Today, it’s a little bit brighter here in Antigua.

Yesterday we got the news that after weeks of being confined to our boats that it was now permissible to go for a walk on shore between 07:00 and 12:00 every day.  What a relief, after weeks of confinement aboard Pandora.

While there are still considerable restrictions in place on the island, being able to go ashore, even for a short walk, without feeling like a convict, was great.  Brenda dressed up in her best Covid-19 protective gear and out we went.   And, you can rest assured that under that elegant silk scarf is a proper mask given to her by another cruiser.

As Billy Chrystal, of Saturday Night Live fame, once said, “doesn’t she look marvelous darling?”.  And, with a lovely hibiscus in her hat. So, off we went for a morning walk, our first in, well, I can’t remember the last time.  We headed towards Nelson’s Dockyard.

Almost nobody on the road.  Deserted.  The entrance to Nelson’s Dockyard is normally bustling with yachties and tourists.  Not today. Almost nobody around.  I wondered if we’d be turned away, actually.  To see all the businesses we normally frequent closed was creepy. Sure, it’s mid April and the season would normally be winding down, with many yachts heading out for the season, but it’s a lot more vacant than normal.   The docks are normally packed with yachts of every size, getting ready for the last big event of the season.  In a normal year, the island would be gearing up for race week, when hundreds of competitive sailors and ocean yachts would be descending on the island. Even the mega-yacht dock , generally full of 100’+  yachts, nearly empty. There are still a good number of huge yachts in the harbor but, one by one, they are heading out, headed to the Mediterranean or Newport for the summer season.  I do wonder if there will even be a summer season this year.  Like us, I expect that many owners are wondering where their yachts should actually go.

Newport, for one, has quarantine restrictions in place that are pretty restrictive and it’s still too early in the season to head that far north.  Just last week, there was quite a nasty storm with gale force winds kicking up, south of Bermuda that would have been quite dangerous for even big yachts to be out in.

Virus or not, nature continues to amaze with beautiful flowers everywhere.  An egret hunting for fish in the shallows. A lone ray nosing around for a meal. And, a school of enormous tarpons looking for a handout where fisherman normally clean their catch. Don’t be fooled, these fish are each nearly 5′ long.   Much larger than they look in the photo. One particular yacht worth noting, that’s still in the Dockyard, is Adventuress, a lovely 1924 Scotland built, Fife that was beautifully restored in Maine in 2009.  She is a work of art and in spectacular condition, in spite of her 90 years.  This photo doesn’t do her justice.  Under sail, spectacular in every way. Follow this link to an article about her with more great photos.   She’s a remarkable yacht with a caring owner that is willing to do whatever it takes to keep her in top shape.  I wonder where she will be heading this summer?

While a very different type of yacht,  I have also admired Skat for a number of years now.  Launched in 2009, the 240′ long Skat is owned by Microsoft alum, Hungarian born, Charles Simonyi.

The owner lead the team at Microsoft that developed Office, the program that  runs on nearly every computer in the world.  When Microsoft went public, he became an instant billionaire.  These days, in spite of being an active philanthropist, giving away millions, he is still worth some $3,3b.   I understand that he is aboard Skat for half of the year.

Skat, in Danish is the word for “treasure” and a term of endearment like “honey”.  His danish wife, who he married in 2008, is 32 years his junior.   Interestingly, he dated Martha Stewart for 15 years.  He broke up with her and shortly after that was married in 2008.   Skat has a decidedly military look about her.   As Charles was dating Martha Stewart when she was in prison, I wonder if this photo of Martha’s cell was inspiration for the color scheme for Skat? Who knows.  Anyway, when Skat was launched in 2009 she her design was way ahead of her time, with a much more angular look.  Nowadays, many of the design details of Skat are fairly common in modern yacht design.

The other day there were two fully rigged catamarans on her stern ready for an evening sail.  Off and on, I have also seen a portable table saw set up on the stern.  I suppose for one of the crew to do a project.  It’s hard to imagine what they might be cutting with a crude carpenter’s saw to fit aboard a yacht of this level of fit and finish. Note the number 9906 on the starboard quarter.  It’s the build number assigned to the boat when she was in build at the Lurrsen Yard.  At launch, she cost in excess of $75,000,000.   Check out this link for some background and thought behind the development of Skat.

And when he’s not aboard, Simonyi lives in a very unique home in Washington state, not surprisingly referred to by some as “windows”.   It is also grey along with having some similar design elements to Skat.  Check more about this very unique home at this link. As you’d imagine, he also has a private jet and yes, it’s grey too.  And you can’t land a jet on a yacht so Skat also sports a helicopter, grey of course. A yacht, amazing home, personal jet and even his own chopper.   What else can an energetic billionaire do to keep busy?

How about a trip into space and a visit to the International Space Station?  Yes, he’s done that and even holds the record for being the only civilian to do so twice, in 2007 and again in 2009. Anyway, I think that his yacht is pretty neat.  Skat has been docked here in Falmouth every year that we’ve visited.   Two years ago, after we had already left for the season,  I heard from a fellow cruiser that the crew of Skat hosted a dock party and invited all the cruisers in the harbor to join in the fun.  I’ll bet after a winter hanging around the harbor that Skat’s crew was also ready for a good time as well. 

So while we are still in Falmouth, if slightly less hemmed in, it’s looking like some of the most restrictive rules put into place are beginning to loosen here and hopefully in the USVIs as well, where we will be heading in the next two weeks, as we begin our trip back to the US and home.

As anxious as she is about the trip home, Brenda seems to be beginning to make peace with what she will have to do to get herself there.   The good news is that the weather reports that was have been hearing about the first flotilla that left the USVIs last Sunday, have been quite reasonable, with nice easy broad reach sailing, all the way to Florida.

Just as with the fall Rally, you can follow the boats in the Homeward Bound Flotilla, this time on a really interesting page provided by Predict Wind, for all participants.

With a total of over 160 boats participating in weekly departures through mid May, there will be plenty to follow.  Brenda and I are tentatively planning to join the Sunday, May 3rd departure that will take us to Florida, weather permitting.

The group that left last Sunday is nearing the US and the next group, totaling about 20 boats, is scheduled to leave on Sunday, weather dependent, of course.

We don’t know exactly when we will head out to make the 200 mile run to the USVIs but it will probably be in about a week.  Right now we are waiting for a shipment of prescriptions to ship out either to here in Antigua or to the USVIs.

Of all the “details” that are challenging when living aboard, I have to say that keeping stocked with current prescriptions is the most daunting.  Here in Antigua, we have to hire an import broker just to receive the order, and with the closures related to the virus, it took about two weeks even to find someone to accept the shipment.

Like it is for everyone these days, life is way more complicated but it’s encouraging that perhaps the worse may be over.  At least we can go for walks now.

Yes, today things seem to be a bit brighter here in Antigua.  Let’s hope it’s the sign we’ve been waiting for.

Fingers crossed.




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