The world’s toughest row.

There are plenty of ways to get from one place to another and sailing, at least for me, is probably about the roughest way to get from one place to another that I’d consider.

When I head out from Essex each fall to make my run to Antigua I rely on the wind to keep me moving along and when it’s dead, on comes the motor.  Even with that and all the comforts aboard Pandora, sometimes it feels, well, hard.

On our run south this year there were moments on the 11 day run that were pretty discouraging with adverse winds or no wind at all and there were times when I didn’t think that we would ever get there.

And, once we and other in the fleet arrived here in Antigua we were pretty proud of ourselves, doing something that most sailors never do, a run of 1,500 miles in a small boat.

However, there are some that are driven to do things the REALLY HARD WAY and those teams that compete in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challange rowing race from the Canary Islands to Antigua have elevated “hard” to another level.

These hearty souls, and there are over 30 teams this year, row the entire 3,000 miles from the Canary islands all the way here to English Harbor Antigua, a really long way.

The teams that left the Canary Islands back in early December have begun arriving in English Harbor after weeks at sea and it’s clearly been cause for celebration as they step on land for the first time after so much time at sea.  The crowd, friends and family are on hand to welcome them and what a welcome it has been.

Yesterday, I was on hand to see several of the crews come into the harbor, serenaded by horns from the nearby mega-yachts and onlookers cheering them into the harbor. The guys on this boat, and there were four aboard, really looked excited to be here. A few days ago, a three man team arrived, brothers.   It was quite moving to see them greeted by family and friends. And there were speeches all around.   They were justifiably proud of what they had accomplished.   The MC asked them what the most memorable moment was on the trip and they talked about how a butterfly flew by their boat, following a gale, more than 1,500 miles from anything.  We have had birds land on board Pandora many times, often more than 500 miles from shore,.  Amazing stamina for a tiny insect, flying so far.

A little later, another boat, this time, a two man team, arrived.   They came into view as they neared the dock. I can only imagine  how emotional it must have been for them to arrive after so long at sea and under such tough conditions. These guys were clearly happy with their accomplishment.  I wonder if they were this “buff” at the beginning of their trip.  Probably, but now “super buff” and very happy to be “home”.  Seeing the teams greet family was quite moving.  Most were overcome by emotion as soon as they stepped on the dock,  reunited with loved ones, wives and babies that they had not seen for months. Every moment of each team’s arrival was captured from every angle.
These boats are all nearly identical, only longer or shorter depending on the number of rowing stations.    I am told that some of the boats are shipped home after the race and some sold here in Antigua.  I doubt that they are used more than once by many individual teams.  “Hey guys, that was fun, wana row back?”

These are pretty high tech boats but they still have to be rowed, and rowed and rowed…According to the official site, some facts…

  • Each team will row in excess of 1.5 million oar strokes over a race.

  • Rowers will row for 2 hours, and sleep for 2 hours, constantly, 24 hours a day.

  • More people have climbed Everest than rowed an ocean.

  • The waves the rowers will experience can measure up to 20ft high.

  • There are two safety yachts supporting the teams as they cross the ocean. In the 2013 race, one yacht traveled a massive 9000nm!

  • The 2013 winning Team Locura arrived in Antigua with a blue marlin beak pierced through the hull of the boat.

  • In the 2016 race, solo rower Daryl Farmer arrived in Antigua after 96 days, rowing without a rudder to steer with for nearly 1200miles/40 days.

  • Each rower needs to aim to consume 2.6 gallons of of water per day.

  • Rowers burn in excess of 5,000 calories per day.

  • There is no toilet on board – rowers use a bucket!

  •  Each rower loses nearly 30lbs crossing the Atlantic

Ok, so this is the course.  Looks simple enough.   Not…This short video gives a good feel for what the arrival was like and highlights from some of the races.  There is no doubt about it, this is indeed “The Worlds Toughest Row”.

Nope, not for me and surely not Brenda.  Imagine that one, will you?

We will just stick with this view from Pandora’s cozy cockpit.   How many rainbows can you see in a single day?  Come to Antigua and find out for yourself.

Oh yeah, the fridge is stable for now and a new compressor is on order.  I expect to have it by mid February.  Hope the old one doesn’t finally give up the ghost.

Off to Guadeloupe in a few days with friends.


Life in Antigua. Brutish and short or luxurious?

It’s been very windy for the last few days with gusts in the 40s, conditions that are not uncommon during January when the Caribbean are in the clutches of the “Christmas Winds”.   However, unlike the Bahamas that suffer from clocking winds when a cold front comes through, the winds here are reliably from the east so there is no need to move from place to place as the weather changes.  And, again, unlike the Bahamas, when a cold front pushes south and brings very strong winds to the Bahamas, here it causes the trade winds to relax, something that we hope to see in a few days.   And, as Wednesday is Brenda’s birthday, a little less wind will be welcomed by the birthday girl.

My friend Bill on Kalunamoo contacted me yesterday to see if we’d be interested in moving south with them next week when the winds subside a bit.  However, that’s not in the cards for us, just yet.

And that’s because, in addition to holding onto our hats in the wind, I am still messing around with some important repairs, most notably still unresolved compressor issues for our fridge/freezer.  Just getting someone out to look at the unit has proven to be difficult and at last estimate, it could take as long as another month to resolve the problem which makes the delay in moving due to the high winds, pale by comparison with repair issues.   For now, we have to watch our battery level like a hawk as the compressor really labors and chokes if the voltage isn’t up to snuff, at 90% or better of full charge which means that in spite of abundant sunshine, I am still running our Honda generator every day which I am sure brings joy to our neighbors in the anchorage.

The refrigeration guys told me that once we order a new unit, and that won’t happen until I meet with them early this coming week, it might be three weeks until the unit is even shipped from the US.  There are some options that I hope can speed this up but it’s going to be at least two weeks, I’d guess until things are resolved and we are free to move away from here.

The watermaker is happily now mostly mended and I can at least operate it in manual mode as the “computer” that normally controls the unit doesn’t work.  Unfortunately, the fix that would surely solve the problem will cost at least one boat dollar, a bit rich for my blood at the moment with the pending fridge repair so, for now, I am content to open a few valves, toggle some switches and make water the “old fashioned way”.  Old fashioned or not, I am still in awe that our prized watermaker can magically turn salt water into fresh at the “push of a button” or now, at the push of several buttons, throwing of valves and switches.

