18:20.22N 64:55.43W Homeward Bound!
Hi everybody and welcome to what will probably be our last aquatic blog of this fantastic trip. After the Antigua Classics week we stayed on and enjoyed the festivities that continued through the Regatta race week. It was the same theme as the classics with lots of music and drinking but it didn't have nearly as nice a feel to it and mostly seemed to be big gangs of testosterone fueled youngsters partying hard after a days racing, altogether different to the people who were here a couple of weeks before and it made me realise just how lovely the atmosphere had been during the Classic's and how lucky we'd been to enjoy the company of such nice people who had really made the week for us. Gaynor and I took the boat to a beautiful anchorage just off Pidgeon beach in Falmouth Harbour and relaxed while we waited for Zara and Simon to arrive on Thursday evening. Third World were playing at Shirley Heights and we headed up there almost as soon as they arrived. It's a spectacular vantage point and from very high up it looks out across both English and Falmouth harbours, truly breathtaking and a great place to go as soon as you arrive. The performance was great and the food and drink were only spoiled by the stupid system they have in place for buying them. At separate kiosks you have to get in a queue, which moves very slowly, and buy vouchers for the food you want and another for the drinks you think you are going to consume. The food calculation is fairly easy, four people = 4 x Jerk chicken, but with the drinks if you are a party of four you have to best guess how much you're going to spend or if you get it wrong you will have to queue for more. OK so you have now spent best part of an hour in two queues and are the proud possessor of a fistful of food and drink vouchers so you go to another queue and move slowly towards the food to get what you want. Fancy a drink with your meal? well that's another queue and so it goes on, and on, and on, but it keeps you relatively slim, and sober. After two days Liming (local word for chillin') we set off to go to Green Island which is about nine miles North East of Falmouth. We left a bit late in the day and after tacking in and out we were unable to make it past Indian Creek where Eric Clapton's impressive house perches on the edge of the rugged coastline commanding spectacular views across the ocean. Simon was looking a little green about the gills and we decided to go into the creek for the night and discovered that we had the place to ourselves and it was a very pretty spot. We explored the beaches and took the dingy up into the mangroves as far as we could go. The following morning we set off again to try and reach the seemingly elusive Green Island. Again the wind was on the nose and the swell was knocking the bow back all the time. It was very frustrating, we've sailed almost 6000 miles to be here and we can't get 9 miles up the coast. I had been nursing the gearbox as I had started hearing a noise I wasn't too happy with after classic week but decided that if we were going to make it we would have to motorsail. After about half an hour I could hear the complaining noises getting worse and made the decision to return, under sail, to Falmouth and the Pidgeon beach anchorage. Once there I contacted Seagull Services and Flemming, the Dutch owner, came out to have a look. After listening to the screeching for only a moment he confirmed my suspicions and said the box would need rebuilding with new bearings. At the time the ship taking LadyC home was arriving in St Thomas in the U.S. virgin islands, over 200 miles away, on the 10th and we had decided that we would have to leave as soon as Zara and Simon had gone and head straight up there, with or without a working gearbox. Flemming said it would be impossible to get the parts and effect the repairs by then so we resigned ourselves that we would be going without having the repairs done, after all she is a sailing boat. The next day we hired a bright yellow Wrangler jeep and drove all around the island visiting lots of beautiful beaches and a lovely drive through the rainforest on Fig Tree Drive. We stopped close to Green Island and, determined to get there, we rented a fast rib and driver who took us, at warp speed, over to the island where he left us snorkeling around the expansive coral reef for about an hour and a half before coming back to collect us. It was a Labour Day, bank holiday and we ended up at a huge jump up on the beach close to Jolly Harbour. It was a great scene with bands and food and it felt like we were the only non local people there. Thursday, the day of departure for us and Zara and Simon, arrived all too soon and Gaynor set off to walk to English Harbour to clear us out through customs and I went to The Mad Mongoose Bar to check emails. The ship transporting us had been changed and the replacement vessel wasn't going to arrive until the 20th. I rushed over to customs and just managed to stop Gaynor in her tracks, then I phoned Seagull and told him we now had extra time. We took the gearbox out that afternoon and they carted it off to the workshop. Zara and Simon left at 1800 and we bade them a very fond farewell softened slightly by the knowledge that, all going well, we should be seeing them in about three weeks time. Suddenly it was just the two of us again and as people were now practically tripping over each other to leave the area the spots we had become accustomed to having to squeeze into suddenly seemed very empty. I got a VHF call early on Friday morning and was asked to come to the workshop and "look at this gearbox". I think I knew he wasn't going to be saying " I can't find anything wrong with it " and I wasn't totally unprepared when he told me that there was so much damage to the components that we would be better