Life in the Slow Lane

Trip Start Aug 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Antigua and Barbuda  ,
Friday, March 24, 2006

After landfalling in Antigua in early February, Quest has spent most of her time anchored in English Harbor. Jeanne and Jeff left us here since Jeanne had been offered a dream job in California. Having the boat to ourselves again seems way too luxurious.

During the first few weeks, we lined up some repairs - to the blown out main sail and also to build a new sun shade (called a bimini). I also took advantage of knowing we'd be in the same place for a few weeks, and flew home to visit with our kids. Going from 85-90 degrees to 15-30 degrees was challenging, but well worth it to me. Ten days didn't give me nearly as much time as I would have wanted to visit with the kids and my friends, but after being within 50 feet of Chris for seven months, I missed him more than I would have thought and was ready to get back to our floating home.
These two men just completed a row across the Atlantic ocean -- and they are still standing!
There are some things those of you who live on terra firma take for granted that I was reminded of during my visit home. For instance, usually a land-locked person doesn't have to hold on to the walls in order to walk from one room to another. Nor does one have to brace ones self to keep from falling off the toilet (usually). Long, hot showers are a vague memory for us aboard Quest. However, we have a bed that doesn't require quarters in order to provide a gentle rocking action we've come to love.

Our days here are so relaxing, I think we should take our pulse to see if we're still going. Mornings can begin with a swim to get some exercise, then we climb aboard and rinse the salt off with a quick, cool shower and have coffee and breakfast. Then we do any number of very exciting things: read a book or magazine, paint, go ashore to use the internet or beach comb or take a hike, take a nap or tweak with something. Let's face it, there's always something to tweak with on a boat, so that probably keeps us the most busy. Before we know it, it is nearly time to figure out what to cook for dinner. Whooeeee, life is tough.

After I returned from my sojourn to the frozen north, we sailed over to Barbuda, about 30 miles north. The islands of Antigua (pronounced An - tee - gah) and Barbuda (Bar - bew - dah) are a nation unto themselves. The official language is English, but sometimes you could hardly tell. When the natives speak among themselves, they use a pigeon-English, fortunately slowing it down for us poor tourons. Barbuda is even smaller than Antigua - boasting around 1500 people. The beach upon which we anchored was practically deserted. The water was very cloudy from the surf breaking and churning up the powdery-fine sand. We anchored in 12 feet of water without seeing the bottom.

The winds picked up after our third day here giving us yet another "learning experience". Even though we were securely anchored with the wind blowing us off shore, the ocean swell built, pitching us like a hobby horse. After dark, we heard a loud bang (after several not-as-loud-clunks) and ran out on deck to see our anchor chain running freely out of the chain locker. After 110 feet of chain, came the lighter weight rope which didn't pass out as fast, allowing us to grab and tie it to a cleat. We gulped and went back inside to check out the anchor locker to see what had happened. Yikes! The anchor windlass motor (which pulls up the 110 feet of heavy chain as well as the 75 pound anchor) had come off the windlass.

Chris and I have determined that the amount and harshness of cuss words emitted is inversely related to the severity of the problem - the more severe, the less cuss words because his brain needs to focus on the problem, not figuring out new ways to say, "this really pisses me off." This windlass problem was cuss-less. We settled in trying to figure out what to do. It would be nearly impossible to haul that chain and anchor up by hand with the ocean swell. I was all for waiting until morning, cutting the rope, and get the hull out of there, but a cooler, cuss-less head prevailed. Chris climbed in the cramped, smelly, salty, still hobby-horse pitching anchor locker to assess the situation. He called what tools he needed, and I, nurse-like, slapped it into his hand. After what seemed like hours, we were able to muscle the heavy motor back onto the windlass and re-bolt it securely. The windlass motor was covered in a weather-protecting grease, which added to the challenge of lifting the beast back into place - greased-pig contest comes to mind. As my mother used to say, "the saints be praised!" Next morning, we were able to pull up anchor and head back to Antigua in time to meet our first guests aboard "Flotel Quest".

We are being visited by our youngest son, Owen and his fiancÚ, Brittany. That sounds wonderful - when they arrived, I introduced them as Owen and his girlfriend, but he asked and she said yes.

The first day of their visit, they snorkeled near the shore enjoying the brightly-colored fish. The second day, we took a hike whose highlight could have been the nude sunbathers... The third day we took a bus into St. Johns to do some provisioning. After we got off the first bus ride, Owen said, "we really need to say a prayer before the next bus ride!" The fourth day, we headed out to sea. We sailed to a small blip of an island off Antigua and anchored for a few hours so that we could do some more snorkeling. We pulled anchor and motored in for a more secure evening. Next day we headed out to Barbuda again.

As we neared the island of Barbuda, we were delighted with a momma whale and her babe. The youngster did around 10 back-bending jumps that looked like pure joy. I could practically hear the mother say, "a bit more arch will get you a better splash, sweetie."

We chose another beautiful beach on this island filled with them and we lazily rocked at anchor off the southeastern tip of Barbuda. We could hear the roar of the surf not far from us which was broken down into gentle waves by the coral reefs.

Owen and Brittany just got back from shore where they worked on a sand castle creation on a beach where God must have had sand castles in mind. The beautiful, white, fine-grained beach beckons to be enjoyed.

We spent a few idyllic days here before checking out another beach around the other side. As we motored out, safely picking our way through the reefs, we were visited by some dolphins. Two stayed with us for a while, practically posing for us as we took all the photos we wanted. More beachcombing for a day and then we headed back to Antigua.

We made incredible time on this passage and anchored outside Jolly Harbor on the west coast of Antigua. We launched the dinghy, and climbed in to seek out a dinner on shore. Did we have enough fuel for the outboard in the tank, we wondered? After a few hundred yards I wasn't too jolly as Chris rowed us back to the boat and I got to work on dinner on board.
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