Overlooking the crowded harbours of Antigua
Fortunately Mike had made an extension to the metal emergency tiller before we left
It soon became obvious that we could have done with an extra few inches of height, as sitting at the back of the boat and bending down to the steering was extremely very uncomfortable.
We duly reported our predicament to our friends; with the tiller in place and full of renewed optimism we headed off again in the light air conditions. Another challenge: how to find a way of rigging up a self steering system for the tiller which ensured that we stayed more or less on course. String and bungee cords provided the solution.
It is always such a tremendous feeling to know one has good friends standing by in times of need; we felt that any one of our buddies would have come out to meet us and help us cover those last few miles if it had been necessary.
Indeed, when we did sail slowly into the anchorage in Guadalupe at around midnight, there they all were, ready to help us anchor safely.
J Boats racing with much smaller classic yachts
The venue was packed in anticipation of two of the great events in the annual sailing calendar -Classic Week, when vintage design boats gather to race in a friendly and gentlemanly fashion - and Race Week, where some of the most competitive racing boats and crews compete with ferocious passion.
Tristam had invited Mike and I to crew on his Joshua Slocum ‘Spray’ replica for the week and soon we gathered with the others to don our impressive racing colours; black bowler hats, waistcoats and white shirts with cute little red bow ties.
At the racing start line we soon found ourselves working hard to even get around the course - it was very evident the boat wasn't built for racing! Tristam, being the canny sea dog that he is, took advantage of a shortened course, and it transpired that we were first (in our class) over the line that day! There was a bit of a drama on the final day when Usqueabach was battling along in the thick of a crowded course when the steering cable broke (déjà vu?); Tall Paul made a temporarily fix with true bodger's skill, using anything he could find lying around.
Best of all was watching some of the most famous old boats race the same course as us, carrying thousands of feet of sail more than any modern cruising boat, with their crews working flat out to win the prestigious races.
All the boats all raced together over a similar course – be they large or small. This appeared to be very confusing, as the slower boats were constantly overtaken by the faster and more agile craft.
The Huge J-boats with enormous sails together with some of the very small classic yachts.
Mari Cha 4 was competing, (the fastest racing boat in the world at this time) having made amazing time crossing the
Amongst the beautiful streamlined classic boats there were six tall ships competing in their own races.
They had come from distant lands and seemed to glide across the horizon with all sails flying, a reminder that the same ships would have been the first to arrive in these waters over 300 years ago with Nelson's navy, or with pirates and buccaneers on board, searching for treasure in the New World.
We walked, or rather scrambled, up the steep hill to
Another, more leisurely stroll took us along the old fortifications behind Nelson's dockyard, where we could imagine ourselves going back in time as we looked out over the ocean, just as the sailors and soldiers in far off times would have scanned the distant clouds for sails on the horizon.
All the anchorages were full, the marinas jam packed, and the after-hours bars and restaurants busy as could be. We had lots of opportunities to meet everyone for coffee, meals or just drinks in one of the local bars.
The organizers put on a number of special events, favourites seemed to be free rum on the beach and give-away hats: hundreds of people jammed into every available space for these events. We collected our share of Race Week hats, and in consequence consumed our fair share of rum!
By the time Cheshire Cat had reached Antigua Mike and I had changed our cruising plans. We had decided not to go to the Mediterranean, but to return south and travel west through the
We did however, have a wonderful evening on Annie B when we all gathered together with musical instruments and lead by Tom, had yet another unforgettable night of music and laughter. Maybe a little pole dancing crept in somewhere. Jen; Andrea and David; Derek; Brenda and John; Paul; Debbie and Brian were amongst the revellers.Our plans were changed yet again when we agreed to sail to the UK with David on his Amel - Gallant of Fowey. This trip enabled us to spend a few weeks visiting relatives; all too soon we had to fly back to Antigua and removce ourselves out of the hurricane area of the Caribbean.
The island was almost deserted. Many of the bars and restaurants had closed and the old Nelson's Dockyard had returned to its normal tranquil and serene state. We had ample opportunity to stroll around the old buildings which formed the garrison where Nelson and his sailors had lived and worked in days gone by. We could easily imagine that our shoes trod the same paths as those old Royal Navy sailors and officers - even Nelson himself.
The wheel was probably manned by many more sailors than just a Mike!
In Nelson's Harbour we saw the old sail lofts, workshops and officer’s quarters, storage areas, all fully restored and turned into museums, shops and an upscale hotel.
We'd stripped Cheshire Cat when we left her in the marina, just in case a hurricane or bad weather hit the island while we were away. All the sails were folded and stored below, together with anything we could remove off the decks.