Yellowshirts in the (rainy) Caribbean / First ARC Bahamas boats make landfall

08 November 2014

After a brief respite back in Amish Country, where the Rally Control team was based after the Portsmouth pre-departure program, we’re back on the road and back in the islands. Unfortunately, it wasn’t exactly the warm Caribbean welcome we’d grown accustomed to over the past couple years.

Friday morning came awful early for Lyall, Mia and me. The alarm rang at 3:07am – it felt like I’d been woken for the dawn watch, so at least I could sympathize a bit with the sailors. But no, it was our wake-up call so we’d have time enough to make it to the airport for our 7:35 flight. At least there was no traffic on the roads as we meandered through the dark.

After a brief layover in Miami, affording us just enough time for lunch, we hopped the next flight to St. Thomas, where we’d meet Jake and take the ferry over to Tortola. Except that the ferry wasn’t running.

“You’ve got to go to Red Hook!” said the cabby at the airport. It was pouring down rain. “The ferries in town aren’t running this afternoon. Too much rain! If you’re lucky, you’ll make the last one out of Red Hook.”

Great. So the four of us saddled up in the big taxi van and were off for a tour of St. Thomas. Red Hook’s on the opposite side of the island, and the only way across is over the top. Rivers of water ran down the gutters alongside the impossible steep hills, and the tinted windows of the van made for an ominous view out over Charlotte Amalie harbor. By the time we reached the pinnacle of the hillsides, we were shrouded in clouds. Tinting or no tinting, there was nothing to see.

We did make the ferry in the end. Just in time. I paid cash for our tickets and we were herded onto the small ferry boat at the end of the dock. Standing room only for us four, and our bags were unceremoniously added the pile on the back of the boat and covered with an old blue tarp. Our stuff was soaked by the time we unpacked at Nanny Cay.

We disembarked at West End and walked, with all our stuff, down the muddy path to the Fish & Lime restaurant for a quick bite. We had to move tables because the wind was blowing the rain right in on our meals. Finally, after 14 hours of travel, we arrived into the familiar confines of Nanny Cay Hotel and crashed out before 10 o’clock. Despite the early bedtime, we still managed to oversleep this morning.

But it’s good to be back in the islands. And though I’d much rather have sailed here, it’s nice to be a day or two ahead of the fleet. Falcon isn’t due to arrive until early in the morning on Monday, so we’ve got the weekend off to swim, explore Tortola and get the program set for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, the majority of the ARC Bahamas fleet has made their arrival in Marsh Harbor at our new hosts at Harbourview Marina. Comocean, Toby Hynes’ Sabre 42, took line honors, crossing the finish line yesterday afternoon as we were en route to Tortola. They were closely followed by the J/World boat Euro Trash Girl, who made it to the islands despite their crews injury a few days prior. The two cats, Symmetry and Delphinus, arrived one after the other, after mirroring each other’s courses for nearly the entire route. Sojourner, my dads’ boat, brought up the rear, and should be arriving sometime this afternoon, if the wind holds.

“We’ve had a really calm passage so far,” said Dennis, my dad, and skipper of Sojourner yesterday on a short sat phone call while we were in Miami airport. “Thankfully, after this frontal passage, the wind is up in the twenties and were sailing again with the small jib and two reefs in the main. I thought we were going to run out of fuel.”

“We did have one issue with the boat,” he continued. “The external regulator on the charging system crapped out. Tom, [one of my crew], and I spent the afternoon rewiring it. Turns out that the alternator actually has an internal regulator on it, so we just bypassed the external one and we’re back in business. It was a bit scary cutting all those little wires though!”

The ARC Bahamas fleet will enjoy a happy hour tonight at Snappa’s bar and grill, adjacent to the marina. Tomorrow night, once the entire fleet is settled in, they’ll have their final prizegiving and beging their winter exploring the Abacos and the Bahamas.