of the sailboat. The windage of the assemblage proved to be much too much for the anchor and the whole kit and caboodle went “sailing” down the harbour toward the distant and then not-so-distant rocky shore. For many many minutes the crew of the vessel ineffectually poked at the painters with a boat hook, all the while drifting away. Finally, they dropped their anchor to keep off the rocky shore and our wranglers showed up and went dashing off to help. Many many more minutes went by. Someone got in the water and untangled most of the lines. The skipper got impatient and tried to raise a center board and jammed Morgan’s anchor line between the hull and the board, locking the board in a position neither totally up nor totally down. Eventually, our wranglers freed the dinghies, and brought them back to Nirvana, leaving the sailboat to continue floundering. A quick decision was made to tie all of the dinghies to the stern of Hoofbeats. That took many many more minutes to accomplish. By the time Nirvana finally got to the race venue, many of the categories had already begun and disappeared. So we missed many of the starts, as did the inept sailboat in its own category. Served them right.
This all happened on Good Friday, a holiday on Antigua which by law is alcohol-free, so there were no parties scheduled for that night. A night at the Classic Regatta without a party? That could not be permitted to stand. Dave and Trudie (Persephone) approached Jack and Jo (Bodacious) and it was decided to have a dinghy concert off the stern of Bodacious. See the next post for an account of the concert.
On Saturday we joined Jack and Jo at the evening lawn party in making and serving complementary “Dark and Stormy” drinks. (Recipe: Ice, Mount Gay Rum, ginger beer and a slice of lime. Evaluation: delicious!) Later a bunch of us went to an “all you can eat” sushi dinner at the restaurant overlooking the AYC lawn and stage; from there we watched the acts in an “open mike” talent show.
Sunday after the race was the Parade of Classics at Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, and that evening back at Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth was a party with complimentary lobster bisque and rum punch.
On Monday we joined Bill & Coleen (Dolce Vita), Rob (Miclo III), Eric (Viking Angel) and Jack & Jo aboard Bodacious for another close-up view of the racers on their prescribed routes. Jack took us close enough for me to get some satisfying photographs.
Tuesday — the last day of the regatta — the Cream Tea Party in Nelson’s Dockyard in the afternoon, with the ladies all decked out in pretty dresses and hats, followed that evening by a slideshow (where, with many others, some of my race photos were shown) and the Trophies were awarded to the winning racers.
One of the enjoyable aspects of cruising is socializing with fellow cruisers. Since we moved aboard we have made friendships that equal or surpass any we ever had “on land”, even though our encounters with our cruising friends are often intermittent. We recently had a happy reunion with long-time friends Ann & Steve (Receta) when we both found ourselves in Colombier Bay, St. Barts. Actually, it was no accident; we learned via email that they intended to be there and we decided that was an ideal place for us to overnight on our two-day passage from St. Martin to Antigua. Our get-together over dinner on TT2 was too brief, but we will see them again later in Antigua.
When we got to Antigua, we checked-in at Jolly Harbour, but then moved down to Falmouth Harbour, where we found lots of friends. Bill & Coleen (Dolce Vita), Dave & Trudy (Persephone), Ellen & Rob (Miclo III), Tom & Leslie (Farhaven), Robin & Cheryl (Just Imagine) and Jack & Jo (Bodacious) were there, the latter of which had a number over for a sundowner, and on another night bunches of us met first at the Mad Mongoose for drinks and then reconvened for dinner at Trappas. A good-sized troop hiked up to the top of the cliff north of Falmouth, and the next day we took the scenic shore route along the south of the island up to Shirley Heights. Both walks are just a bit challenging, but well worth the effort.
One of the less-enjoyable aspects of cruising is dealing with malfunctions of vessel components. When we arrived in Antigua, we discovered that the starboard stabilizer was not centering correctly. When we moved from Jolly to Falmouth, we did so with just the other stabilizer activated – the one that had days earlier captured a fish trap line and jammed. Fortunately, that stabilizer was functioning just fine after the removal of the jamming line.
