Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Leaving Antigua

[Kyle]The time had finally come to move on from Antigua for our next destination, Sint Maarten; but first I had to get to Antigua! I was stuck at work in the NE USA, and a cold front was approaching fast. All week the flight I'd been intending to take home had plenty of open seats However, with the approaching holiday weekend (Monday 19th was Martin Luther King day in the USA - a federal holiday) about 18 hours before the flight was to leave, it suddenly filled up with both paying passengers AND more senior non-revs (boarding order is based on seniority) it became apparent that there was NO WAY I'd get on that flight - the only one of the day.

I ended up rising super early and catching a flight to Atlanta and on to Antigua via Delta airlines, getting me home about an hour later than the original Continental flight. My intent had been to land in Antigua, clear customs at the airport, take a cab to English Harbour, clear out of customs for the boat and crew, then depart at 3am the following morning aboard Footprint. Since the Delta flight was scheduled to arrive at 3:20 and customs at English Harbour was supposed to close at 4 - this original plan was looking less and less probable. In Atlanta we had several gate changes, and the flight was delayed by 25 minutes - Doh!

This particular aircraft had Delta's new personal video system that allows you to pull up (among other things) a screen showing estimated time of arrival. Once we got off the ground, the display varied between 3:30 and 3:40 as an arrival time, resulting in me staring at the screen and stressing out about the arrival time for the entire 4 hour flight. We eventually managed to touch down just before 3:30, I called Maryanne immediately to see if she could clear herself and the boat out, leaving me to attempt to clear in and out at the airport (I could ask!); Maryanne said that she was at immigration in English Harbour and they needed to see my passport to clear me out - HOWEVER, since I was already on the ground they would stay open late for me if I could rush to English Harbour (my plan anyway). I managed to get off the plane nearly first and worked my way to the front of the customs line, only to find myself behind at least 200 people of a just landed Virgin Atlantic 747. Fortunately, since I'd traveled in uniform, I was pulled out of the standard passenger line and directed to the empty crew line; although they were terribly confused that I was not working the flight, they let me pass through the crew line and I was NOT going to argue.

So after 2 minutes I was through customs and within 5 minutes I was climbing into a cab for English Harbour. I managed to get there about 20 past 4 o'clock, and was relieved to find the Immigration and Customs people still smiling - they cleared us out and wished us a good and safe journey.

Once I got home and had dinner I was so exhausted I pretty much collapsed; I even left the dishes for the next day which I almost never do.

Next morning I got up at 1:30 (Maryanne, a bit later) and found because of my laziness the prior night that getting the boat ready to go took longer and delayed our leaving until 4:30am; we still managed a traditional Footprint early start.


Once we made it to open sea with the sails raised, we had a nice fast uneventful downwind sail to Nevis, passing the rugged and uninhabited Redonda complete with absent Kings. Redonda (a big chunk of rock, ringed by vertical cliffs) appears to have nowhere inhabitable, but we know from our history and guide books that there was once an active phosphate industry and many workers there.

We arrived on the South side of Nevis, rounded to the South West and made it to the capital of Charlestown mid afternoon (a perfect time to spot any anchoring hazards on the bottom) - we found a spot to anchor (quite near the dinghy dock) and even had enough room to perform one of my favorite maneuvers: anchoring and backing down under sail. We were surrounded by local (small wooden) fishing boats, and in the near distance was a grounded and rusted out freighter - a reminder of the dangers of shore. As it was a Sunday, customs was closed, so we remained on the boat for the rest of the afternoon/evening; we swam (to check the anchor), enjoyed the views, and had a big dinner before retiring early to catch up with sleep.


Mommy Dearest said...

Redonda looks like a gigantic, malevolent Cookie Monster lurking just over the horizon, ready to gobble up cute little sailboats. And stuff.

Scott Hamlett said...

I'm thrilled to find your blog. We are also considering the Gemini 105 as our best candidate for cruising the Caribbean. I've had little luck so far finding accounts of those who'd taken their 105's down island. I'm now starting to read the rest of your blog to learn more about your experience thus far. Thanks!
Scott H. (