Wednesday 5 December, Bermuda to Antigua day 6: 12 more hours of sly ride before horizontal life returns.
At midnight, as Glen comes back on shift, we give up with the cutter which really isn’t paying its way. So it’s out again with a reefed genoa and the speed instantly picks back up to 8-9 kts. The 20+kts gusts seem to have gone and the wind settled back to 16-17kts.
We are now over the eastern end of the Great Puerto Rican Trench where the depth is more than 8,000ft. From here on, the sea floor rises rapidly towards the Caribbean island arc.
Barbuda and the other leeward islands are finally starting to loom large on the cockpit chart plotter screen and we are on schedule to pass into the lee of Barbuda at day break. No need to download weather GRIB files anymore now we are so close.
An hour before sun rise a very thin crescent moon rises. It would just need a pair of eyes to make a perfect smiley-face in the dawn sky 🙂
Then an orange light on the horizon. At first we think it must be a light on Barbuda. But no, it’s a small boat coming towards us, which soon passes upwind. Must be small because the light disappears occasionally behind the swell. It reminds us that we now need to be vigilant. In the ocean all vessels have AIS, but near the islands there will be boats like this one that don’t even have navigation lights let alone AIS.
8 miles to Barbuda, still no lights. 5 miles, still none. We remember what a unique underpopulated island this is. Finally, 3 miles off, just as the sun rises, we see the low lying silhouette of Goat Island in the north of Barbuda and the odd tree and building. Ahead, a catamaran passes across us heading westward from Barbuda. The first yacht we have seen for 5 days now.
Once in the lee of Barbuda the sea calms down and we finally have the gentle fast sail that we had longed for, over 10m depth of turquoise water in the early morning sun. But it’s short lived. We race passed the island at 9kts and back into the big waves the other side. The wind pipes back up to 18-20kts and the wave-bash continues for the next 2 1/2 hours.
And it’s land ah-hoy. We can see Antigua island 20miles ahead, with its higher terrain than Barbuda.
Finally, as we approach Jolly Harbour entrance, we cross our outgoing track from when we left for our east coast USA trip on 28th May. “Well, hello again Jolly Harbour. We just popped up north for summer and now we are back, 5321 miles later!” That was quite a trip. And quite a little digression from our circumnavigation, eh? But one we are very glad to have done.
Talking about trips, this passage from Bermuda was quite a trip. A bit uncomfortable yes, but very fast. We averaged 7.8kts over the 947miles. That’s pretty good going. Just to compare, 940miles is like Florida to Rhode Island, or Greece to Spain, or London to Iceland. In just 5 days … cool.
Turquoise water surrounds Antigua and we welcome the sight of it. It should be the norm from now on, in all the islands. The hills of Antigua are greener than they were in May, when we left, and the contrast with the white sand beaches along them is even prettier now. Hm, I guess we are quite happy to be back here!
We put the sails away just before coming into the channel. And what do you know, the spot we were anchored back in May happens to be available. We’ll take that, thank you very much. Few minutes later we are anchored, anchor ball rigged up, and the journey is now completed at 11:45am. Now that we are no longer moving, I couldn’t be happier! Actually, I could…if I already had internet to connect to 🙂
With all hatches open and the cool breeze coming through the boat, we can catch our breath and have a coffee break in the cockpit, trying to chase the dizziness away. The first coffee after 4 days. How I missed that!
And boy it feels hot! Even with this breeze. How long did we say it will take us to complain about the heat and intense sun? We are already commenting that working on the boat will have to be early morning and late afternoon.
Glen gets himself into the usual, running around in the decks, to tidy up ropes and launch the dinghy. Just realized the dinghy hasn’t been in the water for more than 2 months now! And every other step I hear him say “everything is caked in salt, the boat is desperate for a good wash”. Can we have a good rain please?
After the dinghy is in the water, its tube cover on and outboard attached, Glen does what he was yearning to do: dive in for a swim. He checks the hull – clean as a whistle, checks the prop – looks like it was painted yesterday and then checks the keel … Hmm not so good after our grounding in Bermuda.
We have a proper cooked meal for lunch, on a non moving table. That is an upgrade. We do burst into laughter mid-meal, when we realize we both hold our plates on our laps, instead of leaving them on the table. Power of habit? 🙂
Then ready to go ashore for the customs check in formalities. Still hot, and we welcome the AC in the authorities offices. Very quick and efficient procedure, especially that we have previously been here and the online account works like a charm. Few clicks, signatures and $40EC later and we are done.
We then have a stroll along the pontoons and to the Jolly Harbour marina office. Hoping that we will find it all livelier than it was in May. Sadly, it is not the case. Still quiet and only very few people around. We are told that the season start is slow, and boats are only starting to come in. Marina office gives us the confirmation for haul out: Tuesday 7.30am. Quite a few days to kill before then… and to empty fridges and freezer before we have to switch them off!
Back at Cloudy Bay, Glen continues pottering on the deck, arranging sheets etc. When he ventures below to stow the pieces of foam the dinghy was on, he finds an oil leak in the bilge, under the guest cabin floor board. Soon the forward floor boards are all up and he traces it to the bow compartment. It can only be the bow thruster leaking oil up there? Will have to investigate later. But for tonight he cleans all the forward compartments and while he is at it, the hydraulic power pack – which he’s been wanting to do for a while. So much for a relaxing evening, he just cannot sit still!
Finally we do relax in the cockpit reading our emails and messages to the sound of laughter on other boats and tree frogs (or whatever they are) on land. Thankfully we managed, after a phone call, to reinstate our Caribbean phone SIM which we got in Barbados. It was a fantastic deal at $60Barbadian (US$30) for 10GB of data.
The evening cool air in the cockpit is very welcome. And soon we are yawning. To bed sailors! And for more than 3 hours for once!