Safely into the boatyard

Saxon Blue's Blog
Harvey Jones and Andrea Stokes
Mon 11 Apr 2011 23:00
Admirals Inn, Nelson's Dockyard, Antigua, Monday night

Well, that's it. Saxon Blue is safely ashore in a cradle in Baileys yard. It's a huge relief to me to have got her there safely. As they say, "there's many a slip twixt cup and lip" and it would have been awful to have pranged her in the last couple of miles.

We met Alden for breakfast, then Andrea went off to get the marina guys in Nelson's Dockyard to prepare our bill for keeping Saxon Blue there for the last 10 days. Alden and I got Oliver to drive us over to the Cat Club as Moody was busy. Oliver is normally silent but, this morning, I got him talking about his family and his children so that was a challenge successfully met. George at Antigua Rigging was chatting to a couple, John and Jane, when we arrived and it turns out that they own another Discovery 55 called Seaduced. She's in the same yard as Saxon Blue with Antigua Rigging looking after them both.

Alden and I went around to the dock to see where we'd have to manoeuvre Saxon Blue for her to get lifted out. It's a very narrow gap between the two concrete piers which the crane runs along. The wind is notorious for whipping across the bay and pushing you sideways as you try to reverse into the gap so it was good to go and see it first. After having a chat to the guys operating the travel hoist, we got back into Oliver's taxi and headed back to Nelson's Dockyard to see Andrea. She had the marina guys sorted out so I went and paid for our stay. That sounds easy but you have to pay so much per foot per night, extra per person per night, yet more for water and electricity, even more for environmental impact and then the Harbour woman tried to get me to purchase a new cruising permit even though mine was still valid for today as she didn't believe that I was getting lifted out. They have a real knack of making you feel like a criminal, even if you're just paying up before leavi

We had to wait a while for the marina rib to get washed, then they released our lines plus the ones of the yacht alongside us and we could head out into the harbour to retrieve our anchor. That came up fine although we got very close to Miniskirt - the 100 foot Ron Holland yacht we looked around in St Martin - in the process. Elias has her all masked up for repainting at the moment so I certainly didn't want to put a scratch in her topsides. Then we headed out slowly while Andrea and Alden tidied up the deck. I had to negotiate the harbour entrance past a couple of yachts moored right in the middle of the channel and then we were out into the open sea. We had a look for whales as Alden spotted a group of three right outside the harbour entrance when he was out there last night but they must have swum off by this morning.

It was a bit bouncy on the way around to Falmouth Harbour entrance so we took the opportunity to agitate the black-water tanks and flush them out for the last time. Then we came into the harbour, past the reefs on either side. There are two buoyed channels, one to Falmouth itself and the other over to the North side for the Cat Club. There are lots of shallow patches around so I took it steady and we got outside the dock without any drama. Then I put Saxon Blue's bows into the wind and put her hard into reverse as I wanted to get moving before the wind took our bow too far to starboard. Alden was in the tender ready to act as a tugboat, if required. Thankfully, the wind was fairly light at that moment so I could take it steady and just use the bow thruster to steer us into the dock as I tickled her astern. We went in very gently and the guys operating the hoist congratulated me on the manoeuvre so I was pleased with that. We tied up and left her there as it was time for the y
ard guys to get lunch.

We headed off to the cafe in the Cat Club marina with some trepidation as it's impossible to get served quickly out here. We ordered and then waited. Andrea wanted to film Saxon Blue getting lifted out and I didn't want to be too far away so it was typical that they gave our food to another table. Andrea only managed a bowl of soup before heading back to the dock and then phoned me to say that they were getting the hoist ready so I bolted my gnocchi and got going. The hoist operators were getting their slings sorted and I helped them get the lines off. They were intending to get Antigua Rigging to drop the backstays but, in the end, that wasn't necessary so they just went ahead and lifted us out and then moved over the concrete pit where they do the high-pressure hosing. It didn't take long to get her clean as there wasn't a mark on the anti-foul, just a bit of weed on the anodes and a few other dirty bits. As they were doing that, another guy lifted our tender out with a loa
der. I didn't want to have that hanging on the davits all summer and I want the lift-points replaced anyway so we kept it separate.

I was concerned that the cradle they put us into was between a Coastguard patrol boat and a racing yacht, not between similar boats to us. I spoke to George, though, and he told me that it was only a temporary place as the other boats would be moved before the hurricane season and we'd all get moved and strapped in properly then. Fair enough. By then, we were all secured in our cradle and the operator guys had gone off to lift the next boat - a massive rib which is a tender for Rambler 100, the racing boat which won the Caribbean 600. We got onboard and finished our preparations. Andrea put all the fenders and lines away while Alden and I dropped the cockpit covers and put them in our cabin to keep safe. I'm hoping to get another cover made out here to keep the cockpit dry but our existing ones are no good anyway as the rain pools on top if the boat isn't rocking and she certainly won't be doing any rocking for a while.

We got everything finished just as we ran out of energy so rang Moody to take us back to the hotel. I've got to go over the work list with George tomorrow but there shouldn't be much else that needs doing so we had a very successful day today. I'm writing this before we have our dinner as we're going out with John and Jane from Seaduced and I'll definitely be too tired once we get back.

I couldn't have wished for a more successful day. I was nervous about those last few miles as it's easy to take your eye off the ball right at the end of the trip and have an incident. Now it's all done, I can start to relax. Saxon Blue looks safe enough and I think she'll be OK out here, even though it's so far from home. A boatyard is a horrible place to leave a yacht - they get filthy in no time - but we'll be able to get her cleaned and relaunched quickly when we return. I think leaving her here was the right choice although it's going to seem strange when we fly back to England, leaving our home for the past year sitting in a dusty yard.

Before we left her, I took down the Red Ensign and the two small flags which Nathan and Josh made for me when I got Chalkhill Blue. All three flags have flown over us for almost twelve thousand miles. Those bits of cloth have been places that very few flags have fluttered over. I'll take them home with me and think of all the places we've been together. They can hang at White Hill like the Standards of ancient regiments enshrined in a country church. A reminder that there are other countries out there and exciting deeds to be done. For our next trip, I'll start afresh with new flags and see if they and we do as well.