ICEBEAR OFFSHORE // New Year’s Eve at Sea

6 Jan

Double rainbow as the crew joined ICEBEAR in Antigua! Good omen!

Double rainbow as the crew joined ICEBEAR in Antigua! Good omen!

ICEBEAR departed Falmouth, Antigua, right on time, at 1630, December 31, 2019. The last day of the decade, and the first time we’d ever spend New Year’s Eve at sea.

That was on purpose. I’ve never liked big parties regardless of the time of year, and I didn’t want to have any temptations for the crew to spend a (late) night ashore. So we sailed.

Andy nighttime navigatin’.

Andy nighttime navigatin’.

The sun set as we crossed the open-water pass between Antigua and Guadaloupe, a gentle easterly breeze propelling us south. In the lee of the big French Island the wind turned off and on intermittently as we took turns napping. The crew were on a 2 hours on-4 hours off, and given it was the first night of the passage, Mia & I took turns sort of ‘floating,’ one of us always awake in case of any questions. We didn’t keep a set schedule but rather stayed awake as long as we could before rousting the other.

At 1145, a tickle of breeze filled in from the east and we set sail again, just in time. The crew kept track of the time, everyone awake to ring in 2020 together in the cockpit, but we wouldn’t have had to. At midnight, the entire western shore of Guadaloupe lit up in an array of exploding fireworks, and three miles off the coast, we were treated to a show unlike anything any of us had seen. All down the shoreline multi-colored rockets and sparklers illuminated the night sky. The colorful lights of the houses and streets ashore lined the beach and climbed the hillsides in the background, disappearing as the peaks rose higher. This went on for some time, and in the lulls, we could hear music pumping from the partiers ashore.


ICEBEAR was lifted as we cleared the southern tip of Guadaloupe close-in on the shoreline, the bright flash of the lighthouse on the island’s southern terminus reflecting off the mainsail. Back into the fresh breeze, unimpeded by the mountains, ICEBEAR accelerated. Little by little as we sailed into open water, the wind shifted into the NE and we were lifted higher than our course required, and ICEBEAR blasted off to the ESE making 8 knots on the flat sea and putting money in the bank for the pre-dawn approach into Terre de Haut. When it was clear we’d make it, we eased the sheets and bore away 20 degrees to keep the green flashing light marking the reef to the east of the harbor entrance on our portside, and aimed the helm towards the bow of a 150m motor yacht anchored at the back of the mooring field.

Hannah & Scott on the watch.

Hannah & Scott on the watch.

Hannah was on the helm and steered us in under the lee of the island, where the bass ashore was still pumping despite the time going past 4 in the morning. The harbor was more crowded than I’d ever seen it, all the moorings full. We dropped anchor to the south of the mooring field, figuring many of the boats would bug off after a good sleep-in and we’d be able to move in closer to explore ashore on New Year’s Day. 

At 0530, I finally laid down and slept the rest of the morning away with a t-shirt over my face to keep the coming dawn out of my eyes.

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

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