17:00.480N 61:45.852W Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua, Friday night
It's been a day of mixed emotions, today. I'm very relieved to be safely back in Nelson's Dockyard but I'm also sad that today was the last section of our voyage and it'll be a while before Saxon Blue heads out to sea again. We've still got to take her around to Falmouth to get hauled out in just over a week but that doesn't really count.
We got up this morning before 0800 as we wanted to have time for a swim before breakfast. Andrea and I swam over to the perfect beach and just sat there, looking back at Saxon Blue. We're amazed that we've come so far since we left Southampton eleven months ago. The contrast in the scenery, weather and wildlife is startling. Saxon Blue looks pretty much the same and I think we do, too, although we're a bit browner now. Have we changed much? I'm not so sure about that. I think Andrea has discovered that she's braver and tougher than she thought. I've learned loads of things although I'd struggle to put them into a pithy soundbite. The world seems smaller than it did before we left home and stranger. The history of the places we've visited is also much more intimately connected than it might appear. England has provided a strong link between diverse places, sometimes for good and othertimes for ill. As an Englishman, there's a strange mixture of pride and shame when I look at what went on.
I think it's going to take us a while to absorb the lessons of our voyage. I hope it changes us. It would be disappointing to come back home and carry on exactly as we did before although I'm not sure that either of us have the option of doing that. I don't actually have a job, for one thing, so I'll have to make some changes.
Perhaps that's what was going on inside our heads or perhaps we were just stunned. Either way, we were both nervous about getting Saxon Blue back to the Dockyard safely. It would be really annoying to have a cock-up on the last trip. We swam back and got onboard, had our breakfast and prepared to get going. We decided on the easiest option for getting away and Andrea let some anchor chain out so that I could back towards the mooring buoy and let Alden release the line. We then motored forward slowly while Andrea recovered the chain. I managed to retain steerage way through most of the maneuver although we got a bit off course just before we finally got the anchor up. We soon had her facing the narrow exit between the reefs, though, and then I could follow Alden's hand signals and gain the open water outside the reef.
It got rough suddenly and, as we headed East, the waves got steeper again. We were in about 10 meters of water but that's not a lot for a big ocean swell and they were really feeling the bottom. The seas were steep enough for us to bury the bow a couple of times which meant Alden getting wet but he was busy shrieking in delight so I think he was reliving his childhood. The water was clear enough to see the bottom so that was disconcerting as it looked much shallower than it really was. After a few minutes, we cleared that reef, too, and the swell died down. We turned to the South, put most of the main and all the jib out and got ourselves sailing.
As we turned the southeast corner of Antigua, we could see the rocky coastline getting pounded by the surf. Antigua may have 365 beaches but there are plenty of them that I wouldn't want to be anchored in front of. The wind got a bit further behind us as we changed course to the west so we swapped the jib for the genoa and had a screaming run past the reefs and cliffs. We were outside English Harbour in no time so got the sails away and motor on for the final tricky bit of getting ourselves berthed.
Now that we've done it a few times, we know the drill so we got fendered up on both sides, got the tender tied to the starboard bow, two long warps rigged at the stern and the anchor ready to go. The marina guys were visibly disappointed that Kali wasn't onboard but managed to smile through it and were as helpful as ever. We dropped the anchor almost on the other side of the harbour and backed towards our allocated spot but Alden let me know that it was dragging so we had to wind it all in again and have another go. This time, it held solidly so we backed down towards the dock and the waiting guys. It all went well that time and we were soon tied up, adjusting our lines to get ourselves close enough to get off without being in danger of banging the stern into the dock. Just for the purpose, the wind is slightly on the starboard side as it's further south than usual. Of course, I'd laid my anchor slightly to port on the basis that the prevailing wind comes from there so we're at a bit of an angle but it's all safe and we'll be perfect when the wind shifts back to the usual place.
So, that was it. All safely alongside and I was mightily relieved. We all headed up to Hamiltons for lunch and had some meat on the basis that we'll be in Jungle Bay eating veggie stuff for a few days from tomorrow. Andrea spent the afternoon uploading YouTube videos while I caught up on some emails and helped Alden tidy up the deck. Mostly, though, I was enjoying not doing much. I had a good chat to the guys on the boat next-door and that was about it for the afternoon. We've just been out to our favourite Italian restaurant for a fantastic dinner so we're all completely stuffed now and I'll soon be in bed. It'll be months before we feel Saxon Blue forging her way through the waves again but, hopefully, that will give us time to think through what happened since Southampton and get some good ideas of where we want to go next.
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