Safena log - 18-28th March 2020 - laying up for hurricane season early!

s/v Safena's blog
Simon Ashley
Fri 24 Apr 2020 13:53
The next few days we spent chilling out anchored in Jolly Harbour and monitoring the situation closely. Although lockdown in Antigua had not been announced by this stage, we still decided to practice some degree of social distancing. This meant no eating out and only occasional visits to Epicurian (supermarket) as required.

We invited Peter and Simone to dinner aboard Safena. We introduced them to the game Sequence, what a fun, drunken, evening!

As the days went by we both felt an increasing desire to get home if we could. We did not feel relaxed at all. We happened to see Al Ashford (marina manager) while he was out in the marina RIB looking for a yacht that had missed their haul-out slot. He told us that yard space was being taken up fast and he was worried that there may not even be any cradles left for us. He suggested we visit the marina office immediately to reserve our space which we duly did.

We managed to reserve the last big cradle for Safena and haul out for 31st March. We spent another couple of nights at anchor before heading into the marina. Another developing worry was our ability to make water. The water quality had been going off for ages despite trying everything. Now the watermaker would not switch over to "good quality”. This is almost certainly due to a faulty membrane and will need to be sorted on our return.

Another task was to arrange insurance for Named Tropical Storms during hurricane season in Antigua. Our existing insurer (Y Yachts) was unsympathetic to the situation and would not cover us unless we moved to Grenada, Trinidad or ABC islands during hurricane season (June -November) - with all borders closed for the foreseeable future, none of these were an option. We met Ronda in the Anjo Insurance office at JH. Hopefully they will be able to help.

We fuelled up before going into the berth. The marina was fuller than we had ever seen and most people were social distancing by now. We knew that the next few days were going to be incredibly busy preparing Safena for full lay up. 

We then set about trying to get flights home. We were chuffed to get a Premium Economy seat with Virgin to London from Antigua on 2nd April only to receive an email that evening to say this flight was now cancelled! Then we heard the flight was rescheduled to 31st March. Then we were notified that flight was now cancelled! All the while shutting Safena down getting increasingly anxious that we would not be able to fly home! Then we heard that Antigua airport was closing to all international flights!!!

On our way here, we had made a contact in London Gatwick with a Virgin Atlantic manager called Chris Clayton. In desperation we decided to contact him hoping that he could get us on a flight. He was fantastically helpful even though he was now on 8 weeks of unpaid leave. He advised we take a flight on 26th March anticipating this may well be the last flight out! (He was correct!!!). We agreed and he booked us on to this flight. So we went from having over a week to get Safena ready to less than 3 days - aaaarrrrrggggghhhhh!!!!

Nina and I worked our socks off. A & F sails from English Harbour (Franklyn and Kevin) were great. They came and removed all the sails, taking them for laundry, minor repairs and storage. Jerome came and had a look at our steering, it has developed an annoying squeak! It remains to be seen whether greasing the cables/pulleys/top-bearing Delron, will make any difference. Fortunately, Peter and Simone offered to help complete some of the tasks we knew we would not have time for. Also, they would oversee the haul out as this was scheduled for 31st March i.e. after our departure. This date could not be brought forward as the yard was working flat out. Extremely grateful to them for helping us after we depart to complete the lay up and to supervise the hoist, move the RIB etc. Al Ashford will be moving Safena to the hoist next week. 

During the afternoon off 25th March we were feeling good. We had broken the back of it. We had just removed the Bimini and spray hood (no shade now) and sat down to have a cold beer and then received another message from Virgin - our flight was cancelled again!!! It was delayed until the 27th as the airport was now closed to all incoming International passengers. In fact we subsequently learnt that they were sending an empty Jumbo with medical supplies from London to Antigua to take us, and about 360 other Brits, home!

In fact, this extra day of time was incredibly helpful and took the pressure off us. We got most things done including some detailing! 

Everything shutdown, closed and put away, it was time to depart. Rasheed collected us in the marina RIB and took us ashore. Rodwell was waiting to take us to the airport. Definitely felt a sense of sadness, disappointment and anxiety - when will we get back here? Will she be ok over hurricane season? What will Antigua and the rest of the Caribbean look like in the post-virus world?