Jolly Harbor, Antigua that is. And that’s from St George’s, Bermuda. We had to repeat that today to a couple guys on a holiday from New York. It always seems to take me aback when people are surprised to hear that we sailed here. And yes, to answer another common question, it is only the two of us. But I get it – not everyone does this, or even would consider traveling as we do – also known as cruising. But coincidentally, we are surrounded by people who do understand, right here in our anchorage. Most have been cruising for many years.
Below is a synopsis of our 960 NM trip from Bermuda. We keep a fairly thorough (notations at least every 4 hours) log during the passage, so I need not rely on my aged and rum-fogged memory. I’ll just paraphrase some of the more interesting areas, and attempt to avoid what you may find monotonous.
Let’s start at the point after a 13 day holdover in Bermuda. We had been warned by our personal weatherman Chris Parker that we may be here for at least a week, as a series of storm fronts coming Eastward from the US would be hitting us. He wasn’t kidding, as we bounced off the quay throughout each storm, watching for and anticipating an eventual departure on Thursday, November 21st. The prior afternoon, we spent about $200 on groceries, $50 for haircuts, and ended the day having drinks with our good friends Gino and Carolyn of Andiamo.
I cleared Customs at about 1000. The official gave me reason to pause when he asked sternly, “Have you seen the weather report today?” I said yes, but his question certainly made me reconsider if we were really ready, somewhat piquing my already moderate anxiety. He further warned me of the need to check in again should we return (as many others have done soon after leaving the deceivingly passive inner harbor). Eventually we topped off our diesel fuel, attached the Hydrovane rudder (below water), said one last goodbye to Gino and Carolyn, and exited the narrow channel, accompanied by Confetti (another vessel leaving at the same time). I spoke briefly with Confetti’s captain on the radio as we entered open water, exchanged headings/bearings, and wished each other a safe journey. Confetti’s direction, Tortola, was only a few degrees off from ours, but it wasn’t long before we lost sight of each other.
Once clear of the outer reef marker buoy, we turned from East to South on a heading of 174 degrees, putting us about 15 degrees off from being completely downwind, which was blowing at 20-25 knots (true). We unrolled three quarters of our 125% genoa and set the autopilot, which almost immediately began to have difficulties in the 6-8 foot quartering seas. I realized it was a good time to give our new self-steering HydroVane a trial by fire.
Once I figured out how to attach the red nylon sleeved vane (think like a three foot long flapping wing) to the top of the mechanism, course set, locked the main rudder and off we went, surfing at 7.5 knots down the building waves. (Video of Vane in action.) The seas and swells grew even larger as we left the wind shadow of Bermuda in our wake, sailing at hull-speed throughout that day, and continuing through the following two nights.
Somewhere around mid-day on Saturday, November 23, our following wind began to slow down (3-5 knots) but not yet turn, eventually mandating the use of our mainsail and reaching pole, to allow some broad reaching. Our pace slowed, but we continued to make way on our rum line. We were at 28N 63W, with 695 miles to reach Antigua.
As wind started getting light and anticipated to drop further we decided to drop the pole before dark and possibly motor that night unless the wind remained steady. A light fog met us at sunrise on the 24th, and with 2-4 knots wind. At 0425 I started the motor (not bad considering wind remained light for most of the evening). Still using wind vane – barely enough wind to keep working, but adequate.
The autopilot was still unhappy, giving us a “rudder sensor calibration error” when too light to use Vinny. So when wind was light but steady enough, we mixed some hand-steering with Vinny. Hand steering at least once in a while, is a good way to connect with your boat; it can tell you things, like if sails or steering are out of balance.
25Nov @0010, 27N 62W. Light wind close- hauled, moving at 2.5 knots. AIS bleeped about a cargo ship Perseus 9 nm at 148°. No worries… Won’t pass within 7 miles. Kinda close to us – relatively speaking. Always interesting to see another vessel when hundreds of miles from land.
At this point let it be sufficient to say we had many days and evenings pass similarly. A wind spectrum combination of brisk downwind all the way to zero wind, combined with light motoring – just to make some positive headway. We had glorious nights, watching all celestial bodies rise overhead, only to hide again into the western horizon. It’s amazing what you can see out here at night, given lack of rain clouds. The panoramic night sky after countless amazing sunsets is indescribably beautiful, and is impossible to capture in a photograph using our basic cameras. We were fairly fortunate as we barely had a squall to avoid, but saw plenty in the distance, always along with the requisite rainbow.
On Thanksgiving we had chicken stew, with sweet potatoes along with canned beans and fresh squash (thanks Mason!). We texted and called a couple relatives, passing on our good wishes and thankfulness for having such wonderful friends and family.
As predicted, we received no (as in zero) wind for our final 200 nautical miles. This is ok, now that we felt confident in our remaining fuel supply, having used only about 15 gallons throughout the prior 760 NM. Furthermore, by dumbing down our autopilot, we coaxed it to steer a perfect course for these last two and a half days. Very relaxing days indeed, despite the droning motor. We only needed to stand watch, check the horizon every so often (evenings also used radar), and enjoy the rest of our journey, with excitement building once we spotted the high mountains of St Kitts/Nevis at our starboard bow.
On the last day, I put our fishing line out with hope for catching a fresh meal, but with nothing to show. Oh well, at least we’ll soon have fresh food in Antigua. We dropped the hook in the outer entrance to Jolly Harbor at sunset on November 30. Feeling good about this leg of our journey and safely at anchor, we celebrated with cold dark and stormies, using fresh lime, Mount Gay rum, Gosling’s ginger beer and ice. (Our recipe is typically 50/50 rum and beer). The finale was jumping in for a swim in the 86° water. Aaaaah!
Early (0730) the following morning I pumped up Kory Kory for the ride in to visit Customs, Immigration and Port Authority offices, respectively side-by-side, in the same building – but with separate entrances, and personnel. Think RMV in terms of the efficiency of this arrangement.
So there you have it. Port to port, 960 miles in 9.5 days. Only a bit of tacking upwind (see tracking page), and mostly smooth sailing!
Enjoy your day! Hug your kids!
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