Monthly Archives: January 2024

Anxious to move on… for croissants…

It’s been three weeks since we arrived in Antigua and I will admit that I am becoming a bit restless to begin heading south. In past years, the “Christmas winds” tend to be a bit lighter toward the second half of January but this year the winds were quite reasonable earlier in the season and not so much recently.

For the last few nights we have had strong squalls where it went from sort of windy to quite windy with heavy rain only to lighten up ten minutes later. The good news is that it washes off the decks. The down side is that we have to jump up to close all the hatches with no warning except drops hitting us in bed.

Nighttime is beautiful in Falmouth with all the yachts brightly lit. I can only imagine with that costs as a KWH is about $.75. I have been told that some of the yachts run up electric bills of thousands a week. I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

The view of the yachts in the marina at night is pretty impressive. For the purposes of scale, note that a mast that is over 100′ tall has to have a red light. Lots of red lights…

The one with three masts on the right is the Maltese Falcon, that I wrote about recently.

She left the harbor a few days ago. It was impressive to see her unfurl her sails. Amazingly, a few hours later she was back in the marina. Imagine taking a 300′ sailboat out for a day sail? “Ok, let’s head back to the dock. Enough of that for today. I don’t like the whole wavy thing at all.”

Every day I look at the GRIBS (computer generated wind models) along with Chris Parker’s forecast with the hope that lighter winds are on the horizon. It is possible that we can head south to Guadeloupe on Monday but that is a very narrow one day window and the winds will quickly become strong again. The good news is that we may be entering a period of lighter winds in about a week but that’s a long way off so I guess we will just have to see how that goes.

With that in mind, we headed to Jolly Harbor today, a short 15 mile downwind run. There is a nice grocery in Jolly as well as a place to check out with customs. Tonight we will have dinner with our old friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo. You may recall that they were our mentors on the very first trip south in 2012. We are all a bit older now and somewhat worse for wear.

Here’s the view from Pandora when we arrived in Jolly. A beautiful day with lovely clouds.

Hopefully Monday will not be too windy but the waves are expected to be between 7-10′ on the beam. Windy yes, and a contrast to the view of our home in CT, here with a dusting of snow. Thanks to Mike and Heidi for sending this shot and for keeping an eye on our home this winter.

Yesterday was laundry day and with the strong winds everything dried PDQ with the first load ready to fold and put away as the second one came out of the washer.

I have tried to do what I can to help Brenda feel productive aboard Pandora this winter. It is no secret that she misses “her people” when she is here in the tropics. To ease all that, this winter she is doing a bit of teaching for some of her more advanced tapestry students. Here she is during her first two hour session. We have things set up with a second camera so that she can demonstrate techniques as well as share photos from her computer along with commentary. It seems to be working very well and she’s enjoying the time .

Fortunately, many of her groups are using zoom, even when they are being held in person. This is good as many members can’t get to live events as easily for various reasons like age, weather or, in Brenda’s case, thousands of miles of ocean between her and the meeting. Perhaps not as good as “being there” but she is smiling as I write this, participating in a bobbin lace meeting.

Yesterday I had a meeting at one of the big marinas and took advantage of the moment to take some photos of some awesome sailboats visiting to participate in the upcoming Caribbean 600 race, one of the top ocean races in the world.

These three trimarans seem to be of identical design.

One of them is Argo. At 70′ she is a beast, capable of upwards of 40kts. She’s a handful and I can only imagine what sailing one of these boats must be like. Read this first hand account of what the experience is from Sailing World.

Better yet, watch this short video of her under sail. Hard to imagine sailing one. Perhaps easier to imagine crashing or flipping one if you don’t know what you are doing.

The cockpit on Argo is all business. And, they are tiller steered with three rudders.

The rudders and foils look like they would snap under the massive loads. I guess that they do on occasion.

Imagine the loads on the dagger boards that require blocks to move them up and down.

What is on the “water end” looks impossibly fragile.

One thing for sure is that this sort of boat needs someone with deep pockets.

And, speaking of deep pockets. I would love to get aboard Nahlin, owned by Dyson of the vacuum family.

And, of course, Nord, fresh from the builder’s shed. I have written about this boat recently but it’s worth noting that in past years, the owner’s last boat, Scat, held an end-of-season cookout on the dock for all comers. The day I took this photo, the office staff of the marina had been invited aboard for lunch. I suspect that most owners aren’t quite as open.

