After a wonderfully festive month back in the UK, drinking as much mulled wine or cider as possible, seeing friends and family and fitting in a Christmas Panto, it was finally time to get back to work. This time as crew on an Oyster 575 taking part in the Oyster World Rally 2017/19. The plan is that over the next ten months Oscar and I will sail across the Pacific Ocean to New Zealand all the way from Antigua. Our route means we will get to stop along the way in some incredible places including some of the most remote islands in the world. So far we are planning on going to; Montserrat, Bonaire, Columbia, the San Blas Islands, Panama, The Galapagos, the Tuamotus, Marquesas, Tahiti, Bora Bora, Fiji, Tonga and New Zealand! Just a small trip then!
We arrived back to Antigua almost two weeks ago and it has been non-stop since then! Getting the boat ready to go back into the water was just like what we were doing in June when we came to put the boat away for seven months – except in reverse. We have done a lot of cleaning, polishing, and fixing. My favourite job so far has definitely been putting the sails back onto the boat – we were up so early we watched the sun rise over Falmouth Harbour which was spectacular.
Although there is a lot of work, I really am not complaining as once we have finished for the day we get to go swimming, explore around a little bit and generally not be in freezing cold England! One afternoon we all set off to the Antiguan History Museum where we saw the most hilarious fifteen minute recap of Antiguas history. It was a really informative programme, just that as you swivelled in your seat around the room looking at different screens you were listening to the Sun narrating the history of the Island. After the film we wandered around the old naval base which is now in ruins but has the most amazing views both out to sea and across the island so that you can see all the different Harbours full of yachts. When you get down to Nelsons Dockyard all the old buildings have been preserved so you can really see what life was like – I imagine excruciatingly hot in the British Naval uniforms. Now the buildings are used as hotels, restaurants, sail makers and for other modern uses but you can also walk out and see the old station posts that would have been used to spot ships possibly coming to attack.
Another fun task we had all week whilst staying in a villa while the boat was being pieced back together, was fishing the tarantulas and frogs out of the swimming pool each morning! Charlotte really enjoyed diving down to fish them out, but oscar not so much!
Once we were all pretty much ready we headed over to Nelsons Dockyard to join all the other 31 Oysters which are taking part in the rally. We all moored up together in a line and looked so smart with our flags out! It also meant that Oscar and I started to meet other people on the Rally. After the big launch party on the 12th we had met most of the boats taking part and most have crew on board too. It was really interesting hearing everyone’s route plans as they vary so much. The next set meet up point isn’t until early March in Panama so that gives a lot of spare time to stop places. We are heading straight to the ABC islands above Venezuela but most seem to be cruising the Caribbean for a bit first. I however, am eager to get to Bonaire as the diving is supposed to be incredible and I am so keen to finally swim with a turtle (Oscar keeps spotting them here in the harbour but I’m always missing them!!!)
We officially started the Rally on the 15th January as all the Oysters passed over the start line just outside of Nelsons Dockyard. It was the most amazing day getting to sail with all the other boats, we were all circling and weaving around one another at the mouth of the Harbour waiting for the canon to signal the start. Due to some nifty tactics by Oscar we think we were the third boat over the line! The fleet then sailed to the first marker after which we started to bear off from the pack (along with several other boats) as we were heading back into the Harbour to finish a few final repairs before we head off for good on 18th January. I can’t rally describe the atmosphere or the feeling of crossing the line, most of the boats setting off are committed to the full circumnavigation of the World which I find equally amazing and terrifying! Oscar and I are definitely (touch wood) sailing to New Zealand and for me that, too is an incredible adventure! All this excitement came out in the atmosphere crossing the start line as the helicopter was circling overhead taking photos and speedboats were zooming around capturing the moment too. Now I am so keen to get sailing and am already begging Oscar to teach me to race as I loved the pressure and speed we were going at!
Tomorrow we are off to Montserrat for a night, hopefully we will get to go on a tour of the Island and see the effects of the huge Volcanic eruption that we both learnt about during school Geography first hand.