Mike and Liz Downing
Sun 1 Mar 2009 01:43

For the fourth day in a row we were up early preparing to set sail, this time from Guadeloupe to Antigua. The passage is almost due north which generally makes it hard on the wind and today was no different.  Magnetic variation here is about 15 degrees west compared with only 2 or 3 degrees back home, so due north is 15 degrees magnetic. The winds were not too strong so we were close hauled under a single reef in the main and a lightly rolled working genoa, making our standard 6 to 7kts. The open sea part of this passage is longer, about 40 miles compared with about 26 on most of the other passages, and the sea was more lumpy as the waves and swell were fine on the starboard bow. We found it difficult to make the course, so eased the sheets a little and just accepted that we would end up downwind of our target, unless the wind changed direction or eased as we went across. Our target was Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour.  Rather than easing, the wind increased and we put a second reef in the main. That made it a lot more comfortable and we only dropped o.2kts of speed.

The anchorage in English Harbour is not that big and with the potential of a lot of boats from the French Islands being there, we decided that we would head for Falmouth Harbour instead. It’s almost right next door and much bigger, and it’s only a short walk to Nelson’s Dockyard. This proved the right decision as there was plenty of space and when we did walk across, the anchorage in English Harbour was packed with boats so close to one another – neither of us would have felt happy there.

We arrived at 15.00 and did motor the last 5 miles into the wind. We could have tacked and sailed it, but customs close at 16.00 and we wanted to clear in the same day, so we used the iron topsail, as they say. We anchored in 20ft of water – neither Falmouth nor English Harbour are very deep, which makes anchoring easier and we feel much more secure letting out 100ft of chain, knowing that if we dragged we could let out another 200ft if we really had to. We anchored just outside the main channel leading up to the 2 main marinas in Falmouth Harbour. What an eye opener. We didn’t come into Falmouth last time, so we don’t know what it was like 13 years ago, but now it is the home of the mega yacht – several grades up from the super yacht! Super yachts to me would be the Oyster 82 that took part in the ARC, and boats of around 100ft in length. They are small compared with the boats here. Looking towards the marinas at night reminds me of Fawley back home – looking across from the Hamble and seeing all the chimneys lit up. Out here it’s not chimneys, but the masts of the world’s biggest and most expensive yachts. Most have at least 4 spreaders on the mast, many have 6 – all lit up with spreader lights, with a red light at the top. When we thought we had seen everything, we came back to the boat after a trip ashore and the Maltese Falcon had arrived – it’s a mere 289ft long, very futuristic in design and has 3 masts with weird looking yardarms. All these yachts seem to have crews who do nothing but clean and polish – everything is spotless. Out where we’re anchoring we have a range of yachts 50 to 100ft in length which no longer look very big at all. We really do feel very small!

We’ve been anchored out here for 4 days and visited Nelson’s Dockyard by dinghy ashore and then by foot. It hasn’t lost any of its charm and atmosphere, and it really has been restored well. It’s a lovely place to stroll around, eat out and see even more classic boats moored there. Velsheda is just one of the many restored sailing boats currently there. The weather hasn’t been too brilliant – hot, but cloudy a lot of the time, with quite a bit of rain – so we haven’t taken many pictures of the boats we’ve seen. When the sun decides to stay out for a while, we will no doubt have hundreds of pictures to sift through for the blog!

The part for our wind generator support that we came all this way for has arrived and cleared customs. So we will find a berth somewhere and get one of the firms here to help install it. We’ve then got to patch up the chipped blades and we should have wind power again. We should really buy another set of blades as they’re a balanced set, but we’re reluctant to pay another £300, which is what they cost. A wind generator is a vital piece of kit out here. With the winds around 15 to 25kts, it puts in 10 to 20 amps 24 hours a day. With the electronics we have we need that power!