Friday, February 24, 2012


Caribbean 600 finish
The race boats were all carrying the GPS bricks that continually relay their positions via satellite so I was able to follow the race on an online site with a map showing positions course and speed. Rambler was in the lead rounding the most northerly point but the long reaching leg back down to Guadeloupe was just ideal for Hetairos and she duly blasted past only to be caught on the upwind leg as the canting keel and inherent windward ability of a sloop over a ketch allowed Rambler to catch them but a good decision of the windward side of Guadeloupe gave Hetairos back the lead and she took line honors. Ramblers shorter sister Ran was the winner on corrected time.


My genoa has the usual sacrificial strips sewn along the base and outside edge of the sail to protect it from the sun. The strips seem to be in still in good condition but the thread used to sew it on had degraded to the point where it could be broken by me picking at it. I had thought at first it was just at a couple of chafe points and tried to restitch it by hand but it quickly became clear that the whole thing needed resewing so it was a shop job. A & F sails in English harbour picked it up, did the work and delivered it back to the dinghy dock and the price was reasonable. Getting it back up was not quite so easy as it is a heavy sail and it really is a two person job too wind the halyard winch while feeding the sail into the luff groove on furler but by using the anchor windlass to hoist the sail I was able to stay by the furler and “Git her Done”, although I did feel like a one armed paper hanger at times as I fed the sail into the groove, pressed the up button with my toe, tailed the halyard, controlled the bunt of the sail with my knee and kept a look out to see that we were not sailing into trouble and that the sail was not catching on anything.


My faithful Johnson 15 hp pull start cord has been looking a little tired so before it broke I took the bull by the horns and dismantled the quite intricate pull start bendix, with safety interlock against full throttle starts, mechanism. As the motor is 30 years old spares are at best hard to find so I am usually a fully paid up member of the “IF IT AIN'T BROKE DON'T FIX IT” club in case something proves broken on dismantling and is unobtainable but this had to be done.

In the end it only took about 30 minutes and everything looks OK without much wear although I worry about the plastic bits becoming brittle and it seems to be working fine although I may need to add a couple of extra turns prewind on the return spring. I will see how it goes, as I don't want to overwind the spring.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


The Caribbean RORC 600 is a 600 mile race that starts of Elizabeth harbour Antigua, weaves its way through the Leeward islands to the North of Antigua and finishes back in Antigua.

The race was set up to attract some of the mega yachts that ply these waters in spring and it succeeded in getting Hetarios the biggest of the carbon fibre megas to enter.

I walked over to the Berkley battery on a gray and windy morning with the drizzle blowing across my face, just like a gray day in Scotland. [ Except of course that it was 80 F so not cold ] On arrival I could see that the squall was clering through and there was a promise of blue skies and a moderating wind.

Yachts were milling about and foul weather gear was the order of the day as tacticians were pondering how to attack the start line, bowmen were having full and frank discussions with the 'guys in the back' about the choice of headsail and helms were offering silent prayers “ Please god, don't let me hit anything expensive.” as 40 foot Bendytoys chartered for race were mixing it up with 100 foot canting keel racing machines and towering over all was the 216 foot long green machine.

Still they got themselves sorted out and this start at least was a good one with most hitting the line within seconds of the start gun.

Last to go were the big boys and it looks like Mark Fitzgerald on Sojana put one over on Hetairos in the start line maneuvering and got away first. I had thought I had seen the doyen of Caribbean reef navigation, Donald E. Street, in English harbour the day before and had it confirmed by a fellow watcher that he was indeed here and in fact was a navigator on board Sojana. The apocryphal story goes that he knows the position of the reefs because he had hit them all with Iolaire, his beloved old wooden yawl.

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Caribbean 600

After a great couple of days in Five Island Harbour the forecast of a big North West swell sent us scurrying around the corner and on course through Cade sound towards Falmouth Harbor.

We came past the headland and I was surprised to see a veritable forest of masts poking up over the shoulder of land from Falmouth harbor. Last year at this time the docks were empty but this year things looked different. When we entered the harbor it became clear that every inch of dock space was being utilized and some superyachts were in the unfamiliar position of being a poor relation and hanging off a corner of a dock with fenders out against another.

It is all due to the 600 mile race starting and finishing in Antigua and aimed at the big boys.

Heading up the fleet is the six-month old 66m (216ft) Hetairos, which recently took line honours in the Transatlantic Superyacht Regatta from Tenerife to Virgin Gorda, completing the 3,069 mile crossing in 8 days 10hrs 58mins 30secs. Some say her classic looks and sleek green hull may be based on the early 19th century pilot cutters, but as well as being built for comfort with a stunning interior, she is an ultra-modern competitive yacht and one of the largest composite sailing yachts in the world which also boasts the largest composite standing rigging. Personally I think she looks unbalanced and is Toad green as well!

The super maxi Rambler is likely to take line honors but there is a trimaran that could pip her to the post. Pundits reckon that the winning boat will take less then 48 hours to cover the 600 miles.

I see that old warhorse Steinlager on the wall in English harbor but she has not shown up on the entry list so far.


But before that race started there was a much more serious race to be run with maidens to be resucued and bragging rights to be earned. The wobbly [ don't ask ] byob event kicked off with a beauty pagent then the serious matter of Building Your Own Boat started. Many and varied were the styles and as cheating was allowed nay positively encouraged so the additional materials that snuck in over and above the supplied plywood and gap filling foam were making some entrants think again.