off buying a new one. Ouch! it's so painful having to spend money unexpectedly but he reckoned he could get a new box sent Fed-ex from Fort Lauderdale and have it fitted by Tuesday and he did just that. Apart from the displeasure of the bill this suited us fine and the delay to the ship meant we could leave Antigua with a brand new gearbox and have time to visit Ben and Niki, who we'd met in the Saints. They have a house in St Kitts which they are in the middle of developing. They work ashore most days and spend the nights on their lovely steel ketch "Midnight" anchored in Whitehouse bay. I think, for the first time this trip Gaynor and I had nothing much to do for a couple of days and planned to spend them on the very lovely Pidgeon beach where the boat was anchored, something that we hadn't really done at all. The days slid past in a blur of reading, swimming, snorkeling, picnicking and drinking Pina Coladas from the all too conveniently placed Bumpkins bar at the end of the long, white sandy beach. Each night we dingied ashore to eat and encountered less and less people in the bars and restaurants. We left early Wednesday morning after receiving another email telling us that the ship would now load on the 17th and as we were the last ones to leave Antigua we turned the lights off before departing from a place that had been so much fun and really begun to feel like home. This change in the schedule meant that we would only be able to spend a short time in St Kitts but as it was on the way we told Ben and Niki we would be there Wednesday evening. We headed up the East side of Nevis and entered "The Narrows" which is a smallish shallow channel between Nevis and St Kitts. We got to this point around 1400 hrs. and as we entered it one of the many squalls that had followed us up from Antigua arrived giving us winds of around 25 knots. This wasn't too much of a problem but as you have to negotiate a path around Booby Rock and Cow's rocks we dropped the main and put the engine on to motorsail through with a bit of genoa and mizzen. All was going well when Gaynor said "Watch out ahead, fishing buoys" It was too late to avoid them and, inevitably the line wrapped around the prop and the engine stopped. I think my heart did too, for a moment as we were now in a tricky predicament and although still sailing we weren't going anywhere. I could hold the course OK but we had to cut ourselves free from the fish or lobster trap that was holding us and, if possible cut the thick yellow nylon warp that was now wound tightly around our propeller and shaft. We weighed up our options and it was agreed that it was probably best for Gaynor to go over the side, OK I know you're going to think it should have been me BUT!........ She is a much stronger swimmer than me and if it had gone wrong stood more chance of reaching the shore (Before the sharks got her!) also if I had gone over the side she might have had difficulty turning the boat single handed and getting back to me if I was in trouble. We spent a while getting ready and rigged a webbing harness, without the lifejacket buoyancy aid, which Gaynor wore over her shoulders and around her chest. To this we attached a webbing safety line which was clipped to the buckle at her chest and onto the jacklines running along the deck. As she was about to go over the side I thought she looked very vulnerable and tied another strong warp around her middle which I secured to a strong point in the cockpit. Armed with a sharp knife and wearing a snorkel she dropped off the side deck and disappeared under the boat. We were quickly freed and then she set about trying to clear the prop. Peering over the side I could see her working frantically to free the tangled mess. I kept the boat pointing up towards Booby rock so we weren't pushed onto the rocky shore and managed to maintain station whilst spilling as much wind as I could to try and slow the boat. After what seemed like an age Gaynors head popped up and she had done it, the prop was free. The next thing was to get her back on board, she was exhausted and needed a lot of help, reaching over the side I grabbed her arms and hauled with all my might, fortunately she got a knee onto the toerail and from there was easily hauled aboard. Just to record it officially - Gaynor you are an absolute star and I have a huge amount of admiration for what you did! From there our passage was easy but I do have to question the sanity of a person who uses two white polystyrene floats to mark a fishing or lobster pot in a narrow channel. With a force five and white horses breaking all around they are virtually invisible. Shortly after that we rounded the headland and I could see the two white masts of "Midnight" in the far off anchorage of Whitehouse Bay. We dropped the anchor in 15 foot on a sandy bottom and were greeted by Ben who was on a neighbours boat. The following morning we were up and ready at 0730 hrs and Ben and Niki came over to pick us up, they had offered to take us around the island and we were really looking forward to it. St Kitts is a beautiful island and we had a great time being shown around, Ben seemed to know all the interesting places and took us to some that even Niki hadn't been to. We visited interesting boaty places and also a Batik factory at Romney Manor where the art was demonstrated to us. It involves masking out areas using a melted wax before dying the cloth, several maskings and dyings are done on one piece and the wax is removed by boiling the cloth. It's an incredibly involved process but the end result can be spectacular. We visited Kate and Phillip Walwyn, friends of theirs, Kate is an original artist and her gallery is superb, Phillip. amongst other things builds beautiful wooden boats in his workshop beside the house. We had sailed in the classics with a replica of an historic 12 metre