PASSAGE LOG: Full Moon to Antigua

14 Feb

After another pit stop in Gustavia to explore ashore and eat our cheeseburgers in paradise and we were off again, this time bound for Antigua in much better weather. Mia & Tom took the dinghy ashore on the morning of departure to get the last few needed provisions while Vlado, Kevin, Irena & I dove on the anchor and relaxed on the boat.

We got underway around 1500, starting with just one reef in the mainsail and the small genoa. The forecast held true – easier trades closer to 15 knots, backing to the ENE as we neared Antigua and lifting us closer to the mark the whole way. The moon was one day from being full, so we had a spectacular night at sea, the best possible conditions you could hope for on an upwind sail – enough breeze to keep us sailing fast, but easy enough swells to keep the cockpit dry and a moon bright enough to read by.

We managed to lay Redonda on one long tack out of St. Barth’s clearing St. Kitts & Nevis by about 7 miles and paralleling their coasts. We shook up the watch system, letting Irena & Vlado and Tom & Kevin take control by themselves, with Mia on a watch by herself while I stayed out of the rotation & ‘floated.’ The confidence the gang got on the first, very boisterous leg to Ice Fourche, had them comfortable sailing Isbjorn on their own, knowing I was just a knock on the window away. The 3-on-6-off schedule made it a lot easier to sleep too.

Mia called me up as we approached Redonda to tack. Redonda is a cool place – it belongs to Antigua & Barbuda nowadays, but not long ago it was simply the ‘Kingdom of Redonda.’ There’s nothing on the island – it’s just a giant spike sticking straight up out of the ocean, and while tall, very slim. You can’t land there, and there is nothing at all like a harbor, not even really a lee to get behind. So the story goes, some guy from Montserrat (I think) decided he’d claim it for himself and declared his son the King. Hence, the Kingdom of Redonda.

It’s a dramatic sight as you approach in the moonlight, this big shark’s tooth of an island sticking up into the sky with sea all around. If you didn’t know it was there, it’d be easy to run into on a dark night – there’s no lights ashore, and no navigational marks. Depths around the island quickly go from the thousands of feet to less than a hundred, so it pays to keep an eye on the depth sounder.

I popped up to help Mia tack over, and our next long board took us up towards the NW coast of Antigua. In three hours we’d climbed back up to the rhumb line, so by the end of Tom & Kevin’s watch we tacked again, aiming for the SW coast of Antigua to get in a good position to get around to the south and into Falmouth. One more tack and we could lay the harbor entrance.

Vlado took the helm for most of that last tack, and just as the weather got gnarly. We’d shaken the reef out of the mainsail earlier in the night, so we’re flying full sail. As the sun came up, the squalls came with it, and a particularly big and dark one came over Antigua and beard down on us as we were heading towards Falmouth. We should have reefed, but Vlado was having the time of his life at the helm and Isbjorn was charging hard upwind, so we let it ride as the gusts hit the low 30s and the rail went under several times. With landfall in sight though and the knowledge that this was the last little stretch for the Leg 1 crew, everyone had a blast. Kevin was a new man too, opting to put a scopolamine patch on this time after suffering on the first passage.

Vlado sailed Isbjorn like a pro, riding all the puffs and dodging all the headers and managed to lay the entrance to Falmouth in one go. We sailed right into the harbor just as the squalls cleared and furled the jib only once we were well inside and into flat water. After a short little harbor tour to gawk at the big boats – at least three J-Class yachts are here, as is the Maltese Falcon – we dropped anchor just off the yacht club and called it a trip.

This article was syndicated from 59º North Blog - 59 North Sailing

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