Robert and I arrived in Antigua on January 26th, 2018. We are here to cut the proverbial charter umbilical cord and take off on our adventure as live aboards. We anticipated that it would take at least two weeks to remove the vestiges of charter use form the boat and get all required maintenance, repairs and our new sail- a Code Zero. That has proven true plus some additional time. Here it is February 23rd and we just completed our required custom clearance for an early morning departure tomorrow.
The winds have been very strong and we would not choose to be out on the open ocean this past month; hence, being live-aboards on SV Our Time since January 30th tied up to the dock in English Harbor at the Antigua Slipway across from Nelson's Dockyard has panned out to be good timing to get our “boat keeping” complete. Now we are VERY ready to get getting. Over the past- almost -month a lot has taken place to get us to this point…
Our location has provided plenty of entertainment, sights and learning opportunities while we maintain composure through this seemingly slow process. The entertainment has come from two different boating events: The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Crossing whose inflatable finish marker stands at the entrance of English Harbor; and the RORC Caribbean 600 whose starting point begins just outside English Harbor. The Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Crossing is a 3000 mile ROWING race/ challenge! You have to google this to fully comprehend; it amazed and entertained us as we heard cannons and yacht horns sound at the arrival of capsule-like boats crossing the finish line. We heard the bellowing at 7:30 a.m. one day and wondered what the heck? SV Our Time is tucked away on the back dock in the Antigua Slipway so we choose NOT to run up to the entrance to see all the hoopla.
My curiosity got the better of me the following day as the cannon once again roared and yacht horns sounded; I ran-ok, walked gingerly up the very cluttered dock, and made my way to view the sights. Crowds were gathered across the harbor at Nelson's Dockyard (a cultural heritage site), people with flares in hand stood high on the rocky faced point at Fort Berkeley on the western entrance and an inflatable boat with race officials went out to meet the two incoming rowing teams. Come to find out, the Welsh and English, two and four man rowing teams were arriving minutes apart. It made for a wonderful show and experience.
The following week ninety boats came to the area for the RORC 600. This is a 600 nautical mile race around the area islands in a basic figure eight pattern. This was a good number of entries and it sent a pulse of activity in the local stores, in both English Harbor and especially the larger neighboring Falmouth Harbor. Either a good walk (for exercise as sitting around a boat gets you a bit stagnant) or a quick dinghy ride away we strolled through the docks of fascinating boats eager to race.
We are learning a lot about boat upkeep, maintenance and repairs. Robert watched as the mechanic changed the oil for both engines- sound like it would be easy, not so much. Then all three toilets simply stopped flushing on the same morning. Who knew that uric acid builds up in the hose lines and you have to detach the lines and literally beat them on the dock. Absolutely ridiculous looking and it is the standard method of messy, stinky, necessary maintenance. Robert gets right in there and he shop-vaced out the toilet- enough said on that- and the mechanic did all the body contortion moves to get behind the toilets and remove and reattach the hoses.
Then there were all the cushion snaps that had to be replaced, and the missing cushions for the top sundeck were somewhere in transit since last June and the the inverter had to be replaced (which has taken almost a year and just try to find the simple connector cable on a Caribbean island), and the internet extender put in place and the vendor for the AIS had to come to the boat and was too busy to return and finish the job, you get the drift. Our lists had lists and we were juggling what we do could ourselves and what we needed help from some friends.
That is what everyone who was around became; from the Tony who did our gel-coat repairs, to the machete wielding lawn maintenance guy on the hill behind the boat who daily called out “Cheers” to us, to the entire team at Dream Yacht Charter, and the boatyard workers to the sail maker. We stayed around long enough and got to share many stories with lovely locals. And the winds continued to howl.
We finally got to the point where we had to leave the dock. The basics were in place and what we needed would take a week of waiting, so Robert and I cut the cord, dropped the dock lines and headed to his favorite anchoring site, Lignumvitae Bay. We needed some new scenery, wanted to test out the anchor in a good holding bottom where we felt safe if she pulled anchor and we wanted to be close to a customs office for clearance checkout once ALL our loose ends were finalized.
On February 17th we left at 3:00pm. That is significant to me as it is the hour of Divine Mercy and I felt that God was watching over us as we departed. Literally, we were not fully away from the dock, not even one minute on our own and Robert was at the helm and I was pulling the anchor, “Whoa Robert, hold her here, we caught something”. He could not see the metal pole, like a stop sign post that our chain was once wrapped. Come on, too funny and crazy at the same time. Thankfully there was a guy across the way in a dinghy checking on his fishing boat at anchor; he came over and freed us. In my studies I remembered that the miracle is not always in what happens but in the timing of what happens; we were at dock for weeks and I only once saw someone at that other boat, that he being there at the moment we needed was perfect timing. Off we went, stowing fenders and dock lines and motoring out of the harbor. It felt great to be FREE! And the high winds continue…
Past boating in the Bahamas taught me not to fear shallow water; here this week on anchor in Lignumvitae Bay has taught me to handle the high winds at anchor. I get so nervous hearing the howling, think about the hurricanes, constant noise and on a boat it comes with water periodically swishing against the hull, swaying to and fro and a little hobby-horsing day and night. We are definitely getting in touch with the weather around us and the capabilities of the anchor. As I type now, Our Time gave us a good tug on anchor. And she held tight! Thank God!
The sites, oh the sites all around us. Even with this tough wind that ebbs and flows, we are having cool nights and some calmer hours- not completely what you might think of a perfect Caribbean day, however, nice enough to dinghy to the beach for a walk or a swim and appreciate where we are. We do most of our cooking on board and Robert still thoroughly enjoys trips to the grocery store. We are turning brown and easing into a gentler lifestyle. We love having our morning coffee in the back covered cockpit area and a glass of evening wine up on the helm seats. There are moments we treasure.
Being away from the dock has been good for us, good for Robert. It has only been two months since our last day at the office. That boggles my mind. In some ways so much has happen, the holidays, taxes, moving to the boat and yet, I feel in some ways, that tomorrow morning when we pull anchor and head out our real adventure is truly beginning.
Everything that we can possibly think of is in place: the boat is ship shape, gas in the tanks, water in the tanks, food prepared and in the refrigerator and Nevis awaits. We plan on getting up early tomorrow and pull anchor for our 45 nautical mile sail over to Nevis. Even if the winds are a bit high they will be at our back the entire way. At an optimistic 8 knots an hour we could be there in six hours. I will let you know.