It took a while to diagnose the problem with the starboard fin, but it eventually became clear that the position sensor was not functioning correctly. Thank goodness I had a spare. While I had the unit apart, I decided to also replace the bushings for the yoke that moves the fin. I knew one of the bushings was frozen in its seat, since I had attempted without success on another occasion to remove it, but they both really needed replacing – the fin was starting to squeak when working. Bill (Dolce Vita) offered to help with the removal, and before it was over we had his wife Coleen involved too, while Barb fetched tools and did the documenting. We removed the top plate that contained the stuck bushing and took it up to the cockpit, where we had more room and better visibility. I held the plate on its edge, Bill used a vice grip to grasp the lip of the bushing, and Coleen pounded on the vice grip with a heavy hammer while Bill rotated the bushing. What a team. It took a while but eventually we succeeded in removing the recalcitrant component. Then, a careful cleanup using a Dremel on the cavity for the bushing, removing burrs that were preventing the bushing from slipping easily in and out, and we were done. It is great to have good cruising friends, and even better when they are so competent and giving and willing to help.
We humans sometimes invoke the notion of “luck” in a strange way, it seems to me. I have already written about our rental-car trip last Fall from Oslo to Kristiansand, Norway, during which I fell asleep while driving and slid along the guard rail which separated my lane from the oncoming traffic. I said we were “lucky” to have not incurred any personal injury. I could have said I was unlucky to fall asleep, but instead said we were lucky that it was not worse.
Why do we say we are “lucky” when something bad happens, but could have been worse?
The mathematician in me wonders if maybe we employ our concept of luck in a manner analogous to the application of the concept of conditional probability. I’ll resist the temptation to launch off into an explication of that concept and simply note that in addition to the mathematical concept of probability, in which we gauge the likelihood of event A occurring , there is the concept of conditional probability, in which we gauge the likelihood of B happening given that A has already occurred. Maybe we are likewise employing the concept of conditional luck, in which we say we were lucky that B subsequently happened (or didn’t happen) given that A had already happened.
But the philosopher in me wonders if something else may be at the heart of our tendency to say we were lucky when something bad happens that could have been worse. Maybe the invocation of luck in that circumstance is really our attempt to hide from the uncomfortable fact that the universe can be indifferent to or even hostile to our best interests. So instead of focusing on the fact that A happened, we focus on the fact that B happened (or didn’t happen) given that A had happened.
On the evening of Monday, March 23, we departed a little after 5 pm from Virgin Gorda, BVI and cruised through the night toward St. Martin. I took the first watch and was relieved by Barb at about 2:00 am. At about 5 am, I was awaked by Barb calling my name and by the sound of an alarm going off from the control console of our stabilizers. The display revealed that the port stabilizer was frozen in an extreme position, a fact soon collaborated by opening a hatch and gazing down. There being no obvious remedy, we shut both stabilizers down and reapplied propulsion power, only to note that our speed was drastically reduced. Suddenly we lurched ahead and attained normal speeds.
We were “lucky” that the seas were relatively calm, and that such waves as there were came essentially on the nose, so stabilizers were in fact unneeded. When we arrived at Marigot Bay, St. Martin, we had some breakfast and then I donned a snorkel and mask to have a look-see. I found a length of line jammed between the stabilizer and the hull, with a juice container/float pulled up tightly to the jam. I tried pulling on the line and then tried rotating the stabilizer fin, with no success. I returned to the transom and had Barb fetch a keyhole saw and a small hacksaw, with which I attempted to cut the line. I very quickly realized that the task was formidable, and so I returned to the cockpit and donned scuba gear. And then sawed and sawed and sawed. The problem was that the line was jammed all across the width of the fin. As I sawed I could see just a few dark strands floating away during each stroke. Ninety minutes later, one scuba tank depleted, the fin finally came free, with no damage done to the hull or the fin. Lucky, huh?
Next day we cruised down to Colombier Bay, St. Barths, and the following day cruised to Antigua. While out in the deep water between St. Barths and Antigua, we caught a tuna. Now that is what I call genuine luck!
As faithful readers already know, we timed our stay in Antigua to include the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. Not because we are avid sailors, but because so many of our cruising friends would be there at that time. Besides, it is a colorful event. “Classic” in the strictest sense would be defined as a vessel built in the 20s or 30s. The expanded definition for the purposes of the regatta includes boats built using modern materials but having the fine lines of Classics. And finally, the regatta definition includes the traditional workboats of the past that are now being used as yachts, such as the Carriacou sloops.
