Safena blog - October 30th - December 7th 2021 “Return after pandemic!”

s/v Safena's blog
Simon Ashley
Tue 7 Dec 2021 17:11

October 30th - December 7th

Arrived at Beach Sands Villa on South Finger Jolly Harbour after trusty Rodwell Henry picked us up from airport. A very smooth transition through airport despite extra COVID-related checks. Impressed with organisation. Lovely villa with deck, A/C and BBQ.

Rodwell sensibly suggested we needed a golf buggy and kindly arranged a good deal for us with a friend of his. This was a lifesaver for the numerous trips between the villa and Safena while she was still in the yard. First night out to our favourite Akropolis Greek restaurant. It felt so good to be back here.

On the morning of Sunday 31st October, heart in mouth, we went to see Safena for the first time in over 18 months. I must confess to feeling extremely anxious about what sort of state she was going to be in. The deck was black, as expected, the gel coat had lost some shine, as expected, but everything seemed intact. Then we unlocked the companionway and went down below. Everything seemed pristine and she still smelled like a new yacht! Phew - what a relief! There was still some charge in the batteries although it soon became apparent that some batteries would need to be replaced.

We hooked up to power and water in the yard. We charged the batteries. We set about doing our first clean up top. Black volcanic ash (from La Palma) seemed to have gone into every nook and cranny. Everything felt so much better after doing the first clean but we knew there was a massive task ahead to really get her back to how she was.

It is incredibly hard working on the yacht on the hard. You are continually going up and down a long ladder at the stern just to get on board. It is incredibly hot with no canopies for shade. You cannot really use the toilets or any of the yacht’s systems. We tried to work in the mornings and have afternoons off, walking along the beach, swimming etc. As launch day approached, however, we found ourselves working more as time always runs out. There was a BBQ at the villa and we used this most evenings, chicken wings being our favourite!

A smell of rotten eggs was soon apparent and consistently related to battery charging. The engine start battery was super hot and had a very low voltage and was clearly producing Hydrogen Sulphide gas. The battery prices in Budget Marine were scandalous! With the help of Jerome, our trusty local engineer, we sourced a new start battery from Battery Engineering in St. John’s and fitted this.

We also needed to replace the bow-thruster batteries. Initially I though there were only 2 but subsequently discovered there were 4 of these, connected in series to create a 24V system for bow-thruster and windlass. We sourced these from Automotive Art.

Abu from Caribbean Marine Painting started the antifouling work. I serviced the Gori prop, rope cutter and shaft. All the anodes were ok and did not need replacing. Cleaning up top and down below was a continuous process.

We arranged for Jesse and his colleague Daniel to clean the teak and wash down the topsides. They were supposed to polish the gel coat but this never happened.

Nina and I then went to look at our AB rib. Despite being covered, she was in a sorry state. The searing heat had caused staining of the tubes and it was as if a reaction had occurred between the waterproof cover and the top of the tubes. The cover was stuck to the Hypalon and had to be peeled off. Various products made no difference. We think it is time for CHAPS.  Jerome serviced the outboard. Remarkably, there is no Suzuki dealer on the island and unfortunately I didn’t bring spares with us. In any event, we managed to find equivalents.

We used the mousing lines, which had remained intact remarkably, to rerun some of the running rigging. Nina spent a lot of time washing the lines. Ashley from A & A Rigging performed a full rig check, reassuringly no significant problems.

We hoped to get launched on Friday 5th November. Aside from the fact the yard was fully booked, we were not ready.  Monday the 8th it was, and just as well. We really needed this extra time to prepare. This meant extending our stay in a villa. Beach Sands was fully booked. We found something on North Finger for a nightly rate and moved over there on Saturday. After all, all we needed was a bed for the night. 

We got the Bimini and Sprayhood up. It is always an exercise in PhD Origami but what a difference to have some shade.

We put the steering wheels on. Now she really is starting to look like a yacht again. I had been worried that the rudder bearings might need some attention as previously, the steering had become quite stiff and had developed an annoying squeak. The steering seemed to be ok. The general consensus was that the bearings were dry, nothing more. 

On the hard we met Americans John and Marsha of Justina, an Amel 54. We also met Ralph of Free Rein, an older Jeanneau 54, also American.

November 8th - 17th.

Monday 8th was launch day! Wow, what tremendous excitement and intrepidation. Would the main engine start? Would the bow thruster work? Final preparations were undertaken. Fenders inflated, lines prepared. Water and power disconnected. 

Lindsay, the yard manager, and his team, were outstanding. Safena was placed in the hoist and lifted before lunch so that the stand spots could be painted before splash down. Abu’s guy painted the stand spots. Nina and I retreated to Sandra’s on the beach for a quick lunch. When we returned to Safena we were not impressed with the residual painting! It looked as if a very thin coat of antifoul had been used if any, to coat the stand spots. We recalled Abu and needless to say they agreed and the spots were painted properly!

