Monday, 2 December 2019

Jolly Harbour Antigua

The Jolly Harbour anchorage

We arrived at Jolly Harbour at 1020 on Saturday 30 November and after a pretty speedy and efficient check-in moved out to the anchorage just outside the harbour.  We didn’t have plans to remain near Jolly Harbour for more than a couple of days and so took the opportunity to replenish our stocks at the excellent Epicurian supermarket; the food shopping in English Harbour is nothing like as good.  As we returned to the marina to try to find a bar with reasonable wifi, we spotted Ruby Tuesday with Lionel Sole and his crew Mads and Lotte Poulson aboard.  It was good to catch up with them and to hear about their journey south from Bermuda and to find out about their plans for the next few weeks.  Elise had had flown home from Bermuda for a visit but would be rejoining Lionel shortly in Guadeloupe, Ruby Tuesday's next stop.
Castaways


To our surprise, the search for wi-fi in the marina bar was pretty fruitless, so the following day we tried again. But 1 December was a Sunday and most places around the marina were closed (a further surprise) so we headed a little further afield to Castaways.  Castaways is a 10 minute walk from the marina dinghy dock, a pretty organised beach bar on a lovely white sand beach with great views out to the islands west of Antigua. Great views of the sunsets too according to their advertising blurb.  We were a bit more successful with wifi access here and managed to clear most of the backlog of emails (primarily junk) but the connection was in no way fast enough to upload the blog.  So we sat and relaxed, drank our beers and enjoyed the view.  Not exactly a hardship!
The Greeks would call this and ‘organised’ beach
Valley Church Bay – Castaways behind us.  Top left and bottom: views looking south.  Top right: looking north towards the entrance to Jolly Harbour

Back aboard BV we saw a large aluminium yacht pull into the anchorage just behind us.  It was Pleione with David and Roberta Hobbs on board whom we had met at Gary and Greta’s party in Norfolk.  Zwailer had arrived a little earlier in the day and we had already invited Richard and Jane over for sundowners and to compare passage notes, so we widened the invite.
Welcome to the Caribbean.  Sundowners on BV with a spectacular sunset which was far better in real life.  Left to right: Jane Kingsnorth (Zwailer), Roberta and David Hobbs (Pleione), Nicky and Richard Kingsnorth (Zwailer)

We had a lovely evening with the other 2 crews, accompanied by a spectacular Caribbean sunset.  However, fun evenings make early starts the next day somewhat emotional, but we were keen to move on to English Harbour and with the trade winds building we felt that getting going for the beat to windward was the right move.
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

Saturday, 30 November 2019

End of Day 12 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

1020hrs (AST, GMT-4) 30 Nov 2019

Dear All,

The fuel gauge reading barely changed for 14 hours so we now know where it is most inaccurate/vague.  Over the next few weeks we will have a play with how we run the fuel from the forward tank to see if we can get a clearer picture of fuel consumption.

The morning passage from midnight was uneventful with the engine chugging along and the wind still very light and variable.  On the horizon out to our west we could see the loom of lights on St Martin and St Barts whilst ahead we could start to see the loom of lights on Antigua.  Our destination almost in sight!

There was still the question of where we should arrive and check-in on Antigua.  English Harbour would be our preferred port of arrival but it is another 30 miles further on than Jolly Harbour; another 6 hours of motoring.  On balance we decided to aim for Jolly Harbour.  We could check-in, do some laundry, take advantage of the excellent supermarket there and then move on to English Harbour in day or two when there might even be some wind.
Land Ho! …… Antigua in sight

At dawn we could just make out the low-lying island of Barbuda out to our east and the peaks of Antigua were clearly visible 30 miles ahead of us.  We spent the morning tidying up and cleaning to make BV presentable ready for a possible Customs and Immigration arrival inspection.
Turning towards Jolly Harbour

Approaching the channel into Jolly Harbour
So, at 0930 we turned east into Jolly Harbour and we are now tied up on the Customs and Immigration Dock checking-in.
Moored on the Customs and Immigration Dock for our check-in formalities
Clearly, we are very pleased to be here.  With 72hrs 20 mins of motoring and the light winds it wasn't the best passage but it's probably better to have too little wind than too much.  And we are, of course, positioned and all set to enjoy the Caribbean.

Thanks for tracking our progress.  We'll be posting lots of blog entries that we have written during the passage as soon as we get to a bar with wifi.

