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.

best place to buy accutane online 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.

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