Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas in Antigua
(click on photos to enlarge)
After Nancy's arrival, and with the decision to remain in Antigua for Christmas, we had some time to explore the island and the town of English Harbour.  Using Ed's rented car, we took a day to tour the island of Antigua where we found a beautiful beach at Half Moon Bay.  This was exactly the kind of place people in the Caribbean use to send sunny beach pictures home to friends and family in really cold places.

 English Harbour is a place seafarers have been visiting since Christopher Columbus.  It is full of history and beautiful yachts.
The British thought it was better to keep it for themselves so they built a fort at the entrance. 

And they stocked the place with cannons... lots of cannons!

Now days, they'll let almost anybody come and hang out here.

Still, it really helps if you have a HUGE super yacht.
This is  289 foot sailing yacht Maltese Falcon.

The buildings around Nelson's Dockyard are preserved from the olden days when Horatio Nelson anchored here.  The buildings remain in use for restaurants, bakeries, a sail loft, shops, etc.  

Christmas Eve was time for a dinghy ride to a fabulous meal at a waterfront restaurant called Ristorante Paparazzi

 But Christmas day was the day for the big party at Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour.  Everybody said we had to go, we did, and it was a blast.  Lots of beautiful yachts here give their crews the day off to attend the Christmas day party.  Here's one now!

 There was plenty of food and drink, live music, dancing, people in costumes and lots of happy smiling people.

After an ocean passage, sometimes all you want to do is dance...

Hakeem, who had helped the Moonshadow crew with restaurant reservations and our laundry showed up.  Hakeem is from Guyana and a really friendly kid who hit it off with all the crew.

We found Alli hanging out with the locals...

...but all eventually returned to Moonshadow to prepare for the next day's sail to St. Lucia.

We departed Antigua at 1230 on Boxing Day, which is the day after Christmas.  Conditions were perfect to hoist the spinnaker.

It was all smiles when the chute started pulling Moonshadow faster and faster on a smooth Caribbean sea.  

By sunset, we had to alter course around Guadeloupe so the spinnaker came down and we settled into a loose watch over night as we motorsailed through the lee from the islands of Guadeloupe and Dominica.   

After breakfast the next day, Alli held a ladies sailing clinic.

Alli is like a horse-whisperer for women on sailboats.  We all chipped in to help her start a venture called Alli Bell's Caribbean Women's Sailing Spa.  Really, she has a gift!

The girls scoffed at suggestions from the men as they drove and sailed Moonshadow for several hours clicking off the miles as she surged along at nine and ten knots.

We comfortably covered the 196 miles in 25 hours at an average of 7.5 knots, and tied to the dock at The Marina at Marigot Bay.

After clearing customs, the crew was rewarded with fresh ice cream a mere 25 paces from Moonshadow's transom.

The Marina guests have full use of the adjacent hotel, including... you guessed it... a swim up bar!

As part of Alli Bell's Caribbean Women's Sailing Spa business plan, the Moonshadow crew thought a visit to one of the local spas would be a smart idea.  We arrived equipped with a full travelling rum bar and playing cards.

The girls came away with custom Moonshadow toenails and at least one of the men in the crew had his first pedicure.

Alas, after nearly a month aboard Moonshadow, our wonderful crew had to return to the States.  we had one last morning outing surrounded by St. Lucia's amazing beauty, then bid Alli, Nancy and Ed farewell.  

We are truly grateful for the help on passage and the companionship as we discovered a few of the Caribbean islands together.  We have memories we'll treasure for life and new members in the growing list of Moonshadow crew.  

Safe travels friends!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

We are still in Antigua where we will stay through Christmas.  

We have finally repaired our refrigeration which died on the way here.  The problem was a 12 volt motor that quit after 17 years of near continuous use.  First we tried having it rebuilt but they couldn't do that here, so we ordered a new one (they are still being made!, whew) from the States and had it shipped here.  It was a great lesson in Island Time.  We were able to retain about half the food we bought at Costco in Norfolk for about ten days (with Ice purchased daily).

Ed's wife Nancy arrived last night after a two day flight from San Diego, complete with a night in the Atlanta airport (the hotel was booked :( ).  Ed rented a car to pick up Nancy at the airport, so we used it yesterday to replace the food we lost from the freezer, and today we'll take a motorized tour of the island with a hoped for swim/picnic at one of the beautiful white sand beaches around the island.

