Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Jolly Harbour and Rendezvous Bay (25th to 30th April 2013)

Mondango leaving Antigua.  A mere 170 feet.
We left English Harbour in light winds, sailing west passed the Pillars of Hercules - column-like rock formations on the cliff face - with the wind behind us.

The white sands of Rendezvous Bay glistened in the sunshine and Montserrat and Redonda were clearly visible on the horizon; it was a good day for heading through the Goat's Head Passage, a narrow channel between the shore and a reef off the island's south west coast, instead of taking the detour in deeper water around Cades Reef.

Shallow water sailing
It was Limbo's first taste of reef sailing; polarised sunglasses made the colours of the water more obvious as we kept clear of the aqua-marine shallows, disconcertingly close to port, and stayed in the deeper coloured (and, umm, deeper depthed..) blue of the channel.  The wind was dead aft at this point, without much sea-room to sail at a more comfortable angle with less risk of gybing, but we were soon through the passage and round the southwest corner of the island, very close to the coast, where we headed up more comfortably into the wind.

Gliding towards Jolly Harbour
The water here is incredible.  It changes from the deeper blue of the ocean to a chalky, vivid almost jelly-like light blue; hard to describe except with a photo.  We had a fantastic time sailing close hauled up the coast, through this beautiful water, sheltered by the land, watching a squall hit the sea on the horizon.  It was a shame to arrive at Jolly Harbour; we took the sails down at the last possible moment and headed in to anchor outside the harbour, where it is all very shallow.

Tropical squall.
It was always fascinating to see who was already moored at any new harbour.  Here, it was Bella - a Hallberg Rassey 352, crewed by Ulrike and Matthias from Germany.  We hadn't seen them since Madeira; cue a wonderful impromptu evening on board (my birthday!) catching up with our stories and plans.  The next morning, slightly hungover, we were more than pleased to see Matthias heading towards us in the dinghy with a delivery of bread and fresh croissants...

Jolly Harbour itself, entered through a narrow cut into what used to be swamp (rather like Rodney Bay marina in Saint Lucia), is a rather overdeveloped marina surrounded by identikit waterfront properties, many with their own dock.  Built in 1992, it felt slightly run down and in need of investment.  But it had an unusually good supermarket (complete with some Waitrose Essentials products - we've no idea how they ended up there!), and the anchorage itself was pleasant and sheltered, if sometimes rolly, off a reasonable beach; and, of course,  surrounded by that blue...  There were pelicans too.

Under our excellent awning - made to our specification by Island Canvas, IoW.
Our plans still weren't clear. I checked on laying-up prices in the marina, but half-heartedly.  Bella was soon sailing back - why weren't we?  We felt lethargic and under the weather, and far from primed for action.  We had another evening with Ulrika and Matthias, at the marina bar for happy hour, joined by the crew of a steel live-aboard called Tranquilo.  We practised our German.

The long dinghy ride back to Limbo was starlit, but the atmosphere was rather spoilt by another sighting of our large resident cockroach.  I caught him (or her) crawling over a sandal in the cabin and managed to flick it overboard.  We hoped this wasn't one of many (we never saw another, fortunately - once acquired, they are hard to get rid of!).

We continued up the coast in the morning, with our shortest ever trip, to Hermitage Bay - just over half a mile round the point, but even less than that as the crow (or pelican) flies.  The trip had its interest though, as we passed through the Five Islands channel, using an island off the headland as a transit and passing close to a prominent rock (seen in the third photo above).  It was a quiet anchorage with just a couple of other boats (including Jambalaya, a lovely Caribbean-built charter schooner), and right off an upmarket beach hotel. The advantage of this was unsecured wifi; I picked up an email from a broker explaining that they weren't interested in selling boats worth less than US 40,000 or so.  It was not encouraging.

Monday, 10 November 2014

English Harbour and Antigua Classics. 19-25th April 2013.

The Antigua Classics Regatta: above all other events, this was the one I had wanted to make.  A week of the world's most beautiful yachts, racing close offshore, combined with a buzzing atmosphere - I couldn’t wait.

We arrived on the second day of racing, the weather humid, wet and gusting to 30 knots.  Most of the classics moor in Falmouth, but we watched the few moored near us in English Harbour up-anchor and head out into the rain, heeled well over.  Later, we went ashore to clear in; a convoluted process with the usual grumpiness from the officials (and, in Antigua, more expensive than elsewhere, including daily fees for anchoring).  The place seemed much the same as it had 14 years before, apart from the addition of a large super yacht dock in a corner of the harbour, removing some of the anchoring space.

