28th January 2014 Tuesday to 6th February 2014 Thursday
Early morning on the 28th Jan we sailed out of Deshaies in Guadeloupe and set our course North for the 50nm trip to Rodney Bay on the island of Antigua. Shiloh and Khaya Moya followed half an hour later. It was a 20 knots ENE wind with long 2,8m swells fortunately more than 12 seconds apart.
As the water depth started to drop of to over 200m on the fish finder the one reel sounded its alarm. Head sail down heading with main more into the wind and big sea till we slowed down to a steady 2,5 knots. 20 minutes later Zack weighed in a 20,5kg Yellow Fin Tuna. We set the sails again and turned Vagabund to head for Antigua again. The fishing factory's production line was started up: Clean the deck of all blood, cut the skin to be pealed of, removed the four fillets from the fish, cut up fillets into smaller serving size portions, grouped together into meal sizes, vacuum sealed to capture the sea freshness, and a fear portion is quickly cooled down for sashimi. Before the tuna could disappear into the freezer Shiloh flew past us. To catch up we hoist the screecher and only took it down when Holli radio us about a squall coming through.
That evening Shiloh (John, Holli and Devon), Khaya Moya (John and Shirley) and Alleycat (Allan and Marita) were invited to Vagabund for sashimi as well as sheared tuna. The men were enjoying themselves inspecting the lures and trying out the different fishing tackle and harnesses.
Facts of Antigua Wikipedia
“Antigua (or, locally) is an island in the West Indies, in the Leeward Islands in the Caribbean region, the main island of the country of Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua means "ancient" in Spanish and was named by Christopher Columbus after an icon in Seville Cathedral, Santa Maria de la Antigua St. Mary the Ancient. It is also known as Wadadli, from the original Amerindian inhabitants, and means approximately "our own". The island's circumference is roughly 87 km and its area281 km2. It’s population was about 69,000 as of July 2006. It is the largest of the Leeward Islands, and the most developed and prosperous due to its upscale tourism industry, offshore banking, internet gambling services and education services, including two medical schools.”
On Wednesday morning (29th Jan) we joined up to clear customs. You have to file an electronic notification beforehand on eSeaClear (this notification can be done at the custom office on arrival). Antigua has joined the eSeaClear system for pre-arrival customs notification. The eSeaClear website can be found at: www.eseaclear.com. The online system is so much easier than completing documents on four sets of carbon paper. On arrival you give them your eSeaClear reference number, they then print out four copies that the captain have to sign and you proceed to immigration and port authorities.
The four SA yachts anchoring close together in Jolly Harbour.
That evening our South Africans were all invited to the American boat Yachtsman's Dream (John and Lela). Lela is a gourmet chef and we were all treated with several special dishes.
The next morning Holli had reserved a taxi to take all the ladies with Zack (for protection) to the Epicurean Supermarket. It is a well stocked supermarket with good variety and a good place for stocking up on provisions. Back in Jolly harbour the rest of the men came to great us each one with his own dinghy. A convoy to transport the provisions back to the boat.
At 14h00 the three catamarans left for Falmouth Bay where the Big Boat Race will start the next day.
“English Harbour,in the extreme south of the island, takes its name from the nearby harbour in which the British Royal Navy established its base of operations for the area during the 18th century. English Harbour on the south-eastern coast is famed for its protected shelter during violent storms. It is the site of a restored British colonial naval station called "Nelson's Dockyard" after Captain Horatio Nelson. Nelson's Dockyard with its restored historical buildings and other historical artifacts is from the colonial period of the dockyard.”
English and Falmouth harbour had become the Caribbean's main base for super yachts.
The evening we wandered around English harbour admiring all the different super yachts as well as the big sailing yachts preparing for the regatta over the next 3 days. Later our empty stomachs were filled with lamb shank the preferred chioce on the menu.
31st January 2014 Friday.
The Big Boat Race started at 11h30. One of the boats returned back after trying to find its sea legs to repairing something at the top of the mast. Only by watching the small figure of a man being hoisted up the mast do one realize the size of these boats.
We watched the different boats started on different times according to their handicap. We saw spinnakers twisting and another one blown into pieces. After a full day we retired back to our boats to recharge our own batteries for the next day.
Saturday everybody kept themselves busy with different tasks. Allan helped Zack fixed our diving compressors carburator. Zack climbed the mast to the top to fix the anchor light.
That afternoon we strolled around Nelson's Dockyard to have another look at the water palaces surrounding us. We visited the museum and enjoyed the beautifully restored quarters, houses, hotels, restaurants and small vendor shops.
That evening we celebrated Devon's birthday at Tappers restaurant.
Sunday afternoon we rented a taxi to Shirley Heights Lookout. We saw fabulous views over English Harbour.
A steel band entertained us as we enjoyed a barbeque and a beautiful sunset. The music change to more commercial entertainment and a few hours later 4 brother musicians jumps spontaneously onto the stage took over the band for a few songs and played some spectacular music. The crowed was delighted (we still don't know who it was and how famous they are but what we know is that they can play).
On Monday morning (3rd February) we set sail to round the main island on the leeward side to the North Eastern side dropping anchor at Great Bird Island.
As we were sailing in a narrow channel between the island and a reef the one reel sounded its alarm again. With the wind, current and limited maneuvering space between the reefs I selected to take the rod. It was a tough fight that latest 20 minutes to get the fish to the leader man hand. As the fish got pulled in it surfaced. We where amazed it was a turtle! The repala got caught on its front flipper. Zack unhooked the repala and we were relieved to see the turtle dive down strongly under the water.
Later Zack caught an 11,5kg John Travalley. After weighing we released it back to be caught another day.
Round about noon we arrive at Great Bird Island. The whole area is a maze of reefs and shoals.
The dinghies were launched and we explored the island. On top of the hill we could enjoy a panoramic view of the bay and came close to the nesting grounds of the Red-billed Tropicbird. As the day visitors have already left we had the beach for ourselves. Making the most of it we enjoyed a traditional South African “braai” on the beach that night.
Tuesday morning we used our dinghies to explore the ray sanctuary. We passed deserted islands and one of them is Hell's Gate. It has a hole eroded by sea water over hundreds of years leaving a big hole with a thin top Would have rather called it hells bridge.
Making our way trough a mine field of coral heads some just below the surface and other that are awash we made our way to a place in the middle of nowhere, only fenced off with floating buoys and two floating pontoons.
The rays are used to being fed by the day visitors on trip boats. As you enter the water they will approach you to see if you have food for them. The rays gave us special attention and we enjoyed swimming face to face with these majestic underwater gliding creatures.
On our way back we stopped at a beautiful long beach and walked the beach distance to see our boats anchored in the near distance.
That evening it was Alleycat's turn to provide dinner. Curried lamb prepared by Allan.
Wednesday we all sailed back to Jolly Harbour. Zack caught a King Macrell and after anchoring everybody had a piece of fresh fried fish on Vagabund on their way to customs. That evening at Shiloh we all had to say goodbye. It was sad that after enjoying the togetherness and (rapidly growing close) friendship that the three other boats had to sail North and Vagabund had to turned back South. The thought of knowing how big the ocean is but how small the sailing community is gave us some convert that we will see its other soon somewhere on the ocean.
Thursday 6th February
Skyping with our kids were a delight of the day. We were thrilled to hear the latest news of our first grandson to be born soon. A special thanks to technology that made it possible to be close and yet so far. Yet I manage to fell asleep with a smile on my face knowing the latest news of all four my children and grandson to be.