Antigua has a huge Christmas party at Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour which we have heard about from literally everyone we speak with, so that is on our agenda after a dinner ashore on Christmas Eve.  Then we'll sail direct to St. Lucia which should take a day and a half, where we'll stay until we fly back to San Diego for niece Ashley's wedding, and a re-taste of some cold weather!  Ed, and Nancy will stay aboard until their flights home on the 30th.  Alli has yet to decide when, if ever, she's flying home.

Moonshadow is looking festive below decks with the Christmas tree left behind by George and Merima, and some carefully selected ornaments we separated from the herd before leaving San Diego.  Included in our cruising collection of Christmas ornaments are the "First Christmas" ornaments for each of the boys and grand kids, and the "Merry Christmas" signal flags given us years and years ago by dear friends Jeff and Annie.  These flags have flown in all of our homes, so the tradition continues!

Cheers from Moonshadow!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Passage to Antigua

After a hectic morning getting fuel, checking the rig aloft and other last minute chores, Moonshadow finally put Portsmouth astern and found the Atlantic Ocean.  We followed a route that took us East South East for a point south of Bermuda.  Our first Atlantic Ocean sunrise brought with it the Western wall of the Gulf Stream with almost 20 degrees warmer water and seas a bit higher but not as bad as expected.  

We had some great sailing but once across the 50 mile wide Gulf Stream, the wind eventually got so light we had to motor sail.  These conditions continued for a couple of days until nearly south of Bermuda, when we finally secured the engine to conserve fuel.  Our third day brought temperatures warm enough to stow away all the fleece and everybody was finally wearing shorts.  We also brought aboard another crew member that Alli named Bernard.  He was a beautiful 48 inch Mahi Mahi who wouldn't stand watch so we ate him.  Bernard fed the ship's company for three meals when we tossed the  rest overboard because the fridge had quit.
Two significant breakdowns included the refrigerator which the Skipper got running but not for keeps.  Eventually, it quit for good, and remains down while we await a new motor.  The other problem which threatened our ability to make fresh water was the generator which shut down when the raw water impeller failed.  Fortunately, we carry spares for these kinds of things so we soon had the generator up and running so we could make fresh water.

The crew got some valuable experience putting in reefs in the mainsail and then later shaking them out.  We learned some of Moonshadow's preferences in different conditions.  Reaching in 23 knots with steep beam seas we found the best combination was a full genoa and no mainsail at all, discovering it added a knot to our speed by just taking the mainsail down!

The crew also learned just how fun Moonshadow is to sail, taking turns hand steering as we rocketed south at 9 and 10 knots.  It was tough not to smile at times like this.

We also got reminders of what the ocean can dish out as we sailed south in Easterly winds with an Easterly sea that built to 8 to 10 feet.

Every once in a while, a wave would board Moonshadow and wash everything in it's path with a warm saltwater bath.  Some of the seas would launch things below decks from their "secure" stowage place.  One such missile killed Deb's iPad...
As we neared Antigua the wind eased enough to shake out a reef,  but the normally simple job became a bit more complicated when the mainsail tried to throw a full batten overboard.  More able crew work by Alli and Ed had us back in business in no time.

A big event for anybody is crossing into the tropics  so we had a contest to see who could guess the time we would cross the Tropic of Cancer and finally be officially in the tropics.  

Ed won and will take home a treasure chest of momentos donated by all the crew.

Of course we will all keep many memories of the passage, especially the raw beauty of the open ocean.

Anticipating our arrival in a foreign country, the Skipper quickly made our Antigua courtesy flag while the rest of the crew watched the horizon for signs of land.

Even before arriving near Barbuda, an island north of Antigua, the water got shallower and the water turned a beautiful turquoise.

The anticipation was high as we hoisted the Antiqua flag, the Quarantine flag and our San Diego Yacht Club burgee.
Finally, Alli sighted the island we'd been aiming for over the last nine days.  LAND HO!

Suddenly the ten day passage was over and we were back in civilization clearing through customs at Jolly Harbour, Antigua, and buying fuel and ice.

But first a swim in the warm, warm lagoon...

And a well deserved dinner ashore!
We made it!  

Now it is just a matter of getting used to "island time".

 Cheers from Moonshadow!