Antigua Arrival, no foolin’!
Apr. 1, 2002
Monday morning, April 1, 2002
Position: 17 00.83W 61 46.22W
(The Falmouth Harbor Marina Dock)
Early yesterday morning, we arrived at this beautiful island in the Caribbean, after the most eventful night of the trip. We expected the last night to be lighter air with a lot of motoring, but as I heard someone once say, “One of the surest signs of potential bad weather is the presence of suspiciously good weather…”
The last few nights, we dodged a few rain squalls here and there, some of which had lightning, but nothing nasty. Saturday evening we worked to weather in a nice breeze as we passed about 10 miles south of the (erupting) volcanic island of Montserrat on port tack. We alternated between port tack, which headed us towards the French island of Guadeloupe to the southeast, or starboard tack which took us north towards Montserrat. Antigua was (as usual, dead upwind) to the northeast.
We watched the radar constantly to monitor for squalls coming towards us, and there were some monstrous cruise ships going by now and then. The ships look like small cities (I guess they are) and are hard to miss by eye, but the radar lets you see exactly which way they are going. We could see the occasional flash of lightning ahead which worried me more than a little. Slowly, more and more of the sky got blacker to the northwest until all the stars and even the moon were gone. The rain signal on the radar was getting so wide that we couldn’t decide which way to go around. Since I didn’t like the idea of getting pinned against Montserrat to leeward, we eventually we went to the right (on starboard tack) as there was more room on the right between the storm and Guadeloupe. Unfortunately, this meant cutting through a corner of the rain signal that was now nearly black on the radar….
As these things go, I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised that the storm continued to expand till the signal return was a full ten miles or more across, with new appendages forming on the back (northwestern) side. Soon we were deep into it. The wind picked up to 20-25, which isn’t all that much, but there really wasn’t time to reef so we rolled up the working jib and cracked off to an 11kt reach so we would be going across the path of the storm in an attempt to escape to the right side. Did I mention the torrential rain that frothed the water white around us? This was easy to see since every 5-15 seconds there was a convenient nearby lightning flash to illuminate and blind us. Now is as good a time as any to mention to you that one of the hundreds of little jobs left to do on OP is to run a grounding system in the mast for lightning….. In other words, my stress level was getting up there as I visualized our mast getting vaporized and blowing a hole in the boat.
Greg took the soggiest job in the cockpit while I looked after the mainsheet from the vestibule where I could see the radar in the nav station (which was also being intently stared at by Serge and George). Greg kept reassuring me that the lightning wasn’t really all that close until one let off almost next to us (about 1.5 secs sound travel). “Okay, that one was close…..” We did make it out the right side and we were paralleling the storm system on our left.
We now were concerned about running out of room eventually towards Guadeloupe, and we desired to cut back north towards Antigua, but of course didn’t want to go through the cauldron again. A cruise ship was paralleling our course (we couldn’t see his lights now, just the radar blip) to the southeast between us and Guadeloupe. After a while we all noticed that the ship had turned 90 degrees to the left to cut behind us towards the north. We soon noticed that a space was opening between two big rain zones and that the ship was cutting through. I was kinda chicken that we wouldn’t get through fast enough, but the wind had shifted right some more and we would have a good angle close reaching to the north. We tacked, dropped the main, unrolled the working jib and took off at 10-11 through our gateway. Much to our relief we made it in a couple hours. I hit the hay for a nap and the guys kept blasting towards the barn. They tried to wake me for a reportedly good view of the volcano and lava flow glow on Montserrat to the west, but apparently I was out cold.
We zoomed into the harbor Sunday morning, pulled up to the Falmouth Harbor Marina where OP will be berthed through Sailing Week. Suddenly we felt very tiny compared to the mega-yachts. Mind boggling wealth is on display here, and I feel very out of place! But I’ll have a month to get used to it. Perhaps I can wash the decks of one of these monster boats for lunch money. Take a look at this shot of a Perini Navi ketch. The little light blue canoe on the right is Ocean Planet.
Gotta go! Was just invited to view the J-boat “Endeavor”, Yahoo!