Antigua Trip 2021 (KARMA)

Under Construction….

This page is the story about a 5-month sailing trip that includes sailing to Antigua non-stop, then cruising to St Martin, the Virgin Islands, and sailing home through the Bahamas to the United States. I hope you enjoy it.

In mid-2021 I started getting serious about sailing our Beneteau 40 “Karma” on a long trip to the Caribbean, perhaps the BVIs or Antigua. While research my options and the best time of year to go, I came across The Salty Dawg Sailing Association and learned about their annual Caribbean Rally from Virginia to Antigua.

In September, 2021 I became a member and decided to join the rally to Antigua. The next steps were to prepare the boat and line up my crew. KARMA was already 95% ready, having completed a 4-month trip to the Bahamas at the beginning of the year. I figured I would be away from home with the boat for about 5 months. Below is an actual track of the rally. KARMA was the only boat leaving from the Wilmington, NC on the chart.

2021 Salty Dawg Caribbean Rally Tracks

Preparation: In terms of equipment and safety gear, the bigger ticket items for this 1,600 mile trip included: Hydrovane Self-Steering, LIfe Raft, MOB Devices for the Life Jackets, Garmin InReach, and IridiumGo with Predict Wind. Having owned KARMA for a few years, I knew every square inch of her and how to fix or replace anything that could break.

I’m at the top of the mast using my mast climber
Viking Six Man Life Raft in the Port Locker
Checking the Mainsail in the Living Room
Canned Provisions in the Bilge

Spare Parts: I probably was a bit conservative in this regard. For the entire 5-month trip, the only thing that broke was a Navigation Light Bulb burning out (and I had a spare for that). For spares, I had an alternator, starter, windlass motor, bilge pump, filters, belts, extra anchor with rode, and much more.

The Crew: I could not have asked for a better crew, which included Rick, a friend of mine who has many years of blue water racing experience (although this would be his longest trip). I hooked up with the other two guys on the Find A Crew web site. We were all about the same age and quite compatible. We all got along great and everyone had fun.

Motoring with the motley crew. Robert, Rick, and Ben.

The rally start date from Norfolk, VA was scheduled for November 1st, weather permitting. I left Hilton Head, SC a week before and sailed solo up the coast to Wrightsville Beach, NC in order to pick up the crew.

Me off the SC coast heading north to Wrightsville Beach, NC to pick up the crew
This was my marina in Southport, NC on my way to Wrightsville Beach

Rick was the first to arrive. He graciously bought me a nice dinner, and we proceeded north to the next marina near Wrightsville Beach.

Rick on KARMA excited to start sailing
Beneteau 40 KARMA at her slip near Wrightsville Beach, NC

After picking up our other two crew members, Ben and Robert, we headed north up the ICW to Masonboro Inlet to depart for Antigua at 6:00pm. Winds were forecasted to be 20+ knots out of the West In the Gulf Stream it would be a bit rough with seas about 5-7 feet.

Crossing the Gulf Stream heading East
Crossing the Gulf Stream

With the Gulf Stream behind us, we started to get into a good rhythm and the weather improved with calmer seas and wind.

Ben at the Helm and Rick
Beneteau 40 Karma making miles offshore

At the earliest opportunity when the conditions were right, we started trolling for Mahi. I promised the crew we would have fresh Mahi for dinner – and we did!

Rick reeling in the first fish of the trip
The first of many Mahi to be caught on this voyage

We filled the freezer with as much Mahi as we wanted and we enjoyed cooking it several different ways. Baked, Blackened, Mahi Wraps, Sushi, Mahi Wraps . . . It definitely broke up the boredom at times when the wind was light.

Fresh Baked Mahi caught 4 hours ago!

A 12 day voyage like this is bound to have many spectacular sunrises and sunsets along with the most beautiful star gazing that you can imagine.