However, there may be help to bring us back to the “one click” machine option as the watermaker guy still has some ideas for a simpler fix for less than a boat dollar.  I’ll know more about that soon, I hope.

And, now for something completely different.  I decided to try some of the fruits that are common here like star and passion fruits, types that aren’t readily available in the US but are grown here in abundance.  Star fruit is supposed to taste a lot like apple, which is true, but the one I tasted left me unimpressed.

Another fruit that I decided to try was passion fruit.  It looks like a smallish overripe apple, sort of dried out and spotty brown.  Inside the pulpy rind is a filling of soft stuff with black seeds that look to me more like frog eggs than anything else.  The seeds and soft fruit are a bit sour and I was told to mix it with yogurt, which I did.  They tasted much better than this sounds.   The bad news, I now know, is that they have what might be called, to put it delicately, a “lubricating effect” and my stomach etc have been in full revolt for two days now.  Not fun and I guess that I am sort of sworn off on trying unfamiliar tropical fruit for the time being.

However, prior to the recent effects of the passion fruit taking full control, Brenda and I took part, along with some other cruisers, in a tour, put on by the Parks Department, of some of the old ruins along a ridge on the bluff above the dockyard, where many British troops were housed when Nelson’s Dockyard was in operation.

Our docent, Dr Murphy, is very knowledgeable about the history of the island and as a trained archaeologist, was able to make history come alive for us.  He spoke of the life led by those in the British navy when they were stationed here.  Based on what he said, that life was brutish and short, with a fatality rate upwards of 70% per year due to yellow fever, heat stroke and many other illnesses.

It sounded horrible.  But, like those of us that were participating in “Rum in the Ruins”, they had rum.  And, it seems that rum was about all that they had and they had plenty of rum every day, enough to keep them lubricated enough to take the edge off of their miserable life.   I can only imagine what it must have been like to wake up every morning with a raging hangover and have to march in formation with heavy wool uniforms on in the tropical heat.  “Please, please, Captain can I have another rum punch.”

Dr. Murphy even dressed the part.  It’s hard to imagine living in this hot climate dressed in so many layers.   Note the rum punch, issued to us all to “get in the mood” as it were.   I have heard him speak in the past and he was as entertaining as I remembered.  High up on the ridge, overlooking the dockyard, the strong winds were really whipping.  Seeing the tall grass swaying in the breeze was beautiful. He talked about the history of some of the building, each with their own story. His description of the ruins and life in that era gave us a good feel for what life must have been like here so many years ago. I’ve mentioned this in a past post, but from the bluff, you could see Eric Clapton’s compound way down below. After the tour, just as it was getting dark, our group headed back to town.  Interestingly, here in the Caribbean, dusk is very short and sunset to pitch dark is quick, perhaps about 30 minutes.  Not a lot of twilight in these parts.

In the growing twilight, we went for a walk on the docks to see the mega yachts.  Now that the holiday parties in nearby St Barths are over, the marinas are nearly full, with one yacht more spectacular than the next.   It’s interesting to see the dozens of crew that work on these huge boats as they head out for an evening of bar hopping.  It’s easy to guess who is crew as they are all very young and very fit.   I guess that only “beautiful people” need apply.

One of the first we passed on the dock is the 300′ Phoenix.  She sports a huge sculpture of her namesake on her bow.  Check this link to see some remarkable photos of her.   Note that the wood expanse under the stairs isn’t the dock, it’s her sun-deck.
Phoenix 2 was launched for Jan Kulczyk in 2010, then the richest guy in Poland, for a reported $160,000,000.  Unfortunately, under the category of “you can’t take it with you”, Jan died in 2015 at the tender age of 65.  It was reported that he died of complications of surgery.  I believe that Phoenix is now for the use of his family.

Seeing a lineup of these yachts in the twilight is something to behold. Hard to believe that one person can amass enough wealth to afford one of these.  Imagine paying for such a yacht along with a full time staff of some 30 crew.

And, some yachts are so big and have to move around so much stuff and so many toys, that the owners purchase another “shadow yacht” to follow the “mother yacht” around from place to place.  The yacht on the left in this photo is such a vessel, aptly named Garcon as in “Garcon, please fetch my (whatever)”, submarine, sailboat, tender, toys, chopper, whatever.  And speaking of chopper, note the one secured to her upper deck.  Obviously it just wouldn’t be right to clutter up your yacht with an ugly chopper. This recent addition to the relentless need to “keep up with the Joneses” world of the uber-rich has only happened in the last few years but I am sure that you will agree that if you were forced to cram all your stuff into a single yacht it would be quite annoying.  “Garson, can you PLEASE get Dimitri’s chopper off of the sundeck?  I’d like to work on my tan.”

Besides, with only a single yacht it would have to be so ginormous that you wouldn’t be able to get it into your favorite harbors, so it just makes sense to have two.  To keep the cost down, your floating “garage” could have much more spartan conditions than the real yacht.  And, you could hire a cook instead of a chef, to feed the crew, which would be a big savings as well, right?

So that’s why everyone knows that it’s just plain less expensive to have a yacht and a shadow ship, than to have a single yacht that can handle all your stuff.  Check out this site that describes the “why” and see if you agree. 

And speaking of mother yachts, I wrote about EOS, owned by Barry Diller and his wife Diane Von Ferstenburg in my last post.  Up close, on the right, she definitely looks the part of luxury. Across the dock is Phoenix which is so much larger in displacement in spite of being about the same length. Everywhere you look, something more expensive looking than you’d expect.  How about these boarding ladders and most with a intercom to announce yourself.  “Can I trouble you for a bit of Grey Poupon?”  “No, go away!”I guess that’s it for now and as I continue to recover from my ill advised sampling out of the local fruits, I expect that the crew and owners on these huge yachts of wealth know better.

Besides, like those miserable British navy guys, no matter how miserable you get, a Tot of rum will make things seem right.

Yes, life here was once brutish and short but now…not so much, especially for those fortunate enough to have a mega-yacht or better yet, a second one to fit all their stuff.

Don’t forget, Brenda’s birthday is coming up soon.  January 15th.  Just sayin…

Break Out Another Thousand

Some say that a boat is nothing more than a “hole in the water into which you pour money”.  Or, perhaps to put it another way, “Break Out Another Thousand”.

Another basic truth is that the worse thing you can do to a boat is to not use it.  The longer it sits, the more stuff that doesn’t work when you “turn it on” again.

I’d also say that when I make long passages that lots of stuff breaks.  So there you have it, don’t use the boat and stuff breaks and use it and, well, stuff breaks.

So, it’s B.O.A.T., however you look at it.

Leaving Pandora for 5 weeks, while a great idea as we had a wonderful time visiting family, has made for a bit of a stressful “homecoming”, with a litany of stuff that now needs to be fixed.

Not to put too fine a point on it but let me count the ways/thousands…

Starter battery.   I pulled out the engine start battery last spring to have it load tested to be sure that it was OK and it was declared fine.  However, after sitting on the mooring for a month, nothing happened when I turned over the key.  It took me several hours to diagnose the problem as the voltage showed at a full 12.5 or better. However, after exhausting every other explanation, I suddenly remembered that I had to test it with a load to tell and I had Brenda engage the starter with the key, and discovered that it read only 6V while the starter was drawing power.  Oops, Dead Battery!  New battery problem solved.  Wasn’t that easy?

I’m still messing with the mainsail which was damaged on the way south and it’s back aboard Pandora but we are still ironing out some of the finer details which should be resolved today.

The best thing that Pandora tossed our way while we were away was that the refrigeration compressor has developed some major problems and while it’s still working, it’s drawing huge amounts of power when it first starts up and is making a lot of noise so I feel pressure to fix the problem before it finally gives up the ghost for good, or bad, as it were.  Imagine a G&T without ice.  Perish the thought!

I have had some tech folks aboard and now know that the bearings in the compressor are going bad which is why it draws so much power and is so loud.   I am hoping that I will be able to do a swap out of the compressor and still use the holding plates and electronics to run both the fridge and freezer.  I still think that’s possible but the details will become clear in the next few days, I hope.  For sure, B.O.A.T. will continue be the word of the day.

And, there is always the pain of ongoing maintenance to keep me on my toes.  After 5 weeks on a mooring in English Harbor, Pandora was sporting quite a “community” of little creatures growing on her hull, a healthy mix of slime and gunk that took me about 90 minutes to rub off.  It was amusing to see all the reef fish that hovered around for a snack while I scraped the hull.  Good news!  After all that exertion I was pretty sure that I burned off enough calories to treat myself to a coconut ice cream, a full half pint.  Of course, I had to eat it all at once as it was melting in the tropical heat, right?

And, there are always little mysteries to contend with, like why my wind instruments didn’t work when I turned them back on the other day and now they do.  Go figure.

Oh well, it’s a boat…B.O.A.T.

Along with the many cruising boats anchored in the harbor, I always enjoy watching the comings and goings of the MEGA Yachts and there are plenty of them here, that’s for sure.  And, in spite of the MEGA-DEEP pockets that the owners have, I am sure that even they have moments when they say WOW! that was expensive, B.O.A.H.T, Break out another hundred thousand.

And, speaking of the big kids, this is the view from Pandora of the marinas.   Perhaps B.O.A.M.  Break out another million indeed!  Note the three masted schooner on the right in the picture below.  As a point of scale, the motor yachts to her left are each well over 100′ long.   She is EOS, one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, at over 300′.   She’s so large that they had to bring her into the harbor backwards, in the dark, because she is too large to turn around in the basin.   She’s owned by Barry Diller, creator of Fox News and his wife, fashion designer Diane von Furstenburg.  Talk about a power couple.  B.O.A.M..

Interestingly, here in the same harbor, are Athena and Maltese Falcon, two other boats in the list of largest sailing yachts.   And, the good news for you is that both Athena and the Falcon are available for charter.  All you have to do is B.O.A.H.M.A.L. Break Out A Half Million At Least, and one of these can be yours, well yours for a week anyway…

Sorry, but Barry and Diane don’t charter EOS, the Power Couple that they are.  Interestingly, when EOS was launched, unlike most other megayachts that are written about extensively, she was not featured in any megayacht magazines so nobody really knows what she looks like inside.  Anyone that works on one of these yachts, or is involved in their construction, generally has to sign a Non Disclosure document.

In the other mega marina, is a yacht, along with Athena, that sports her own helicopter.   B.O.M.M.A.M, Break Out Many Millions And Millions…I guess that the big question is why do we spend so much time, MONEY and energy on boats when they cause such heartache.

Perhaps it’s because of views like this that greet us when we sit and have coffee in the morning.   Sorry Barry and Diane, our view is the same as yours. And, as if this view isn’t spectacular enough, I expect that a passing shower will show up in the next hour or so and leave a beautiful double rainbow in it’s wake.

And, to be on the beach having lunch at a lovely waterside cafe with Pandora nearby riding comfortably on her anchor.  Break out another thousand?  I’d prefer not to think about all that, I’ll just enjoy the view.

I do so hope that my fridge doesn’t crap out.  I’d hate for the ice to melt.  That would indeed be tragic.

I guess it’s time to B.O.A.T..  Well, perhaps just one more time.

Fireworks, beautiful yachts and rotted food.

Well, after spending last winter home Brenda and I are back aboard Pandora in “warmer climes” for our 7th winter season afloat.  We arrived here in Antigua on the afternoon of New Year’s eve and I have to say that it is nice to be back.  We enjoyed a wonderful if crazy expensive New Year’s eve dinner at the Admiral’s Inn, which proved to be a very nice way to settle back into our time aboard Pandora.  This was the view from Pandora’s cockpit this morning.  Unlike up north, the length of the days in the winter aren’t much different than the summer, perhaps only one hour shorter so at 06:30 the sun is already up. The normally strong trade winds have been light which has made sleeping a bit tough as it’s pretty warm down below in the evenings, without a cooling breeze.  But, what a beautiful view of the still waters in the early morning light. And a view of the Admiral’s Inn and the beautiful classic schooner, Mary Rose, to our stern, glowing.  The pillars to the left once formed the base for the Georgian era sail loft that served Lord Nelson’s navy when this harbor was England’s base of operations for the Caribbean or West Indies.   The British fought hard to keep control of what is still perhaps the best harbor in the Caribbean. And,  here’s Pandora behind Mary Rose out in front of the Inn.   What a spot. Brenda and I have been taking advantage of the light winds to enjoy a “cocktail cruise” in the harbor each evening.   Daily cruises like these have been a part of our boating life for 40 years now.  It’s a wonderful way to end the day.  Once the trades kick back in, probably next week, our tradition will be put on hold until things settle down again.  But for now, seeing a sunset like this, at the mouth of the harbor, with Montserrat in the distance, and the waves breaking on the shore, is the perfect accompaniment to a gin and tonic. Of course, what better way to ring in the new year after a wonderful dinner at the Inn than with fireworks in a tropical setting, viewed from a comfortable chair on Pandora’s bow?  To see the “rocket’s red glare” over the iconic Nelson’s Dockyard is something to behold. Even without the light show, the nightly view of the yachts from Pandora’s deck is beautiful.  This photo, a bit blurry in the dark, doesn’t do the view justice. In spite of the impressive array of yachts, the harbor is actually fairly empty as most of the really big yachts left town to celebrate the New Year in nearby St Barths, the most exclusive island in the Caribbean and the winter playground of billionaires, all jockeying to show off their wealth.  I am told that many boats will return to Antigua in the next week as the holidays wind down.

