Antigua or bust? Not very busted.

Well, we did it, we made it to Antigua, only a little bit worse for wear.

We arrived in Falmouth Harbor Thursday morning at 04:00 only to discover that my anchor windlass would not deploy so we picked up a mooring.  Fortunately, the problem was minor, a tripped circuit breaker so after throwing the switch it worked again.   After a swim, a beer and a bit of celebratory rum as the sun came up, we moved over to the dockyard, Pandora’s home for the next week.

So, 1,750 miles and 11 days later we arrived, a long way from Hampton.  This is us, in Hampton the evening before our departure, raring to go, me, Cliff and George, both veterans of past runs aboard Pandora.   Note the jackets.  It was chilly.  Cold didn’t last long aboard Pandora and after day one of the trip it was positively hot and sticky. The 11 day run was several days longer than anticipated and the miles a lot farther as well.  As the crow flies, the run to Antigua is about 1,450 miles, we ended up sailing over 1,750 miles due to the adverse Equatorial Current that runs north along most of the area we sailed through.  And, in addition, we spent a lot of time sailing east without actually getting closer to our destination, waiting for the southerly winds to shift to the east.   It was a real world example of “you can’t get there from here”, in the extreme.   But we eventually did get there…

Things ended out working well but early forecasts suggested that we might run out of fuel before we made it to Antigua due to light and adverse winds.  We spent a lot of time trying to calculate fuel consumption, how much we actually had on board and when it would run out.  The only way that I can know for certain how much “usable” fuel we have aboard is to run on a tank until the engine dies when it’s all gone and note how much it takes to fill it up again.    I have a pretty good feel for this but haven’t systematically run the fuel out as I did this time.

We ended up running two of our three tanks completely out and there were many anxious hours spent wondering what would happen when we were down to the final tank.  However, in the end  we had better wind than anticipated and arrived in Antigua with fuel to spare.  While some estimates suggested that we’d be running the engine as much as 150 hours we only ran it about 110 hours which I was comfortable as on my last run south I ran for 130 hours and still had fuel left which suggests that we actually had a cushion of at least 2o hours.

We had moments of frustration, like when the main halyard parted and the sail came crashing down on the deck, but there were moments of serene beauty like the stunning sunrises every morning. I found that I could watch the receding wake as our vane steered along tirelessly.George spent hours listening to music, sometimes loosing himself in the moment during night watches and singing WAY LOUDER than he realized.  Love those cool shades?  Totally hip?  You be the judge.Cliff just enjoying the view a few days after he recovered from early-on mal de mer.  With Pandora in cruising mode, it was pretty much a wreck down below, at least it seemed that way to me, the anal skipper with all the cushions covered with canvas sheets.   These covers really proved their worth as we discovered leaks we didn’t know we had.  Isn’t that always the way?While we had our share of squalls, we had many many hours of wonderful sailing, ably assisted by our newest crew member, our windvane steering unit, Lisa.  I understand that most crews so attached to their vanes that they give them names, unlike electronic pilots that often end up with names that are not altogether complimentary.  After years of sudden changes in course, Pandora’s electric pilot is “Crazy Ivan”.

So, what to name our new pilot?  The leading contender, suggested by George is “Lisa” as in Lisa Simpson, of “The Simpsons”.  The idea behind this, George’s idea, seconded by Brenda, is that Lisa is widely regarded as the smartest member of the Simpson family, or should I say “crew”.  I’ll admit that I am not totally on board with this so I won’t be having Lisa tattoo’ed on my arm quite yet.

So, here we are and after only two days in port, the hardships of passage are becoming a distant memory with Pandora safely tied up here in Nelson’s Dockyard along with many others in the fleet, all proudly flying their Dawg Colors.Is there any spot on earth prettier than this to tie up your yacht?And, while Pandora was the first to actually tie up in what was an empty dockyard, prior to our arrival.  She’s clearly not alone any more.  It is tremendously gratifying to me personally to have so many of the boats tie up here in the Dockyard with the rest of the fleet after so many months of planning.And…the parties have begun, the week of events that we have planned for the fleet.   There’s a lot on tap including, and you won’t believe this one, an evening of Crab Racing.  Yes, Crab Racing!  Stay tuned for news about that one.

Meanwhile, some boats are still working their way south, way short on fuel, working through their on-board gremlins, waiting for favorable winds or dealing with critical breakdowns.  For an area that normally has too much wind, we are not seeing that now with nearly flat calm conditions expected for the next few days.

While I didn’t feel lucky at certain points on the trip, Pandora actually had it easy compared to the trials of some who ran into all sorts of mayhem.  In hindsight, Pandora and her crew made it here with a minimum of fuss.

Some had real issues to contend with.  This story, scary in the extreme, shows what can happen when you are far from land.  Aboard one boat was a crew member who had a liver transplant years ago and accidentally lost his vital medication, only a few days into their voyage.  This harrowing story, fortunately with a happy ending, was described to me by Hank, Salty Dawg president.

Hank wrote: (with a tiny bit of editing by me, I’ll admit)

“One boat, just arriving now, had a serious issue offshore.  A member of the crew accidentally dropped his supply of anti-rejection pills down the head (boat lurched, lid left up and the pills flew out of the vial, of course, landing right in the head.  The pills were gone that had to be taken on schedule for life after a liver transplant in 2013.  Without his medication he would only survive for a few days, not enough time to get to Antigua.  After lots of phone calls at our end to an immunologist (my brother) and the crewman’s doctors in NY, we learned that Prednisone would work fine as alternative to his prescribed medication to suppress immune system and get him to Antigua.  In checking around the fleet, we found two boats 90 miles away that had Prednisone aboard.  And then a miracle, the skipper found they had a supply in their first aid kit.  Disaster averted!

Several days later, when contacted by United States Coast Guard about how things were going, the crewman said he preferred to have his regular medications.  The USCG said no problem, and would send a supply out to him.  So last Sunday the USCG did an airdrop from C-130 flying 3-1/2 hours out of Elizabeth City NC.   

The crew of the yacht were able to recover the medical pods that included the lifesaving drugs to keep his body from rejecting a transplanted liver.  The USCG C-130, after hours of flight arrived on the scene, flew overhead, tossed the package to them and flew back home.”

What an amazing and gratifying story of Dawgs helping other Dawgs along with an amazing feat by our own USCG.

Another boat was struck by lightening a few days into the trip and lost all of their electronics.  They diverted to Bermuda where the captain and crew are now working hard to finish the installation so that they can get underway.  They are doing the installation themselves as the local dealers in Bermuda are too busy to help.

How about a fouled prop in mid ocean?  While a crew member on that yacht was swimming to remove a piece of line that had tangled with their prop they were visited by a curious whale, just checking them out.

Another boat made the mistake of putting their dink in davits hanging out over the stern and when it got rough the dink broke loose and was swinging wildly.  While the skipper tried to subdue the bucking dink, his foot was badly hurt.  Ultimately, the dink was cut away and lost.

But wait, there’s more.  SV Cayuga, is still out there s-l-o-w-l-y sailing toward Antigua as they lost their engine water pump and, as a result, the use of their engine early into the trip.  Since then they have been a prisoner to really light winds for days as they slowly sail and drift along.  This trip has seen it’s share of really light winds and very tough timing indeed for them.

Their best guess is that they will be somewhere near Antigua on Sunday so I have arranged to have Paul, co-owner of the Admiral’s Inn, run out with his boat to tow them in.  The parts, currently on the other side of the island, will be sent here to the Dockyard so that repairs can be made.    So, for now, it’s up to the crew of Cayuga to make their way to Antigua.  Here’s to a speedy passage, if that’s not too much to ask.

Another boat lost all of their newly installed electronics and had to rely on their GPS transponder to figure out where they were and text information to others to keep them informed on progress.  Happily, they approached English Harbor during daylight hours on Thursday and had an easy run into the Dockyard.

Yes, Pandora had it easy and now we are here in Antigua enjoying the fun.  And, speaking of fun, the parties have begun and last evening a local art gallery, Rhythm and Blue, owned by artist Nancy Nicholson, had her season opener party, timed to allow the Dawgs to be a part of the fun.  With what seemed like an endless stream, or river, of rum punch and appetizers along with a terrific reggae band, the event was really a lot of fun. A great turnout.
And, the Dawgs were well represented.
This evening Ann-Marie Martin, the Commissioner of Parks, is throwing a free party for the Dawgs including food and drink, their way of saying thanks for us coming to Antigua.

And, there’s more, something each day to look forward to for those who joined in on this year’s Salty Dawg Rally to Antigua.

So there you have it, while it was Antigua or bust for Pandora, it seems we have a lot to be thankful for as we ended up being only a little bit busted and we had a much easier time than some.

However, everything is working out, late or not for all the Dawgs heading our way and there will still be parties in store for them when they arrive.


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