S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Catching Up

Monday, February 26
Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Okay, we've slipped twice, but we won't let it happen again. Our last two guests were wiley enough to avoid guest blog duties, but we are onto them, and onto you, if you think you are coming to visit and not writing a guest blog. Think again.

So...we spent a hectic day on the 17th preparing for Tina and Ian's visit, having torn the boat up to look for tools and parts we might need to make our wobbly boat. They arrived bearing the usual heavy bags, laden with my "just one more thing" requests for items from the States. The list has gotten smaller as our time out here grows short. So Greg, who visited us early on, wins the heaviest bag award, hands down.

This year I did not manage to have another birthday bonfire on the beach, but we all did climb up to Shirley Heights (if you hike up you don't have to pay the entrance fee; Tina and Ian were not impressed by our thrift) to watch the sun set, eat barbecue, and listen to some steel pan. Shirley Heights is a beautiful place, with fantastic views of the whole island, and it is very popular on Sunday nights. One might say it's too popular. I think next time I'd go on a night when there wasn't a steel band or barbecue, and avoid the wrestling match at the cliff's edge as people vie for a good view of the horizon.

After the Shirley Heights barbecue, we hit all the sights on the south coast of Antigua: Nelson's Dockyard, Pigeon Beach, Windward Beach, Sweet T's Ice Cream, and even a little underwater exploring via scuba. Then we sailed up the west coast for for a few days.

The wind and northerly swells picked up just as we were planning to head out, and though they churned up the water along Antigua's west coast, reducing visibility to mere inches, conditions did make for some great sailing between anchorages. We spent a night almost alone in enormous and undeveloped Five Islands, another night in lovely Deep Bay, where we climbed up to the fort to watch the sunset and marvel at the outrageous size and shape of the cruise ships departing St. John, and our final night in Jolly Harbor, which, from the water, looks just like the Fort Lauderdale section of the ICW.

After putting Tina and Ian into a cab, Dean and I decided to drown our sorrows by spending outrageous amounts of money on imported American processed food at the island's biggest grocery store. We haven't seen a grocery store bigger than a 7-11 all winter, accept for the French islands. Though it was fun to try new food and stock up on fabulous French cheeses and wines, sometimes you just find comfort in a box of Pop Tarts.

Larder filled, we raced back down to Falmouth Harbor yesterday on the rumor that the long-elusive Amanzi, whom we haven't seen since November, might arrive that afternoon. We dropped the anchor off Pigeon Beach and were tidying the boat when I heard an "Oi!" from the water. Stewart and Tara of Mange Tout had spotted us from the beach and swum out.

We brought them aboard, handed them each a beer, and got ourselves invited over to their boat that night for Stewart's incredibly fabulous curry dinner. Fortunately, Stewart knows how to stretch a recipe, because Amanzi DID appear yesterday, and we all stayed up VERY late on Mange Tout, telling and retelling stories as we caught each other up on the news and gossip along the eastern Caribbean.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Wobbly Images

My Kind of Regatta

Saturday, February 17
Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

The floor of our new boat was awash, and more water was pouring in through the widening seams. Axel's bailer had gone overboard during a jibe, and the bilge pump wasn't making much of a dent. Many boats had already succombed to the fury of the elements, and the crowd on shore had begun to believe that our boat would sink as well. But Tara, holding the mainsheet between her teeth, paddled mightily, determined to cross the finish line and beach the boat before they both went under. It was woman against the elements, and Tara won, proudly paddling the boat's mermaid figurehead across the line to a chorus of huzzahs.

A mere three hours earlier, our noble sailing vessel, Lady Roger Ring, had been a meager collection of thin plywood, knotty pine 1x1, dull nails, and duct tape provided to us by the Wobbly Club Regatta's organizing committee. Our challenge, as the multi-national corporation, "Bodge It, Cock Up, & Sink Boat Works," (motto "Every job a floater!") was to make a craft that one of us could propel around a short course. The regatta's organizing committee, on the other hand, had a goal of providing us with shoddy goods and selling us quite a lot of cheap beer as we worked in the hot Caribbean sun to build a boat.

Cheating was rampant among the 27 teams who signed up for the regatta, but we on team B.C.S. held ourselves to a higher standard, and cheated only a very little, adding a few extra rolls of duct tape and some wire to our war chest. That duct tape saved Tara from a long swim, holding the short, blunt nails in place and sealing the boat's seams long enough for her to complete the course. Many other boats did not fare so well.