St Barths revelers or not, there’s still plenty of impressive hardware here in Antigua.   How about this yacht, small by local standards at 100′, but clearly one that fits in the “go fast” category. I’d say that she’s sort of a speedboat crossed with a chrome and glass man-pad.  It’s hard to see in this photo but she, “he?” sports two huge 5-6′ diameter, many bladed props that look like they mean business.  No swimming off the stern while the engine is running.  Or, if the owner is thinking about turning in the “little woman” for a newer model, “Honey, how about a dip off the stern before we head out.  You go ahead, I’ll be down in a moment.  I just need to check out something up in the cockpit.”

Go fast or not, I prefer the sailing yachts and there are plenty to choose from if you have the coin and most are so big that even the 1% crowd need not apply.  How about this beautiful schooner?I had to get special permission from the guard on the dock to get close to her.  Fortunately, I knew the guard, Shirley so she just waived me by.   Guarding aboard this one was a “yacht yard guard dog” following my every move, sitting on one of her huge winches, perhaps a favorite perch.  Or was it a guard dog bed?  Only he knows. While Antigua is clearly the playgroup of the uber-wealthy, there are also some beautiful, if less exotic boats to enjoy like this lovely Carriacou sloop heading out for a day sail. Today I walked over to nearby Falmouth to see what sort of huge yachts were there.  While the marina isn’t even close to full, it has an amazing array of hardware.  This dink, a bit fancier than our own “Hope” suggests something about the “mother ship”.  And, speaking of Mother ships, how about this one?And she’s complete with plenty of “toys” including this 800hp tender.  I wonder how fast she goes?  Too fast for me in any sort of seaway, I expect, where she would surely launch herself from wave top to wave top.  And of course there’s always the iconic Maltese Falcon, with her unique Dyna Rig square sails.  She was built for a Venture Capital guy, Tom Perkins, now deceased and is now in full time charter.   She can be yours and yours alone for a cool half million per week.  Check out some amazing photos here. Not cool enough for you?  Perhaps one of these.  And, ask yourself, what does someone who has enough money to afford a boat like Here Comes The Sun, do to “keep up the Joneses”?   You can charter her for about $1.5 million per week.  Of course, that’s plus expenses, fuel tips and the like.  Get details here about her and all y0u get.  And, don’t forget that the tips will be for the 25 crew and you wouldn’t want any of them to feel left out. And with “Sun” you can also opt to charter a “shadow yacht”.  The aptly named Pink Shadow will be there to carry all the toys you’ll need.  The concept, as I understand it, is that by using a shadow yacht, you can go with a Mother ship that is smaller than you might otherwise require.  Of course, shadow or not, Here Comes The Sun is still a bit girl at 300′.  Going this route allows you to save room aboard and put all those bulky toys on a separate boat, ship, yacht, or whatever you want to call it that can follow you around like a little pink puppy.  Catch a gander at the crane that Lil Pink sports?Getting back into the “mere mortals” category, here’s Maiden, the racing yacht that carried the first all woman crew around the world in a Whitbread race in the late 80s.  We saw a movie about that voyage at the Antigua Yacht Club last night and met the current crew, ladies again, of course, who are sailing Maiden around the world to raise awareness for women and sailing.  I’ve seen the movie “Maiden” once already and was even more moved this time than last.  You should check it out.  It’s a remarkable story about her skipper Tracy Edwards from England who, against all odds, finally was able to find financial support for the yacht, did remarkably well and ultimately was named Yachtsman of the Year, the first such recognition ever for a woman.   Maiden will be open for tours here in Antigua  in a few days and I look forward to writing more about this remarkable boat and her story.
And, of course where there is one race boat, there’s bound to be others.  Right next to Maiden, is a state of the art sled.  Big difference in the look of speeders now. And now, for a bit about the reality of “yachting for the regular folks”, that’s us.  They say that cruising is nothing much more than boat repair in exotic places and our personal experience would confirm that statement.

In past years, when we left Pandora for a few weeks, we’ve left the freezer running to avoid tossing the food left over from the passage south.  As I have never totally trusted our compressor, I have always arranged for someone to watch her and especially her fridge while we are away.

That has worked well for us until now as I got a call from our “guy” a few days before we returned to Antigua to let me know that he had found the fridge turned off and the content of the freezer quite warm.

I have been concerned about the unit for some time now as it seems to be making more noise than it had in the past and has also been drawing more power, a sure sign that there is something wrong.

So, we returned to Pandora on New Year’s Eve and opened the fridge to find a whole mess of re-frozen but completely rotted food.  It had clearly been off and on for some time before the problem was discovered and the breaker switched back on.  YUCK!  What a mess.

I emptied all of the food and filled two plastic trash bags with a revolting mix of semi-frozen pork, chicken and ground beef.    I then flushed out the freezer with hot water and bleach, removing, as best as I could, the slime if not the remaining smell.  I have dealt with this sort of problem in the past and believe that what’s left of the smell with finally go away in time.

What won’t “go away” is the fact that the compressor isn’t happy and will now have to be replaced.  I wasn’t sure about that fact until I was visited by a tech today who inspected the unit.  I’m not surprised but had hoped to forestall a replacement until I was home next summer when I could do my homework and pick the unit that was best.   Anyway, I’ll not bore you with the details except to say that the fridge and freezer are currently working if not very efficiently and I’ll be keeping a careful eye on things to be sure that the batteries are kept up to snuff while we wait for a verdict on what’s involved in replacing the unit with a new compressor or worse.  I am hopeful that we will find something that is a bit more efficient than what’s on there now.   Fingers crossed.

