We don’t really have a rearview on Party of Five. We have something better. We have an elevated seat at the back of the cockpit where you can sit with your feet hanging over the transom and watch the world slowly fade into the horizon. It was with mixed emotions that I sat there and watched Antigua disappear. We had spent so much time there and had such great experiences with the family that it began to feel like home! Of course this is the exact reason it was time to leave. We aren’t looking for a new home, we are trying to have an adventure and experience new places!
As strange as it may seem, our departure from Antigua began with the arrival of Grateful. As awesome as it was to see Grateful, we knew it would be short lived as they had visitors to meet in Puerto Rico in about 14 days (yup you read that right). So we spent the few days with them bouncing around some our favorite anchorages in Antigua (Carsile and Deep Bay). All the while Jaime kept goading me and asking what our plans were and when we planned to leave. Of course I had been watching weather and wasn’t convinced a good window would open (excuses, excuses). We went back and forth a couple of times, before I realized I was just dragging my feet. I had become confortable and lazy. If I kept making excuses, the cruising season would be over and we would still be in Antigua. It was time to leave!
After I finally relented that we were leaving, Jaime and I talked about the trip and when we thought it would be the best time to leave. You see, most cruisers make the run between Antigua and St. Martin by leaving at about 3pm and running through the night. It’s a 100nm between Antigua and St. Martin which means about 18 hours on most boats. Jaime and I looked at the window and based on the wind forecasts and the speed of our boats we figured we would do the run in about 14 hours. Neither him or I liked the idea of running at night. Since you run shorter sail its slower…. but worst of all, you can’t fish. We talked it over and decided we would be “OK” breaking the cardinal rule of cruising and arrive at a foreign anchorage in the dark. Marigot Bay (St. Martin) really has no obstacles and some of the best holding the Caribbean. A night arrival would be fine… So we decided on a 6am departure from Deep Bay on Sunday morning (Feb 5).
The morning dawned bright and beautiful but due to a error with my phone alarm (time was out due to no sim), I woke up late. Jaime had already left and I would need to play catch up! We headed out of Deep Bay, plotted a course to St. Martin (308 deg) and called Grateful on the VHF. Turns out he had only left about 50 min earlier than us and were about 5 miles ahead, cool. I wanted to raise sail right away but as I have said before, I play it safe with the kids and wait till I’m away from the island effect before raising our sails. So we spent the first 45 min motoring away from Antigua in between 2 incoming cruise ships. 45 min out, we spun the boat and pulled the main to the first reef. After falling back on course, we pulled out 2/3 the genoa. Party of Five shuddered, caught wind, accelerated and settled into a smooth motion. We had about 14-16 knots of wind at about 120 deg and we were scooting between 7-8 knots. Even though we had fair sized seas (5-6ft) the motion of the boat was pleasant with little banging or pounding.
By this point Quincy was practically bouncing foot to foot waiting to deploy the fishing gear. So with him hovering over my shoulder I rigged up a new pink squid cape my parents had brought and tossed out a line. I was shocked when 20 minutes later the rod starting singing and yells erupted “Fish On!”. I quickly jumped up to the cabin top, grabbed the rod and set the hook. Since we agreed that getting to St. Martin was first priority slowing the boat was not allowed and I would have to fight the fish while we were scooting between 7-8 knots. So I braced myself against the cabin top seat and began the pull back, reel down routine. I had underestimated how much that extra speed would play into the fight. About 1/2 way through my forearm was aching and I was picturing a gigantic fish. I eventually got him close to the boat where I expected a last fight as he saw the boat, so I wasn’t surprised when the line started going back out. That was until I tried to tighten the drag and realized I was at 90%. Then all of a sudden the pull got light and I saw the fish planning on the surface (weird). I rapidly reeled to keep the fish skimming and it was aboard in seconds. We were delighted to see a nice sized tuna (actually a little tuny). We were less delighted to see only 2/3 of the fish remaining. It seems a large Wahoo must have seen our struggling catch and decided it would be tasty. At least the bastard left 2/3 for us!