And, for bespoke yachts, bespoke tenders. And, usually more than one. Not a bad ride.

And speaking of “rides”, how about rowing across the Atlantic in an open boat? The first arrivals of boats in the Talisker’s Whisky Challenge have begun arriving in English Harbor. You can see where all the boat are on that page too. They come in with great fanfare.

Seeing them step on shore for the first time in over a month of rowing is quite a sight.

A lot of hugging.

And tears…

Family comes from all over to welcome them. It’s quite a moment.

It’s been nice to be here in Antigua for the last few weeks but I am anxious to move on. Off to Guadeloupe on Monday, I hope.

Love those French islands! Croissants, baguettes and oh yeah, wine in our future.

These guys are one in three million.

We are still in Antigua and hope to head to Guadeloupe next weekend. The problem is that the winds are quite sporty and to head out on a 50 mile run, my first of the season with Brenda in what Chris Parker, our weather router, calls “salty” would not be a great way to set the tone for the coming months.

The sunrise was beautiful yesterday, like nearly every day.

And when the sun peaked above the hills a few moments later…

So, for now we are hanging out and enjoying the sights. And those sights include some of our neighbors, some of which I have written about in the past.

This yacht Moonrise, is owned by Jan Koum, a co-founder of WhatsApp. He was born in 1976 so has plenty of years left to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Moonrise is over 300′ long and a real stunner. With a crew of 32 it is no surprise that it costs upwards of $20m to run her every year.

Of course, these days, even the biggest yachts don’t have enough room to store all their toys so they have a support yacht. This one, Nebula, shadows Moonrise. If Moonrise was big enough to support all the toys aboard the “mother ship” it would be too large to fit in most any harbor. This is quite a yacht in it’s own right and the “hanger” is big enough to accommodate a helicopter without folding the rotor along with all the other toys. This link shows just how elaborate this “tender” is.

I have written about Maltase Falcon in the past. She was commissioned by Tom Perkins, an early venture capital founder behind some of today’s biggest tech companies. Tom passed away and she is now active on the charter circuit. When she was built, she was the most sophisticated sailing yacht ever launched.

It’s worth watching this video about this remarkable vessel. To date, there are only two yachts in the world using this unique rig design.

In spite of being one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, she looks tiny next to some of the other yachts in the marina.

And speaking of unique, this boat, Norn, is owned by Charles Simoni, one of the developers of Microsoft Office. Norn is brand new and bigger than his prior yacht, Scat with many of the same characteristics. Check out this link to the builder’s site for Norn to get a feel for what such a yacht looks like down below. They both have a military look to them. The owner also has the distinction of being the only civilian to go up to the International Space Station twice, as a tourist.

While there are plenty of massive motor yachts to choose from here, I should note this huge sloop, Sarissa, owned by Lachan Murdoch, who runs News Corp. Launched in 2023, she is a luxury racer/cruiser, designed to take him and his family just about anywhere. Check out these photos of her?

This morning has been a very busy day for arrivals of the biggest yachts here in Falmouth harbor. This yacht is called Dreamboat. She is owned by the founder of Home Depot, Arthur Bank. Launched in 2019 she cost a staggering $180M. He also owns two sports teams. Of course he does…

I doubt that many of the materials were purchased from Home Depot but the money surely came from there. Check out this link for photos and a description of this amazing yacht.

Dreamboat has a nice spot suited to sundowners, I’d say.

Of course, you have to have a proper tender on such a yacht. When they get this fancy, they are called limos.

A favorite of mine is Naulin, launched in 1930 and carried King Edward for a tour of the Med before he abdicated the throne. After decades of neglect, she was fully refurbished by James Dyson, the vacuum guy. She was steam powered and now is converted to twin diesels. This link will take you to an interesting brief history. She is over 300′ long and only 35′ wide, a much smaller yacht than a yacht of similar length today. A classy lady, to be sure.

Ok, one more although, not with a particularly creative name. Here comes the Sun, she was once owned by a Russian but no longer. Interestingly, she recently went through a refit and had about 40′ added to her length. Sounds complicated.

Wonder what the “down below” looks like? It’s hard to pick which of these massive yachts to include as there are so many to choose from. However, Here Comes the Sun has a great video tour.

So, enough about the .oo1% gang that seems to be everywhere. How about “a day in the life of the little retired cruisers?”

With that in mind, the other day we rented a car with some friends to do a bit of exploring.

