The end of our shared adventure...
The Return of Irene III - 2018
Wed 20 Dec 2017 20:54
Skipper Louis loves his flags.. There's been a special ritual about the
hoisting and lowering of Irene III's ensign at dawn and sunset since we left
La Gomera. If there was even a few minutes delay at either end of day, the
skipper's displeasure was palpable. During our final days at sea, the burgee
which sits atop of the mast, had become misaligned and as far as our skipper
was concerned - this unsettled the feng shui of his boat.
Shortly after first light, Louis was strapped into a bosun's chair and
hoisted 90 feet into the air. He scaled the mast like spiderman and soon the
burgee was restored to its correct flying position. Then he raised our
clothes line of signal flags and the tricolour, declaring the boat's name
and country of origin for those with the correct decoding manual. With these
essential maritime protocols completed, Louis headed into the dock to begin
This was a rigorous, multi-stage process involving a series of different
officials, each of whom dealt with one element of the clearance. Louis had
been advised by a French sailor who had spent five fruitless hours in
customs the previous day, to ensure that there wasn't a single typo or
misplaced passport number in the online profile he was required to fill out.
Otherwise, just like in a game of snakes and ladders, he would be pushed
back several stages on the board.
When Louis returned to Irene III after 90 minutes, we could see that he was
not alone. His young children George & Charlotte, who had flown into Antigua
three days ago with their mum were going to join us for the final mile from
Freeman's Bay to Nelson's Dockyard. Also in the tender was 83 year old, Lisa
Nicholson. It was her late father-in-law, Vernon who had sailed Mollyhawk
into this very harbour in 1949 with his wife and two sons, one of whom,
Desmond, Lisa subsequently married.
Lisa stepped like a teenager from the tender onto Irene III's aft deck and
presented Sabine with a colourful bouquet of Plumbago, Begonia and Red Ixora
flowers, freshly picked from her hilltop garden, overlooking Falmouth Bay.
Having spent almost six decades of her life in Antigua, she knows her boats
and love the sea.
How fitting and special it was that Lisa joined us for the very final ankle
of Irene III's voyage. When we tied up - Lisa mused that we were berthed in
exactly the same position on the dock as Mollyhawk had been all those years
The shore-based welcoming party included Louis's wife Fish, their children
Charlotte & George, Louis & Sabine's sister Monique and her husband Arnaud
and Nancy Nicholson, Lisa's daughter who also lives and works here as an
On touching terra firma for the first time, surprisingly none of the crew
felt 'landsick'. We had expected to feel as footloose as tipsy sailors, but
the unexpected calmness of our night at anchor in Freeman's Bay seemed to
have rebooted our internal gyroscopes.
After hugs, laughter, reminiscences, some family photos and dare I say it -
a brace of expertly chilled Carib lagers, it was time to get back to work on
Louis's interminable list.
And so now 24 hours later, the fridges have been deep cleaned, the heads
scoured and made pristine, all the bedding laundered and folded, four bags
of clean, segregated recycling have been collected, the decks scrubbed, the
brightwork polished and just an hour ago, under the waving palm trees in
front of the original Officers' Quarters in Nelson's Dockyard, our bright
blue spinnaker was treated to a rinse and blow dry in 35 degree sunshine.
In two days' time, the crew will disband and disperse. Sabine will return to
Napa, arriving home on Xmas Eve, just in time to put the finishing touches
to the Christmas dinner she and Donny are hosting for 22 guests. Did I ever
mention that she likes to party?
Sean Boyle, has had his months old, shaggy dog beard completely removed and
now looks like a different person to the one we sailed the Atlantic with.
However his characteristic broad smile has been growing ever wider as he
prepares to rendezvous this weekend in Bogota, Colombia with Margareth, his
Brazilian kite-surfing/skate-boarding lawyer friend. So cool....
John Hunter-Holme's partner, Warsan flys into Antigua this Friday to kick
off phase two of the birthday boy's 50th celebrations. John let it slip that
the Guildhall has been arranged for what he described as "an intimate
gathering" of 400 guests after his triumphant return to London in
John Egan will be escorting Johnny Frey from Antigua to Gatwick securely
where they'll both be dashing for a connecting flight to Dublin. The
prospect of appealing to Ryanair's customer services team should there be
any delays on the Antigua to London leg, fills them both with dread.
Meanwhile, Louis and Fish will return to Irene III with Charlotte and George
and spend a week meandering the coves and white sandy beaches of the island.
An inflatable Christmas tree and waterproof lights will be installed. Santa
Claus has already been informed of C&G's likely whereabouts.
Following Louis's near-drone-death experience (previously reported) Fish
very sensibly packed the instructions for the drone's 'follow-me' feature in
her luggage. Rudolph et al should have no difficulty transferring Santa's
gifts to the drone mid-air - assuming of course that C&G are impeccably
behaved and fast-asleep at the time of the nocturnal Caribbean reindeer
Before signing off, a sincere word of thanks is due to our seventh 'virtual'
crew member, who has been with us for every waypoint of the voyage. Shore
mother, Eddie Tingle was the co-navigator for Irene III's Atlantic debut.
Eddie and Sean Boyle debated the melting speed of butter, interrogated Time
Zero ad nauseam, facetimed and emailed each other as often as new lovers..
and that was before we ever left La Gomera!
However, once on the high seas, St. Sean the Navigator was flying almost
blind. The limitations of Louis's Chinese knock-up-shop satellite phone
service meant that Sean could not download the 16 days advance forecast that
was advertised in his job specification. If you remember the burbles and
squeeks of first generation dial-up internet connections - then you'll
appreciate the level of IT resources available to Sean.
However, from the comfort of Irene III's virtual 'bridge' in Captain
Tingle's hill-side residence, overlooking Dublin Bay, TimeZero was run
through its paces, various alternative scenarios were examined and then ET,
as he calls himself, would compose a short summary email, suggesting 'riding
instructions' for his 'jock' on the boat.
Actually it worked a treat and all the residual scepticism about the colder
more northerly route we followed to get here was thrown overboard yesterday,
when a lone sailor who had followed the standard 'butter melting then turn
right' option described to us how his passage had taken 30 days to complete
- including four days when he was completely becalmed.
A word or caution to end. Perhaps crew members will feel somewhat becalmed
when they return to their families and normal life. We've shared a rare and
unusual experience together which will take some time for each of us to
fully process. Should you find that your returned loved-one is somewhat
distracted or you notice them clutching the table and peering at the horizon
(during dinner) please cut them some slack, just like you would a mooring
rope on a tidal berth.
Here ends the blogs of Irene III's epic Atlantic adventure.
Over and Out.
16:00 Hours - 20171220 - John Egan - Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua.