14 April, 2017
WARNING! This may be a long one, it’s been three weeks since I talked at ya. We got off the dock at Crown Bay Marina by 08h15, en route to North Sound, Virgin Gorda. We had a beautiful, sunny day for our seven hour voyage. Driving from the upper helm, we just enjoyed the breeze, rehashing the week with Jeremy, Jodi and Mikaela. By 15h15, we were on a ball in our familiar haunt, Biras Creek. On the 9th, by the light of the waxing gibbous moon (full on the 11th), we threaded our way out of the harbor at 03h55. Gliding past Sir Richard Branson’s island, Necker, the bioluminescent critters set our bow wave aglow. Lightning flickered below the distant horizon. A gazillion stars overhead. This is what it’s all about for us. Accumulating patchy clouds obscured the sunrise, but as the sky lightened, the lines went in the water. We struck out on the fishing program, and as we reached the shallows north of St. Maarten, we hauled the lines in and cleaned the reels. We were beginning to get an appreciation for how good the fishing is in the Bahamas and the coast of Florida. Okay……Here we go. The Bahamian and Chinese governments are currently negotiating an “agriculture and fishing agreement.” For a little over a billion dollars, the Chinese will have the right to fish Bahamian waters, and farm the land. Well, over the last 400 years we’ve gotten a pretty good idea about farming (or growing anything) in the Bahamas. Wonder what the Chinese are after and wonder what the ocean will look like when they’re done. Hopefully, the Bahamian politicians will break from their traditionally short-sighted habits and ask any South American country how their dealings with China has worked out for them. By the way, the fishing boundary between the Bahamas and the U.S.A. has been in dispute for years-where do we fit into this mess? Hopefully, I won’t break my leg jumping off this soapbox. …..Aaah, there we go.
We missed the 17h00 bridge into the Lagoon at St. Maarten, so spent a rolly night anchored in Simpson Bay, utilizing the old, small flopperstoppers. We made the 09h30 bridge the next morning, anchored in the Lagoon, and cleared Customs by 11h00. We called Havin, our fabricator, and he said that the new, larger flopperstoppers were almost done, but that he needed to ask me a couple of questions about them in person. We went in to his shop, got things straightened out, and agreed to pick the finished work up that afternoon. Meanwhile, Budget Marine for line and some miscellaneous hardware, grocery store for produce, and the salon to make an appointment for the Admiral to get her hair cut. Back at Havin’s, “no way I can get this done today. How about you come back tomorrow around Noon?” Well, when we told him that we needed them by the 4th, we figured on a two week overage, so no stress. The town was a bit quieter this time, with all of the Heineken Regatta folks gone, but still very vibrant. We got our business taken care of, and went to pick up our flopperstopper “birds” and spinnaker pole at around 14h00 the next day. The work was beautiful. After grabbing one of the birds, I asked Havin where the other one was. Blank look-bad sign. He had only made one. No wonder the job was such a good price. We went back and looked at my drawings/specs, and sure enough, I had specified 2 birds. Since he special-ordered the materials, he couldn’t have another one done for us until 4 days hence. No good. We had to be in Antigua by the 14th, and only had a teeny weather window to sneak through. After exploring the ways that we could possibly get the goods down island, or whether we could come back later, we said “Uncle,” and took what was finished. We left the Lagoon at the 08h30 bridge, and dropped anchor again in Simpson Bay. While Suzanne took the tender back through the bridge into town to get her haircut, I cleaned “Alizann’s” bottom. Two hours flew by, and when I surfaced, Suz was back, happily shorn, and we were on our way to Ile Forchue, off of St. Barth’s, to spend the night before heading down to Antigua.
It was another early morning departure from Ile Forchue, but at 03h00, under clear skies and lit by a full moon, we raised anchor, pointing The Girl southeast to Antigua. Our plan was to hit the marina at Jolly Harbor so that we could get on a dock, as I had to install hardware on the side of the boat and up on the mast for the new flopperstopper. After fishing from sunup, we finally had a strike in the early afternoon. Before long, we had boated a nice little 18 pound Blackfin Tuna. We got him bled and chilled down for a couple of hours, then filleted him, bagged him, and got most of him in the freezer, reserving some for “just now.” Well…Antigua Customs was a trip. We came in around 10 minutes before they were to close, found no place to tie the boat, and figured that we’d just clear in the morning. At Jolly Harbor Marina, the Dockmaster asked us if we had cleared. “Nope. We’ll do it in the morning.” He wasn’t so sure about that. He told us to follow him, as he roared away in his inflatable. Down the harbor, he went in to the Customs office, then back out to our boat. They wanted us to clear tonight before docking. A space opened up at the wall, and we slid in. An hour-and-a-half later, after waiting in line behind two other boats, we were cleared. Our dock dude said that the reverse-osmosis dockside water was ten cents a gallon, so we put 200 gallons in the tanks. In the morning, we were up at daybreak. First, we gave The Girl a thorough desalting, scrubbing her from stem to stern. Then, it was up the mast to tap a couple of holes for the padeye and block which was to hold the new F.S. Now came the notsomuchfun part. Drilling holes in the hull, one thing that you don’t want on a boat. Well, it had to be done, so after measuring five times, I drilled once. By 13h00, the deed was done, and we were ready to (not) roll. I left the dock for literally the first time to go up to the office and pay the rent. I nearly choked when I was presented with the bill. Seven hundred and ninety-three dollars? We were on the dock for all of twenty hours! When I regained my composure, the nice lady informed me that that was EC$ (around 2.2:1USD). Still seemed like a lot. By the way, the water was $.10 USD/LITER, and we had used a little OVER 60kw of power. Really? On a bad day, we use around 20-25kw. We did the two-step about the bill for around 20 minutes, and I just ended up aggravated, not placated. All of a sudden, installing an electric meter on board doesn’t look like such an expensive proposition. (Our ace troubleshooter, mechanic, friend and nautical Jedi Master, Scottie had warned us about the electric scam thing in the Caribbean. We had decided that we needed to “stop the bleeding” on boat expenses at that time, so opted to forego the meter install). Liveandlearn. Their house, their meter, their rules, our $$$. Outta there.
So, on the 14th of April, we entered Falmouth Harbor at around 15h00, where John and Paulette, from Seamantha, came out in their tender to meet us, and lead us to our mooring ball. This is getting kinda long. We’re only up to the 14th of April, and it’s the 3rd of May, so I’ll try not to wear out my welcome until