The Countdown Has Begun

Trip Start Apr 01, 2010
Trip End May 06, 2010

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Flag of Antigua and Barbuda  , Antigua,
Friday, April 23, 2010

Time for our first overnight sail... and my last on the SV/Disaster.

As soon as Norman finished his last game of solitaire it was time to go. Without any warning: "Let's go! Let's go! Bloody hell, let's go" and we made our way to the deck, raised the main sail and at 7:00pm we were on our way. By 7:15 it was totally dark.

Somehow I got stuck with two watches: the first from 7-10p and the last from 4a-7a. 4a was supposed to be Alison's but at about midnight Norman told me that it was now mine. Did I mention how much I can't wait until Saturday? Anyway, Tom gets 10p-1a and Steve gets 1a-4a. Norman will be napping in the pilot house or playing solitaire or reading on deck.

The plan at the start is for the Stay and Genoa sails to stay down at least until we're clear of Guadeloupe. Then, if we get any wind, whatever time it is, we get woken up to put up the sails. If we lose the wind, we come back out to put them down.  Putting up the sails at night means harnesses on. Otherwise, we're to stay in the pilot house.

While on watch we're basically just looking to make sure we don't run into anything, which in the pitch black is a bit challenging. Alison explained the mandated running lights on boats: red light on the port side, green light on starboard, white on the stern. If all we see is red or green the boat is intersecting us, if all we see is white then it's going away from us. There's also a white light on the mast or bow. If you're at an angle when you see white, red & green, it's coming towards us. If however there's something in front of you without any lights, you're pretty much going to run it over. You also have no shot at seeing fishing pots so with that in mind, we're running a bit further off the coast.

An hour in I can tell you that night sailing when it's not squalling is a lot nicer than night sailing through The Perfect Storm harnessed to the mast. Even though we're still getting some ambient light from the coast of Guadeloupe, the sky is pretty spectacular. It's like Uluru without the huge flying roaches. The other big plus with night sailing in general is that Norman seems even less inclined to interact with you.

For the past 3 weeks we've been sailing without the radio on so at about 8:15p when there was a burst of static from the speaker in the pilot house I jumped a little. Keeping in mind that Guadeloupe is a French island, I probably shouldn't have been surprised when I heard a woman speaking French but it sounded eerily like the radio transmission from Rouseau, the French woman, on Lost. (Jenn, maybe Sayid can rescue us?) So now, in addition to looking for wayward oil tankers, I've got my eyes peeled for the smoke monster.

That part about getting everyone up on deck to raise the sails... MSU. At 8:30 Norman, who was reading on deck yelled out, "Kid, get your harness." Since he probably had no clue (or more likely didn't care) who was actually on watch at the time "kid" was his catch-all. I assumed he was going to get the others. Nope. It didn't matter though because by the time I got back, he changed his mind. Then 10 minutes later he changed it again. So out on deck I went to harness myself to the clip behind the Genoa winch. He let the sail out from the bow and I pulled the sheet in around the winch. Just like that, the sail was up and he sat back down without a word.  I'm hoping catching an early wind is a good sign for the rest of the trip. Not so much. At 9:30 the sail came down.

20 minutes later it was time to wake Tom up for his watch and fill in the log book. The price of pencils must have gone up because the one Norman has to mark the charts is shorter than an AA battery and has pretty much no point. Think I'm exaggerating?

In three hours we had traveled a grand total of 10 miles. By my less than scientific estimate, at that rate, we should anchor in Antigua around noon.

Norman came downstairs after I finished updating the chart & log book. He took a look and I asked him if I figured us in the right spot on the chart. All he did was point to his ears and make a face. He had his ipod on and no intention of removing an earbud to listen to my question.

When Tom came up I went down to my cabin. For as nice as night sailing is when you're outside on watch, that's how much it sucks when you're down below. All the hatches are shut so there's absolutely no air. Plus, with the motor running the fumes are definitely noticeable. And oh yeah, it's loud.

With that in mind, heading back up to sit in the pilot house for a little while seemed like a good idea. Except it wasn't. Norman, was in there now and started screaming to get out because he wanted to sleep and my flashlight (a mini maglite) was throwing off his night vision. Now, if he's got night vision that let's him see when he's sleeping, that's pretty amazing. But, for fear of being tossed overboard, back down I went. If I was going to be ridiculously hot anyway, I might as well put the time to good use. I began packing before grabbing a couple hours of sleep.

At the aforementioned 4am Norman provided a less than cheery, "You're on watch" and I went back up to the pilot house. By the time I got up there he was already back sleeping on the deck.

The second watch started in near total darkness. We were too far off Guadeloupe to see anything but the faintest of light in the distance and soon that disappeared. To the north, west & east: nothing but black. Then at about 5:15a the sun started to make its move over the horizon. As it creeped up in the east, you could begin to see Monserrat in the west (I was tempted to swim for it and take my chances with the volcano) and Antigua in the distance to the north.


At 6am Alison came up to take over the watch and I went back down to get some more sleep. Apparently I was also supposed to wake up Tom for another watch. Of course, since Norman only told Tom that and not me, I didn't, which later led to him basically calling all of us morons and storming off.

I woke up at about 8:30 to the sound of dishes being put out for breakfast. As usual we didn't eat our stale bread PB&J sandwiches fast enough and Norman started yelling for us to get on deck. Our route into Jolly Harbour, Antigua was lined with reef and we had to be on the lookout. Once we cleared the reef danger (and a few turtles) I was assigned to the pilot house to steer us into the harbor. We got in unscathed with the exception of some more random yelling and anchored in Antigua at 11:30am.

Then Steve & I told Norman we were getting off the boat on Saturday. That went over well. After checking in with customs Steve and I headed to an internet cafe to print out the forward itineraries needed for check-out. We handed them off to Norman and he went back to customs to fill out our exit papers from the boat. At 2:30 it was done and we were back in possession of our passports. Freedom! We'll crash on the boat tonight and tomorrow it's off to Halcyon Cove in Dickenson Bay.

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Kerry Cunningham on

Get off that God forsaken boat as fast as you can. I would not have lasted a day.

justine on

you are a superstar for lasting this long with that buffoon. you speak "sailing" so well now. have a pina colada or 3 from me in antigua.

Cindy on

Thank you for:
1. the huge flying roaches shout out. still scarred.
2. the pencil photo.
3. the gorgeous sunrise shots.
I can't wait to get the unfiltered version of everyone when you're home in nyc. Hopefully your island stay will cure you of this trauma! I give you credit for even staying on the boat tonight. Tom must be certifiably insane to stay.

Dino on

Fro --
Please drown that salty bastard from your memory while you enjoy your beach vacation. I love that you through out a pittsburgh pic while there - apparently it is an island version of Ward's college jersey ;)

Frozen bevies and sand between the toes are a cure all - have one for all of us ;) !!!

Hugs - D

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