Love to all,

Reg and Nicky 


Passage statistics:
Position at 1020hrs 30 Nov: N17 04 W61 53
Position at midnight: n/a
Midday to 1020hrs distance: 119 nautical miles
Midnight to 1020hrs distance: 55 nautical miles
Total miles covered:  1583.4 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line): zero nautical miles
In the Jolly Harbour anchorage with Dark and Stormy rum cocktails to celebrate our arrival


End of Day 12 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua – Jolly Habour, Antigua

Friday, 29 November 2019

End of Day 11 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

2359hrs (AST, GMT-4) 29 Nov 2019

Dear All,

It's safe to say that this has mostly been a very dull day.  The sea has been glassy with a slight swell from 2 directions, the sky generally clear with a few puffy cumulus clouds and virtually nothing of interest has happened.  Every couple of hours we have sponged under the engine - we have a weeping seal on the water pump which is leaking increasing amounts of salt water - but it's not drastic (yet?) so we have no plans to shut down the engine and rebuild the pump at this point; something for when we are at anchor.

At the morning check in Innamorata II was 20nm out from Marigot Bay in French St Martin and Miles was 6hrs out of Cat Island in the Bahamas.  Scoot was waiting for wind and expecting to make the USVIs on Sunday or Monday, Zwailer expects to arrive in Antigua about 12hrs behind us and Grace estimates arrival in Beaufort SC early tomorrow morning, probably at about the time we get into Antigua.  Sea Wind was still several days out from St Martin and had spent the previous 24hrs having a hammering from the storm that they left Bermuda to avoid.  However, all is well on board and the forecast is for better winds to come.  Hopefully the rest of their passage south will be more pleasant.

Our only drama of the day was trying to work out how much fuel we have used and how much is left.  We hadn't been taking fuel contents readings because we had left with full fuel and should easily have enough from when we started motoring.  Also, when the tanks are full, they are at their widest and so the readings tend to be quite inaccurate.  However, Nicky took a reading at 1300 and it seemed to show that we had a lot less fuel than we would have expected.  It suggested that we had been burning fuel at double our normal calculations rate which seemed to be very odd.  It's complicated by the fact that we have 2 fuel tanks with the slightly higher, forward tank feeding into the main tank aft.  As the forward one gets towards being empty our fuel graph gets to be a bit vague and it's not helped by the roll from the swell.  A few inches of fuel in the wide forward tank is quite a lot of fuel.  We are monitoring to check that that fuel does make its way into the main tank and my guess is that we will have the same contents reading for several hours.  If we don't then we've either burnt a lot more fuel than expected or there is a blockage between the 2 fuel tanks.  Neither is a show stopper because if we've burnt more fuel than expected then we have extra fuel in jerry cans on deck that will get us to Antigua, and if there is trapped fuel in the forward tanks there is a separate hand pump that we can empty the tank with and transfer the fuel to the main tank by hand (or jug).  What we should probably always have been doing, and will most likely do from now on, is close off the cross-feed between the 2 tanks once we have completed a refuel.  That way we would burn fuel from the aft (main) tank alone until we reached a suitable level, say about 30litres (about 8.5hrs motoring).  At this level the tank is narrow and steeply sided and the gauge readings are at their most accurate.  We could then open the cross-feed to add the withheld 140litres from the forward tank.  That way we would have more accurate fuel level readings over a greater volume of fuel usage and if the engine did start burning fuel at an accelerated rate we'd know about it early and have more fuel set aside to deal with the problem.

But, to be honest, there are far worse problems to have to deal with than a potentially misreading fuel gauge on a sailing yacht.  If the worst comes to the worst we can always bob here for 2 days waiting for the wind to fill in and then sail onto our anchor at Antigua.  It could be quite pleasant to just stop - the sky's blue, the sea's a fabulous near violet and crystal clear and the air and sea temperature are pretty much matched at 30degC.  What's not to love?

Love to all,

Reg and Nicky 

Passage statistics:
Position at midday 29 Nov: N18 53 W62 15
Position at midnight 29 Nov: N17 54 W62 05 
Midday to midday distance: 146 nautical miles
Midnight to midnight distance: 140 nautical miles
Total miles covered:  1529 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line to English Harbour): 58 nautical miles
End of Day 11 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua

Thursday, 28 November 2019

End of Day 10 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

2359hrs (AST, GMT-4) 28 Nov 2019

Dear All,

Well the last 36 hours have been exactly what we needed.  We kept full sails flying overnight to make the most of the good wind and our 24 hour runs show how successful that was.  The midday to midday run of 181.3 nm was really good but, even better, from 10am to 10am we sailed 184.5 nautical miles, averaging 7.7 knots,  which is easily the highest mileage run through the water that we have ever done in a 24 hour period.  With all of those miles behind us we are now comfortably within motoring range of Antigua and the possibility of having to sit static over the next 2 days waiting for the wind has passed.

