Don’t forget to play
After the sun went down, the southerly winds picked up and we found ourselves in a relentless lateral swell on our anchorage. Our stomachs still hadn’t settled from Sunday. After four hours of tossing there was only one thing to be done .. put our bedclothes in a bin bag and head for the beach in our dingy. After three hours sleep a resort security guard passed but kindly ignored us, but by then the midges were biting and the day started. Fortunately the beach was a five star resort, so once we’d cleaned ourselves up we settled into the luxury.
Sometimes plans have to change in response to events. The course we plotted around the Leeward Islands was easy to draw on a map, but the swell created as the Atlantic hits the continental shelf creates waves that turn the route into a fairground ride. Imagine taking a roller coaster from London to Edinburgh. That’s Antigua to Anguilla by sea. So we’ve decided we’re fair weather sailors and we’ve plotted a new course to explore the coves of Antigua with a flight to Anguilla for our meeting with the Governor.
This year has been unprecedented for change. As the world axis shifted geo-politically I found my life turned upside down. After building a software company for seventeen years, before this trip I stepped down from my executive role and I'm now charting a new course. In January, after much soul searching, Miranda and I are moving to Sydney for six months. I’ll be working with KPMG to help build their new Internet of Things (IoT) practice providing Advisory Services to help the government and enterprises apply leading edge sensor and machine learning technologies to optimise the use of resources in urban and rural environments. I'll be building on the experience, knowledge and network I have gained over the last four years developing the NFP Hypercat Alliance, creating new opportunities and partnerships. It’s a course that’s true to what I enjoy best, connecting people and things to make the world work better. And with the platform of KPMG to deliver from, it’s a very exciting move. We’ll be living around the corner from Miranda’s sister and her family in Maroubra, with a sea view. Why not plot a new course and come and visit us?
We're both now recovered and we're feeling great. The pictures below were taken in Carlisle Bay this evening. Less is more.
We can laugh at our horror show now and hope you can. Yes, it was very distressing, and perhaps the scariest moment of our lives, but the experience has built our awareness of the sea - you can't gain that from a book. Going through something like that together, whilst I don't recommend it, is a very powerful bond. We both learnt about each other and I am in awe of Miranda's bravery.
The video itself caught the essence of the situation, but it missed a lot. From first losing our power and steering we drifted five miles on the tide over three hours. We had to stay below and close to the radio which was truly horrible. The official vessel of the island had a hole in it, so we were rescued by a private crew who showed huge bravery, but they left without a working GPS system and it was down to the keen eye of the Captain's son who spotted us in the waves. Connecting two boats together in a large swell was treacherous, the boats very nearly collided. With the tide and wind pulling in different directions it was tough to predict the movement of the boats, we drifted another half a mile during the connection. A search and rescue plane was sent out and circled overhead once the boat found us. After an hour of tow the rope snapped and we had to reconnect again.
Most of all, as we pondered our survival, we both reflected on the really important things in life - our children, family and friends. Our clan. Thank you for all your comments of support.
After our rescue we stayed on Montserrat for a couple of nights to reflect and recover. The island folk were very warm, welcoming, religious people. The local radio plays song after song about Jesus and redemption. A few years ago the volcano erupted and wiped out Plymouth, the main town, so those who have stayed now live under the threat of another eruption. On Monday we woke before dawn to escape the island, the weather was horrendous. Thunder and lightening was forecast but the sea was a bit calmer. Visibility was very poor. Our GPS stopped working as we slipped our mooring so we had to navigate with maps and three compasses all showing a different North. Miranda kept a very keen watch for fishing pots and there were lots we had to avoid. For 3 hours all we saw was sea - when we sighted land again the feeling was fabulous.
We're now back in Jolly Harbour on a mooring rethinking our plans a bit ...
The trailer below give a rough idea of our first and last trip (if we can ever escape) to 'Volcano Island'. See Reflections for more details. There is an old Montserrat folk law that says if you drink the island's water you will never leave .. we had more than our fair share.
It turns out that on arrival, as we switched on data roaming, our machines ate 1/2GB data and swallowed $50 of credit in 30 minutes. Readjusted settings and prepared for data detox. After checking charts, we nearly beat our PB for a disaster leaving shore (previously 35 seconds). Took off in supercharged, super sensitive dingy which spun 360 and J narrowly missed losing his head on bow of adjacent boat.
Survived and toured English Harbour. This was the English stronghold where Nelson was based as a Captain. At the time he was best friends with Prince William (crowned King William IV), William was later Nelson’s best man. The harbour’s lush vegetation, fort walls and pillars provide a wonderful glimpse of colonialism. In Nelson’s day each sailor was given a ‘tot’ (1/2 pint) of rum twice a day to stave off scurvy, although the lime it was mixed with was the better defence. Rations noted, see later.
Departed harbour and as soon as we cleared the headland we encountered a big swell. It dawned on us that perhaps those who thought we were crazy were right. This is not the Med. Decided to find our sea legs under motor. Navigated the headland avoiding coral reef with all compasses arguing about North. Even a working compass here has a variance of 14 degrees from true north (maybe Nelsons cannon balls?). Tuned into local radio (reggae) and poured rum. Quick swim with snorkel to exam keel and anchor. Understanding what is going on under the water is useful. Anchored in Mosquito Cove and took dingy into Jolly Harbour to ‘check out’ of the island and get provisions.
Found a pharmacy. Given prescription drugs over the counter without question. Next stop supermarket where shelves were filled with Waitrose branded goods. Back to boat and tried to cast fishing rod but got it all tangled. Dials reading no fuel and batteries needing charging, Risotto and chilled white on deck under stars. Fingers crossed anchor will hold through the night.
Restless night. Route plotting this morning. Problems with Digicel account means we are not currently connected by cell. Lyn is looking into it, but it could be that we are further off grid than planned. So if there isn't a post for a while it's probably because we have no connection.
Early start. Excellent & cheap valet parking service (Help Me Park) at Gatwick. Thank you Avios for a great flight - at last asking 'Do you take AMEX?' at every counter for the last few years paid off. Miranda scared herself to death watching The Shallows - a film about sharks. I revised my Yachtmaster theory with special focus on anchors.
Cab to English Harbour (see below). Bought basic provisions - everything imported and 3x Waitrose prices. Great staff at Dream Yacht Charter. Boarded BAIRD. Welcome pack of a bottle of rum and 6 cans of coke. Technical briefing. WiFi and local phones connected.
All going well so far.
Tomorrow morning Miranda and I will be catching a flight to Antigua where we will head to English Harbour to embark on a great adventure - circumnavigating the Leeward Islands on a bare boat charter. That means that between us we are in charge of everything on the boat. You can read the plan here.
We've been planning the trip over the last few months. We did a warm up earlier in the year in Croatia - and learnt a lot of lessons after making many mistakes. I have been trying to do my Yachtmaster theory but have struggled to find the time. Our bags are not yet packed, but the bed is covered in summer clothing. We have fishing rods, binoculars, sailing gloves, tickets and passports. We have a local SIM card (thanks Lyn) so you can contact us in many ways.
Most people we have told about the trip think we're a little crazy .. especially if they have heard stories of our last voyage. But we're excited, and looking forward to a great adventure. We're going to try and keep a daily log on this site .. if you're following us don't see anything here .. well there is an emergency number to call! All encouragement is welcome.