Landfall in Antigua: One in a thousand…

It’s hard to believe that Pandora is back in Antigua and I am here in NYC visiting family for the holidays. The fall was a whirlwind getting Pandora ready for the big run south to Antigua and after less than a week of fun, back home…

I have been doing the whole “snowbird” thing for a decade now and I’ll admit that I am tiring of the process, the weeks of back and forth each spring and fall. It’s a big bite out of our year.

With that in mind, this coming summer I will be taking Pandora to Trinidad where she will have some much needed repairs and maintenance. The good news is that I will have much less time consumed with running her back and forth and hopefully can do more of what Brenda wants to focus on instead of me being gone for a month, or more, each spring and fall.

Our plan is to spend a few weeks in northern Europe in September, which should be fun.

So, after a chilly start for the run south. a shot of Pandora’s crew on the dock in Essex prior to departure.

A little more tropical in Antigua.

Pop quiz: Can you tell for sure, which photo was taken in Antigua?

The passage was not particularly bad or good, just sort of average. We took about 12.5 days and sailed 1,850 miles from when we left Essex CT until we arrived in Antigua. We were bucking strong adverse currents much of the way until we passed Bermuda so that accounted for the additional miles, about 250 more than the actual point to point distance.

This is a highlighted graphic of our actual track, along with all of the other boats in the 96 strong fleet. Notice that everybody jogged to the east for a few days. This was to avoid a nasty low with very strong winds.

We often struggled to keep our speed up due to very light winds behind us but for the last 700 or so miles we really flew, logging nearly 200 miles each day. All and all, in spite of the fact that I am pretty sick of the run, we had a very successful passage.

We arrived around midnight last Sunday and picked our way into Falmouth harbor. After anchoring we had rum punch, two actually, and went skinny dipping. After two rum punches who wouldn’t?

Early the next morning we moved over to English Harbor and anchored to wait to be called to the dock. It is a lovely harbor. The building in the background dates to the time when the Royal Navy called the harbor their home in the Caribbean.

And then onto the dock.

The view. That place is the Galley Bar, a very popular watering hole. However, we didn’t drink water…

We stayed on the dock for much of the week, along with some local wildlife. Glad that they weren’t pooping on Pandora. I believe that the scientific name of this particular species is “pooping plovers, Exodosus”. Not confirmed but aptly named I think.

While I had to leave Antigua before the events were over, I did enjoy a number of them.

One highlight is the happy hour at The Admiral’s Inn. A group photo. 135 in attendance, a record.

Our boats completely filled Nelson’s Dockyard. Not an open spot to be had. A big contrast to a week prior when the place was basically empty.

The arrival of our fleet begins the season for Antigua a few weeks early and they just love having Salty Dawg in town. It is very rewarding to me to know that they want us there as much as we want to be with them.

Lot’s of fun, with events every day for nearly two weeks. Check out this link to the latest on what’s planned. And, I’ll be preparing more events for December and January to keep everyone in sync. After mid January much of the fleet scatters, and there are many other events in planning for elsewhere in the Caribbean and Bahamas during the season.

The run this season was not without challenges. One of our boats tried to bail into Oregon Inlet, near Cape Hatteras, ran aground and was damaged. This is a terrible inlet and unfortunate that they tried to get in that way.

Another boat tried to leave from Florida, bound for Antigua and was forced to turn back, for the second time in two years. Even though he wasn’t able to make Antigua, there are worse places to spend the season than the Bahamas. We do encourage boats to head to Hampton before heading south, as the wind direction from that departure point is much more favorable. Leave from points south of Hampton or Beaufort, just south of Hatteras, and you will end up sailing NE to Bermuda anyway, so better to start from farther north and avoid a lot of issues. It is pretty much a case of “you can’t get there from here” when it comes to a south east US departure. Better luck next year for him.

And yes, we did have a number of “issues”, which is expected when you are running nearly 100 boats into the ocean for a long voyage. However, this year we had an unfortunate “first” a death at sea. One of the crew fell ill and died on passage. I suppose that after 13 years, something like this is bound to happen but it does not make it any easier. In this case, the cause of death is not totally clear.

After several days of nausea, the crew member seemed to be recovering only to pass away in his sleep. Fortunately, tragedies like this are very rare but tragic.

I was very involved in the process of dealing with the arrival of the boat and crew, interfacing with the local authorities, a complex process that involved many on the ground in Antigua. Happily, the local authorities were very efficient and supportive and I can’t imagine things running any smoother, a testament to our contacts in Antigua and their goal to do what they could to ease a very difficult situation.

News of the death has been reported widely and I am proud of how the many volunteers in Salty Dawg helped with questions from sea and also assisting the family once the boat arrived in Antigua.

Boats in the rally are supported by our “shoreside” group around the clock for the duration of the rally.

On a brighter note, and in closing, it is important to note that what participants in the rally have accomplished, completing a major ocean voyage, is not to be understated.

With perhaps 70,000 sailboats in the US that are over 30′ long, only about 1,000 attempt to make a long run like our Caribbean Rally every year. And, the nearly 100 boats and upwards of 400 sailors that participate in our rally each year are part of a very elite group, and represent a vanishingly small number of sailors that can say that they have completed such a voyage.

One thing that is certain that those who complete the Salty Dawg Caribbean rally are truly “one in a thousand” and that is something to be proud of.

The fleet underway…

Congratulations to all the hearty souls that successfully completed an impressive run.

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