Our Maiden Voyage
It's been two weeks since Sitka was dropped in the water, but so far we've only been able to get out sailing three times. We're still just too busy with boat projects to get out every day, and a lot of the projects needed to be completed before we could actually sail (e.g. replacing worn lines, finding an appropriate main halyard shackle, and setting up the stack pack and sails themselves). Anyways, nobody wants to hear about work, so here's the story of our maiden voyage!
We had been at Jolly Harbour for a few weeks and were getting a little stir crazy, so we decided to leave our home base of Jolly Harbour on a late Tuesday morning and motor to the south side of Antigua to English Harbour. The trip would give us a chance to test out the boat as I was eager to get comfortable with the engine, steering, and hull performance, but we also wanted Jess to start practicing her skills on the new boat.
After navigating through the sandy shoals and coral reefs near shore, we rounded the southwest corner of the island only to be immediately greeted by the large rolling waves and strong winds of the open Atlantic Ocean. We were headed directly into it, but thankfully didn't have to worry about sails yet and were very controlled under motor; we managed to turn in to English Harbour in just a few short hours. After dropping anchor, we cooked up dinner and stayed the night at the anchorage. It was only when we were laying in bed later that night that the waves had somehow figured out how to turn the corner around the breakwater and keep the boat rocking from side to side. All night long. Our lack of sleep left it unsaid that we would need to find a better place to anchor the next night.
The next day we picked up anchor and motored over to Falmouth, which is much larger and better protected than English Harbour. There we got all our new lines on the boat, and put up the foresail. We explored town a little, had some Caribbean ribs at a local joint, and enjoyed a full night of sleep. Thursday morning was a little stormy, but it calmed down a little by early afternoon, so we made a quick decision to take Sitka for a sail and head back downwind to Jolly Harbour. Not long after we rounded the point outside Falmouth though, the wind picked up again and we were flying downwind in 25-30 knots of true wind, big Atlantic rollers (again), and at the same time avoiding the shallow reefs that seem to be everywhere in the Caribbean. There were a couple times the boat heaved to the side from the pressure of a big rolling wave pushing on our stern, but we were able to stay controlled (at the time Jess may have said otherwise), and made it quickly to the protected, quieter waters of the west side of the island.
Our maiden voyage and first sail may have been a little more stressful (for Jess) than we had envisioned, but it was a good test of us and the boat, and thankfully there were no incidents, accidents, or equipment trouble. Maybe next time it would be a good idea to stay in calmer waters for practicing our sailing and familiarizing ourself with the boat!