#26. Schooner Cruising

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After the RORC 600, we left south. We meandered our way between Caribbean Islands, stopping only here and there to allow the guests to roam and swim. We visited 4 or 5 countries in as many days. Goats ignored us in Guadeloupe, Turtles avoided us in Tobago Cays, and Dealers resented us in Dominica, cursing our straight-edged crew. Anyway, we didn’t need drugs; we were high on tropical air and sleep deprivation.

Eventually we dropped off our guests in Grenada. I skedaddled and spent a day with my beautifully chaotic friends Ben and Philipa and their wonderful wailing children. We drank and smoke and laughed until we were exhausted.

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While I was doing that, the rest of my crew were emptying the rum barrels on the Schooner Germania Nova, which had anchored next to Adix. All of our crew managed to get back on board that evening, but I think there were a few feeling worse for wear on both vessels when the sun rose… In Antigua we had been mocking their crew for hoisting their ensign upside down on a particularly hung-over morning, but this time they got us back, sneaking over in their tender in the morning, and flipping our ensign. Our captain was very unimpressed.

We sailed on, to Barbados. One of the three older chaps on Adix had left from Grenada, so I finally had my own navigational watch for the (albeit short) passage. That was always the plan – the three of them would be on rotation, so I would always work as the 2nd officer of watch while one was away. It felt good to take charge of the boat, even though we were just motorsailing and there was not a lot going on.

In Barbados we moored stern-too in a horrible commercial dock, next to a cement works and some kind of grain factory type thing. Barbados seemed a bit grim at first. I ran along the beach next to miles of abandoned resorts that were left half-built, and past the rum distillery, the air thick with the sickly smell of molasses.

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The crew went out to celebrate CJs birthday one night. We went to the popular strip of bars and clubs, and found ourselves surrounded by English twats leering at each other. One bloke even told me out of the blue that I needed a haircut, which I don’t think has ever happened outside of the UK before. I felt right at home.

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We were moored stern-to, but with long stern lines because of the swell, so we needed to go ashore by tender – or if it was too late for that, by shimmying along the lines. This procedure was complicated by the fact that the lines would go slack every few seconds, and then pull tight. This was all quite amusing after a few drinks, and on this particular night our chef found herself hanging by her fingertips onto the slack ropes with her knees in the water. Impressively, with only a little help, she managed to get back onto the line and into the boat without going under.

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We spent a couple of weeks in Barbados, because we were there to get our visas for the USA, and the process took some time after the interview. In the meantime, we met a few fun locals, found some more interesting places, and things in Barbados started to look up a little. Then we got our visas, and had to leave, of course.

We headed North again, to the Pendennis Rendezvous in St.Kitts. This is basically a party for the crews of yachts associated with Pedennis shipyard in Falmouth, cunningly disguised as a marketing stunt. In fact, we were in the middle of nowhere, and there was nobody to market to, but the whole thing was probably bankrolled by the new marina in an effort to put the place on the map – it was completely empty when we were there, apart from the four yachts involved in our little gathering. Anyway, we were treated extremely well, and expected to play cricket and race paddleboards and consume inordinate amounts of free food and booze. Our mad Italian engineer had managed to convince us all to chip in for Power Ranger costumes, and so we suited up and did battle with the Lobsters from the yacht Rebecca. Later on, I drank too many free cocktails and made a fool of myself. I wouldn’t dream of romanticizing the excess consumption of alcohol – it was very silly and I felt like an idiot in the morning. I managed to escape the madness for a little while and went on a very pleasant walk over some distant hills, where I encountered monkeys hiding in the undergrowth, and beautiful wild flowers, and nearly died from the roasting sun and the lack of forethought that left me without water. Bah.

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We sailed away in convoy with the other yachts, for the benefit of the helicopters and the marketing department, and then continued directly to Antigua, which was a bit of a bumpy trip if I remember rightly.

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This time in Antigua, I managed to get my little boat launched, and Ben and I sailed it around Antigua to join Adix in Falmouth harbour. It took longer than I had thought, and we ended up having to spend the night anchored, rather than try to navigate Cades reef in the dark. Luckily, we were anchored near a nice little bar on the beach.

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We left before sunrise, and sailed between Cades reef and the mainland, a passage that is very extremely narrow in places. The sun was low and in my eyes, so it was very difficult to take bearings off the island, and the navigation was basically guesswork based on areas of sea state that suggested less than four feet of water. Which seemed to work.

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When we popped out of the inshore passage, into the unsheltered Atlantic wind and swell, we started getting very wet indeed. We had a few miles to go upwind, and the little boat was tossed around like a plaything. I had forgotten what beating into trade winds could be like. Lorema had been out of the water all summer, and had only gone in again the previous day, so the planks had yet to swell up and stop the water leaking into the boat. This meant that Ben was kept pretty busy pumping the water out of the bilge, and even resorted to using a bucket at one point, although it may have been for dramatic effect as much as anything. We managed to make it to Adix in time for morning tea break, and I tied up Lorema alongside, where she looked like a tender for the big Schooner. Over the next few days, I was asked several times how we get the sailing tender up on deck, and had to explain that this little yacht sailed out here to Antigua under her own canvas.

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Adix made a short trip to Barbuda, as a break for the crew (and to keep them out of the pubs for a few days, I suspect). The island is beautiful, if a little flat and sparse. We had a great big bonfire and barbeque on the beach, and I took some nice long walks. I even had a go at Scuba Diving – my first time … a bizarre feeling, at first, and very hard to stop yourself heading to the surface in a panic, but magical once you calm down a bit.

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On the way back we spent a night anchored at Green Island, where I used my new-found diving skills *ahem* to help scrub Adix’s enormous bottom. This, we hoped, would help the old girl slip along nicely in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, which was rapidly approaching….

 

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