We’re tired, exhausted, spent, drained and every other connotation you can come up with for being in need of rest. As most of you know by now, March 27th was Audrey’s 50th Birthday (I guess I can say it out loud now, right?) and for her half-century celebrations I named March 2016 as the “Month of Audrey” and made a secret plan with some of our dearest friends to come to the Caribbean to celebrate this momentous occassion.
Of course, I recognized that people in the real/working world couldn’t just hop on a plane and come to the Caribbean. They have jobs, families and/or alternate winter vacation plans but I was hopeful that a few would be able to make the trek and surprise the 50-year old “heck” out of Audrey.
First, I want to say thanks to all of those who tried to get here and couldn’t make it. We certainly understand the challenges and appreciate the effort. We also want to say thanks to everyone who celebrated in spirit by sending cards (which was a challenge unto itself), e-cards or birthday greetings on Facebook, text, or email. She was overwhelmed by the number of greetings, especially given that we’ve been off the beaten track for so long.
But, back to the Month of Audrey. I gotta say that I was even surprised and overwhelmed by the number of friends that were able to visit AND by the fact that we were able to keep most of the plans a surprise.
The Month of Audrey actually started on February 25 in Sint Maarten with the arrival of Graeme from Toronto. I tried to figure out a way to make his arrival a surprise but, since we were anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon and I would have to get in the dinghy to pick him up, I broke down and told her the day before he arrived. She had a feeling that someone was coming for the Hieneken Regatta, which is why we were in Sint Maarten in the first place, but she didn’t know who or when so it was still a surprise when I told her and when I picked him up at Soggy Dollar to bring him back to the boat.
Sharon, the other half of the Lawson tag-team, arrived in Sint Maarten a few days later and kicked off the official Month of Audrey with a reunion party on Celebration followed by 7 more days of sight-seeing and partying that peaked at the closing party of the Hieneken Regatta with a performance by Grammy-winning R&B/Hip-Hop performer Akon. So nice of Hieneken and the Sint Maarten Yacht Club to plan their Regatta around Audrey’s birthday!!!
OK..phase one was a success but, unknown to Audrey, we only had a few days after the Lawson’s left to haul ass down to Antigua before phase two could begin. Our original plan was to leave Sint Maarten and return to St. Bart’s to watch The Bucket, which is one of the great spectacles of sailboat racing since the minimum size of yacht allowed to enter is one hundred feet, yes 100-feet!!! I know many of you are not sailors and probably have no idea what kind of resources you need to own that kind of yacht but let’s just say the smallest ones are multi-million dollar toys and the biggest ones, which ranged up to 300-feet, are tens-of-million dollar toys.
It would have been great to see but since we had seen many of these yachts in and around Sint Maarten and we only had a few days to get to Antigua, I “suggested” we pass on The Bucket as we were supposed to have a good weather window for sailing. Of course, the forecast was wrong and we ended up motoring most of the way but we did arrive just in time to get checked through Customs and Immigration and get the lay of the land before the surprise arrival of Matt and Madalin.
In this case, surprise was the understatement of the year because there were a few other surprises in store for Audrey and I. First, our outboard dinghy engine conked out at the Customs and Immigration dock just after we checked in. Fortunately, there was a boat yard nearby so we rowed over and asked their mechanic to take a look at it. Unfortunately, he couldn’t find the problem so we left the engine with him and got a tow back to the mothership, which was anchored in the bay just outside Jolly Harbor.
Second, Matt and Madalin were arriving the next day and due to the fact that we didn’t have an engine on the dinghy, I needed a new plan for picking them up without spoiling the surprise. Long story short, I told Matt and Madalin to meet us at the bar in the marina when they arrive and told Audrey that we needed to kayak into the marina in order for us to get a status on the outboard engine, check our emails and do a blog post since we hadn’t done one in over a month. The plan was Matt and Madalin would surprise Audrey at the bar then Matt and I would kayak back to the mothership and bring it to the fuel dock where we could get fuel and pick-up the girls and luggage.
The birthday surprise at the bar worked perfectly as Audrey had tears in her eyes when she realized who was hugging her from behind. The next unexpected surprise was after Matt and I kayaked to the mothership and brought it to the fuel dock we discovered that the engine on the mothership was severely overheating. In fact, the gauge was off the scale and I was afraid to even move it from the fuel dock. Fortunately (I guess), we were close to the same boat yard where we left the outboard so we nursed the mothership to their service dock where we tied up and waited for the engine to cool down before we could do any diagnostics.