We have a parade of tradesmen coming by Pandora this week, first to re-install the mainsail that had been damaged on the way south this fall.  It turns out that in addition to some repairs, I needed a few relatively minor adjustments to how the sail was attached to the goose-neck to get the sail to set in a way that wasn’t going to put a strain on any of the fittings.   One problem in particular, is that I had not attached the clew of the sail to the goose-neck properly in the past, with it pulled to tightly to the mast.  It’s now offset somewhat and looks much better  when the sail is up, a minor but important change that should help things hold together better. The guys were aboard for way longer than expected and I can’t wait to get the bill. So there you have it, boat repair for the “little people” in exotic places and plenty of the “other half” on hand to remind us just how little we, or at least our bank accounts, are.

Having said that, I was talking to a member of the crew from one of the huge yachts yesterday who told me that he thought that us cruiser types probably have more fun than the crew on mega-yachts have any day.

All and all, I am happy to be back aboard Pandora and look forward to getting everything repaired before something else breaks.  Hopefully not to soon.

Yes, it’s nice to be back, rotten food and all, but I really want to go sailing and soon.

Two of our favorite Caribbean islands, St Lucia and Martinique.

Brenda and I have visited St Lucia and Martinique a number of times, two of our favorite islands.  While we are home in the US right now, we will soon be returning to Pandora in Antigua to begin our winter season of cruising the SE Caribbean.

As I write this we are about done with our time at home as we are traveling here and there to enjoy time with our family.   So far, it’s been hectic, to say the least and cold, well at least cold compared to Antigua, and I certainly prefer warm.  It’s already snowed twice and I’ll begrudgingly admit that it was pretty to wake up to a bright white world.  Well, at least that somewhat makes up for the persistent grey that is a New England winter.

It’s been crazy during our time at home with both wrapped and unwrapped presents strewn everywhere, as we scramble to get everything done.

Timing is a challenge as we make time to spend with Rob and his family in MD where we are now, celebrating the third birthday of our oldest grandaughter Tori, who turns three this week as well as an early Christmas.  It has been a whirlwind visit as we make time to spend with them before a quick dash home on Monday to head back to CT.

The very next day (Whew!) we fly to San Francisco to see our other son Christopher and his partner Melody for Christmas.  With less than 24 hours home (way less) before we fly out on Tuesday it’s going to be quite a rush, and we won’t be back home until three days before we head back to Antigua.   That’s going to be a crazy busy few days as we put our home in “winter mode” to keep it safe from freezing while we are away.

And, when I say “everything in place” is because we have to blow out all the water pipes and put antifreeze in the toilets and appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine.  We have already delivered our house plants to a greenhouse in New Haven along with some pond fish that they will keep for the winter.   Our little pond will soon freeze solid, already has, and the plants won’t survive the cold temps in the winterized house while we are away.   As we headed here to MD a few days ago, we packed Brenda’s Mini Cooper with all the plants, fish along with birthday and Christmas presents.

On another subject, on proverbial Black Friday, I succumbed to all of the hype about good deals and the drumbeat of “shop now!” and ordered a huge, well huge for us, 65″ TV to replace our  more than a decade old TV.  WOW!, what a difference in the picture quality a decade of innovation has made.

Well, I mention all this as the TV is Internet-ready and we have enjoyed watching YouTube travel videos including some about places we have been and hope to travel to.   I happened upon the two short pieces that follow about Martinique and St Lucia that includes footage of some of the great places we have visited.  It gives a pretty good feel for what it’s like to visit some of our favorite islands.

We enjoy Martinique because it offers everything from cosmopolitan cities like Fort de France, along with rural back roads and beautiful rain forests.  Both islands are also home to wonderful botanical gardens and nature preserves along with some great rum distilleries such as Depaz and Clement, that are both featured in the piece about Martinique.

Clement, unlike most rums you are likely to encounter in the Caribbean, is distributed in the US.  Their website, for the US, is quite interesting, with ample information about the estate itself, a wonderful place to visit on the island.  Visiting these distilleries is a great thing to do when touring the island.  During our last visit to Martinique, two years ago, we visited a number of distilleries.  I wrote about that very enjoyable day in this post.  

So, check out this short video.  It will surely make you want to visit Martinique. Another of our favorite islands is St Lucia and although Rodney Bay gets a bad rap due to some petty crime, it’s a nice spot to visit too.   As with many places in the Caribbean, it’s always a good idea to lock your dink at night and pull it out of the water.   And, always lock it up when ashore, even during the day.

We particularly enjoy Marigot Bay, a spot that we will surely return to this season.  It is home to a wonderful resort, one of our favorite places to spend time and one of the few spots where we rent a mooring instead of dropping the hook.   I wrote about our visit there.  You will recognize some of the spots sin my post when you look at this short video. Another spot in St Lucia, and one of the most photographed places in the Caribbean is the Pitons, two cones of extinct volcanoes.   For the more adventurous, you can hire a guide to hike and climb up to the top.   You can’t anchor there as the bottom drops off sharply, even close to shore.   The mooring we took was in over 100′ of water.  Check out this post about our visit there as well as more about what we enjoyed about Marigot Bay.

There are actually a lot more posts about our visits to St Lucia and Martinique but it is sufficient to say that these islands are worth spending time exploring and I am looking forward to going to both this season.

For now, all we have to do is get through the holidays.  For sure, once we return to Antigua and Pandora we will be ready to chill out for a few weeks before we get underway again.


You can get Thai in Antigua.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and Brenda and I have found ourselves in the midst of a crazy, way over-scheduled, holiday season.

We arrived home in the wee hours on Monday morning, Thanksgiving week, and within a few hours we were back in the car headed to see our Son and his family including our three grandchildren in MD.  A short few days later, back to CT and another Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

We will now be home for about a week when we head back to MD for our oldest grandchild, Tori’s birthday, who turns three.  After that quick trip, we jump on a plane to spend Christmas with our other son and his girlfriend in CA.   A week there and then back to CT for a three day whirlwind to winterize the house and head back to Antigua.   Oh boy, we will need a vacation after all that but it’s going to be great to see everyone.

Yes, we will have been home for nearly 5 weeks but we will put on a lot of miles and had little time to relax.  After the life of “nothing happens before noon on Pandora”, the holidays seem nearly out-of-control hectic.