Safena looked massive as she was transported in the hoist to the slip. She was lowered into the water. We boarded from the stern. We checked everything down below and turned everything on. The engine started immediately - wow! Bow thruster working. We were ready to go. We eased forward out of the slings. All good. We meandered around outside the marina for a bit just to get the feel of her again. Then we backed into berth B42 with Hudson, David and Jerome all ready on the RIB / dock to help with the lines. I must confess to feeling quite rusty and nervous about the berthing, especially between the telegraph poles at Jolly Harbour, but all went well and we were in and secure. It felt so good to finally be floating in the water again, safe and secure.

As soon as we were tied up we walked back to the slip to help Ralph relaunch Free Rein. He was alone and needed some crew. 

Power and water connected to the dock it was now time to start testing

all critical systems. Generator, air conditioning, water pump, toilets, all working. Massive relief.

Over the next few days several things got sorted. Jerome did a full service of the generator plus main engine. A & F brought the sails out from storage and bent them on. Nina and I removed the Watermaker membrane rack. We hired a car and took the rack to Julian, water maker services, English Harbour. We knew it needed at least one new membrane and had brought this with us from UK. We also used the car to pick up some more new batteries for the bow thruster from Automotive Art including one for Ralph. We had lunch at lunch at English Harbour and a nice drive back along the coast.

We relaunched the RIB and took her for a spin. All good. We tested the davits and ensured we could stow the RIB safely. We also tested the windlass.

Attempted to fit new carbon filter to ice maker water supply. Ended up tearing out mounting screws. We had to dismantle port salon couch to remount the filter housing using bolts instead of pathetic self-tapping screws. A small job ended big, as usual, but end result well worth it. Ice maker working!

During the week we ate out most evenings and enjoyed meals at The Curry House, Akropolis and Al Porto.

We met a lovely British couple Richard and Paula White from Calypso, an older Beneteau 50 that they had just acquired. Having previously lived in Antigua for 5 years they both had a wealth of knowledge about the island. We had a great evening with them aboard Safena.

Thursday 18th - First sail from Jolly to Falmouth Harbour. Very excited plus anxious about everything working. Wind 12-20 kts. Reefed main and full stay sail, all good. Hard on the wind after rounding SW tip of Antigua so was a very good workout for us plus Safena. 

Quite a few yachts in Falmouth but plenty of room to anchor in 4m on the east side just north of the mooring field. Close to reef but very comfortable. Dinner at the Pizzeria.


Friday 19th - Anxiously waiting for news from Julian, Watermaker Services, about our membrane rack. Should have been a simple job replacing single membrane but turns out the end caps have been chemically corroded by storage chemical despite using cartridges from Advanced Yachts. Will need to take this up with them. Fortunately we had one spare end cap to replace the worst one. Further testing revealed that all 3 membranes are faulty due to high fresh water pressure confirming our fears. This damage almost certainly began during commissioning when the Watermaker was new by someone who should have known better! Will need to bring spares from Uk. For now Julian has has used the new membrane and the best of the old ones to create a 2 tube system using an extended high pressure hose to make the connection. Meanwhile we have been rationing water. Relaxation day with very few jobs. Great weather. Swimming, sunbathing, snoozing! Richard and Paula arrived on Calypso.

Saturday 20th - Nina and I reinstalled membrane rack. After resolving a few leeks on the high pressure hose connections we managed to make fresh water again! Thank goodness. Suddenly we are really starting to relax! Celebratory dinner at Cloggys - beautiful view from balcony over bay and fantastic food.

Sunday 21st - Joined Richard and Paula at Cloggys to watch Qatar F1 race. What a setting. Drinking beer at 09:30 - oh well. Then a delightful and very long lunch with a couple of bottles of Minuty.

Monday 22nd - Lovely downwind sail under Genoa along Goat’s Head Channel back 

to Jolly Harbour anchorage. We restocked at Epicurian. We met Ralph and Kathy form Free Rein, had a beer at West Point then dinner together at Akropolis.

Tuesday 23rd - Sail to Barbuda. Our first off shore adventure. The wind was better than expected, about 9-13kts TWS on the beam or just aft of beam. We were doing about 6-8.5 kts SOG, and boy did it feel good to be sailing again. It was a great sail and it didn’t take long to get there. Light winds predicted for the following few days hence our decision to head for Barbuda.

Approaching the beautiful Cocoa Point anchorage at the southern end of Barbuda we were disappointed to see the amount of development since the last time we were here. There was a lot of construction with several houses along the beach in various states of build. There was a lot of construction noise. We anchored off the beach there for the night but it was an anticlimax. One of our favourite spots rather spoilt by construction.

