Antigua Again - How Jolly

Phil Pascoe
Sat 4 Apr 2009 18:09

17:03,95 61:53.0
Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua, 28 March 2009.
Night sailing from Anguilla to Barbuda:  Chef du Jour, Jean (l’oignon)’Cody pre-prepared a curry for the passage.  Dusk came as we rounded Anguilla and sheeted in to pass between the islands.  It looks OK on the plotter but we can’t afford to lose any ground to leeward, and anyway, I thought Gentlemen don’t sail to windward.
It took ages to reach the end of St. Martin, it was pretty black, there were rocks and small islands nearby, so I decided to go around the island of Tintemarre rather than through the channel.  So far, so good, we could ease the sheets a bit, but all we could see was the occasional flash of a light, which we reckoned was on the end of Tinitemarre (nothing marked on the chart).  Eventually we were past it and into deeper, ‘safe’ water.  Sailing well, 18 to 20 knots of wind, a bit rolly but OK – let’s heat up the curry.  Robin was helming as John and I tucked into a bowl full of goat and rice.  We’d almost finished when Robin’s
dulcet tones filtered into the saloon, ‘Bugger, we’ve picked up a pot.’  Sure enough we were towing a couple of small buoys about 5 metres astern.  I hooked the line with the boat hook and hauled the buoys aboard, now what do we do?  Before a decision was reached there was another ‘Bugger, we’ve picked up another lot.’  This time we were towing about 4 or 5 buoys and our speed was down to around 2 knots.  We tried to tack but the boat wouldn’t come around.  ‘Oh shit, this could be serious’, Phil (half-full) Pascoe noted.  The lights of St. Martin were not far away to our starboard side and I was thankful that it hadn’t happened half an hour earlier when we were close to rocks.  Thoughts of radioing the coastguard, or whatever they have here, went through my mind.  How could we determine what was under us?  Should we just cut the lines and hope to release it?  What if it’s a net around the prop?  Doom and gloom was gathering momentum and we weren’t.  Then suddenly the two buoys that were sitting on the aft seat, shot through the guard rail at about 20 knots and the whole mess disappeared into the darkness.  One could almost feel the boat surge forward - we picked up speed to over 6 knots, about what we had been doing, but were still worried that ropes might be around the prop.  Robin put the engine out of gear and I listened below to hear whether the prop was turning.  It was – thank God for that.  We saw a few more pots but didn’t snag any more.  I went back to my curry, and Robin eventually got his, probably cold by now.
2 hour watches, pretty boring stuff, not much sleep, but we were making good progress.  Dawn came on my watch – always a good time of day, but we couldn’t see Barbuda.  We had some breakfast and although we were pretty close, we still couldn’t see the island.  It must be the lowest island in the Caribbean  At 10 am we were investigating the anchorage on the west side near Tuscon Rock, but it was pretty exposed and the surf on the beach would make going ashore difficult, if not dangerous.  We headed South to Palmetto Point and around towards Cocoa point.  At midday we anchored in Cocoa Bay, but again going ashore would have meant a long dinghy ride and tackling the surf.  We had lunch and admired what there was to see of Barbuda from afar.  I may be back!
A final, slowish sail down to Jolly Harbour where we anchored out by Reeds Point for the night, with the plan of going into the marina in the morning.
All went according to plan, the Dockmaster was very helpful with instructions and rope-handling and by 09.00h we were in a secure, convenient berth with access to water.  Beer; cheers chaps, a fairly heavy, but good, two weeks, thankyou.  First, it was hoisting the skipper up the mast to investigate the roller reefing system – I think I can see the problem, but not sure how we fix it.  It then took ages to clean the outside of the boat, as it was very salty and grubby.  In the end Robin and John almost ran out of time, and we hadn’t touched the inside yet, apart from their packing.  They just had time for a shower a quick lunch, with which I had opened our last bottle of white wine, and then they were off to the airport by taxi.
Phew, end of another era. 

Pics:  View from the top of the mast - knees not shaking so much now.  Jolly Harbour from top of the mast and anchorage in the distance.