We celebrated well into the evening, toasting our hard work, Randy's excellent boat designs, and Tara's competitive edge. Our excellent team spirit won us a case of beer and a bottle of rum, and even impressed the crew of a 141 foot motor yacht enough that we were invited on board for a nightcap at the bar on their aft deck. Quite.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Facing the Atlantic

Monday, February 12
Nonsuch Bay, Antigua
N 17 degrees, 04.578 minutes
W 061 degrees, 40.326 minutes

The best thing to do, when one discovers on Thursday that the weekly budget has already been exceeded, is to find somewhere remote and sit there until the week has ended. Thus we were finally driven out of lively (and expensive) Falmouth Harbor for a few days.

Not that we mind, of course. Nonsuch Bay, on the eastern coast of Antigua, is a beautiful, remote area with just a few yachts and very little opportunity to spend money. Green Island, off to starboard, is uninhabited, as is Bird Island, to port. Off our bow, between us and the big ole Atlantic, is long reef. As in the Tobago Cays, the reef protects us from any large seas rolling west from Africa, but leaves us with the illusion that we are facing straight out to sea.

Unfortunately, this reef was damaged by storms and is only beginning to show new signs of life, so the snorkeling is not what it could be. Still, the remoteness of this anchorage leaves us plenty of time to perform some long-overdue boat maintenance, as well as lounge in the hammock and contemplate the horizon (thanks, Greg).

Dean may have located and fixed the hole on our cap rail, putting an end, we hope, to puddles on the galley floor when we bury the port rail. I am sure we'll have ample opportunity to test his handiwork when we leave Antigua at the end of the month.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Octopus's Garden

Wednesday, February 7
Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Well, the weekend went by so fast, as we were catching up with friends, and then some new friends arrived, and then we had to have our propane refilled, and then our starting battery stopped holding a charge (no big deal when you're in a port with several chandleries from which to choose), and then we got an invitation to go diving with some cruisers who have EXTRA equipment to share (!!!). Thus the day or two we planned to stay in Falmouth Harbor has turned into a week.

We hadn't expected to enjoy ourselves so much in the bustling harbor. But as long as I can swim off the boat without wondering what else might be floating in the water besides me and Delilah, I am content to stay almost anywhere, and Dean loves a little bit of civilization along with his blue skies and clean water. On top of that, Jake and Marnie of Avalanche (who sail to the Caribbean from RI every fall and back again in the spring) had suggested that, if they caught up with us here in Antigua, they'd take us to one of their favorite dive sites.

Though Jake was disappointed with the visibility report he got yesterday--a mere 50 feet because of the weekend's high winds--we all donned our gear for a fairly shallow and uncomplicated dive at the Pillars of Hercules along the south coast of Antigua. I was glad we were doing an easy dive, as I have not been scuba diving on for several years (the cost of renting equipment is prohibitive, and snorkeling has always seemed simpler and faster). I was nervous before the dive, hoping I wouldn't have problems clearing my ears, maintaining buoyancy, putting my equipment together, clearing my mask underwater, fitting into a stranger's BC, and all the little adjustments that make diving comfortable. But everything worked perfectly, and I found myself facing Dean on the bottom of the ocean, comfortable, happy, and ready to see some fish.

Jake and Marnie have done this dive a number of times, so they lead the way past an old anchor encrusted with coral, a spotted eel, countless fish, and some beautiful coral structures I had not seen before while snorkeling. My favorite part of the dive, however, was looking up to the water's surface and watching the waves crash along the steep coastline beside us. The only downside, of course, is that I don't know that I'll ever see the point of donning a thick, restrictive wetsuit with hood and gloves in order to swim around in the murk of New England's frigid waters (48 degrees below the thermocline, as opposed to 79 degrees here).

We're off tomorrow (9 Feb) for about a week of sailing/anchoring in places where there is no internet. Imagine!

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sailor Trash

Monday, February 5
Falmouth Harbor, Antigua
N 17 degrees, 00.672 minutes
W 061 degrees, 46.659 minutes

We had been warned about the megayachts that congregate in places like St. Barts, St. Martin, and Antigua each winter, but we were not quite prepared for seeing a whole bunch of them together--especially Le Grand Bleu, Maltese Falcon (home page), and Mirabella V (home page), three whoppers known for their outrageous designs. All three of these privately-owned boats were in the harbor when we arrived, so we got a good look at them, and we even got to watch the Maltese Falcon, with its bizarre sailing rig, put her sails up as she headed out of the harbor.

