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Leg 8, 2017, Update 1

December 10, 2017, 1500 hrs, 13.32 N, 068.55 W, Log: 208,044 miles
Baro: 1013.1, Cabin Temp: 88 F, Cockpit: 94 F, Sea Water: 82.6 F
Broad reaching at 6.9. kts in 12 kt ESE winds under full sail with genoa poled out

ANOTHER GREAT PASSAGE!

Our time at Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua was a real treat. We enjoyed long runs on long white-sandy beaches every morning, swimming laps in the pool afternoons and I even found time for tennis lessons which Amanda joined in on just before our Leg 8 crew arrived.


Leg 8 Crew arrive aboard Mahina Tiare in Antigua ready for learning, awesome downwind sailing and adventures!

We made one half-day trip to English Harbour where we were able to purchase the latest Navionics chart portfolio for the Caribbean and Central America, and a couple of forays into St. Johns, Antigua’s capital for provisioning at the newish and GIANT Epicurean grocery store. Just across the street from our marina berth was an amazingly well-stocked Budget Marine store where we could find the few odds and ends we needed aboard.

While at The Bosun’s Locker in English Harbour, I picked up a small guidebook on Antigua that included a chapter on Montserrat, the closest island to the south that was decimated by volcanic eruptions in the late ‘90’s. I learned that there are still about 3,000 people left on the island (9,000 left for the UK or other Caribbean islands) and I learned they encouraged visiting yachts to stop and even had plans to eventually build a marina.

The seed was planted! After our safety orientation, I asked how many would be interested in an overnight stop and a half-day tour and got a resounding YES for an answer. Researching on the island’s visitor site I made contact with a shipping agent who gave us a very reasonable quote of US$40 per person for a half-day mini-van tour.

By noon Wednesday, the day our crew joined us, we’d cleared out of Antigua customs, electronically filed our inbound SeaClear paperwork for Montserrat, paid our marina bill and set sail.

We had a fast 28-mile passage with plenty of reefing practice in squalls and anchored off the wharf and landing at Little Bay with just enough daylight to snorkel down to discover a flat sandy bottom, perfect for the anchor to set deeply in. Montserrat Port Authority told us over the radio that Customs and Immigration would be open at 8AM, and we promised to be ashore then to clear in.

At 0730 when we were just starting to launch the dinghy, a small, 150 passenger expedition cruise ship nosed into the bay, and we quickly and successfully completed the launching and getting the outboard on our RIB – a real challenge in the very rolly, open roadstead anchorage.

Not wanting to wait while the ship cleared in, Rich and I zipped into the surging bay where Rich held the dinghy off the heaving waters next to the wharf as I persevered through check-in. The problematic on-line SeaClear entry form I’d spent hours completing and printed off wasn’t acceptable, so I went through the process longhand with triplicate carbon papers. The good news was the officers allowed me to clear in and out at the same time, and Jemotte Roosevelt, the shipping agent who had arranged our tour was on hand to point out our taxi van. Once I stepped out of the customs office, I noticed the cruise ship had just raised anchor and was steaming off toward Antigua. Jemotte said the ship reported it was too rough to launch their tenders to run passengers ashore, much to the disappointment of the assembled 20 taxi van drivers.

Amanda, uncomfortable with leaving Mahina Tiare unattended in a tenuous anchorage volunteered to run us ashore and stay aboard on anchor watch.

Cecil Wade (email: wadececil1962@gmail.com), our very animated and friendly driver greeted us and took us on a four-hour whirlwind tour of the 1/3 of island that wasn’t covered by the recent ash, mud and lava flows. Cecil proudly related the Irish heritage of the island – how well before British plantation owners arrived, Irish settlers had established plantations, and how a large portion of the population had retained their Irish names. St Patrick’s Day rates a week-long celebration on Montserrat.

First stop was that impressive Montserrat Cultural Centre that Beatles manager Sir George Martin had funded by organizing a concert in London of all the artists who had recorded albums at his AIR Studio on Montserrat, including George Harrison, Sting, Elton John, all of whose hand prints, cast in bronze were on the foyer walls. The centre provides theatre seating for 700 with additional outdoor seating.

Our second stop was the hilltop Montserrat Volcano Observatory where we watched a 15-minute video on the history of the eruptions, much of it filmed from the vantage point of the observatory and a helicopter based at the there. We saw footage of the collapse of a lava dome quickly sending a massive plume 30,000’ in the air, and watched as 150 mph pyroclastic flows roared through the streets of the capital, Plymouth, completely covering entire neighborhoods, the airport and much of the waterfront.

We also visited a partially-covered luxury hotel, plus the unaffected lovely hotel/guest house on Penny Lane that George Martin had built for the recording artists to stay at while they were recording albums at his studio.

The Montserrat National Trust and Botanical Garden were interesting and we were able to listen in on a video of natural history of the island being shown to local school kids.

Cecil proudly pointed out three sites where local businessmen were excavating, sifting and exporting volcanic sand and gravel. Substantial machinery, excavators, dump trucks and gravel sifters were at work and three to four barges per week come to take the sand and gravel to Antigua and other Caribbean countries for making concrete.

Before long it was time to head back down the hill to Little Bay, where we saw MT was seriously rolling and pitching with a three-masted square-rigged schooner anchored astern. We got everyone safely back aboard and managed to get the outboard motor and dinghy aboard timing our lifting to the rolling, before raising anchor and sail and slowly sailing close along the coastline, passing Plymouth where we got a good view of the half-covered city.

Not long before sunset we cleared the island and set sail for Santa Marta, Columbia, 800 miles distant. We’ve had only deep following winds, broad reaching or running, and this morning we hoisted the whisker pole which has resulted in less rolling.

Yesterday was the first day it wasn’t too rough for showers, so we all enjoyed aft-deck showers and celebrated a solid run of 150 miles in the previous 24 hours. Once we had the pole up, Amanda taught liferaft and Lifesling us, rig check and spares and we inventoried our two abandon ship containers.

We’ve been waiting for the endless procession of Sargasso weed to lighten up so we can fish and deploy our towing generator, but the weed has only increased, which would make either impossible.

 


Leg 8 Itinerary

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