Some of our friends were able to find vessels willing to take them on as crew; many others were volunteering for shore duty as support staff. Barb and I volunteered as well. Barb thought she would mostly be manning a reception desk or serving drinks or food, and I was signed up to help vessels get in and out of their slips by using our dinghy as a “bow or stern thruster”. As it turned out, when I got a chance to get on a press boat in order to photograph the event, I curtailed my thruster duties and switched to photography. One day on a press boat and another on friend Jack’s Krogen 39 Bodacious, the latter on a very windy day that saw at least three vessels break their masts. In addition to her other duties, Barb took over the thruster duties, much to the amazement of some of the more sexist owners and observers. Our most memorable assignment was to create the complementary rum punch for one of the many parties that occurred; we shared that duty with John and Kathy (Oceana), mixing four huge tubs of punch, which of course had to be tested for goodness before opening the gates to the thundering crowds.
Panerai, maker of expensive watches, was one of the sponsors. Every afternoon they served free drinks and nibblies in their hospitality lounge. On Sunday night the Sail Maine sponsors served “our” rum punch and a delicious lobster bisque with pieces of fresh baguette. If a small bowl of bisque wasn’t enough, one could go back for seconds, or thirds, or fourths. Barb had so many servings of the bisque as well as rum punch that she got sick in the middle of the night. I was just fine, having stopped at four of each.
On the afternoon of the last day of racing, there was a boat parade of the competitors in and out of English Harbour. Next day, there was a reprise of the trapeze act that had been hosted by the competitor Tree of Life as it traversed the parade. Mount Gay Rum one night had a party in which they distributed the coveted red caps, earned by purchasing a sufficient number of Mount Gay drinks at several different watering holes throughout the week. And on the last day, there was a tea in the garden at English Harbour, during which all women were encouraged to wear colorful dresses and hats. Also at that venue during the tea were dinghy rowing and sculling contests.
Attending the regatta was a great deal of fun. I am certain that our livers will eventually recover.
Niece Cathy and her husband Jon left a late Midwestern snowstorm and arrived with luggage bulging with items we had purchased from the States and had pressed them into delivering. A spare hydraulic arm for the stabilizers, a replacement wifi antenna, a 90-day supply of one of my anti-arthritis drugs (and a couple of other less-important drugs), a packet of marking pencils for recording fish counts during dives, a pair of sunglasses for the admiral, and the re-conditioned underwater housing for my camera. Whew!
We had originally proposed that they join us in St. Martin and accompany us down to Antigua. But the timing was wrong. Good thing we later suggested an alternative. We were concerned that we might not be able to get to St. Martin on the schedule they proposed, and suggested that we instead meet them in Antigua. They would not have been happy passengers. Our three-day voyage (see previous post) to Antigua turned out to be lumpy, and the seas stayed that way for their entire visit. So much so, that we had to abandon our intention of spending just a couple of days at the Classic Yacht Regatta and then moving to more remote anchorages on the northeast corner of the island.
Cathy and Jon were a super couple to host. Congenial, helpful, warm and up for most anything. We hiked up to Shirley Heights for the Sunday barbecue, took the bus to St. John and Jolly Beach, attended bunches of Classics parties, took a short trip out in the dinghy to watch the regatta, went out another day in rough conditions with Bodacious to watch the start of the race, played some Mexican Train on board, and generally acted like Antigua tourists. We regret not being able to provide as much sea, snorkel and sun time as they probably had expected, but hope they had as much fun as we did.
In the album, below, pictures marked with “(JD)” were taken by Jon on his iPhone.
On April 3rd, we said goodbye to Charlotte Amalie and motored over to Christmas Cove. We spent two nights there, and then moved to Francis Bay, stopping along the way at Caneel to briefly moor the boat while we dinghied in to Cruz Bay for a final pickup of mail and some grocery shopping. When we arrived at Francis we provided Hunter and Devi (Arctic Tern) and Paul and Susan (Island Roamer) dinghy transportation to the Maho Bay Resort for our last-ever Friday-night partake of prime rib at the resort, not because we expect never to return to Francis, but because the resort has lost its lease and must vacate by May 1. Horrible news. It will be sad to see the little tent-cabins replaced by upscale private housing; it will be sad to no longer have the prime rib; it will be sad to no longer be able to watch the fascinating glass blowing that was hosted every Friday night after the meal.
