One of our goals this season is to get to St. Martin, St. Thomas and then St. Croix before turning south to make the long trip to Trinidad where we will store 5KNOTS for this hurricane season. We have friends on all three islands and was hoping to be able to visit with all of them. It is better sailing if you want to hit these three islands to go counter clockwise because the trade winds routinely come from the east so while heading north or south you will have the wind at your beam (at your side) rather then behind or from the front. Wind hitting the boat at the beam makes for a comfortable sail and is known as a Beam Reach.
The trip from Terre-de-Haut to Jolly Harbour, Antigua is 80 nm and we decided to make it in two legs. The first leg was 30nm to Point Ferry, on the northeast side of Guadeloupe just about 1.5nm south of the main anchorage at Deshaies. Deshaies is a relatively small deep bay with moorings closer towards shore and beyond it is 30+ feet where you have to anchor. No Bueno! Last year when we were there it was very crowded and boats seem to swing with a mind of their own. So we wanted to avoid this hassle and decided on Point Ferry. Point Ferry is a fairly large anchorage and we picked a spot off to the side in about 18 feet of water. With not much wind or swell, we slept comfortably and left at daybreak for Antigua. Whenever we anchor, Renée likes to snorkel over the anchor to check out its location and to verify it is buried well. This is something that you should always do as a precautionary measure.
Looking at the forecast for tomorrows leg predicted 12-15 knots of wind with 1.5-2 foot of wave chop. I usually add 5 to the wind and 1-1.5 feet to the wave height and use this for my data. That way we are not surprised when things are stronger and higher than predicted.
The wind and waves were mild as we left Point Ferry in the morning so we just hoisted the main sail and used it along with our trusty Yanmar engine. We travel this way more frequently than we would like because we travel on the safe side and pick days where the weather will not give us any surprises. About halfway to Antigua we got caught in a squall and the wind went from 15 to 26 knots and the waves grew 3 feet in a matter of minutes. Not expecting this, we had our main sail all the way up without any reefs. A reef is when you do not pull the sail all the way up and you in effect reduce the amount of sail you have. So we turned into the squall and reduced sail to our 2nd reef. This is the smallest amount of sail that 5KNOTS can put out. It is always better to reef early before it gets bad so you do not have to go on deck and hassle with it during the squall like Renée has to in this case, never a fun time. After getting the main reefed we were able to control 5KNOTS and continue without incident, until….
About 5 miles from our final destination at Jolly Harbour our engine died and we were not able to get it restarted. Checking for the most likely cause we determined that our primary fuel filter was all gummed up with junk from bad fuel that we had purchased back in Grenada. Having the main sail up we just let the wind move us along slowly until we were able to replace the filter while at sea and get back motoring. The good news is the filter did what it is supposed to do, namely stop the junk from getting into our engine. Our Yanmar has a primary and secondary fuel filter in order to keep junk from entering our engine. In addition, we use a funnel filter that strains the fuel before we put it into our tank.
As we approached the anchorage at Jolly we were thrilled at the the water color and clarity. It reminded us of the way the Bahamas are. We found a good spot to anchor in 10 feet of water and easily got the anchor to grab securely. The trip took a few extra hours longer than expected since we had to deal with the fuel issue and it was getting to late to go ashore and clear customs. So we decided to just relax and deal with it in the morning. The customs and immigration offices are about a mile from our anchorage and town another half mile. This is further than we would have liked but sometimes this is how it goes. When it is to rough to travel by dingy without getting soaked, we just stay onboard and play cards or dominos. But no matter what the weather, you still have to clear customs. as soon as possible.
The process to clear in Antigua is rather painless but does require entering a bunch of data into their eSeaClear system. There were a few kiosks to use but only two were working so there was a line. The whole process took us about three hours. Presumably it will be easier on exit and next entry to Antigua.
This was our first time in Antigua and we could not wait to hit the town. We read about Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbor, the numerous hiking trails and forts to visit, great provisioning (grocery store), good chandleries (marine supply stores) and the water was fantastic.
By the time we arrived in Antigua, the United States and Europe were feeling the punch of the Coronavirus Pandemic. Businesses were closing and people were frantic to get groceries and the all important Toilet Paper. From the picture of Renée in the grocery store, you can see that this was not an issue here in Antigua.
We stayed in the Jolly Harbor anchorage for a week and took advantage of the grocery store and the two chandleries in order to pick up supplies for a few boat projects. One boat project is resupply our fuel filter reserves knowing that we will most likely have additional failures until we use/filter all the bad fuel or have the fuel and tank polished. Polishing is when you take your fuel and run it through a couple of filters before putting it back into the tank. This would have to wait until the end of the season.
We took the public bus over to English Harbor to visit Nelson’s Dockyard. Nelson’s Dockyard is the largest of Antigua’s National Parks and is still used today as a working dockyard for numerous yachts and ships. The yard’s eighteenth- and nineteenth-century buildings have been fully restored to its original splendor (http://nationalparksantigua.com/visiting/about-nelsons-dockyard). Just a short walk is what’s left of Fort Berkely that guards the entrance to English Harbor. You can walk along the fort walls and through the powder room building.
After a week in Jolly Harbour we felt that we explored all that sights that was convenient to this anchorage. So we decided to move to Falmouth Harbor in order to be closer to English Harbor to make it easier to explore this area. Although you can anchor in English Harbor, it is rather small and was crowded. Falmouth is a good alternative, large bay with reasonable depths to anchor and just a short walk to English, shopping and the hiking trails. It is amazing to see the yachts at the docks here in Falmouth. They ranged from 180 to over 300 feet.
We lucked out because there were sailboat races scheduled for the entire month. There are all kinds of boats and races ranging from classic boats to the latest in technology. We had a great spot to view the yachts as the entered and left the harbor for the open sea and the races. We were able to catch several days of practice runs and decided that we should hike to the One Gun Battery to watch the races. One Gun Battery is the remains of a small outpost high on the mountain that had only one gun (cannon) and was probably used as a signal post. The battery just so happens to overlook the race starting markers. So on race day we took chairs and packed a cooler with drinks and snacks and spent the day enjoying the race. We made a couple more trips over to the Dockyard to take in more of the sights, visit the museum and walk the grounds some more. The museum was small but jammed full of interesting history. Boys would typically join the navy when they were 12-16 years old and often stay on the ships for 20 years working their way up the ladder to get promotions that ultimately afforded them better positions on the ship.
The only remains of the old boathouse are the stone pilers that once supported the giant boathouse. They are massive and I can only imagine how large the boathouse must have been. They would pull the boats into the boathouse and then offload the supplies from the ship to the second floor. Must have been something to see.
The weather window we were hoping for arrived and we decided to take advantage of it and head to Saint Martin. So we left Falmouth and re-anchored in Jolly where we would complete the checkout process. We plan to leave Antigua at around 4:30pm and sail overnight in order to arrive in St. Martin in the morning at daybreak.