We threw the line back out and I began filleting the fish remains. Once that was done, Quincy and I decided a second fishing line might be prudent, so we set about building a second hook. This time we would try another trick I had been told and put one squid cape inside another (2 different colors). As we sat at the table completing our hook, the rod began singing again. I looked up at the rod and then out tosea and was astonished to see 100s of birds all of a sudden. Kickass, I knew this fish wasn’t going to be a little tuny as flocks of birds usually signal Mahi Mahi or big tuna. I ran over and began the same routine of setting the hook and fighting the fish. It quickly became clear that my forearm was going to get a significant work out (no worries, I had been working it out all my life ). This fish was much bigger and the fight went back and forth (me reeling some in, him running some back out). Eventually I won and we pulled a beautiful Black Fin Tuna aboard where he immediately freaked out and thrashed about spraying blood all over me and the cockpit. Rhonda quickly administered a rum cocktail to calm him down (seriously, rum on the gills). Shit, the filleting could wait, I needed to get more lines in the water.
The morning and early afternoon continued with us pounding along at 7-8 knots and the fishing lines singing. At one point, I actually told Rhonda,”Shit, another one, ahh just throw him back”. Of course I quickly came to my senses and introduced him to the the fish party in our 5 gallon buckets. In the end, we hooked 10 fish but only landed 7. Pretty sure the 3 we lost were Wahoo as the line was completely cut. I stunk like hell, was covered in blood and our cockpit looked like a murder scene.. However 3/4 of the passage was over and I barely noticed it.
With the fishing ending, I turned my attention back to actually sailing the boat. Squalls had begun to move in and the sailing had changed. At one point the wind moved around to 160 deg, dropped to 10 knots and the seas built to about 8 feet. It quickly became unpleasant as the main began to blanket the genoa and the seas kept knocking the wind out of the sails (put a cork in water and poke it with your finger, that was the motion on our boat). At this point Rhonda, Daph and Quincy all succumbed to seasickness and went to sleep (poor Daph had been sick all day). The good news was the squalls were short-lived and 2 hours later the trades were back and we were making good time in nice wind again (seas settled back to 5-6ft).
Afternoon settled into dusk as we ghosted past St. Barts. The entire family sat in the cockpit eating baloney and lettuce sandwiches as we passed one of the single richest places on earth. The irony wasn’t lost on me as we ate a $5 meal and enjoyed the stunning night passing super yachts where the people were locked in their cabins enjoying a $500 meal. At that moment the question of “Who is richer” lost all meaning.
A couple hours later we were ghosting past the south side of St. Martin and I was in my element. My absolute best memories on our boat are night passaging close to shore. There is an indescribable magic of being at sea and looking at the lights and hustle of shore life. I spent 5 minutes trying to describe it to Quincy before I just put my arm around him, hugged him close and sat in silence watching the coast slip by. He got it, no words necessary.
We held sail until we began rounding the top of St. Martin where Rhonda took the helm and we did the dance of getting the sails down. Once the sails were down, we pointed toward Marigot and got on the VHF with Grateful. I was unsuccessful at catching them, however I did keep up with him and he only arrived an hour earlier than we did. Grateful talked us in to a great anchor spot off his port side. Once hooked we had a couple of celebratory beers, before falling into bed. A new island and new adventures awaited us in the morning.
Antigua fading in the sunrise!
I would pop that Wahoo in the mouth.. I want 1/3 of my fish back you bastard..
I wore that shirt all day.. A badge of honor.. (for you moms in the group, notice the tether attaching me to the boat).
Damn I wished I had 2 lines out.. I could have had 2 of those buggers!
Meet the twins.. Sushi and BarBQuey!
Daph and Rhonda down with seasickness… Jonah never gets seasick.. Pretty sure you could put the kid in a giant blender and he would be fine! I usually never get sick either but even I felt a little green at this point (probably due to the 4 beer the night before).
Oh… Number 3 is struck.. He would be passed out 3 minutes later. Crazy to note.. The waves in the background are well over 6 ft but it never shows on the camera!
I wanted to post some arrival pics or pics of passing St. Barts but our new camera really sucks at night shots. Sorry!