Happy New Year from Antigua!
Iâ€™ve been here now for a few days and have had some time to relax, sleep and enjoy the hospitality of this lovely island. It didnâ€™t take long to make friends around here, and to connect with some old friends as well. By mid-afternoon after Iâ€™d arrived here, a dingy approached Bodacious Dream, and driving the dingy was one of the organizers of the Quebec-St. Malo race, in which we competed back in August. What fun it was to catch up … and how fortunate I was to have a personal tour guide around Antigua.
With it being the New Yearâ€™s holiday weekend, other friends from Quebec graciously invited me to join them for both the annual “Nelson’s Pursuit Race” – and for New Yearâ€™s Eve dinner as well. The 18-mile Pursuit Race is a fun one that they hold every New Yearâ€™s Eve here in Antigua. There is a handicap format to the race, with the slower boats being given a good head start, while the faster boats subsequently start at staggered times that match up to the handicap time allowances. This makes for great fun, as the fastest boats in the race, of which there were a few very large and very fast boats, have to try and catch up to the slower boats, and only get credit when they pass one of them. To top it all off, in honor of the Admiral Nelson’s pursuit of the French fleet in 1805, the slowest boat, called Old Bob, flies the French flag and fires a cannon at each boat that passes it. We had such a fine time on our boat, Ciao Bella. Many thanks for a great time to my friends from Quebec, Canada!
New Yearâ€™s Eve here was a grand spectacle at the Nelson Boat Yard, which is a National Park here in Antigua, much of it a restored fort and boat works from the early days of sailing ships. The actual midnight moment was celebrated with fireworks bursting from the cliffs over the harbor accompanied by a symphony of boat horns and revelers that continued long into the New Year.
But now, with some good rest under my belt, itâ€™s time to head north through the Caribbean towards Charleston, South Carolina. Itâ€™s a 1400-mile long course from here to Charleston, but there are places to stop along the way, so Iâ€™ll probably break the trip into a few different segments. The first segment is likely to be a short hop to St. Thomas in the British Virgin Islands, then on towards the Turks and Caicos Islands, though I havenâ€™t been able to find a marina there that can accommodate the 10â€™ draft (the lowest point) of Bodacious Dream – so thatâ€™s still a tentative stop. (If anyone knows the region, and has some advice to offer, Iâ€™d greatly appreciate any local knowledge!) From there, Iâ€™ll sail up through the Bahamas and possibly stop for a few days in West Palm Beach to visit our friends at the Rybovich Boat Yard – before continuing on to Charleston.
The weather looks favorable from here to the Bahamas. At that point, we begin to get into the zone where the cold North American currents mix with the tropical systems, and so weather forecasting becomes more unpredictable. So, my plan is to move up to West Palm Beach, and then to reassess the weather at that point, before heading farther north. With some luck and fair weather though, Iâ€™m hoping to arrive in Charleston by the 10th of January.
Tomorrow Iâ€™ll spend the morning gathering the last of my provisions, charts and other items – and pack the boat with the intent of heading out of the harbor about noon. Iâ€™ll try to keep you informed during my long nights on watch, as to any interesting things happening.
This trip will be a lot different than crossing the open ocean, as there will be a lot of navigation required around and past islands and reefs – but that will also provide me with interesting scenery at various waypoints along the route.
So, I want to thank you all so much for following along with this adventure. Once I got to shore, it was a great pleasure to catch up on the many notes that you all sent. Iâ€™m glad that you find the stories entertaining enough to provide a little diversion from the regular news of the day.
So, with that â€¦ itâ€™s time for us to get ready – both to sail the final legs of this journey – and to make our way into a brand new year. â€¨â€¨From us out here in the warm tropical air, a wish to all of you, wherever in the world this finds you – a most happy, peaceful and prosperous new year!
- Dave and Bodacious Dream