One of many spectacular sunsets
Beneteau 40 KARMA from Drone Sailing to Antigua
Typical Day under way sailing to Antigua
We caught this Mahi 700 miles from Land
KARMA at her Slip at Nelson’s Dock Yard, Antigua
Me raising the Customs Flag for Antigua
Capt Randy and The Crew, Antigua, 2021

After arrival into Antigua, we cleared customs and my crew flew home after a couple of days. I spent a few weeks on my own getting to know the island before my wife Kay flew in. One of my favorite sights was Nelson’s Dock Yard, located in English Harbour and named after Admiral Horatio Nelson. During the 18th century, this UNESCO World Heritage Site was a working shipyard and base for the British Navy during the 18th century.

View of Beneteau 40 KARMA and English Harbour
Drone Shot of Nelson’s Dockyard and Salty Dawgs Yachts. KARMA is the second sailboat from the right
The Sail Loft Pillars at Nelson’s Dock Yard at Night

Ben and I had the chance to rent a car and explore Antigua. It is a beautiful island that is well cared for by the British government and the island’s residents.

Ben and Me sightseeing around Antigua
Looking out at Falmouth Harbour
We had a great time at a Salty Dawgs Party with Live Music and a Spectacular Sunset from Shirley Heights
The pier at night – all Salty Dawgs!
Beneteau 40 KARMA is the first boat on the left. First night at the dock.

To be honest, I did not socialize a lot with other Salty Dawg members other than going to a half-dozen gatherings. I certainly made some friends that I will always regard highly. In general, I can’t say enough good things about what a great organization this is. I plan on remaining a member into the future.

Next Stop – St Martin

The next destination was St Martin, with Kay. The two of us spent about 10 days together on Antigua and we had a wonderful time. We departed Antigua for St Martin via St Barts on December 21st, 2021. It was open ocean sailing to St Barts with the seas about 5 feet, enough to make Kay feel queasy, which none of us enjoy. She was a trooper and toughed it out. We anchored for one night at Anse Du Columbier at St Barts. We skipped Gustavia for two reasons: First, it was crazy crowded with super mega yachts. Second, we visited Gustavia on a Moorings Yacht Charter many years earlier and spent four days, which were pretty awesome.

Early the following morning, we sailed to Simpson Bay, St Martin. After going through the drawbridge, we decided to anchor for a longer term inside of the lagoon, on the French Side of St Martin. The French made it so easy for us to clear customs – we did it at a ship chandlery store!

Kay stayed on board for two weeks, and we had a great time exploring St Martin on both the French and Dutch sides, renting cars for a couple of days. Bear in mind that the Covid Pandemic was in full swing, but by this time we were due for our booster shot. We were able to get this done for free at a clinic on the French side of St Martin. For this, were thankful.

Kay and Me on board KARMA in St Martin
Kay enjoying the sights overlooking Marigot Bay
Kay on KARMA anchored in the Lagoon on the French Side

I actually scheduled KARMA to be pulled out at a local boatyard on St Martin to paint the bottom, but their crane broke down.

Next Stop – The Virgin Islands

On January 6th, 2022, Kay flew home in the morning and that evening at about 5:00pm, I set off solo to the British Virgin Islands for a 105-mile overnight passage. I enjoy passages like these by myself when the weather is right, and the seas are relatively calm. Sailing through the night is calmer most of the time, and arrival is after sunrise. Clearing into customs turned out to be a real pain in the ass …

First, I sailed to Jost Van Dyke, then I sailed to Sopers Hole. After this, I sailed to Road Town, Tortola (which is where I finally cleared in after a quite painful experience, btw). Sadly, the government employees did not project a “welcome to the BVI” experience, quite the opposite.

Beneteau 40 KARMA anchored at Sopers Hole, Tortola, BVI

After clearing in at Road Town, I sailed back to Sopers Hole and picked up a mooring for a couple of days. While I was there, one evening, two different yachts had their dinghies stolen, and they were both very nice $8K+ dinghies! I did not worry about someone stealing my 12 year old Achilles with a 2.5 Suzuki Outboard.

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