Two days sorting stuff in Antigua

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Wed 16 Feb 2011 01:53
Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua, Tuesday night

I didn't write a blog last night as Andrea and I didn't get back until really late and we didn't even get our dinner until 10pm which is normally way past our bedtime.

Yesterday, as often happens when I don't have any big project on, I woke up feeling headachy and rough. I took a few pills and had a massive breakfast but it didn't really go off until after lunch. Andrea and I spent a long time thinking and talking about where to go next without reaching much of a conclusion and then I went off in a taxi with Kali to visit Antigua Rigging. They've been sent the replacement part for our mast by Discovery Yachts and they're also involved with storing boats ashore for the summer hurricane season.

The two guys who run the rigging company were very friendly and helpful. They had received our spare part and were waiting for us to arrive to get it fitted. While we were there, we talked about their caretaking service for yachts in storage in the boatyard and it seems they can do pretty well any work and make sure things are OK and the batteries charged etc. George took us round to show us the hurricane-proof cradles which they use and it all looks very impressive so I'm sure we'll put Saxon Blue into their care when we leave for the UK. Kali and I walked down to the marina to get the prices for the storage and spotted two other Discoveries in there, an old white 55 and a new blue 67. They were amongst a crowd of Oysters and some other larger yachts. It seems to be where everyone takes a boat to get work done so it all added to our feeling that this was the right place to come at the end of the season.

From there, Kali cadged us a lift back to Falmouth where there's another huge marina full of truly enormous yachts. Maltese Falcon was there (be still my beating heart) along with a beautiful motor yacht of the type that George from Kinloch Castle on Rhum would have had in the last days of the Victorian era. She was gleaming with her cream paint, gold carvings, huge bowsprit and twin masts along with a proper funnel. If you're going to have a motor boat, that's the one to have. If you turned up in that, people would think you were the Czar of Russia or something. While the yachts were lovely, the marinas in Falmouth Harbour are nowhere near as charming as Nelson's Dockyard so I was glad that we'd chosen to come in here.

Kali and I walked back to our little bit of history and found Andrea, still trying to make sense of flights to Cuba. It's not easy, especially as the US government block the Cubans from putting any flight details onto comparison websites. We could fly into the Dominican Republic but the planes from there to Cuba were about 2 days later in each direction. We didn't really get anywhere with it all and then we noticed that two people we'd met the day before were back onboard their Malo 45 in the marina. We decided to go and invite them back to Saxon Blue and they came over for a drink. Steve and Sue from White Egret know Olle and Donna who we bought our Malo through and they'll be sailing together in a couple of weeks.

We had a great couple of hours talking to them about our trip and their various journeys. They've been to the Caribbean loads so we got some great information on harbours and good places to go. We won't make them all on this trip but it's useful information for another time. They confirmed what we'd found that sailing here isn't so easy as people think. Apparently it's much more straightforward in the Virgin Islands or the Grenadines but we won't make either of them this time. They live in Guernsey and Sue visits Bermuda often so we could compare notes on those places. Steve told me of some problems that he's had with his boat, mostly the result of hurricane damage, that were truly hair-raising. Their rudder skeg almost fell off in mid-Atlantic and he had an alternator problem which positively charged all the skin-fittings and then dissolved them.

By the time we'd finshed chatting, it was getting late so Andrea and I headed out of the Dockyard to find a restaurant. The first one we fancied was full - it was Valentine's night, I suppose - so we carried on until we found a really lively-looking local place with bench seats and a tin roof. It was humming with people and our delicious starters arrived very quickly but then we had a long wait for our main courses during which we both nearly fell asleep. When it arrived, though, my beef curry was fantastic with loads of lovely crunchy vegetables so that woke me up enough to stagger back to Saxon Blue but not enough to write anything so I went straight to bed. We even managed to be up after Kali so that was a real achievement.

This morning, I woke up feeling much better so we had breakfast on the boat and then Kali and I got ready to investigate our leaking water tank problem. Just then, there was a shout of "Saxon Blue" and two guys turned up from Antigua Rigging to investigate our broken sheave. As I sat on the bow with them and talked it through, they confirmed that it was a Selden rig and then announced that the only way to replace the sheave was to take the mast out. I can't say that I was even surprised. I was only thankful that they didn't have to take the keel off as well. We discussed various possible short-term fixes and then one of them went up the rig with Kali to have a look. On the way up, his mobile phone fell down and exploded with several pieces ending up in the fetid water - he admitted that it's the fourth one he's lost already this year.

Anyway, when they both came down, things weren't looking quite so bad. The sheave that we've broken isn't the Selden one at the masthead but another Furlex number which can be replaced with the mast in situ. It's still a big job but they went off to see if they had the correct part and when it could be done. While they were up there, they also discovered that the genoa stay is mounted on the wrong size pin so that's bent and the stay is too loose. Now that did annoy me because the rigger who fitted it knew it was wrong and just couldn't be bothered to fix it. I've never been impressed with the riggers in Southampton and this just confirms what a bunch of messers they really are. The guys from Antigua Rigging, however, seemed really knowledgeable and sensible. There seems to be a very different attitude in Antigua compared to the other islands that we've visited. People are sharp and business-minded and the place seems to have a proper economy with people earning a living rather than just waiting for the next welfare cheque to arrive. We've become more impressed to longer we've been here.

Anyway, the riggers went off and Kali and I dug our way into the starboard water tank. Access is, as usual, terrible but I eventually managed to remove the main filler pipe so we could test it for integrity. Kali had gone off for a haircut by then so I went to join Andrea who had spent another morning trying to sort out flights and stuff. When we discussed what she'd found, it was clear that the Cuba trip would take up most of our usable remaining time and we weren't prepared to accept that. When we worked out what we did still want to do and how long we have, we realised that we'd have to leave Cuba to another year. I think we were both relieved so we continued with our planning and sorted out what we're going to do for the next few months. The next thing for me is a SCUBA diving course while Andrea takes some time to do her art and Kali can have some time off.

From there, Kali and I got stuck back into the water tank. We tested the inlet pipe and it was fine so we worked our way through all the other pipes which were similarly perfect. Back to square one. We filled the tank and the water came gushing into the bilge as usual. I had my head in there, though and I thought I could hear it coming out the back of the tank. I couldn't see it thanks to the rat's nest of cables and pipes randomly zip tied together on top of the tank so I chopped off the ties and got my head in there. Along the back of the tank, I could see the water bubbling up before finding its way into the bilge. So, in short, it's the worst case scenario. As far as I can see, we have a faulty tank. This is built in beneath the navigation station and the floor of the saloon so goodness only knows how anyone can get in there to fix it. That's not going to be my problem but it's going to be a major job for whoever gets the contract. I don't think Discovery Yachts are going to be pleased to receive that bit of news.

By this time, Kali had a phone call from her next employer, a guy called Simon who's planning a trip to Svalbard for this summer. It all sounds very exciting and Kali is really looking forward to it. She'll be much more at home in the frozen north than down here in the heat and the sun. She went off to a yoga session while I tidied up the saloon and had a lovely phone conversation with my mum and dad. Then Andrea and I went out to eat in the Italian restaurant that couldn't accommodate us last night. The food was wonderful, even if the Italian service was a bit over the top. They even gave us free drinks when we said how much we'd enjoyed our dinner. I've now had to write this double-length blog so it's time for bed again.


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