In the morning we moved to the anchorage north of Palmetto Point off the 11 mile beach. It was beautiful and initially we had the place to ourselves. The wind was very light but there was still a northerly ground swell as is so often the case. We blew up Sharknado our small inflatable Zodiac and attached the electric Torquedo motor. This all worked fortunately. The lithium battery was still charged at 100% but it probably wasn’t good to have been stored so long like this. We ventured off in Sharknado with a a view to landing on the beach. Unfortunately the waves were breaking heavily on the shore and it just wasn’t safe to land. We were content with just enjoying the amazing turquoise water and beautiful views of the beach from the yacht.

Thursday 25th - Very light wind and beautiful weather. We motored back to Antigua departing about 06:30. The sea was remarkably flat with a slight swell. We decided to head for North Sound via the Boon Channel which we have not done before. We made our way to Great Bird Island. This is quite a challenging bit of pilotage between various shoals and reefs. We anchored off the island in about 5m. It’s a beautiful anchorage and we were one of three yachts. Incredibly tranquil here.

The next few days we spent chilling out here. We blew up one of the paddle boards and both had a go quite successfully as the wind was light. We explored with Sharknado. There is a beautiful little typical Caribbean beach on the north side of Great Bird. We did a beach landing with some rum punch. We swam and we relaxed. We ate on board. It was a lovely three days and the weather was fantastic although during the last night there were several squalls.

Sunday 28th - We made our way back to Jolly Harbour with a lunch stop at Deep Bay. We had a lovely gentle slow downwind sail here. Calypso was also anchored here for lunch. It’s a pretty spot with gorgeous turquoise water off the beach. Then back to the anchorage outside Jolly. It was a great sunset and we made our way into the harbour for happy hour at Westpoint followed by dinner at the amazing Curry House.

Monday 29th - Restocked at Epicurean. Then a lazy afternoon in the sun. Dinner at Al Porto who had the amazing live band 17 61. We had a a table very close to the band and it was a great night although we probably shouldn’t have had a quick Vodka Martini before leaving the yacht!

Tuesday 30th - Sail / motor back to Falmouth. Discovered a small leak around the inspection hatch in the master holding tank! Hopefully an easy fix. Anchored in the middle of the bay as before. Cleaned anchor locker. Managed to get Bluetooth headsets working again. Wonderful evening meal with Ralph and Kathy (Free Rein) at Cloggys.

Wednesday 1st December - Can’t believe it’s December! Visited by French Baker, Pierre, who supplied wonderful breakfast pastries and baguette. Had a very good sort out and did various chores in the morning. Sail locker gone through and organised. Laundry done. Various spaces / spares, down below checked over. 

Inaugural Tot Club meeting at AYC as guests of Roberta and David (Pleione). Richard Mathews (Oyster Yachts Founder) was there and we met Luke, Captain of Superyacht Barabara, Ann and Ian. Wow, the Rum is strong! We then went on to have a very fun evening and absolutely fabulous dinner with David and Roberta at Colibri, a French Creole restaurant.

Thursday 2nd December - Sailed back to Jolly Harbour downwind along Goat’s Head channel. There was a 4-5m swell before entering the channel. We anchored outside and had a very relaxing afternoon swimming and chilling. Dinner on board.

Friday 3rd December - Last day/night at anchor. Wonderful day. Few jobs in the morning plus a trip to marina office to discuss annual berthing contract. Then a major beach landing at Pearn’s Point in the afternoon. Sharknado, paddle board, umbrellas and chairs plus beer! Very efficient take down before sunset in time to enjoy rum punch at sunset. Beef tacos for dinner followed by movie.

Saturday 4th December - Prepared to go back into marina. Refuelled first then moved onto our berth B41. All went extremely well. Marina staff incredibly helpful as usual and Jerome was also on the dock to meet us. Fairly chilled afternoon just getting things setup for a few days in marina. UK government announces mandatory pre-departure COVID tests which is a real pain and further expense. Miracles restaurant for dinner. Absolutely fabulous lobster, curried for me, grilled for   Ni with a side of curry sauce, perfect!

Sunday 5th - Work day mainly. Putting all inflatable toys away after washing, laundry, cleaning etc. Listened to F1 race on iPhone app. Slowly getting ready to leave on Tuesday. 

Monday 6th - Rapid antigen test performed by Dr Coffey’s assistant. Results received within 3 hours, fortunately negative. Passenger locator forms submitted. Went to Marina office and finalised annual berthing contract with Donna Terry. Collected laundry from Geraldine. Lovely impromptu evening on Theodora, Grand Soleil 50, with Adam and Sue, Alex, Will and Liv, drinks and takeaway Pizzas from Akropolis.

Tuesday 7th December - Final steps towards putting Safena to bed for a few weeks (hopefully) and getting ready to leave. Some anxiety about whether we will actually be able to return in mid-January due to the concerns about the highly transmissible new COVID variant - Omicron. Final packing although we are travelling very light and disconnection of Safena from dock water and power. Cockpit cushions down below. Gangway away. RIB lifted. Lift to shore by David in Marina RIB. Late lunch and beer at West Point before leaving for airport with Rodwell.