Our departure is logged at 09.50 12th January in an East South Easterly wind at F3 to F4. We had completed 1377NM since leaving Cowes with varying degrees of inclement weather, but if anyone was fazed by the 2,500 NM ahead of us I could not see it. The conditions were moderately warm as we left Madeira; holiday makers were arriving regularly on the superbly engineered airport set into the side of a mountain and over a large valley. Madeira never gave us the feel of having 242,000 inhabitants on an island marginally smaller that the Isle of Wight. We did have difficulty in getting our clearance but this was due to the regular way Portuguese officials handle the complicated mechanisms of the Schengen Agreement. Generally, everybody in France, Spain and here in Madeira were very helpful but the last official we met refused to stamp the exits into the passports because in his view we had not had entry visas to the Schengen area and he disagreed with the Port Authority in recognising that our people were bona fide seamen because their documents did not look like ‘regular’ seamen’s books despite their being authorised properly back in PNG. Anyway the Port Authority printed out a clearance document of a form for us which we hope will not cause complications.
Initially I had opted to go to St. Lucia but the marine crime rate has soared there in the last year so I then decided for Dominica but the frapping of the sails during the brief periods of calm stressed the mainsail traveller slides and a number of them broke and also ripped out a short length of the boltrope too. So we have decided to go for Antiqua where there is more likely to be a sailmaker. This confidence is based on the fact that a lot of winter sailing competitions are run here. I asked the crew to let me know if they would like to make the 120NM trip to Dominica after the works were complete. They are all keen to do this and enjoy a micro-Caribbean cruise.
Everyone fell into a good rhythm of life at sea with healthy meals. Mostly we went very well and when the squalls passed over us the wind would increase even as high as F6-7 for a while but after passing the winds would die down and the frapping of the sails from side to side until some wind returned. Apparently this is regular in the N Atlantic Trade Winds north of the Cape Verde Island. Of course the old adage of ‘steer South until the butter melts then turn to starboard’ does not help with any precision. The idea of sailing all the way down through calms to the Cape Verde’s did not really convince me that we would save much time. In fact, we saw a Frenchman a few miles ahead who I called on VHF. He left Gran Canaria on the 8th January, four days before us. He was bound for Martinique. So bearing in mind that Madeira is 200NM North of the Canaries, I felt vindicated in my choice of course for the weather on offer. However, the ‘frapping’ periods do stress the equipment and we watch out for chafe continually. The flying lines ripped off the tops of nav. lights but they are still working and we have masthead running lights as well.
The confused swell prevented us in getting anything out of the Parasailor and it simply could not stay full of wind. Each wave emptied the sail and we had to take it down. After making the genoa on the pole we had a more stable passage downwind. I am a bit concerned that we may not be deploying the Parasailor properly but we can check that out in English Harbour.
On the 5th day out we fired up the watermaker and it gave us 70 ltres followed by 120ltrs of delicious water on the following day. Another issue that has manifested is that hydraulic oil is leaking from we-know-not-where and have been topping it up every 4 days or so.
One problem we have is that the Iridium Go is not functioning properly in getting weather forecasts. Also there are a lot of nuisance procedures that need to be applied before we can collect information. Phone calls were possible but sound was poor so emails are the best way forward and Cameron has been faithfully giving us relevant weather information. I sent one email to Tim McKintosh at SIL/JAARS but I have no idea yet if it got through. SIL/Wyclif Bible Translation are a ministry that have been engaged for many years in translating God’s Word in many areas of PNG and we are looking forward to working with them in the future in the Milne Bay Province.
Writing now with only one day to go before arriving in English Harbour, Antigua I can say that Gelly and Colly have done really well in the rationing area. Everybody is healthy and well fed. Re-victualling in Antigua can be a little more precise now although we don’t really know what to expect. Cameron has been there a number of times while running super-yachts and deliveries and he is a mine of information.
The captain and the mates each caught a mahi-mahi which really boosted the moral of the crew to have some fresh protein, it also led to some interesting cooking by the Mates; we lost one due to failing to gaff it properly, but we are really on our way to becoming accomplished fishermen. Anyway with some of the lures lost and with the right hooks, line and even a heavier duty reel needed, we are hoping to restore our fishing gear in Antigua.
The wind progressively decreased in strength as we approached Antigua and our speed was reduced to 2,5 to 3 kts. We handed the Main which needs the attention from the sailmaker mentioned above. Antiqua hove into view at dawn and we could see a number of very large yachts sailing around the island, some over a 120ft in length;
Arrival in Antigua
Arriving off the entrance to the small port of English Harbour made famous by Nelson at the end of the 18th Century; we launched our tender and I sent in the Mates to look for a good place to berth at anchor while I steered into the entrance slowly. We could see 22 vessels, mostly the super-yachts of the ultra-wealthy and they seem to outnumber the smaller cruising yachts here. Some of these super-yachts defy one’s imagination in their size and opulence that anyone has so much wealth often only utilised for a few weeks in a year. The odd thing is that bearing in mind what the Lord said in Luke 16:19-31 and the parable of the rich young man in Luke 18:18-27 and in considering these verses and also how difficult it is to productively share the gospel with most rich people, that I begin not to begrudge them their wealth as it will most likely be the nearest they will ever get to Heaven. It is not so much the riches in themselves but the philosophies and beliefs that they take to themselves that cut themselves off from God’s grace. Not all wealthy folk are like this, and some who are in Christ (by no means all) are very generous and are actually fulfilling their call through giving and they have their own challenges to face and overcome to fulfil that too. So I deny myself any right to judge them and when opportunities arise to share Jesus with them.
Antigua is mostly populated by people who are descended from the slaves of businessmen brought in so cruelly 200 years ago but unlike many of similar African descent, a large number of these people here have embraced biblical Christianity to the degree that it affects their attitude to life; they are mostly prosperous and work creatively and hard. They shun the ‘victim’ culture of ‘you owe me’ so common in other Western environments. A good example is the sailmaker I found and who is repairing our sails. This sail loft employs about 15 people and service the very fussy clientele of racing yachtsmen and cruisers but with such a good and friendly atmosphere that it is a joy to sit and speak with them. They are mostly Christian and leave me with joy that this is truly the effect of the Lord working with those who are willing to let Him lead them through life.
Many of you have asked us for specific prayer requests and so I will lay some before you.
They relate to our overall ministry and not only the voyage itself. Firstly, we need to find US$ 2,500 to facilitate our passage through the Panama Canal. Secondly; The last container which is in England needs to be dispatched to Alotau and this needs funding for £4,500. We would appreciate your prayers too for the abiding presence of God.
Every blessing to you
Guy, Colly and the LW Crew