Antigua, Here We Come!

It’s hard to believe that we are finally within a day’s run of Antigua after nearly two weeks at sea.  The motor, and adequate fuel has kept us moving for half of the way.   I really feel for the boats that don’t carry enough to crank up the engine when the wind gets light.

And, speaking of wind, one of the boats, a 40’ C&C, Calypso, lost their forestay in particularly rough conditions, and their headsail ended up in the water.  They had had some rigging work done recently and it seems that the fitting on the end of the stay at the masthead let loose.

I won’t go into all the details but conditions were rough and it took the crew some four hours to get the mess back on deck.  Fortunately, the mast didn’t come down too and they were able to secure a spare halyard from the masthead to the bow to keep the mast from buckling.

Once the mess was cleaned up, sort of, they went to start the engine not realizing that there was still a line under the boat.  That line promptly wrapped around the prop and stopped the engine dead.   Not good as their batteries were low and now they had no way to charge things up as the engine was jammed in gear.

Things went from bad to worse but fortunately another rally boat, Nobody Home, was less than 20 miles away and came over to offer assistance.  Another boat, a Salty Dawg member not in the rally, also heard about what was going on and joined them to offer assistance.

Once the seas had calmed down somewhat, someone went into the water and was successful in clearing the line from the prop.  Fuel, water and some food was shared with the exhausted crew of Calypso.  I can tell you that getting in the water near a pitching boat and moving heavy jugs of fuel is no simple task and not for the faint of heart.

All the while the shoreside tracking and emergency response team for Salty Dawg stayed in touch with the stressed crews, helping them work through the problem and getting everyone back on track.

As of now, the three boats are sailing in company for the remainder of the run to Antigua.  I’ll arrange for a rigger to meet up with Calypso so that they can get things sorted out.

This experience, and how quickly other members pitched in to help is a great example of how close knit the Salty Dawg community is.  Everyone working hard to live by our code of “sailors helping sailors”.

I plan to recognize the crew of all three boats at our arrival dinner a week from now so hopefully they will have arrived in Antigua by then.  It’s an impressive story.

So, speaking of arriving in Antigua, when will Pandora arrive?  TOMORROW!!!, and I can not wait.

With about 120 miles to go, we should arrive sometime between midnight and 0300 tomorrow, Thursday.  Perfect timing as Brenda will be arriving in Antigua on Friday.

Last night we ran the second of three fuel tanks dry.  It was my plan to run each tank until the engine quit and then switch to the next tank.  Generally that works well and squeezes the maximum number of hours from our fuel.  However, when the engine quit last night it did so very abruptly.  Normally, when the fuel is running out, the engine begins to stumble and slow down but last night it just stopped.

When a diesel engine runs completely out of fuel you have to open a number of fittings and “bleed” the system before you can start it again.  Normally,  this isn’t needed as just a quick use of the starter motor is generally enough to get things moving again with fuel from the “new” tank.

Not last night, and it ended up requiring me to get out my tools and go through the bleeding process.  I’ll admit that I was anxious to get the engine going agin and ran the starter a bit too long.  At that point, I was concerned that I might have run the starter battery down too much and would not be able to get the engine started again.

Note that the starter for the engine is 12V and the boat is 24V so you can’t just use jumper cables from the house bank if the starter battery fails.  I’ll have to figure out a work-around on that one, just in case.

However, after a proper bleeding of the system, the engine started right up so all was well.

Engine or not, and I am very glad that it isn’t “NOT”, we have finally found our way to fairly consistent trade winds and it’s none too soon.  After more than 1,400 miles under our keel we finally have good sailing for the last few hundred miles.  What took so long???

And, speaking of wind, we had a few squalls last night with one bringing with it over 25 kts of wind.  Pandora was screaming along at nearly 10 kts and after about an hour of that, I decided to reduce sail and calm things down.   Blasting along at near double digit spreads is exhilarating, but all I can think of when that’s happening is that something is going to break.

Now, a few hours later, we don’t have quite enough wind but we are still moving nicely toward Antigua.

After nearly two weeks at sea, it’s about time that we have fair winds and seas at our back.   We deserve it.

And, all this with no particular gear failures.  Perhaps I shouldn’t even bring that up since I might jinx it.

Oh, yeah, it will likely be dark when we arrive so I plan to enter Falmouth Harbour, right near English Harbor, where we plan to clear in when it gets light.  Getting into English harbor in the dark is tricky because the entrance is narrow and the marks are not lit.

While there is a nasty reef at the entrance, Falmouth is well marked so that is our choice.  We will take a mooring in the harbor and as soon as we are tied up… I’m going for a swim, then a tot of rum with my crew to celebrate our arrival.

Then a nap…

Antigua, here we come and I can’t wait.

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