Here’s something that you don’t see everyday, especially aboard mega-yachts. Along the way we had to stop to wait for a herd of goats to get out of the way. It was hilarious to see them trot down the road, parting to get around our car and reforming behind us.

Once the goats cleared, our first stop was the Saturday farmer’s market in St John. It was a crazy experience with vendors set up on every street corner.

I wonder if some of those goats were headed for this meat market? It was alarming to see how fast the guy moved the meat through the band saw blade and how close his fingers came to the blade.

Or, better yet. I wonder what this machete sharpener guy was preparing for?

We are certainly not slumming it aboard Pandora but it’s a bit hard to reconcile how different the lives of those mega yacht owners and the typical Antiguan.

However, even the most extravagant wealth isn’t much use if you can’t enjoy your toys. Back when Putin invaded Ukraine all the Russian owned mega yachts took off with moments to spare lest their boats be impounded. Most of them are now in Turkey or the Middle East where they are safe from sanctions. However, one that didn’t get away, supposedly because they did not have enough fuel aboard, was Alfa Nero.

She is still here two years later, now under the control of the Antigua government and it’s unclear as to what will happen next. Some think that the Antiguan government has bitten off more than they can chew as they are now required to keep the boat in perfect condition, an expensive proposition for a yacht that costs thousands a day just sitting there.

These big kids come and go all the time so you get the feel that being a part of such a club is common. However and to get a feel for how rare the billionaire set is, there is one billionaire on the planet for every three million people, about 2,500 of them. And to say that a billionaire is “one in a million” understates it by a factor of three.

But to be a Russian billionaire right now isn’t what it used to be. While most of the Oligarchs got out of town when Putin invaded Ukraine, feel sorry for the owner of Alfa Nero that wasn’t fast enough on the trigger to leave Antigua and can no longer enjoy his toy. Well, that assumes that he hasn’t got another one stashed somewhere.

Good morning! Good morning!

One of the things that we enjoy about being in Antigua is how friendly the locals are. Being a part of a nation of only 90,000, it’s not hard to imagine that you have to be nice to fit in. We used to tell our boys “watch out what you do in public. Someone we know might see you”. That was true in the small town in NJ where they grew up and is surely true in Antigua.

Here it is just considered good manners to greet someone with a simple “good morning” and if you spend time on one of the many island busses, greetings are shared as each passenger gets on and off the bus. More often than not, the response isn’t a simple “good morning” but “morning, morning” or “good morning, good morning”. I find the “duplicate” greeting to be quite charming.

In NYC, where one of our sons lives, these sort of casual greetings are rare and to look into the eyes of a stranger on a subway may very well be met with suspicion, anxiety or even hostility, wondering what you want or worse, them wondering if you “might not be all there.”

Sadly, over the last decade or so, it seems that we have become accepting of increasingly antisocial or even violent behavior. After walking into town today with so many friendly greetings, I am reminded that today is the third anniversary of the 6th riots in DC. Hopefully, this particularly unpleasant phase in our country will pass over time. I can tell you that our image in the world has suffered.

Unfortunately, we seem to have become a nation of people with the attitude of “I will do what I want, when I want and I dare you to stop me.”

Having spent my life in the general NYC area it seems normal to live in a neighborhood where you know few of those that live close by. Even though I am only on-island for perhaps two months a year, it is hard for me to walk down the street without someone recognizing me. The contrast between home and Antigua is sharp where just about everyone seems to know each other. I am sure it’s not all that simple, but I do enjoy being in a place where nice is the norm.

Most of the Salty Dawg boats have left the island and are roaming about in the Caribbean so we are now flanked by the “big girls”. I have to say that having the “pros” pull in beside us is a lot less anxiety producing than those that are not very familiar with Med Mooring. The Cat beside us is 75′ long and it’s one of the smallest boats around.

Just around the corner are some very impressive yachts, all lined up like sardines. More like cans of fine caviar.

This one in particular, Nadan, about 150′ long, is quite a boat. You can sort of see from the stern that she has a real classic yacht feel.

Here is a photo of her underway. She looks like a true art deco classic but was built in 2019.

I wonder if they will be neighborly and invite us over for dinner? Pretty nice digs.

Or, perhaps for a dip in the hot tub? Not holding my breath.

I think that the closest I will get getting to a tour is this 2 minute video promoting her as a charter. She was built in 2009 and recently changed owners. However, she is still available for charter at $125,000 to $145,000 per week.