Doing surprisingly well was the cocktail party but they did have the aid from the diver and the powerful underwater scooter.

Both sail powered vessels did less well.

In the end it was this canoe style vessel with a serious pair of shoulders propelling it along that was the runaway winner.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Five Island Harbour Antigua

Tired of the fleshpots of Jolley harbour and fed up of being bullied by that little finch in the restaurant we headed round the corner into Five Island Harbour and as always I am surprised by the small number of boats present. A mega sailboat anchored well out and couple of catamarans tucked into the smaller bays were the sum total. We headed into Hermitage bay and dropped the hook and surveyed the empty anchorage and the perfect beach, goody goody perfect peace I thought.

But it was too good to be true. A noisy little motorboat bustled into the bay unloaded a big inflatable buoy and bustled off to repeat the process at the other side of the mega sailboat. Soon a pack of sailboats rounded the point and raced towards us. Yup we had a ringside seat for the Sunday Joley Harbour races. It was real “RUN WHAT YOU BRUNG!” fleet. I liked this delicate little fellow that I suspect is an International Dragon but he was closely followed round by a cruising sailboat with their wind generator whistling away as they beat up to the mark.

Three races followed and we were right there on the spot. I was a little nervous at the mass start but everybody got away cleanly and there was no close encounter for Elephants Child.

ut by 4 pm it was all done and by 4.30pm the Mega Yacht left so other than a mast poking over the headland we were by ourselves in a bay that could hold a fleet of warships. Just Bliss.

Friday, February 10, 2012


Well it was close but the finch won. I have never had such a determined assault on my plate by something so tiny. I guess it could have been a devoted mum with a nest full of hungry chicks but something was driving this bird. Twice it was on my hand getting a mouthful.

Bfore we left Deshaies we had a big swell coming into the bay and the brand new and pretty well constructed dinghy dock started to break up. The emergency welder made repairs with big gussets but time will tell.

We also liked this charming and very old building with a roof ful of flowers on Deshaies front street.

Sunset before we left showed how the contrary winds would set vessels pointing in all directions.

I checked in at Jolly Harbour but there is a new customs officer on duty there and she is a stickler for the regs. We had to come in alongside so that she could read the name on the side of our boat. his despite the fact that we were at anchor right off the dock with the name clearly visible and readable on the side.

Ah well it is as well I did not complain to much. She has already be the cause of two $5000 dollar fines for yachts not following procedure.

It is worth noting that I have never heard of yachts being required to dock at the other major port of entry English Harbor. In fact the last time I cleared in there I was in a different harbour and walked over to English Harbour.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Averaged 8 knots for 38 miles

High 7 evens and mostly 8s with the odd surf at 9+ gave us the best average so far.

The best bit was that the boat did not seem to be overdriven, just having a pleasant beam reach. Maybe we were getting a big lift from a North going current.

Anyway we are tucked up in a quiet anchorage just outside Jolly Harbour.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Deshaies fo Antigua

Off to Antigua tomorrow weather permitting 47 miles to go to Jolly Harbour. It should be a good sail with the wind just before the beam.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Saintes briefly and on to Deshaies

In the Saintes.

It was really rolly, wet and windy in the anchorage of Terre Haut and Judy was complaining about lack of sleep so after a brief excursion ashore and as she had decided she could not manage the climb up to Fort Napoleon, we left to look for flatter water.

Just before we left though got a nice shot of the Stad Amsterdam coming into the anchorage under sail.

Relying on my past experience of the area I moved around to a small but very protected anchorage on Terre Basse by the old pottery that produced the sugar moulds only to find that if anything the swells were worse! After waiting a little while we set off again and found that Pain de Sucre was pretty flat so settled down there.

Next day dawned fair and despite the forecast the wind was South of East and it looked like for once there was wind on the leeward side of the main island of Guadeloupe. Never wishing to miss an opportunity of a favourable wind we set off for Deshaies and managed to carry some wind almost all the way up the 30 odd miles, only having to motor for short spells through some dead spots.

As I was reading an Alexander Kent story [ Richard Bolitho ] at the time it was quite evocative to think back to the times when there were no motors and all sailors could do in dead spots was to get the long boats out and to tow the big boat with oars. If we had some light air sails like a big code zero and the energy and skills to set and strike them we could have sailed all the way but the iron genny is just so much easier.


After we had anchored at Deshaies and squared everything away my attention was drawn to a fairly big French flagged sailboat reversing around in a very crowded part of the anchorage and towing something from his bow. It turns out to have been his anchor and it was a miracle that he did not get caught up on some one elses anchor or hit another boat. He was on his own and eventually two people paddled out to his boat. By now half the anchorage was out, standing on deck and ready to take avoiding action. We were well back from the danger area but it was a “high anxiety” moment for those in the front line of boats. However he raised his anchor found a spot and dropped it again. Even then he was pretty close to another boat.

I like to watch the behaviour of the birds as well as the crazy French sailors and it was Judy that alerted me to some little herons that were winging their way around the anchorage and unusually for that species were settling on a boat instead of a tree. Now I have seen terns and pelicans settle on boats but usually only those that are long term residents of the anchorage but in this case the little herons settled on a catamaran that had pulled in that day. But minutes later the owners returned, disturbing their new residents who settled on another recent arrival. By now sunset was approaching and the herons flew off to settle in a tree and we settled down to a sundowner and checking for a green flash. The Lords of the unset were obliging for once and we had a fairly good flash of green as the sun disappeared, one of several this year.