Archive for June, 2011

South African Planet


That One Time We Hit a Shark: Antigua to Newport

Two weeks ago Jason and I hopped onto South African racing yacht ‘Prodigy’. In exchange for working as delivery crew to Newport the owner agreed to buy us flights home. Since then Jason has decided to stay with the boat for a while longer to work as race crew. I’ll be flying home this week. The delivery took 10 days and along with our Skipper, Gareth, and third crew member, Courtney, we had a pretty good time.

Sorry this is so long. Props if you don’t fall asleep halfway through. I’ll put a post up about our trip to New York next week.


Prodigy, built in South Africa in 2006, hasn’t had the best of luck. After sinking about 4yrs ago she sat in a harbour up until the beginning of this year when she was finally repaired and sent off to the Caribbean to compete in the Antigua Race week which she didn’t enter due to engine and generator problems. We have now delivered her to Rhode Island where she will take part in the Transatlantic race. I’ll let you know if she doesn’t break down before that.

If you don’t know much about racing yachts then you probably don’t know how uncomfortable they are.  They are extremely uncomfortable. This delivery was very challenging in the way that we really had no luxuries; no shower, no air conditioner, no fridge, no freezer, tiny gas cookers and no autopilot. So just to make our suffering clear, that meant washing out of water bottles outside, eating mostly tinned foods and someone had to be steering all the time.

Introducing Courtney (left) and Gareth

My bunk: the no-fun hammock.


This is the account taken from my journal.

Day 1: Didn’t I say I’d never do this again?

Finally left, 15 days late. It was just one disaster after the next trying to leave Antigua.  Felt mild discomfort (seasickness) after a few hours of sailing but overall it was a good day. When the wind was right the boys brought out what looked like a circus tent, but really it was just a spinnaker sail because apparently it makes no sense having circus tents on racing yachts.

The boys caught two fish today.

Caught this Barracuda first but we let him go. Weren’t sure if he was safe to eat so close to the coast.

The Tuna the boys had for dinner.

The circus tent and a very hung-over Courtney after a night of forgetting he was on antibiotics.

Day 2

After a good night of rest I’m feeling very chuffed about the deal I struck with the boys. Basically it was agreed that if I cooked dinner and helmed a little during the day, when the boys had to do sail changes or repairs then the boys would do all the night shifts.

We stopped for a swim today. It’s been very calm and flat today; unfortunately no wind.

Photo by Jason

Beautiful Dorado. Let him go because he was too big for dinner.

Day 5: The Peg Game

Gareth invented a game today for us to play for the rest of our trip. I’m too lazy to think of a catchy name so I’ll just call it the “Peg game”. Basically we all have a clothing peg that we’ve named and pegged to ourselves. These are the rules:

  1. No talking about the peg game outside of the peg game. (oops)
  2. You have to keep your peg on you at all times. If caught without your peg the other three competitors get to graffiti your face with marker pens.
  3. To eliminate another contestant you must steal their peg without being caught and peg it on the Dan buoy.
  4. Peg can only be pegged onto clothing.
  5. The winner gets three drinks on the rest of the competitors and must proclaim that he/she is the “Peg champion!” after each drink.

Small fry holding a big fish.

Day 6: Sneaky Tactics

Jason deviously stole Gareth’s peg while he was sleeping this morning. We all sat outside snickering like foxes waiting for Gareth to wake up and realise. Finally I had to wake him up for his shift, calling to him through the hatch. All I heard in reply was a string of profanities and insults directed at his lousy crew. Ironically Gareth had been telling Jason all night how he knew he was going to win the game.

When Gareth finally came out he gravely informed us: “I never thought a peg would make me feel so bad.”

While taking a nap this afternoon, Courtney snagged my peg. I woke up when I heard someone running on the deck; I checked for my peg and realised I’d been jacked.

Peg Game just became Courtney vs. Jason.

Jason laughing at Gareth

Day 7: The Mysterious case of the Ravioli

Because we’re beating into the wind we had pretty rough weather last night. Things got thrown all around the boat and it’s pretty messy inside. Fortunately I slept with my head under my sheet last night because of the strong diesel smell; when I woke up there was canned ravioli sauce all over the ceiling, all over my sheet and on the wall right above my head.

The boys claim no responsibility and apparently have no idea how it got there.

I took my revenge on Courtney while he was winching this afternoon, making Jason the peg champion.

Gareth checked the weather today on the satellite program and apparently we’ve missed a hurricane by a week. That’s how we roll!

Day 8

I threw up for the first time today which is definitely a new record for me.

We’re running out of good food and Courtney suggested that they eat me. Sometimes I can work pretty well under pressure; I skilfully changed his mind by pointing out that it would be silly to eat the skinniest. It totally worked.

Hiding from the cold.

 Day 9

We spotted small dolphins and a whale today.



Day 10: “We just hit a whale! Bring the camera.”

We saw a pod of whales/porpoises this morning. We’re undecided. So everyone who’s smarter than us can take a look at the photo and make suggestions. For all I know they weren’t either. Someone will probably inform us that they’re submarines, not even cunningly disguised ones.

Pod of something.. possibly a flotilla.

Two of them

I’d just gotten into my bunk this afternoon when Jason stuck his head through the companion-way and shouted what I thought sounded like “We just hit a whale! Bring the camera.” Obviously I knew I’d heard wrong. I grabbed the camera and climbed up.

“Jason, did you just say ‘we hit a whale’?”


“Oh shit”

We all looked down into the water searching for the whale we’d hit. What we saw was rather unexpected. Swimming directly towards us was a very large mass with a big shark fin and then another two. It was a little unnerving considering the biggest was almost as long as the boat but also too captivating to worry too much about falling in the water. At first we thought they were Great Whites and the boys actually advised me to stick with that version of the story for sensationalism; but unfortunately for my poor readers I’m entirely ruining the story with the truth. On closer inspection we decided that they were actually Basking sharks which are completely harmless, unless you’re plankton.

Day 11: What’s up America!

We arrived in Newport 8 in the morning. Two customs officials rode up on bicycles to meet us and after satisfying their needs we hit the town. We didn’t have any plan other than to find something to eat that wasn’t in a tin. I suppose we were more curious than hungry because we walked past several restaurants.

Newport, a popular yachting town turned out to be a pretty town with heaps of old mansions and beautiful churches.  I’m blaming Jason for not having any photos of Newport; he’s the only one who never has any shame about looking like a tourist.

Walking around in an American town for the first time was amusing. Having watched Hollywood movies all our lives we suddenly felt as if we’d stepped into one. We couldn’t help laughing at everything we deemed ‘movie clichés’. We got a few looks which the boys claimed to be due to their delicious accents; I think it probably had a lot to do with us chuckling at fire-hydrants, zebra-crossings and other normal things. No wonder no one likes South Africans.


We spent one night in Newport before moving on to Barrington where the boat had been booked in for the rest of its stay.

Barrington is a lot smaller and is truly the kind of town where people lend you their cars on the day they meet you, take-away restaurants let you walk out with your soda before paying, and friendly neighbours who give you lifts have wives who send you left-over carrot cake. All of these have happened to us. Ok, except for the carrot cake part but there is a very good chance this will still happen.

I’m not going to put any photos up because Jason was driving and I took really bad photos trying not to look like some kind of stalker/pervert. Trust me; it’s not fun taking pictures of people’s houses because your boyfriend thinks camper vans and American flags are amusing.

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