Well, I won’t be loosing any sleep if we don’t get invited. However, as they say, timing is everything and we have both docked on the private island in the Bahamas, Over Yonder Cay. Albeit, not at the same time, as you can imagine.

We were there way back in 2016. How we came to be invited to a private island in the Bahamas, and it was our second visit, is a long story. Click here for a post about that visit. Note that Pandora was dark green at the time. No longer.

Here’s our neighbor on the dock there. Well, I think it’s the same place.

Wondering how we were invited to visit a private island? I had written a blog post about the owner, his yacht Marie and this island. I actually wrote the post for my dad, who died ten years ago last week. He loved WWII airplanes and the owner, Ed, owns a bunch. This post earned us two visits to his island and three days of sailing on Marie.

While Ed has since sold Marie, she is currently tied up in nearby Falmouth. It is indeed a small world and one that I like.

And, I particularly enjoy walking in the morning and being able to say “Good morning” to every local I see and to have them return the greeting, “good morning, good morning” and they mean it.

So, before I break, the view of the entrance to English Harbor from Pandora this morning.

And sunrise over the hill.

Not bad and our view is just as good as the view from Nadan. However, I have to make my own coffee to greet the new day.

And when Brenda gets up, “good morning, good morning” and a hug…

Antigua welcomes 2024.

We are now solidly into the new year and I have to say that I am more than a bit shocked to realize that I find myself yet one more year beyond “upper middle age”. The bad news is that while I enjoy being on Medicare, I am not all that crazy about being precariously perched on the road to “elderly”. Well, that’s if “just south of 70” falls short of elderly.

New Year’s Eve here in Nelson’s Dockyard, and it now seems like ancient history, was great fun with hoards of locals jamming the place. There was raucous music and plenty of partying. Quite a crowd.

At midnight the fireworks show began. It was not a NYC style event but really wonderful. Nothing like sitting on the bow of Pandora on a beautiful evening.

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The display clearly classified as “short and sweet” but the enthusiasm from the crowd saw it as much more.

Earlier in the evening Brenda and I had a wonderful dinner at a local French place, Colibri, with some friends. It was a 5 course dinner and seemingly endless glasses of prosecco. In spite of all the fun, I felt pretty good the next morning. Amazingly, I was able to stay awake until after 1:00. Not to shabby for a guy just south of old age.

The holidays are officially past us and the Salty Dawg events that began here in Antigua in mid November are winding down. Sadly there were only three events planned for this week including last evening’s Cocktail party at Colibri, tonight’s Tot Club event in the Dockyard where I have invited some fellow Dawgs and a New Year’s Day progressive cocktail party here in English Harbor.

Now that we have crossed the threshold to 2024, most of the Salty Dawg boats have moved along and are now scattered from Grenada to the south to the Virgin Islands to the north. It’s hard to keep those Dawgs from roaming.

Brenda and I are planning to stay here in Antigua for a few weeks and then will begin running south to Guadeloupe, Dominica and hope to land in Martinique in time for Carnival in early March. Since we arrived we have had a parade of workers on the boat, cleaning, tracking down an electrical issue (unsuccessfully) and sails being reinstalled. As of this afternoon, Friday, we are by ourselves, finally.

Oh yeah, yesterday I was on a zoom Salty Dawg Board meeting when the boat started to shudder. I jumped up on deck to see the boat that had been moored beside us pulling out. As he passed our bow he realized that he was tangled in our anchor chain. Instead of standing by for help, he continued to pull up his chain and my anchor, along with it. Without my anchor to hold us off the dock, and him pinned to our bow, we both turned sideways to the dock with no fenders to cushion the blow on Pandora. In spite of perhaps a dozen passers by trying to fend Pandora off of the dock, we still ground away.

The dockmaster in the Dockyard came to our rescue along with some divers to reset my anchor. The process took over 30 minutes and meanwhile the “offender” took off and is nowhere to be found.

It’s still a bit unclear if there is any real damage but I will have to explore more carefully. We have the offender’s contact info but I don’t know what I will do about it as the scratch doesn’t look that bad.

Hopefully the excitement is now behind us and we can relax.

Unlike up in CT and our home town, it’s warm and sunny here on Antigua.

So, for now… Just hanging out in Antigua and recovering from way too much holiday crazy and dock excitement…

Setting aside dings, scratches and endless workermen aboard, I am happy to say that Brenda and I are settling in and enjoyed welcoming in the New Year with Antigua.