Falmouth Harbour and the Classic Yachts on Antigua

Fri 2 May 2008 23:48
17.01N 61.46W
Falmouth Harbour, Antigua Mon14-Thu 24 April
What a simple sail ... put in 1 reef (really should have been 2 , but expected the wind to ease ... and it did!!!!) Set off on 020 degrees magnetic .. about a  60 degree apparant wind angle and once we had cleared the rain and no wind zone off Guadaloupe we were galloping along with another boat the same size right behind us .... No sooner had we cleared the headland and a vicious rain squall was seen heading down onto us .... a quick roll in of the genny and we are creaming along in 30 knots + getting even wetter from the rain than the sea ... but 10 mins later back to a steady 20 to 25 knots and unroll the genny again and us drying in the sun and off we go .... now seeing that the boat behind has two reefs in... chicken!!! So what a doddle  .. we took it in turns of an hour each to helm and as the afternoon came the wind did drop about 5 knots then the boat behind disappeared backwards over the horizon.. Eventually sails down in Falmouth harbour entrance ... never having changed course or the wind angle ... ALL DAY... now thats a first!!
We came to Antigua to get our gas bottles refilled, but also really enjoyed a week of watching Classic Yachts gather for and compete in the annual regatta.  We've posted some photos already; more to come, including hopefully some close-up action shots, when Annabel gets the film from her SLR camera developed.  We got quite mesmerised by the beauty of those yachts, mostly old, some new builds 'in the spirit of tradition', particularly the large ones, like the J-classes of which Ranger and Valsheda were there.  We were able to wander along the marina pontoon and see them close up and watched them go out and return from the racing from our anchorage right at the head of Falmouth Harbour near the marinas where they were berthed; the crews were partly full-time professionals and partly paying crew for the regatta, always smartly dressed in matching t-shirts.  All the yachts were of course beautifully maintained, with smooth varnish, shiny shiny stainless steel, tidy ropes, reflective hulls etc etc.  Some of them also had smart, sometimes also classic support boats - Valsheda had a large 1950s(?) motor boat which stayed in the marina and Ranger a small tender which followed it out to the racing. The small classics usually had rowing or sailing dinghys, although some cheated and had a standard inflatable as well!  There were quite a few Dragons in the regatta, so Syd seemed quite nostalgic about his racing days. On the first day of racing we watched them set off from their berths, then dinghy'd to a beach and climbed up on the headland rather too late to see any more than distant sails, but it was possible to see the Dragons out front, and the two J-classes rapidly moving ahead from their latest starting position.  Having been on the same anchorage in Falmouth Harbour since Tuesday, we decided to sail down to another bay for a night and sailed out to watch the medium-sized and large yachts start, which was interesting, and of course, Syd being Syd, somehow once we'd put our sails up, we had to cross the racing line just as the J-classes and other huge ones were hurtling back to the start point on their first loop, so we saw them all at (very) close quarters, and Annabel hopes she got some good action shots.
The other thing we particularly enjoyed about the nearly 2 weeks in Falmouth Harbour was the socialising: meeting up with some people that we'd met on the ARC - Ian and Andrea from Australia who were berthed next to us in Las Palmas; Johnathan, the skipper of 'One too many', who also introduced us to some Americans who gave us lots of information and hints and tips about Venezuela, which helped us firm up our plans for the summer; and Jerry who we thought we'd seen in Deshaies and who we'd sat next to in that long-ago ARC seminar in Guildford last year; Stuart, the young skipper of Roulette who Annabel had met on her Radio course; we saw Incognito in the same marina, but only met 2 of the crew on our last day, as they were arriving for the Antigua Sailing Week.  When we arrived we anchored near another Hylas, the owners of which came; it was great that Ian and Tracy were english people more in our age group, but unfortunately they had to leave by the end of the first week to return to the UK for their 6 months work period - seems like we're pretty unusual in not returning to the UK for at least part of the summer !  We also enjoyed several happy hours at the 'Mad Mongoose' which has a great pub atmosphere, dancing the night away at one of the Classic Regatta parties (cheap but not free booze for us), we returned after a night down at Green Island in Nonsuch Bay for the infamous Sunday night barbeque party up at Shirley Heights above English Harbour, but it rained heavily all night, so we didn't fancy dancing on the uneven cobbled terrace, even though it was the same band playing lively covers of Queen, the Stones etc.
That was another night of serious RAIN !!!  We filled a 5-litre water bottle from our collecting box (under a leaking bolt in the forehatch!!!)and the dinghy had a good 6 inches in it !
Saturday 19th and we decide to sail up the coast to Green Island .. a lovely peacefull spot after all the partying in Falmouth and only 9 miles up trhe coast AND direct to windward .. but only a gentle breeze of 12 to 14 knots .. so we set sail to time us passing the racing when the big boys were starting .. what a fantastic sight as we just held out of the way to leeward then sailed off across their sterns. Got  through the narrow twisty channel round the island and dropped the hook in  a little sheltered bay all to ourselves.. Bit of swimming and snorkelling then back the next afternoon ... wind still about the same so a definite spinnaker run back to Falmouth all up and setting nicely when we see a squall , looking as though it would just brush us .... well it did: our apparent wind jumped up to 20 knots we surge along .... but our spinnaker is a lightweight job ... I am sure I am going to see it shred itself under the strain ... so get it down fast ....1 snag: the snuffer doesn`t work at 20 knots of wind in the sail ... I just found out!!!! So there I am sitting on the foredeck inching the snuffer down  by sheer brute force (those training sessions in the gym payed for themselves in ten minutes flat!!!...) got about a third of the sail in before the gust blows through .... And low and behold there was another one behind it bearing down on us .. That's it, spinnaker in .... Would you believe the rain got us big style but no wind ... so motored the rest of the way back to Falmouth.

We also managed to get a few long-outstanding jobs done on the boat: a rigging shop at the 'Catamaran Marina' across the other side of Falmouth Harbour had a spare sheave for the genoa sheet cars (but they charged us £8 to take the old one off with a gas torch!); Syd bravely went all the way up the mast to remove the (not so old, but broken off) wind indicator and install a new one, with plenty of Loctite.  The dinghy outboard 'died' again, as it has done a few times since the overturning in January, but Syd was pleased to find and fix a loose part in the carburettor, and we reset the starting cord, which made it run and start much more smoothly than ever!  We had to wait until he'd finished taking part in the classic regatta, but once we'd got him to come and have a look, Julian from Watermaker services identified an airlock as the cause of the last failure of the watermaker, sorted it out and gave us some useful hints and tips on keeping it working, so we now have our own little desalination plant going if we can't fill our water tank, (which we need to do about every 3 weeks). The next stage will be to make the watermaker water go in the second, smaller tank, which we don't currently use, so that we can have separate drinking and washing water of differing quality.