The downside is that the wind has dropped, as forecast, and after all of that lovely sailing we are motoring to make progress.  We started the engine at 1540hrs and, if the forecast is to be believed, we won't see enough wind to sail for about 3 days.  Hopefully by then we will have made landfall.

Love to all,

Reg and Nicky 

Passage statistics:
Position at midday 28 Nov: N21 13 W62 42
Position at midnight 28 Nov: N20 05 W62 28 
Midday to midday distance: 181 nautical miles
Midnight to midnight distance: 157 nautical miles
Total miles covered:  1358 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line to English Harbour): 189 nautical miles
End of Day 10 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua

Wednesday, 27 November 2019

End of Day 9 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

2359hrs (AST, GMT-4) 27 Nov 2019

Dear All,

The first 2 watches this morning did not go well because the light winds brought our speed right down.  The lowest hourly run was just 1.4 miles and there were several hours of around 3 miles run.  Our issue is that we don't have enough fuel to motor all the way to Antigua and, if the forecast is to be believed, then we will have 2-3 days of no wind at the end of the week.  There are islands and shallows to dodge at that stage of the passage so we have decided to save our fuel for then.  But we still need to get within fuel range.

The upshot of that is that we wanted to sail as far as we could today to try to get within our fuel range of Antigua even if it did mean progress of just 1.4 miles in an hour.  Bizarrely, the best sailing between midnight and dawn was when we were hit by squalls or sailed under dark clouds; normally a time to be concerned.

At 0750hrs we were going nowhere and the sails were just slatting about with the roll from the waves which was driving us mad.  So we took down the sails and decided to wait for the wind which was forecast to come by lunchtime.  I was just thinking of getting some trunks on and going for a swim when the wind did actually build to 10 knots from the north.  We had had the sails down for just 25 minutes!!!

Wind from the north was not expected but it was wind so we hoisted the sails rapidly and poled out the genoa to get us going.  Over the course of the day the wind came around to the east and built to 18-20 knots. Fabulous! BV was in her element and bowled along with all sails flying at 7-8 knots.  It was some of the best sailing of the passage so far, and all the sweeter for knowing that a really good run today might stop us from having to sit in the doldrums for 2 days waiting for the wind.

A short video:


Love to all,

Reg and Nicky


Passage statistics:
Position at midday 27 Nov: N24 00 W63 18
Position at midnight 27 Nov: N22 32 W62 59
Midday to midday distance: 122 nautical miles
Midnight to midnight distance: 155 nautical miles
Total miles covered:  1231 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line): 339 nautical miles
End of Day 9 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua

Tuesday, 26 November 2019

End of Day 8 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

2359hrs (AST, GMT-4) 26 Nov 2019

Dear All,

My midnight to 0400hrs watch was an uneventful motor with less than 5 knots of wind.  Nicky's morning watch after that was, however, much harder work with a line of rain showers and squalls which brought no end of trouble.  It was so dark that she couldn't see the squalls coming but when they hit the wind went from next to nothing right up to 30 knots and then back down again.  So she had 4 hours of half motoring and half sailing with countless sail changes along the way.

The morning's SSB Net had good comms with all of the yachts.  Apart from Miles, who set off yesterday from Beaufort, and Grace who is still there, all of the other yachts are within 125 miles of each other.
Squalls now visible in the dawn light

Motoring again!
When I came on watch at 0800AST the squalls were visible which allowed me to manoeuvre a bit to avoid the worst of them.  So I had much less in the way of peak winds but less wind to sail between the squalls.  BV just didn't have the power to sail over the waves so we hobby-horsed in the same spot of sea quite a lot until we switched the engine back on to provide some extra oomph.
The last big set of squalls to try to dodge, as well as the MV Volos