gaff rigged yacht called Kate that we had admired tremendously, it was built by Phillip, and it was great to be able to see, not only where she took on form but also to meet the man who built her. We arrived at their house around midday and before too long we were enjoying Bloody Mary's on their verandah in what I can only say is probably the most idyllic setting that I have ever experienced. At the back of the house the view was rainforested mountains viewed across magnificent tropical gardens and if ever it was possible to tire of that view you could walk through the house to where another outside seating area looked over fields of sugar cane and palms to where Statia rises majestically, in it's perfect volcanic form, from the ocean - beautiful, breathtaking,spectacular and immense beyond anything you could ever imagine.. All too soon our day came to an end and we returned to the boats, we all dined together on "Spangles" a ferro cement boat owned by an Englishman called Bill who produced an amazing feast of Estofado, rice and salad, and after a few rums were ferried back to LadyC by Ben and Niki. They had offered to show us the rest of the island if we stayed another day but Gaynor and I were keen to get under way as "time was fleeting". We thanked them for a truly wonderful day and promised that we would make up our minds by the morning. The weather the next morning still looked unsettled but an improvement on the previous day, the GPS which had struggled to find satellites when we left Antigua seemed to be working fine and we felt that we should leave. Ben and Niki came over for coffee and we reluctantly told them that we were heading off, It was quite stirring upping the anchor for probably the last time and waving goodbye to friends that we really wanted to spend more time with. We headed out under the wind shadow of the island and felt that. in spite of the weather, we would enjoy a good sail up to the Virgin Islands. How wrong can you be? once we were clear of the lee of the island it became very uncomfortable. It felt as though we were in a tropical wave with strong squalls coming upon us from behind all day accompanied by very heavy rain. The seastate was very rough and the boat was rolling constantly from side to side. I had been looking forward to sailing at night again as we hadn't done it for a while but it was very unpleasant, A grey daybreak found us, very tired and still about 50 miles away from our destination. Finally we came through between Norman and Peter islands into the quieter waters within, the sun came out and we sailed through the flat waters to Soper's Hole in the British Virgin Islands where we picked up a free mooring buoy. LadyC is being shipped from St Thomas which is in the USA Virgin Islands but we are not allowed to arrive there in a private yacht. We had to go first to the BVI (British Virgin Islands) clear in through customs and immigration, which involved parting with money, then we had to get a commercial ferry to St Johns which is the nearest USA island, clear in through customs using the visa waivers we had secured online and once we had done that get back on the ferry and go back to the BVI - confused? so am I but now that we have been given an entry into the USA we can now take our boat there tomorrow . Tortolla in the BVI is absolutely full of Americans and after the peace and tranquillity of the last six months I found the bar full of them very noisy indeed, they are soooo loud! Sunday dawned bright and clear, Gaynor and I went ashore for a very sophisticated (American) breakfast and went to the supermarket to get some provisions. This is consumerism gone mad, all the stuff you might have missed over the last six months is here and it is a little bit disturbing. We grabbed what we needed and headed back to the boat where we dropped the mooring and sailed out of Soper's Hole and headed through the mass of small islands towards our final destination. Lady Corinne must have sensed that this was her last chance to enjoy tradewind sailing and she certainly made the most of it. We had a wonderful sail on a beam reach through the most spectacular scenery of the islands passing deserted anchorages and coral shoals under a clear blue, blue sky at speeds up to seven knots. All too soon we arrived at St Thomas and made our way, reluctantly towards Crown Bay Marina. Unfortunately they were full and we had to head through a narrow passage to another marina. As we cleared the narrow gap a seaplane came over our heads and landed right in front of us. I had seen their runway marked on the chart but I didn't expect to see one it was a real treat, I'm told that we have right of way but I wouldn't like to find out.
Now it really was time to put the toys back in the box and we spent one night and the following day in the Yacht Haven Grande where we washed all the sails off and dried them. Then we took them all off and folded them on the pontoon, removed the bowsprit, Bumpkin, Mizzen Boom and just about everything else that could be taken off. There was lots to do and once finished we moved a short distance to drop the anchor and avoid the extortionate Marina charges. LadyC is being loaded onto the MV Slotengracht at 14.30 tomorrow (Thursday 20th May) and will be going it alone all the way back to Southampton at speeds in excess of 15 knots and that is just crazy, we will miss her company more than I can say, We wish her well on her solo passage and look forward to being re-united with her in Southampton.
"So what did you think of the last six months Gaynor and what are we going to do now that we don't have LadyC anymore?"
"Well I suppose we could always charter a boat and ........................................................................"
LadyC and her Caribbean crew hope you've enjoyed our small adventure and who knows, there may be more!