Tuesday, March 30, 2004

2004: Antigua & Barbuda

2004 found our group ready to go again, moving down the Leeward Island group to Antigua. Don R was already booked on a vacation, so Melanie joined the rest of the 2003 crew to round out our eight. It was our first foray into a multi-hull boat. Sunsail was running a discount on boats under a certain size, and the only 4 cabin boat was the Lagoon 380, so we went for it.

We stayed in a park & fly hotel in Chicago, and the flight to Antigua was uneventful. We split at the airport with half of us heading towards the boat at Nelson's Dockyard, and the others going to provision at the grocery store near the airport. The Dockyard was a great place to start, with bars, restaurants, and stores nearby. The only problem we had was locating a scuba shop willing to let us rent gear for the week. We finally decided to shove off without gear. In heavy seas and winds, we did a Sunday afternoon shakedown cruise on our Lagoon 380 Tirnanog, I'll call it the "Sloppy Joe Shakedown" and say only that rookie Melanie earned her stripes that afternoon. After cleaning up the boat, we pulled back in to head to the "jumpup" at Shirley Heights. Despite some folks who hadn't quite recovered, we had a great evening listening to the steel drum band and eating barbeque. The view from the bluff of both the sunset and English Harbor was outstanding.

From the cruising guide, I had planned a clockwise trip. Based on the recommendations of the base staff, we changed that to counterclockwise. We headed out on Monday a bit late due to the aforementioned scuba equipment search, but pulled into Nonsuch Bay in the lee of Green Island and the reef creating the bay and anchored with plenty of daylight left. After some of Dawn's monster chef salads, out came the kayaks and snorkel gear, and we had a great afternoon.

Tuesday we set sail for Barbuda, and enjoyed a full day of sailing along with a whale sighting. The snorkeling wasn't good, but the crew had fun swimming, kayaking, and walking along the beach. The sand was indeed pink! A very scenic and remote area to relax. Wednesday we had a good reach back to Antigua and Dickenson Bay, where we snorkeled at Prickly Pear Island before anchoring at the north end of the bay. We did some provisioning and got in a single tank dive on a shallow wreck, with the snorkelers above us. I seem to remember a can of alpo and some key searching. Entertainment for some diners at the restaurant seems to come to mind also.

Thursday we set out late for Jolly Harbor. Our first night in we settled for a spot in the outer harbor as there was a sizeable contingent already in port. The next day we hailed the local dive shop on the bridge-to-bridge and set up a 2 tank dive with them on the reef. Upon returning, we moved the boat onto a mooring in the inner harbor, and then we dingied to a shower at the marina and a lively dinner in the harbor restaurant.

Saturday was a sail back around the reef to English Harbor, and a return to Nelson's Dockyard. We were looking forward to another shower ashore as water on the boat was running low, only to find out that they had no power or water. A quick trip across the harbor to the fuel pier yielded a tank of water and showers onboard. Dinner was back at the beach bar, resulting in some curry, a few recipies and a few more Wadadli before our time in this piece of paradise came to an end.

Pros & Cons on the boat: I think everyone liked the room in the cockpit and the upper saloon, especially with the standard door refrigerator.

Turns out that despite no heeling, the motion of the cat wasn't all that friendly to those with weak stomachs (or it could have been the sloppy joes). And, the bow nets weren't all that comfortable after a while.

Manuvering at the helm was a cinch with the twin engines, it brought back nostalgic thoughts of my time on a LST. The helm location took the helmsman out of the conversation zone on deck, though. The shorter hull length counteracted the planing speed of the cat to yield trip speeds comparable to the larger monohulls.

End result: everyone voted for a monohull in 2005.