While our passage to Antigua was planned for a November 1st departure, we found a much more favorable weather window behind a cold front combined with the remnants of Hurricane Philippe, and thus KINETIC departed on Oct 30th – 2 days early. Four of us comprised the crew – Captains Andy and Lisa, and crew members David and Pitt.
This timing gave us great winds all the way from Solomons down the Chesapeake to Norfolk, where we exited the Bay at midnight on Halloween… Fair to light winds down the VA/NC coast to Cape Hatteras, where we turned east to motor across the Gulf Stream. A benign Gulf Stream crossing is a good thing! Working southeast, we caught a favorable current from a cold-core eddy that gave us a boost, and made for some very confused seas with wind against current.
Company. A few days into the Atlantic, we heard a couple of other boats on VHF, and then picked them up on AIS and eventually, visually. From then on we sailed in loose company with Baloo and Gemeaux, and more distantly with Katlo. We were close enough to Gemeaux to take photos, and they reciprocated by flying their drone over KINETIC for some great aerial pix. We were all corresponding by SSB radio or sat phone with our weather router Chris Parker, who was also advising the Salty Dawg Rally, a fleet of about 55 boats that departed Hampton VA on Nov 2nd for Antigua (several via Bermuda for fuel). Lots of radio traffic and position reports swapped, and weather observations shared. And a few jokes and fish tales, as well.
Fish Tales. Andy, who claims to be the world’s worst fisherman, proved to be a good “catcherman” this trip. He landed two gorgeous mahi-mahi, which were greatly enjoyed by the crew for dinner! Otherwise, we were entertained by flying fish that landed on deck.
Course. Rather than sail a rhumb line directly to Antigua, we set a course to N25 W62, to get our “easting” before the anticipated NE tradewinds set in. Naturally, the tradewinds did not oblige, but turned SE and E – so we were very happy to have made it to our desired longitude of W62, and we had a fairly easy glide down “I-62” to Antigua. (We were even happier that we weren’t a few days behind, when the winds came from the south). Before reaching our target longitude, we went through two troughs of low pressure, resulting in squally conditions, where our radar got a workout for storm cell avoidance! Amazingly, we never had wind abaft the beam, and sailed to windward the entire trip. KINETIC loves 15+ knots of wind, but she sails well to windward in light winds, too. We averaged 5.8 kt over the 1695 nm passage.
Fuel and Water. Before departing, we conducted some boat speed vs rpm vs fuel burn tests, and opted to maintain KINETIC’s 80 hp Yanmar at an efficient 1600 rpm on the occasions that we needed to motor. This saved us lots of diesel and peace of mind – even though we carry over 180 gallons of diesel. Over the 12 day, 1695 nautical mile trip, we motored for 91 hours, ran the diesel generator for 11 hours, burned just 44 gallons of diesel, and used less than half of our 200 gallon onboard fresh water supply. As you might imagine, arrival showers were much appreciated!
Watchkeeping. We’ve been asked “what do you do at night…anchor?” There is no possibility of that in the ocean, so we have a 24/7 watchbill, with all crew standing 6 hours on / 6 hours off. Andy and Lisa rotated at 6 & 12 (am and pm), and David and Pitt rotated at 3 & 6. That puts two people on watch at any time, with a fresh person coming on every 3 hours. Most of the crew are up for lunch and dinner, and whenever a fish is on the hook! When off watch, getting some sleep was a priority. David and Pitt are pursuing their Ocean Passagemaking certifications, so both were diligently working on new skills, including celestial navigation.
Land ho! On the morning of 11 November, we sighted Barbuda, the low-lying island 26 miles north of Antigua. Actually, we were overflown by three frigate birds the day prior while 150 miles north of Barbuda, so we knew we were close! (Barbuda hosts the 2nd largest colony of frigate birds in the world) Once abeam Barbuda, we caught site of the mountains of Antigua, and before you know it, we were sailing along the Antigua coast, and into the port of Jolly Harbour. After clearing Customs & Immigration, Pitt and David hoisted the Antigua courtesy flag as we headed out to the anchorage to enjoy a swim and a “Hollywood” shower. The crew celebrated our safe passage with dinner ashore, and a full night’s sleep. At last!
Next day, we met the crews of both Gemeaux and Baloo at Jolly Harbour, and shared stories and photos while we began the process of converting from passagemaking to cruising. A big thanks to Jeff from Sail Solomons, who held our float plan and kept people updated with our progress, and to all those who followed us and send good wishes!