What we had hoped was the last daytime squall passed at 1100hrs and, once the wind had settled behind it, we were sailing from 1125hrs.  This is not fast sailing, mostly we're just doing 3.5-5 knots in about 8-10kts of wind, but it's sailing which means that we can preserve our fuel for the 2 days of no wind forecast for when we approach Antigua.  The forecasts are very odd in that the trade winds seem to be off on holiday for most of the next 5 days or so.  Normally, we would expect to be making slightly more easting with the intention of picking up the easterly trade winds from about 23degN.  But we are likely to approach the Eastern Caribbean with strong northerlies somewhat north of us and flat calms where we are if the GRIB files are to be believed.
Sailing very gently but unexpectedly we still got a rogue wave over the deck and with the centre hatch open the bedsheet got wet

Today's other excitement was that we clocked up 1000 miles sailed/motored on this passage at 0900hrs this morning and the direct line to Jolly Harbour has us at under 500nm to go - the end is in sight!  We don't know yet if we will check-in at Jolly Harbour or English Harbour on Antigua; that will depend on how much sailing we do over the next couple of days and how much fuel we have as we approach the island.
Lots of potential overnight squall activity visible at dusk

Love to all,

Reg and Nicky

Passage statistics:
Position at midday 26 Nov: N25 51 W63 41
Position at midnight 26 Nov: N24 56 W63 30 
Midday to midday distance: 128 nautical miles
Midnight to midnight distance: 126 nautical miles
Total miles covered:  1076 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line): 486 nautical miles
End of Day 8 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua

Monday, 25 November 2019

End of Day 7 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

2359hrs (AST, GMT-4) 25 Nov 2019

Dear All,

We had a slight bit of excitement this morning when the Furlex on the genoa jammed when I let more sail out at dawn.  More sail did come out but the complete Furlex unit also turned, jamming up the control line even more.
Working on the genoa furling system on the wave-washed bow

That was a priority to fix which meant a trip to the wave-washed foredeck with some tools to loosen off the control drum, put it back to where it should be and then tighten everything up again.  Job done and I got a free bath in the process.  At least the bath water was warm with a sea temperature of 26.2 degrees Celsius.

The last 2 days have been all about sailing as far as we can before we hit the next no wind area which, according to the GRIB files we had downloaded, was due to occur during the afternoon of Tue 26 Nov.  For most of the past 2 days we have been hard on the wind which has made for a fast but bumpy ride and our last midday to midday distance run was 174.2nm (an average of 7.3 knots); particularly good for us, especially as we had reduced sail overnight.  Our plan was to stay hard on the wind for all of today and let the wind, which was forecast to back from the southwest to the south, bring us east towards our waypoint.  But, as seems to be happening a lot at the moment, the wind doesn't seem to be reading the same forecast as us.  At midday we were 35 miles right of our track and there was no sign of the wind backing, so we bore away from the wind to head directly for our waypoint.  The downside of that decision, and of the wind easing slightly, was that our speed dropped right off to just 4-5 knots.

However, with the turn towards our waypoint, BV sailed much more upright and so after lunch we seized the opportunity for a less bumpy shower; something that should never be missed when offshore sailing.
Not the expected sail plan

By mid-afternoon we were actually sailing directly downwind - the wind had veered to the northwest not backed to the south or southeast!

And now, as the final watch of the day starts, the wind has gone around to the northeast.  If it stays there, and particularly if it increases somewhat (it's only about 8kts at present) this would be a very helpful breeze.  But I suspect that it will be relatively short lived.  I guess that we'll just look at the next forecast, plan accordingly ........ and then react to whatever Mother Nature sees fit to throw at us.

And a final coda, just as the last watch of the day ends:  the wind didn't stay in the northeast.  It dropped away to just 4kts from the southeast - directly where we had been planning to head towards.  So Nicky downloaded tonight's GRIB files a bit early and made the decision to motor directly towards Antigua, rather than continuing to make easting.  It looks as if (we've said this before) the wind may fill in from the south, in which case we will head further east.  Then there's a period when we should be able to make progress under sail to the south and then the wind all goes light and whiffly (technical term) again.  We're 600nm from Antigua.  We don't have the fuel to motor all that way so if the wind doesn't come, at some point we will just have to stop to wait for it to arrive.  Happily, we have plenty of food on board so we won't go hungry.  But for the next 24 hours at least (unless we get wind sooner), we'll make progress in a direct line towards our destination and then see if Mother Nature can dig out some breeze-blowing cherubs to help us on our way.

