We left Europe from Las Palmas in Grand Canaria on 4th Dec to cross the 2,700nm to Antigua. Our longest sail to date and our first crossing with crew. With food for 3 for at least three weeks, fully fuelled up and with everything checked and re-checked, the last thing we did was look at the weather and to our delight we had a steady 20-25knts Easterly which would give us a lovely sail.
We decided to go over the top of the island and then head south as we had already sailed up her east coast. It was a bit slow at first, the good winds weren’t due to kick in until that evening but that didn’t bother us – we were just enjoying our first day out. By nightfall, we were averaging 8 knots sailing with our new Code 0. It was wonderful sailing and everything was going very well even though the wind was getting stronger. The next couple of days we covered 196nm a day, just shy of our elusive 200nm that we have been trying to achieve- but with 25-30knt winds, Ian was loathe to push her too much as things were starting to break.
The first thing we noticed was our HF arial had come away from the deck and had twisted itself around the top of the mast. Our crew Angel was keen to go up and retrieve it, which I thought was very brave but he thought it was exciting! He untwisted it but we realised it had spun our nav lights round so we were now red starboard, green port – hopefully we won’t encounter many other boats on the crossing. … We also had the top sail batten disintegrate which we are unhappy about as the mainsail is brand new and the batten should not have gone after only a few months – this also caused chafing and a small hole in the main, so this left us without a mainsail as we didn’t want it to rip apart. Luckily with our following winds we were able to goosewing our Code 0 and genoa giving us a smooth fast sail. The first week or so went quite slowly, with our routine settling down. I took the first night shift, Angel took the second and Ian the third. At some point we lost a our communications, the HF and the sat phone both deciding to have a hissy but we really didn’t expect to have a problem that would require outside intervention so we weren’t that worried.
One night, about 14 days in, I handed over to Angel and headed off to bed at midnight. 2am, we heard Angel calling us so Ian got up to see what was wrong. Sometime between 1am when Angel last checked and 2am, we had 14 inches of water come up through the bilge and flood out onto the floor. The starboard hull was underwater! A bit disconcerting to say the least and we had to find the leak fast. Ian set Angel and I up with pumps while he rummaged around in the water to find the source of the leak. Meanwhile I was retrieving tin cans, fruit juice boxes and wine cartons from floating away as they had been stored in the bilge and working out what I had to take with the grab bag for 3 of us in a liferaft- extra food, warm clothing. I had a mental list of paperwork, passports, phones, log, ipad, water, and would we launch the dinghy too… I was a bit premature because Ian found the leak within a few minutes. An 10mm bolt had come out which held the dyna plate for the HF radio, so he stuck his finger in it while he tried to remember where the bung that exact size was located. Grey matter worked well and within about 5 minutes he had the hole plugged. Now it was just a case of getting rid of hundreds of gallons of water – all hands to the pump literally and we were finished by 3am. After the debrief we all realised how scary it had been, our first leak but how fast it all happened. We couldn’t even have a drink as we always sail dry….it would have to wait another 1000 miles.
After that little episode, we didn’t think anything else could go wrong but of course things always break and there’s always something happening. For outside entertainment, we had a pod of dolphins playing with our bow a few times, we caught a Mahi Mahi which kept us fed for a couple of days and we were joined for a hour or so by a pilot whale who just gently swam alongside us turning and flashing her silver underside every few minutes.
17 days 12 hours later we pulled into English harbour in Antigua at 9pm. We were really pleased with the speed as we had not taken the rum line so we actually sailed 2792nm with an average of 6.9knts. We didn’t use the engine once for propulsion, only to make water and we didn’t even run out of veggies. We had that long waited for beer and fell into bed exhausted.
The next morning we headed off to St John’s harbour to check in, but found our anchor was not holding. When Ian checked it, it had the same issue we had in Greece where a bolt had sheered off. We spent a few hours swapping anchors and then headed into town.. St John’s is delightful, all multicolored wooden houses with music blaring out of most of them. They told us they hadn’t had a cruise ship in over a year and we were some of the first cruisers allowed in. We went out to lunch and had our first rum in the Carribbean- we were here and it was looking great.
We then sailed round to Jolly harbour as our friends had an apartment there. While we were in the anchorage we asked on the cruisers VHF net if anyone knew where we could source an anchor in Antigua and a guy came straight back and said he had a 25kg Delta for sale for only $200 if we wanted it. Wow, what a great piece of luck – and it’s a great anchor too.
It was Christmas Eve so we had a drink with our friends Pepe and Bear from Beez Neez who have bought an apartment here. It was fabulous to catch up with them, as we had spent many fun times together in Indonesia and Malaysia.
Christmas day was spent have a huge lunch, drinking too much rum and playing silly games… but it was a great day and we are so lucky to have them here in Antigua with us.
Boxing day brought another great day with them, joined by Icarus and Whisper – so much food and drinking – but so lovely to catch up with everyone.
We spent a few days in Jolly harbour, which is just gorgeous but we decided to go round to Nelson’s dockyard for New Years and catch up with Proud Cat who were in the marina there. We had a few drinks in the Antigua Yacht Club the first night and the next day went to Nelson’s Dockyard to look around. Nelson’s dockyard is actually a National Park with lots of hiking trails, lookouts and has the only remaining working Georgian era dockyard in the world. It was named Nelson’s dockyard after Horatio himself, but history claims he never liked the place and he thought English harbour was an ‘infernal hole’ – I wonder what he would have thought about having the place named after him! It has a very English feel and has been lovingly restored with a museum and some shops and cafes nestled within it. The old stonework is so different from the colourful weatherboard housing outside but its a really lovely place to wander around for a couple of hours.