Of course, that isn’t made any easier by the pile-up of “deferred maintenance” at home for the nearly 6 weeks I was away, for the “migration to Antigua”.  Can you say “wow, that’s a lot of leaves on the yard Bob”?   Yikes, I need a vacation.

And speaking of Pandora, even if I wasn’t, a friend sent this great drone shot of her on her mooring in English Harbor where she’ll be while we are jetting around.  Awesome perspective.  Hint, she’s in the middle of the photo.In my last post I showed this photo of a “long tail” boat from Thailand owned by a friend, Paul, one of the owners of the Admiral’s Inn and promised to tell more about the boat and how it got to Antigua.    So, here goes…

So, this type of boat, known as “long tails” because of their distinctive long propeller shaft, are a common sight in Thailand.  The type is known for their simple engine and prop configurations, utilizing cheap and easy to work on, re-purposed automobile engines.  These boats come in all shapes and sizes but the common theme is that they sport an engine on a gimbal with a long straight prop shaft and no transmission, just direct drive to the prop.    Paul, visited Thailand and had this boat shipped to Antigua where he grew up and still lives.  The boat is certainly a standout, compared to the others in the harbor. Paul had offered to take me out for a spin so we met at the dock at the Admiral’s Inn.  As he approached the dock he picked the prop out of the water to put it in “neutral”, coasting up to the dock. It was very tight maneuvering to clear the dock so he had to dip the prop in and out of the water several times to get us underway.So, off we went.  A great contrast between Paul’s boat and this one in the background, “Home”.  More about that in a bit.

To pilot one of these open boats, you have to stand the entire time while underway. Note the hand crank on the seat behind Paul.  No electric start, you just put the lever into the front of the engine and hope that it doesn’t rev up and take your hand off.  These boats are very simple and the water cooling is drawn from a tube stuck in the water.   No thru-hulls to complicate things.
When at speed, you get a feel for just how dangerous this sort of “outboard” would be with a spinning prop, a boat length behind spinning just below the surface.   No going close to swimmers with this boat. I have always associated this sort of boat with James Bond, who’s Long Tail was a bit more sporty than Paul’s.Anyway, Paul’s boat is more my speed.  And, at a stately un-Bond pace, we headed  out of the entrance of beautiful English Harbor, home to the British Navy during the age of sail.   Just outside are an interesting rock formation called the Pillars of Hercules.  I am told that it is a great spot to dive or snorkel.  In the bow is Astrid, Paul’s sister and partner in the Admiral’s Inn. Paul shut off the engine for a bit and we sat for a while enjoying the view.  We drifted a bit to close to the rocks so Paul “backed” us out by turning the engine perpendicular to the boat and gave us a shove with the engine.  We headed back into the harbor and past “Home” again.   Home is a private yacht launched in 2017.  She’s really impressive, particularly given her 80′ long expanse of windows on both sides and her distinctive plumb bow.

Interestingly, she is the first displacement yacht with full hybrid propulsion, meaning that she has big generators that put power to electric motors to drive the yacht instead of separate diesel engines to drive the boat.  That approach makes sense as it isn’t efficient to drive a boat with diesel engines unless they are running at optimal speed.   Besides, a yacht of this scale has generators running 24/7 so why not run all systems, including propulsion systems from the same power supply?  Yachts like this have multiple generators that are put on line based on the amount of current needed, less at anchor and more underway. Most large yachts have some sort of special feature that makes them particularly unique and fun for their guests.  How about this spot on the bow to enjoy the view when you are underway?  The seats move up and down hydraulically I guess.  “I can fly, I can fly!”.  I guess it’s supposed to be like that scene in the movie Titanic.Makes sense if you are paying $275,000 a week to charter her in high season.  Sorry but that doesn’t include expenses and tips for the crew.   “Wow, honey, I thought that was a lot for a week long charter but this seat makes it totally a deal!”  Want to learn more so you can decide if you want to go for a ride in the seat yourself?  Check her out.

According to the luxury magazine “Hello Monaco“, that ran an article about mega-yacht ownership two years ago, there are some 10,000 mega-yachts in service world-wide and a bit less than 100 new yachts delivered each year, so there are lots of charter options to choose from.  As a point of reference, in 1979 there were only about 1,500 mega-yachts worldwide.  Tells you something about the rise of the .001% crowd.

As it costs about 10% of the build cost of the boat to staff and use a yacht each year, you’d have to charter a yacht like Home for many weeks a year to justify owning one of your own.

Decided that chartering is for you but can’t decide which boat to go for?  Not to worry, at the peak of the season last year there were around 80 of these behemoths in residence between Falmouth and English Harbors, so there’s plenty to choose from.

And, the time is right to check them out.  Starting today, December 4th, the charter yacht show opens in Antigua where you can go aboard and decide which is the perfect yacht for you.   And, as it’s so much more affordable to rent than own, you can hardly afford to wait.   And, as if that’s not enough, Home will be open for viewing.    Perhaps they will give you a ride in that cool chair.

Anyway, Home is a bit more complex than Paul’s long-tail.  And it does have a totally cool seat on the bow.  Which boat to choose?  Hmm… tough to choose.

So, there you have it, there are lots of options to enjoy your time on the water, especially in Antigua.

And, it seems, you can even get some Thai, if that’s your taste. I did and it was great.

Antigua just loves the Dawgs!

When the Salty Dawg Rally departed Hampton Virginia in early November, the majority of the fleet pointed their bows to the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua, the “Sailing Capital of the Caribbean”, where, for the third year, the island rolled out the red carpet to celebrate our arrival.

As Port Officer in Antigua for the rally, my “job” was to organize a week of events to celebrate the arrival of the fleet.  Fortunately, everyone that I was working with on the island was thrilled to have us visit so lining up a full venue of events was pretty easy, actually.

Part of the appeal of having our group come to Antigua as we arrive several weeks before the season really gets going so our presence is really appreciated.  I was talking recently with Angie, who runs the Antigua Yacht Club restaurant, “The Clubhouse” in Falmouth and she told me that there was quite a buzz from other businesses in the area that were thrilled with how busy they were so early in the season, thanks to our rally.