Mirabella V, the sloop on steroids, is, we are told, the largest single-masted vessel in the world. At night, when all the supersize sailboats have their mandatory red masthead lights on to warn air traffic (no, I'm not kidding!), Mirabella V's light appears another twenty to thirty feet above everybody else's.

Le Grand Bleu looks like a cargo ship. On its deck are a 50-foot power boat and a 70-foot Swan sailboat (that's double the length of our boat and many times the price), in addition to a helicopter, a large crane, and a few other boats too small to mention in this case.

Given the serious size of some of the boats in the harbor, and the number of more modest sailboats anchored out by us, services in Falmouth Harbor are geared toward yachties. Many sailors base their winter explorations out of here, and flights from North America are both cheap and direct. So we should not have been surprised to sail in and find ourselves anchoring behind two boats full of friends. The only problem is, we've been having too much fun to get our errands done so we can head over to some of the more remote and beautiful anchorages on the island. Who wants to lug water and laundry and groceries around in the dinghy when there are sundowners to be had, books to swap, and stories to compare in the beautiful Caribbean breeze? Cleaning the head can always wait for tomorrow.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Final Jardin Botanique

More Jardin Botanique

Jardin Botanique

Another Day, Another Anchorage

Thursday, February 1
Falmouth Harbor, Antigua
N 17 degrees 00.669 minutes
W 061 degrees 46.647 minutes

Since our last missive, we've really gotten around. After weeks of fairly settled weather, our trusty weather guru reported that a northerly swell would set in along the northern Caribbean, followed by an increase in the trade winds. We decided to get ourselves to Antigua before things got rough. So from Marie Galante we sailed 16 miles north to the lovely anchorage of St. Anne, Guadeloupe. We anchored in a small harbor (there was only one other sailboat) and spent some time on the beach at Club Med and also on the public beach. Both were absolutely phenomenal. But all good things come to an end, and we went south again (to make it easier to go north, naturally), ending up back in Iles des Saintes, where we anchored right behind our friends on S/V Nancy Dawson and S/V Mange Tout. One thing led to another, and after having drinks with new acquaintances from S/V Vamoose (out of Marblehead) in our cockpit, we were hosted by S/V Providence (with Nancy Dawson in attendance).

Are you bored yet? Shall I tell you what we ate and drank?
Perhaps another time.

We left the Saintes on Tuesday and sailed north, stopping briefly at a mooring at Pigeon Island (home of the Jacques Cousteau National Underwater Park) to do some fantastic snorkeling and to look for the underwater bust of Cousteau, which we never found. Last spring, on our way down, we gave this snorkeling spot a pass, as the mooring looked way too close to the rocks. Since then we have become either more adventurous or more careless.

We anchored in Deshaies on Tuesday and Wednesday, planning to rent a car so we could hike the Soufriere volcano. No joy. Jill had been planning this hike for weeks, but we could never seem to find a car rental place with any cars. To console ourselves we went to the botanical gardens in Deshaies for the second time. Stupendous. Sadly, since we were there last, stray dogs came in and killed all of the flamingos. The management of the gardens was obviously very upset about the event and have not done anything to replace the birds.

After stocking up on fabulous French cheese, bread, yogurt, cheap wine, and granola (it's a long story) we set sail this morning for Antigua. We had a zesty sail, with the wind strength varying widely, even (so Jill says) hitting 30 knots at times. We'd put in a reef, and the wind would die. We'd shake out the reef, and the wind would pick up to twice its original strength. I am extremely tired, having done more sail changes today than I have in the past few months together. Needless to say, we were close hauled for the whole voyage. But it was all worth it, as we made 7 knots at times, and 6+ knots for hours on end. We have verified that we do indeed leak water into the galley when our port rail is in the water. That's not nice. Jill has tasked me with finding the leak this week. Good luck, me!

The best part of anchoring this afternoon in Falmouth Harbor was that, just as we put the anchor down, our friends from Carapan and Eira showed up to say hello. We were not sure whether we would see them again on this trip, and we enjoyed catching up over the bread, cheese, and wine we had stocked in Deshaies.