THIS BLOG USES EXTENSIVE BOAT TERMS, IF YOU NEED HELP UNDERSTANDING YOU CAN VISIT THE TIPS, TRICKS, AND DIYS TAB TO FIND SOME DEFINITIONS FOR THESE TERMS.
In 1493 Christopher Columbus arrived in Antigua on his second voyage, and on June 11th of 2020 an equally important voyage took place. On this “historic” day SV Dragonfly made their voyage to St. John’s, Antigua. We left out at 3:00 AM, arriving in our newest exploit on the next day in the afternoon.
Our passage only took one and a half days, but the majority of the time we motor-sailed. We rarely got to turn off our engines because the wind was both light and right on the nose. This meant that our sails had to be set at what’s called close hauled, which means they were trimmed to be as tight as possible. The issue with this point of sail is that in the right (or wrong) conditions our sails would luff and it’s not a very efficient way to sail.
Tacking is when the bow of a boat goes through the wind, since we were on such a tight close haul it made it a regular occurrence for the headsail to shift between a starboard and port tack. Luffing is the term for…flapping, that’s really all it is. When the sails start to flap and lose the lift they have created, this is called luffing. Neither of these are productive so our headsail was brought in regularly.
If I had to explain an overnight passage in one word it would be: sleepy. Night watches are both a torturous and required part of boat life, they can last anywhere from 2-5 hours and lead to very tired people. We always try to have two people at the helm, one to stand watch and another to make sure the other is awake. We have a rule that if you’re tired then you must switch with someone, you are no help if you can’t stay awake.
Our night watches also make our days uninteresting, besides a dolphin sighting during one of the sunsets, we don’t do much during the day besides entertaining ourselves (reading, movies, etc.) and eating or napping. Up until this voyage I wasn’t much help -a little ashamed to admit it, but it’s true- but now I was able to be an active participant, going so far as being the helmsman for a few hours where I watched the sails and steered away from anything in the water.
My dad is the captain of the boat so whenever something I didn’t understand was happening, I would always call him and this happened a lot. I spent four hours at the helm on our second day, and he probably spent at least two of four of those hours with me. He didn’t stay up there, he would always go back down once I had my problem resolved, but it only took a few minutes before a new one arose.
Antigua didn’t look much different from the USVIs or BVIs when we first saw it peaking out from the water, it has the same mountainous terrain, but the biggest difference is in the water. I’ll admit that the north side of the island supposedly has clearer water but where we were was murky and a little green. Still beautiful! Especially when you compare it to Florida water, but I guess you could say we’ve gotten spoiled.
It wasn’t until we got onto the island did we realize how different it was, but we weren’t able to do that until the 13th. We arrived past the hours the Customs office were open, so we had to raise our “Q” flag (quarantine) and wait to venture ashore for the next day.
Antigua has been closed during this pandemic and has only just started allowing cruisers to check into the country. There was still and a 50-50 chance that we could’ve been told to quarantine for two weeks before we could visit the island, in which case we would’ve turned around and headed back to the USVIs. However, we bypassed that and only had to spend an hour signing into the country and getting our temperature checked before starting our exploration of the island.