We packed the docks at Nelson’s Dockyard, perhaps the most beautiful harbor in the Caribbean.  Before we arrived in mid November, the docks were pretty much empty. One of our first events, and one of our most popular with over 120 skippers and crew attending was an authentic Caribbean barbecue, compliments of Nelson’s Dockyard.  Ann-Marie Martin, the Director of the National Parks, and the Dockyard really went out of their way to make us feel welcome.  The event included a rum punch cocktails followed by a full dinner, complete with poured at the table during dinner.  The event was totally over the top.  They even had a DJ and a professional photographer, Ted, who’s photos of the event follow.  Thanks Ted!

Ann-Marie was welcoming to us, as always.  I have enjoyed working with her over the last few years and the enthusiasm that she showed for us is emblematic of the reception that the Dawgs have received in Antigua. The Chairman of the National Parks joined us and delivered a heartfelt welcome to us all.  It turned out to be a capacity crowd, double what I had estimated which caused a bit of last minute scrambling for Ann-Marie but her staff pulled it off in great style.

The evening got off to a great start with liberal amounts of rum punch all around,.No event is complete without awards and we recognized the crew of Hector, home port Germany.  They had a medical emergency while 0n passage and was visited by a USCG C130 Hercules, that dropped vital medications by parachute.  Their determination in completing the trip to Antigua was an inspiration to us all.  That orange canister was one of two that the USCG dropped to them.  All and all, a really wonderful evening. And that was just one of the week long calendar of events that the fleet enjoyed.

As in past years, we had our “Safe Arrival” dinner and cocktail parties at the Admiral’s Inn.  Inn owners, brother and sister, Paul and Astrid, went out of their way to make us feel at home.  Of course, who doesn’t want a rally flag? Poolside, the perfect spot to hold our dinner.The Inn is a spectacular venue in the heart of Nelson’s Dockyard, the only operating Georgian Dockyard in the world, once home to the British Navy during the age of sail.  Of course, we needed a “class photo”.  The Navy fought hard to retain control of English Harbor and nearby Falmouth Harbor, as the island is perfectly located as the eastern most in the Caribbean.  It is quite simply the perfect place to “cruise” to anywhere else in the Caribbean. For that reason, it remains an ideal spot to begin and end a season of cruising.

Max Fernandez, the Minister of Tourism, addressed us at a complimentary cocktail reception courtesy of The Antigua Yacht Cub.  AYC also hosted a special member/guest Thanksgiving feast to make us feel welcome.  Owner and artist Nancy Nicholson invited us to her gallery, Rhythm of Blue, for a free rum and reggae party to kick off the season. North Sails Antigua hosted what was probably the most original event, Hermit Crab Racing, to the delight of the Dawgs, complete with plenty of Carib beer and snacks.The week of events, many free, were capped off by a special toast from the Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda.    As a card carrying member, I was thrilled to introduce the Dawgs to this wonderful tradition once again. Plans are well underway for the arrival of the fleet next November and it promises to be even better so stay tuned for more info.  Better yet, follow this link to the Salty Dawg site and sign up for the free newsletter so you will “in the loop” on what’s planned.

Yes indeed, Antigua just loves the Dawgs and the Dawgs love Antigua.

We’ll be back!

Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua. It’s a wrap!

That’s it, today Brenda and I head home to CT and some holiday time with friends and family.  We can’t wait to see our grandchildren, in particular.  I’ll bet that we won’t recognize them after a month away.  Excited.

Pandora is on a mooring in English Harbor for the next month.  It’s a beautiful spot.  Very serene this morning with a view of the Dockyard.  It was unusually still and calm, compliments of the late season hurricane in the north Atlantic that has suppressed the trade winds.  They should kick in again in a few days. The Admiral’s Inn off our stern.  And some beautiful boats off of our bow.   Notice the Long Tail boat from Thailand, owned by Paul from the Inn.  Hold that thought as I was able to get a ride on the his really unique boat a few days ago.  Details to come on that outing. It’s been a crazy week with events every evening and sometimes during the day as well.  In addition, I’ve been really busy with meetings including a lunch with the Minister of Tourism that has taken an interest in the rally given the number of boats and crew that we have brought to the island.  He feels that cruisers are the highest value visitors to the island as they stay for a long time and spend money with a large variety of businesses, something that isn’t the case with cruise ship visitors or those who visit all-inclusive resorts.

Anyway, it’s an exciting time to be here and I am really looking forward to next steps when I return to the island at the end of December.  In the mean time, I have some homework to do to prepare our thoughts on how to partner more fully with the Government of Antigua.

After so many events here since the first boats arrived more than a week ago,  it’s hard to say which event was the “best”.   I loved them all but the one event that is particularly special to me is the Tot Club.  You know, the group that Toasts the Queen each evening, carrying on a long tradition in the British Navy?

So, it was fitting that our last “official” even was on Friday in the Dockyard, in spectacular venue, in one of the old historic buildings.   It was a beautiful space and wonderfully photographed by Brenda who preferred being a spectator to gulping an alarming amount of rum. The group gathered under the stars. Mike and particularly Ann, my sponsor when I joined the group two years ago, were there preparing the Tot.  Of course, there were readings from British Naval history.Introductions of our guests by me. Bottoms up.  Of course, the “tot” must be swallowed in a “single go”.  I’ll admit that it burns. One of our events was an evening BYOB on Shirley Heights, a historic lookout for the British Navy.  We went up to watch the sunset, normally spectacular.  However, a huge squall came through and brought very limited visibility an many wet Dawgs.  I just love this photo of some of the kids from the rally enjoying the view.  What a great group.  Brenda and I have noticed, over the years,  that “boat kids” are universally wonderful and seem to have social skills that are far above the norm.  Perhaps I’ll leave it at that for now as I have to pack to head home to see our own grandchillen.

All and all, a wonderful week and with so many “atta boys” about the events from skippers and crew from the rally.  With all that positive energy, I’m raring to go to plan for some spring events and next fall’s arrival of the 2020 rally to Antigua.

So, there you have it.  The arrival of the 2019 Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.  It’s a wrap!

The Dawgs get crabs in Antigua.

Well, it’s Wednesday and we are about half through the week of events to welcome the Salty Dawg Fleet to Antigua.  I’ll admit that I am a bit tuckered out with all the festivities but I will still put on my dancing shoes for the arrival dinner at Boom this evening and there are still three more days of fun on the horizon for our fleet.

While all of our events have been great fun, I have to admit that the Crab Races at Andrew Dove’s North Sails loft last night was a standout.

Crab Races, you say?

