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1700 miles and a Salty Dawg


Its 4 am on Sunday 3rd November and the phone goes, “hey your boat is in darkness, and we have left!!”. The clocks had sprung forward and we had slept in!. After we had finished laughing we sprung out of bed and left the dock at 0420 for a 12 day ocean passage from Hampton ( Virginia USA) to Antigua.

What a blast we had, with some of the most varied Ocean sailing I have encountered so far. We were one of 40 boats doing the crossing with the Salty Dawg rally down to Antigua. The rally organizers don’t specify a start time as they leave it to you to decide when you want to go based on weather and tides. We had decided to leave with the tide on Sunday morning – a day after a lot of other boats, and it paid off – we flew. ! 12 days later we were the forth boat to arrive in English harbour, Antigua.

For me the trip was defined in four parts:

  • Gulf stream crossing – We just flew across the gulf stream, hitting 10 kts at time,

  • The Lull – a few days of light airs and a bit of wallowing and clanking, and smiles when we were able to fly my favorite sail – the asymmetric.

  • The crash and bash to windward – five days of just crashing through the waves heading east. The forces on the rig must have been enormous but Saorsa just ate up the miles. It was decidedly Salty and we certainly felt a bit battered.

  • The final treat – Four days of blissful tradewind sailing, making the bash east so worth it. With the odd squall to keep us on our toes

Steve and Nicola were the crew, both experienced ocean sailors they quickly got to grips with Saorsa idiosyncrasies and we settled into our watch system and began to enjoy finding ways to ensure we gave other boats a run for their money. Our strategy was to head east until we could use the trade winds to reach Antigua. This gave us a long beat to windward where most loose items got flung across the cabin, never to be seen again. We had to tie pens down, jam ourselves into bed, the fridge became a war zone and doing the monkey dance across Saorsa cabin was a good upper body workout.

A huge area of improvement for us was our fishing record, - or should I say Steve and Nicola, – Steve caught tuna, Nicola hauled in a huge mahi mahi and we caught some fish we didn’t have a scobby about, but they tasted good.

Then of course there is always stuff that broke, fortunately not to much and we managed to stay on top of most of the items. The first item to go was the generator, as the impeller shredded into bits which were to be found lodged in the intercooler. The port light went out which we traced to some very fragile wiring, and then niff naff like light switches, hinges, taps – all fixable. The critical items like sails, autopilot, rig – just rock solid -good old Hallberg Rassey they build fab boats.

We entered English Harbour, Antigua and reversed on to the historic Nelsons Dockyard at 0930 am on the 14th November. We were among the first few boats to arrive, which brought a huge smile to my face - It was a great feeling, and truly a fabulous place to end our 1700 mile ocean passage – beers and rum all round. Thank you Saorsa for keeping us safe. Now we are true Salty Dawgs!

This is me up the mast fixing a light fitting at Nelsons dockyard Antigua.

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