Christmas at Nelsons Dockyard

Dick and Irene Craig
Sat 31 Dec 2011 17:35

After anchoring and a first visit from Caroline and Mia, we went ashore to check in. On the way back to our boat, we went to Voyageur to see David and Susan who had arrived 11pm on Monday night, wisely waiting outside until first light, before entering the bay and dropping an anchor. Needless to say, after a difficult passage from Guadeloupe and a sleepless night, they were thankful to stop and get some much needed rest.

Back on our boat, we received a call from John on Tzigane; they had spent the night at Dominica and were currently off Guadeloupe, expecting to arrive Thursday afternoon; as it turned out, they didn’t arrive until lunchtime on Saturday, the 25th, Christmas Eve.

Staying overnight at Guadeloupe they set sail next morning, to be confronted with enormous seas and a very strong wind. After an hour, close hauled, punching through the huge swell, they sensibly decided to turn back, hitting 45knot winds which shredded their bimini. When they finally made passage to Nelsons Dockyard, they made good time, arriving totally kitted out in their wet weather gear with only their eyes, protected with sun glasses, exposed.

We had booked a berth for Tzigane, several days before they arrived but despite that, they had to hang around for almost two hours, while a space was made available for them. The Dock manager insisted he wasn’t aware that a berth had been reserved for them and the office supervisor hotly denied that this was the case. Eventually, all was well, apologies made and accepted; boat washed down and decorated for Christmas. By 6.30 it was time to relax. David and Susan, Dick and I joined John and Jenny on board for drinks and then we all walked to Trappas for an excellent dinner.

Next morning, Christmas day, we met our friends on the dockside where we all enthusiastically supported the local tradition, purchasing and consuming countless bottles of champagne. Bands were playing, people were milling around. We met lots of new folk, became reacquainted with sailors, some of whom had been long known by all four of our friends. We were joined by Sean and Sophie, engaged to be married that very morning, who had been captain and crew on board Wild Tigris, one of the WARC boats which participated 2010/2011. They were now crewing on another boat which was currently moored here. Wild Tigris has apparently been sold.  

We had booked a table for seven people at the Copper and Lumber hotel, where we partook of a buffet lunch. Despite being fairly restrained for about three hours, Mia behaved brilliantly.

Boxing Day all seven of us ate a traditional Christmas, turkey lunch on board Tucanon. Everybody contributed to the meal and once again Mia behaved well, even though she was even more restricted than the previous day. This year we didn’t play charades. I am not sure how we managed that.

Thursday is the evening to visit Shirley Heights, a must for watching the sun set over Monserrat. A steel band was playing when we arrived, the first of at least two bands to perform that evening. After consuming two rum punches apiece, it became quite important to eat some food and although there was quite a large choice, five of the six of us ate barbecued chicken, plus another rum punch. As we climbed into the taxi, to return back to the dock side, Susan persuaded David to buy her a maraca; a souvenir for herself or a present for a grand child?

It seems to rain most days but mainly at night. A couple of times we have had a short, heavy shower during the day which gets us rushing to shut the hatches before the beds get soaked. The wind blew up again on Friday and another catamaran which arrived earlier that day was in danger of hitting us. With the wind blowing from all directions, the boats not attached to the hurricane chain, turning 360º, to the extent of their own anchor chain, the captain of the other boat couldn’t understand what was going on. Here, with his wife and children for a holiday, they lacked experience in these conditions.

“Are you sure your anchor isn’t dragging?” asked the wife.

“Quite sure,” was Dick’s response, he had already swum down and checked the anchor.

Some hours later, about to retire for the night, Dick was doing his last check of the evening. The menacing catamaran, with an engine running, was a metre away from our stern quarter.

“I shall stay up all night if necessary”, said the captain, “I won’t hit your boat”.

Why don’t these people put themselves out of harms way during daylight hours, we ask ourselves, why wait until it is dark, when everything appears to be more threatening?