Kate, a replica of a 1909 America's cup yacht, heads out into the squalls.  

Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbour
The weather clearing slightly, we walked across to Falmouth Harbour - just half an hour away - to see the yachts returning from the race. There was activity everywhere as they docked, crews calling good-naturedly to each other across the pontoons. Two boats at least had lost masts, including the Alfred Mylne yawl Blue Peter.  Her crew looked understandably downcast, and she earned a round of applause as her lines were thrown ashore. (Coincidentally, I was on a sailing course with her owner and skipper many years ago, just before he took extremely early retirement from a not entirely unlucrative city trading job. But it didn’t seem the moment to say hello).  

Blue Peter returns from racing on Day 2...
We wandered the pontoons for some time, taking photographs, and saying hello to a couple on board a boat we recognised from the Saintes.  Over everything towered the silver masts of Maltese Falcon, not unimpressive at 289 feet, but horribly ugly nonetheless.  Our gaze was drawn much more by the svelte, sweeping lines of perfect varnish and teak decking of the real classics, many with famous names. 

Spirited Lady of Fowey returns. The same class of boat seen in the Bond film Casino Royale.

I chatted to the owner of Troubadour, the yacht I’d photographed sailing off Guadeloupe, and gave him my memory card to copy the pictures from.  I had hoped he might have room for an extra crew member, but it was not to be.  In ’99 I had raced here on board Arita, a 48’ John Alden owned by the charismatic South African Rob DeHaan - a real sailor in every respect - and it remains one of the most memorable experiences of my life.

Hard on the wind on board Arita, Antigua Classics, 1999
The evening before we had watched a Hallberg Rassy 42 motor into the harbour. Her name was Trompeta and she had been here in Antigua exactly 14 years ago, my younger self on board.  Later, in 2003, I went on to join her retired owner, John Arregger, on a trip across the South Pacific, as he continued his circumnavigation.   

She was moored on the wall in Nelson’s Dockyard and we went over to say hello to the owners, who had just completed the World ARC rally (a tightly scheduled dash around the world in 15 months - why?).  They had bought Trompeta from John Arreger just before his death, but never met him.  Sadly, I had not been in touch for some years, but I believe he continued on to Australia and the Indian Ocean before he had to give up for health reasons, the boat being delivered back to the UK.  I wondered where the other people I’d met then were now…

Nelson's Dockyard in 1999 - much the same as today!  In the background is Irene, a west country trading schooner.  She lost her mizzen mast in that year's races.
We had a happy few days in English Harbour.  Limbo was perfectly placed for the parade of sail. Cheering mingled with bagpipes and cannon fire! 

The parade of sail.

Lone Fox
The view from Limbo.
We joined the crowds watching the friendly layday sculling races by Nelson’s Dockyard. We spent some hours on the cliffs photographing one of the races (photography heaven!), getting some good shots from above and narrowly avoiding sunstroke, went out for my birthday for a great meal at one of the places on the strip between English and Falmouth Harbours, drunk some rum, and had a great evening at the obligatory sunset barbecue at Shirley Heights, with legendary views of English Harbour.  

We were delighted to see Christian, of the 70 foot Alina from Madeira, who arrived on a delivery trip.  We'd seen him last in Cape Verde, crewing on a friend's yacht.  We were delighted to hear him call over to us, and dinghied over to him later on, but sadly he soon had to fly off for another charter delivery.  Friends are quickly made in this kind of life, but goodbyes are frequent.

Classics from the cliffs

Watching the gig races.

Gig racing, English Harbour layday

Shirley Heights sunset. Limbo just visible!

We left on my birthday after refuelling at Antigua Slipway.  This was where I’d lived on board La Cautiva, a 78 foot steel ketch, while prepping her for the voyage back to England.  I have more than a few good memories of that square mile or so of English Harbour.    

With the crew of La Cautiva, English Harbour, 1999. About to depart for the Azores.

Limbo and Natalie, in the same spot, 2013.

The blog is not dead!

It's been a while.  Life, our wedding (and, more prosaically, a broken laptop) have taken precedence over the blog since our return, but a few more posts will follow to complete the story, together with - eventually - some technical details on the boat and our equipment.