Yes and I for one, have never seen or heard of such a thing.  Crab Races?  Hmm…

So, here’s how it goes.

As you’d expect from any sport.  The rules, as described by our host, Andrew, were soberly reviewed for all. And, we learned that there would be a number of “heats” of increasing difficulty.

Of course, as with any serious sport, we had our cheerleaders, one of the Dawgs brought along a mascot to egg on the contestants. First, the contestants were placed in the center of the “course” under a dome to keep them from running off before the starting gun was sounded.  We just could not condone any unfair behavior. Off they went.  If it doesn’t look exciting, you just had to be there.  The spectators went WILD!As the races progressed, heat after heat, Andrew dreamt up schemes, each more diabolical than the last, adding obstacles to slow down the leader.
Then he really got mean and forced the contestants to race blindfolded.
Not to be deterred…More obstructions were added to the course but none discouraged our racers, blindfolds or not. Who won?  I have no idea but it was a ton of fun.

And, now a word from our sponsor…So there, dear reader, is how the Dawgs got crabs in Antigua.

Thanks Andrew.  You, and your crabs were awesome!

I can’t wait to see what sort of crazy ideas he comes up with next year.

The gang’s all here, mostly

It’s Tuesday morning and we are well into our arrival events with nearly all of the Dawgs accounted for.

We have been really busy with events every night including a very special kickoff cocktail and dinner party put on by the National Park’s Authority on Saturday evening.   It was a lovely evening, totally over the top.  I have photos coming from their “official” photographer.

Earlier that evening we also were treated to a Dawg Jam session on the docks.  It was a nice way to kick off a very memorable evening. I mentioned in my last post that one of our boats, Cayuga, had lost the use of their engine when their engine water pump went bad and with the light winds that slowed down the entire fleet, they found themselves drifting slowly southward at a painfully slow pace for way longer than they wanted to.  Finally, they were within a reasonable distance of Antigua and Paul, who operates the Admiral’s Inn with his sister Astrid, offered to run the new water pump out, along with some antifreeze.

I had been texting the skipper for several days and then, with them finally only about 30 miles out, off we went, powering 30kts into seas, bouncing from wavetop to wavetop as we closed the distance.  Finally, we spotted them on the horizon and closed in.  Oh boy, did they look happy to see us.   After they confirmed that the pump was in fact the right one for their engine, we sped of for shore and left them to put on the new pump.  On our way back to English Harbor Paul gave us a bit of a tour of the island.  How about this yacht?  Anna, owned by a Russian, who else?  She is rumored to have cost $250,000,000.  Yikes!  It’s amazing what you can get for a 1/4 billion these days.  Anna is over 300′ long.  Huge.  Her owner is Dmitry Evgenevitch Rybolovlev.  Yes, that sounds about right.  I doubt that you will see Anna in US waters any time soon.   Want to learn a bit about this guy?  Click here for all the details.  He purchased a home in FL for $95,000,000 from none other than Donald Trump.  That totally fits…

Nice garage for his toys. And, I expect that this isn’t his only chopper. Along the way we passed Eric Clapton’s home, perched high on a ridge.  The good news is that Eric doesn’t use the place much and it’s for rent.   Check out some pix here to see if it’s up to your standards. Back to English Harbor and the fleet on the dock.   There’s Pandofra in the middle. Perhaps easier to see close up.   Looking good in her new colors. Ok, back to our parts delivery to Cayuga.

Later that afternoon Cayuga arrived and tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard looking really happy to be near dry land again after about two weeks on the high seas.  Not surprisingly, they were thrilled to accept a few cold beers from me. It was very gratifying to be there when they arrived knowing that there were many behind the scenes of the Rally that kept track of them and did everything possible to help them make their way safely to Antigua.

When I began organizing arrival events for the rally a few years ago, I realized that with most boats sailing so many miles to Antigua, their arrivals would be spread out over many days and to have an “arrival” dinner, a single event meant that some boats would be in port days or a week before some of the slower boats  arrived.  Somehow I didn’t think that it was fair to have the faster boats wait days and days for a single event.  And, at the same time, I didn’t want the slower boats to miss all the fun.

As a result, we decided to put on a full week of events to be sure that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy at least some of the arrival festivities.

One of my favorite events is the “Arrival Cocktail Party” at the Admiral’s Inn, located right in the dockyard.  It’s a beautiful place and authentic in every way, as part of the original dockyard that served the British Navy during the age of sail.  Of course, we always need a “class picture”, right?   This was our biggest group yet and what a fun event.   As most of the crew had already left to head back home, this group is nearly all skippers and family, still a large group by any measure. The first year that we decided to send the fleet to Antigua, following the devastation in the Virgin Islands, the destination for the rally for so many years, I only had a few weeks to organize events here in Antigua.  And, it was Astrid and her brother Paul, who run the Inn, that really stepped up to help me pull together a proper welcome to the fleet and now, several years later, they are still helping skippers and crew settle in after a long voyage.

We took a moment to recognize them for all their support.  Of course, I also wanted to thank Paul publicly for taking the lead in getting the parts out to Cayuga.  Another tradition for the Dawgs is to present the “tail of the Dawg” award for the last boat to arrive prior to the welcome cocktail party, this year to the skipper and crew of Aleta, a bottle of wine donated by the local grocery Covent Gardens. A few days ago we were also hosted at the Antigua Yacht Club, another group that has been really supportive of the Rally.  As in past years, we were lucky to have the Minister Hernandez, the head of tourism on the island, address the group and he described how important the cruising community is to Antigua.

His goal, 200 boats.  I’ll have to get cracking as while we doubled that number from last year to 40 this year, we still have long way to go to reach his goal.   A success by any measure but also short of my 100 boat goal.  I presented a rally flag to the Minister with the help of the Commodore of the Yacht Club, Franklyn Braithwait, also very supportive of our efforts. So, that’s about it for now and we are only half way through our week of events with “crab racing” on tap this evening at the North Sails loft.  I’ll admit that I did check on the field of competitors when I visited the loft yesterday to see which might be the winning crab.  Hmm… 

My careful evaluation of the would-be competitors was inconclusive as they all appeared to be sleeping deeply, perhaps to save their strength for the competition.

All and all, we have been having a great time and I for one, am so pleased to see that the gang is all here.  Well, mostly all here as there are still a few boats making their way, perhaps arriving today.

I can’t wait to welcome them to Antigua.