Love to all,

Reg and Nicky 

Passage statistics:
Position at midday 25 Nov: N27 25 W64 40
Position at midnight 25 Nov: N26 46 W63 57
Midday to midday distance: 174 nautical miles
Midnight to midnight distance: 149 nautical miles
Total miles covered:  949 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line): 600 nautical miles
End of Day 7 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua

Sunday, 24 November 2019

End of Day 6 Beaufort NC to Antigua

These Blog entries are edited versions of the messages we sent back as we completed the passage. They were sent by radio using a laptop that controls a modem and the HF/SSB radio, using the SailMail system. We sent the messages daily to Charlotte and she then forwarded them on to a list of family members.

2359hrs (AST, GMT-4) 24 Nov 2019

Dear All,

Well with our average speeds over the last couple of days we're not going to be setting any world records for the Beaufort to Antigua passage.  However, we are off and running again and should be able to maintain a good pace for a couple of days before we hit our next no wind area.  That area will be harder to work a strategy for because there is no structure to it; it's just an area of confused light winds between other weather systems.  But that is still a couple of days ahead so we suspect the forecast picture will change between now and then.
Another dawn, another day.  This time Day 6

At 3 o'clock this morning we crossed 067deg30W, the changeover point between EST (Eastern Standard Time) and AST (Atlantic Standard Time).  To change to AST we needed to put our clocks forward one hour, which we elected to do at 0330EST (going to 0430AST). Depending on whether you're a glass half full or a glass half empty sort of person, that meant that we each had an on-watch period reduced by half an hour or an off-watch period reduced by half an hour.  Given that we lost the time in the middle of the night, I'm more inclined to bemoan the loss of sleep!  But it's a milestone on our passage as we are now, officially, on the time zone of the Eastern Caribbean (and only 4hrs behind GMT/UTC).
Racing Zwailer (don’t tell our insurers!)

Overnight we caught up with Zwailer, and were just 10 miles away from her at the morning SSB check-in.  We spent the rest of the day hard on the wind, with 18-25 knots of wind over the deck, slowly [Ed: VERY slowly!] overhauling her.  An added bonus for us was that we got confirmation from them that our AIS is working well; we each picked up the other yacht at 12 nm and then got the vessel details at 10 nm which is about as good as you can expect with the low power class B leisure craft transponders.  We were quite surprised to end up so close to Richard and Jane.  Granted we left only a few hours after them and are headed to the same island but there are so many thousands of miles of ocean out here and, even though we're working similar plans on the same forecast models, it was highly likely that we stayed just far enough apart not to see each other on AIS.  So far, we've only been close enough to see them 'for real' this evening, when their masthead tricolour light appeared faintly above the horizon.  To have spent, at this point, over 17hrs tracking each other on AIS seems most bizarre and it certainly concentrates the mind in keeping the boat sailing fast.  Who says cruisers don't race?  With two boats heading roughly the same way in roughly the same bit of water there's always a race on!

Lunchtime fish soup – served in a jug to k
eep it from ending up on the cockpit sole
At lunchtime Nicky cooked up the remains of the dorado into a very good potato, leek, corn and fish soup.  As she said, with an outside air temperature of 27degC, soup was possibly not the perfect meal.  But it's quite easy to eat and serving it in cookery measuring jugs was certainly the right presentational method, given that we were bouncing around no end!
Pounding along across blue seas under blue skies – great fun sailing……
















Midnight UTC (2000AST) relative positions of BV and Zwailer.
  
Both boats very closely matched.  Stephen Jones, who
 designed them both, would be very pleased
Nicky writes: Reg was off-watch this afternoon so I had the pleasure of having BV almost to myself, racing along at 7.5 to 8 knots, spray flying and another boat (well, on a computer screen) to try to work past.
…..though maybe not the easiest motion for off-watch sleep!











The sun shone, the sea was a lovely deep blue, white foam sprayed off the bow wave. BV was in her element, nothing gentle and peaceful, all raw power. Yeeeeee-ha!  Awesome fun! (but I'm not sure it was so easy to sleep down below).  And even though it's now night and we've reduced sail by another reef for the hours of darkness (and, boy, is it dark out there) BV's still racing along and it's still a lot of fun.  We're just big kids enjoying a fast ride at the theme park really!

Love to all,

Reg and Nicky

Passage statistics:
Position at midday 24 Nov: N29 15 W66 45
Position at midnight 25 Nov: N28 21 W65 36 
Midday to midday distance: 143.4 nautical miles (23 hours because of time zone change)
Midnight to midnight distance: 163 nautical miles (23 hours because of time zone change)
Total miles covered:  801 nautical miles
Approximate distance to go (direct line): 713 nautical miles
End of Day 6 - Beaufort North Carolina to Antigua