Saturday I finally got over to Francis Pond to attempt to photograph the White-cheeked Pintails that I had seen there much earlier in our stay in the Virgins. Procrastination is a strategy that I have often employed with considerable success, but it failed miserably on this occasion. We have had very little rain, and the pond had shrunk both in circumference and in depth. There were wading birds out in the middle, but at first no pintails. Finally I noticed movement WAY off on the other side, where presumably the water was deeper. See the disappointing pictures, below.
Early Sunday morning (at 3:08 am) we set out for St. Martin. We had been watching closely the weather forecasts, since the howling winds had been predicted to slack only slightly for two days in the near future. Originally we planned on moving up to Virgin Gorda on Sunday in order to shorten the distance to St. Martin, but when a last-minute weather check indicated that Sunday looked as good as the predicted lull of Monday/Tuesday, we decided to strike out between Salt and Peter Islands of BVI toward St. Martin. It was a lumpy ride, all the more so since one of the stabilizers failed only a couple of hours into the trip. We disabled that side and continued. Midday we were passed by Maltese Falcon, also heading toward St. Martin, but making considerably better time, their retracted sails notwithstanding.
I was able to replace the hydraulic arm when we reached St. Martin after a 96-nm trip of 15 hours and 25 minutes. Next morning the wind/waves were still higher than is completely comfortable, so instead of getting up super early and slogging directly to Antigua, we opted to head to St. Kitts. That added about 10 nm to the overall distance to Antigua, but meant that we would only be out in the washing machine conditions for about 64 nm, arriving at our intended anchorage in St. Kitts after 9 hours and 40 minutes. We anchored in White House Bay, one among 16 vessels. Next morning, on our way to Antigua and out about one hour from the anchorage, we heard Arctic Tern unsuccessfully hailing Unicorn. We hailed Arctic Tern, and learned they were just outside Basseterre, several miles up the western coast of St. Kitts. Their intention was to check in to St. Kitts and wait for better conditions to proceed to Montserrat, and to get some rest, since they had motored directly from North Sound, BVI, having departed sometime in the darkness early Sunday and just arriving in St. Kitts shortly after daylight on Monday. We learned later that Unicorn had opted to sail instead of motor, and when wind angle had not cooperated, had diverted to St. Martin.
Our trip to Antigua was uneventful, if once again a bit uncomfortable. 48 nm in just under 8 hours. We anchored in Five Island Bay, nestled up close to the resort – close enough to get gratis wifi using just our computers’ antennas, a “good thing”, since our external wifi antenna failed this season. Next morning we moved around to the outside approach to Jolly Harbour and took the dinghy in to check in. Yes, we took the dinghy. The customs nazi “lady” infamous for being a – um, I cannot use that word in our blog – has been transferred elsewhere and replaced with a thoroughly friendly gentleman. So, no more silly requirement that the vessel has to be within sight of the customs dock in order to check in. There were quite a few folks ahead of me in the line; apparently Antigua is attempting to use eSeaClear again, and there was some kind of problem with the computer or its data so we were all reduced to filling out umpteen copies by hand. But we learned from the gathering that cruisers planned to assemble that night for dinner at the adjacent restaurant Port Afina. Bill (Dolce Vita) made the arrangements. About 26 of us, arranged in tables for six. Each table received three pizzas: pepperoni, cheese and veggie. Two types of pasta and salad served buffet style. Quite good food, and quite a party.
In other news, the dredging of the channel into Jolly Harbour appeared to finally be getting started on our last day there. We had read that it would start on March 25, and then that it would start on April 2. So actually starting on April 12 was something of an accomplishment. There also appeared to be a lot of construction going on in the area; there were backhoes on tracks working on the hills both to the north and to the south of the channel.
On Friday, we moved into Falmouth Harbour, where we anchored near many cruising friends, all here for the approaching Classic Yacht Regatta. We joined many of those friends at The Mad Mangoose, the venue for the first of many rum parties at which a ticket is given for each rum drink ordered. When enough have been collected, they can be redeemed for a coveted red cap sporting the notations “Mount Gay Rum” and “Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta”, and the year of the event. Redemption occurs on Friday, April 26, at a party entitled, naturally enough, “Mount Gay Rum Red Cap Party”.