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Friday, February 22, 2013

Feb. 19, 2013-RORC Caribbean 600 Race

Wings is tied securely to the dock in Jolly Harbor, one of the most protected harbors in Antigua, on the leeward side of the island behind the hills and miles from the rough and windy Atlantic Ocean. It is 6:00 P.M. on Tuesday. Dinner is being served; a bottle of French red wine is opened. We are looking forward to a nice meal and a quiet night in this, the most peaceful of locations.

Yet even in this sheltered harbor we feel the wind. It sweeps over the island of Antigua and moans in tops of the rigs of the nearby yachts. A gust causes Wings to shudder, like a dog giving a little shake.

It must be rough out in the Atlantic.

And on this night there is a race going on out there, the Caribbean 600. It is the second night of Caribbean 600 race, which will take three or four days in total to complete. So on this night, while we contemplate a quiet evening of wine and good books and after that, a snug night in our warm bunks, there are sailors out there crouched down on the weather rail of their race boats, in their foulies, shivering maybe as the night’s chill sets in. They are facing another night of pounding to weather and ducking spray. Probably there will also be some hard work when “all hands” are called to change a sail or put in a reef. Little sleep can be expected for those sailors tonight.

Start of RORC Caribbean 600.

And I am glad I am not out there.

Maybe I could have been. We were there in Falmouth Harbor the weeks prior to the start and some crew positions might have been available, for someone who wanted to hustle for one. I didn’t do that. I even made up my mind that if I was offered a spot, and at one point it seemed likely that I would be, I’d turn it down. The Caribbean 600 is one of the prestige races in the world, like the Sydney Hobart almost, or Fastnet. Something most sailors would like to have on a CV, me included, and at one time in my life I would have done anything for the chance. But not now. However I have to admit that as the preparations reached a fever pitch I was excited, and I felt the pull. I am glad that the offer did not come through and my will power was not put to the test.

Because when night comes and sleep calls I want to be in my bunk, not out on the rail of a race boat pounding into the dark Atlantic Ocean.

We did go out for the start on Wings. It was rough. We set the main and sailed around the starting area taking a few photos and looking at the scene. The boats were mostly big ones, 80 to 200ft in length, crewed by a dozen or more hands. A few smaller ones, 48 to 50 ft. Everyone was dealing OK with the conditions prior to the start, even us on Wings, but it was a handful for us with the waves, the wind, the traffic, and trying to get some shots. We did it, see here for some of the photos, but afterwards, when the racers set off to weather towards Barbados, we turned downwind and sailed to Jolly Harbor, glad to get into port before nightfall.

I guess I’ve gotten lazy, hopefully wiser, probably just older, but I’m OK with it.

Click here for a few photos.

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Antigua.

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Thursday, February 07, 2013

Feb. 7, 2013-Falmouth Harbor, Land of the Giants

We are now in Falmouth Harbor, land of the giants. I feel like I got caught in some kind of Gulliver’s Travels; all the boats here are huge. But more on that later; how did we get here?

Vertigo and Maltese Falcon.

Status of the back Injury.

We spent three days in Nelson’s Dockyard while I rested after the last passage, then concerns about the cost of it drove us out and we shifted to the anchorage in Ordinance Bay. In the process I re-injured myself pulling the docklines aboard and after we anchored I quickly retreated to my bunk, immobilized with pain.

But the anchorage was tight and our position was not perfect; we needed to move slightly which meant pulling the anchor, the buoy, and the tag line, and shifting our position about 50 feet. I tested my back. Three times I tried to get up and walk around. I couldn’t do to. It seemed I had about 15 seconds on my feet before the pain felled me like an axe.

Finally I said to Judy, “OK, I’ve got 15 seconds. I’ll get up, run on deck, and fall prone on the foredeck. Then I can operate the windlass and washdown, and do whatever else I need to do on the foredeck from that position, you operate the engine and steering.”

It was crazy. We both knew it. She might have demurred but she saw the wisdom of it; we had to move and that was the only way we could do it. Besides, I was the captain, I am omnipotent, my will must prevail. So be it. We planned each move ahead of time.

It worked. I leaped up, ran topsides, and crashed by the windlass. Then I did the required; painfully. We even had a good laugh when I rolled over on the washdown nozzle and it turned on spraying salt water all over me and in my face. But in 10 minutes we had moved the boat and re-anchored and I crawled back to my bunk. It must have amused any onlookers.

Then we spent two and a half days there. I never moved from that bunk.

On the third day I felt better and I got up arranged the photo trip on Marama (see last post ). That too was crazy, Judy thought I was totally stupid, but it also worked. I got the photos.

Adela Afterguard Watching Closely.

Two more days of immobility, then we decided to move again; we wanted to see another place.
By now I was up and around, if unable to sit for long, at least I could do my share on the boat while standing.
We raised anchor and came to Falmouth Harbor. Two miles. We motored. I steered. A test: could I steer? Yes, but painfully. However, it was clear that I was improving.
Now we’ve been here for a few days. My back is better. I’ve been to a couple of doctors. I’ve got a lot of medications. I take them. We go ashore each day and walk around, doing errands. I am doing my exercises. Each day I am using (slightly) less pain medication. Things are looking up.

Falmouth Harbor.

This place has more expensive yachts than anywhere I’ve a couple orders of magnitude. It is filthy with 150’ sloops. And there are half a dozen over 200’. There are also four J-Boats here and another in English Harbor. We have never seen so many big yachts, and in fact we have never seen even one of these boats before, now there are dozens here. We are definitely small time.

But we’ve got our own agenda: We are ticking off the prerequisites for Sailing Week: Finalize entry; Secure berth; Optimise rating, which means getting sails measured and re-cut; Reserve a storage area; Renew the yacht insurance; Reserve a car. Can’t finish any of these right at the moment but we can get them all going. It’s OK, we have two months.

In a week or so, when everything is cooking along, we’ll go on a cruise around Antigua for a month or so. It has some great cruising grounds. What I want to find is that quiet, bullet proof, anchorage where we can hear the birds sing in the morning. We hear there are some like that here. We’ll find them.

Later we’ll come back and do some racing.

Meanwhile, I’ll work on getting my back right.

Click here for more images from Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Click here for more photos from the Antigua Superyacht Challenge

Fred & Judy, SV Wings, Antigua

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