I’ll spare you the details but the prognosis was not good. The intake manifold, which is a major component, was corroded and needed to be replaced and while removing it the studs on the cylinder head broke so it had to be removed. And, since we had the cylinder head off it made sense to machine and service it as well. In other words, we were going to be stuck on the service dock for an extended period. Guess what Audrey’s getting for her 50th birthday???
Anyway, we came to terms with the need for the two engines to be repaired and at the end of the day were glad it happened in Antigua and, conveniently, close to a boat yard as it could have been much worse.
We were also very happy that our phase two guests were Matt and Madalin as they had cruised their own boat from Toronto to the Bahamas and understand that shit happens. Plus, they know how to make the best of a bad situation and we had no intention of letting a parked boat spoil the Month of Audrey. We rented a car for a few days to check out Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbor and some of Antigua’s 365 beaches. We also bought day-passes for two of the island’s all-inclusive resorts and spoiled ourselves rotten. After that we wined and dined the week away.
OK, with a few hiccups, phase two was successful. Now it was time for phase three — the Big One. In this case, Don and Freda were flying in from Detroit and Diane and Julio were flying in from Spain, and they had rented a spectacular villa for all of us to celebrate the Month of Audrey. The challenge, once again, was how to keep the surprise.
This time it worked like a charm — not as planned but still like a charm. Matt and Madalin were still with us so I told the Villa Gang (Don, Freda, Diane and Julio) to meet us at the bar in the marina under the guise that we’d just be there for Happy Hour drinks. The plan was for them to surprise the heck out of Audrey and have a few drinks before they headed to the villa. But, their flight was delayed and they got a little turned around coming from the villa so they couldn’t get to the bar at the agreed upon time. And, after an hour or more of stalling Audrey, she went back to the boat with Madalin to whip up the planned pork roast for dinner while Matt and I pretended to stay just to finish our drinks.
Not too long after Audrey and Madalin left, the Villa Gang arrived at the bar and after a quick drink we all headed to the boat. The new plan, which was suggested by the master sales dude Matt, was Don and Freda would go first, pretending to be tourists looking for directions to a restauarant. Then, Diane and Julio would follow a few minutes later to double-down on the surprise. As I said earlier, this worked like a charm as I think Don, Freda, Diane and Julio were almost the last people she expected to see in Antigua. Well, you had to be here because there were screams and tears of joy coming from the cockpit as phase three kicked in. That was one phase of the plan that I never thought we’d pull off but I love it when a plan comes together!!!
After that there was no end to the birthday celebrations. First, we partied with everyone onboard that night. Then, as the next day was Matt and Madalin’s last day the four of us had dinner at Al Porto, a local Italian restaurant. After a tearful goodbye to Matt and Madalin the next morning, the Villa Gang picked us up at the marina and chauffered us off to Pelican House, a spectacular villa on the northeast side of the island.
Now, after being on the boat for so long, Audrey and I could have just stayed and enjoyed the villa for the duration. We did spend quite a bit of time there — for obvious reasons – but as it was still the Month of Audrey, we hit the sights including the Devil’s Bridge, Nelson’s Dockyard and the lively Sunset Party at Shirley Heights, which happened to be held on Sunday, March 27 — Audrey’s actual birthday. Could we have planned it any better???
Alas, all good things must come to an end and after visits from Sharon and Graeme in Sint Maarten then Matt, Madalin, Don, Freda, Diane and Julio in Antigua we were ready to hide in our salon (living room), watch movies and read books for a week.
But, it was not meant to be since, the day after the Villa Gang left, our cruising freinds Mike and Holly sailed into Jolly Harbor to hoist a drink or three for Audrey’s birthday. Of course, we had to continue the festivities so for the next few days (well into April) we shared Happy Hours and swapped sailing stories then concluded the Month of Audrey with a final night of wining and dining at Al Porto to the sounds of Asher Otto before Mike and Holly sailed off to Montserrat.
So now you know why we’re so exhausted. It’s been a wonderful, once in a lifetime celebration of Audrey’s special birthday and we will remember it for the rest of our lives but right now we just need a long afternoon nap in our comfy salon…:-)