Thursday, January 5, 2012

Vacations in paradise.

If we had known how beautiful were the beaches of Antigua and especially of Barbuda when we sailed in the area at the beginning of our trip we would have taken the time to make a detour here instead of keeping sailing south. Kilometer long beaches of fine sand are there for the visitors’ enjoyment. After two years of fast pace sailing it feels very good just to stop and enjoy the beach, work a bit on the boat and swim with the fishes.

But Barbuda is not only the nicest beaches in the world but also one of the largest frigate bird sanctuaries in the world. Tens of thousands of this majestic bird nest in the wet lands formed by the huge lagoon in the middle of the island. During the mating period the males inflate their red throat to indicate to the females their availability and somehow to impress them. Apparently, for frigates size DOES matter! According to our guide once a female has made her choice things go pretty fast. After the necessary gene interchange ordeal the female will lay one egg but the male will be responsible to sit on it but the female will have to do all the work after to feed both the chick and the father. Well, being a father at home has to have its advantages isn’t it?

As I mentioned before we didn’t have any breakups during the Atlantic crossing and we were all proud of how sturdy Chocobo was and all but if nothing snapped during the last few weeks didn’t mean things were not breaking up! I had to climb on top of the mast to change a VHF radio antenna that died with a spectacular leap of death from the top of the mast right to the deck as we were leaving Arrecife in the Canaries. This was not a very urgent task so I procrastinated until we reached that side of the ocean to actually go up there. Climbing the mast is always an interesting experience. I have to sit on a sort of harness made of a wood plank that serves as a chair hence its name the bosun’s chair. The chair is attached to the main halyard (the rope used to raise the main sail) and Danielle winches me up using our electrical winch. This may sound simple in theory but for one thing the winch is not meant to pull up 86 kg (190 lbs) of muscles and water. All right, maybe a bit of fat too! Anyway, I’m too heavy for the winch and I have to pull myself up at the same time. In the movies we see men pulling themselves up single handed along a 100m of rope. Well, it is not that easy especially for a guy who worked in front of a computer all his life! At the top of the 15m (50ft) of mast I’m totally exhausted and then the work starts which means trying to do detail and precise work while the waves rock the boat. A small balancing of the boat isn’t a big deal at the deck level but at the end of a 15m pole there’s quite an amplification factor. Some people rode their dinghy beside Chocobo as I was at the top and even waved at us “Merry Christmas!” while their dreadful wakes slid toward us and when Chocobo started to roll I had to stop whatever I was doing and to hold the mast with both my arms wrapped around it while I swung like a metronome and withholding the urge I had to tell our lovely neighbors what I thought they should do with their Merry Christmas! Of course nothing was working as planned and I had to go up and down three times before the antenna was all set.

But while playing Tarzan with the mast I noticed that the T-ball attachment of the port shroud was almost cut all the way through. The shrouds are the stainless steel cables holding the mast in place. The picture here shows the cut in the 5/8” (16mm) T-Ball that actually attaches the shroud to the mast. If this last bit of steel that still remained had snapped during the crossing we would have lost the mast! We bought this shroud in Australia one and half year ago and they are supposed to be good for ten years. Luckily for us there was a good rigger in Falmouth, Antigua and we got a new shroud made in one day. Of course, I had to go up the mast twice again but at that point I was getting the trick and somehow my newly discovered muscles had developed and I was able to hoist myself much easier.

I just couldn’t pass showing you this picture of the “STAD AMSTERDAM” we saw in Falmouth, Antigua which is in my opinion the most beautiful tall ship in the world.