Before I flew out to Antiuga i told my dad that i was helping deliver a classic yacht called “Dorade”. This caused a lot of excitement as he new the boat very well and even had a old article about the boat stored inside a old book from the early 30’s. I think to him that this would be the first proper boat i have sailed on since the start of my professional career opposed to what he regards as “plastic bath tubs”. On arriving in Antigua and going down the dock to see Dorade with Ben two things where immediately apparent; 1) That she wasn’t far off being the prettiest boat in Antigua yacht club and 2) Her size! despite having seen many pictures of her online she seemed a lot smaller. With her low free board and very little weather protection it was obvious that it was going to be a wet trip! What did i sign up for!
As we finished our preparation provisioning etc we set off, putting the sails up in Falmouth harbor. we had around 20kts of wind on the beam and a standard Caribbean swell around a meter. Straight away we were cruising along a a steady 8.5kts. I think I can safely say i think all five of the crew (Ben, Chris, Brooks, Bush and myself) where pleasantly surprised at her speed. The other surprise was that she was actually remarkably dry on deck despite original thoughts. In fact we only seemed to get wet from random freak waves that hit awkwardly on a certain point of her quarter. Once past Antigua we started to get ourselves into the rhythm of what at this stage was going to be the next couple of weeks to Newport. On the first night the deep keeled motion of the boat claimed a few of the crew with spells of sea sickness, fortunately none very bad and luckily Ben and myself were ok, and everyone was fine by day 2. On the first night I was on watch with Brooks when we started hearing a banging noise, initially we assumed that the head sail was flogging which we quickly realized was not the case then we both out loud thought maybe thunder. So we started scanning the horizon. At this stage the bang was a bit louder. As we scanned the horizon there was speechless surprise when we saw two huge tails bang into the water about a boat length off our starboard side. On thinking about our encounter after we quickly sailed past was that that there must of been more than 2 Whales as the banging was fairly rapid. A little scary they were so close. We like to think they were waving at us, but more likely they were telling us to piss off!
The next few day went without any dramas, with life on bored good, with Ben and Bush eating most of our supply’s. As we approached SE of Bermuda we where updated by Jess our weather router that the wind was going to come forwards onto the nose and die out as we neared the the large high pressure. As the wind came forwards Life on bored got fairly though as the boat seemed to stop dead on every wave meaning we where averaging around 3-4kts, even with the engine on. The next weather report we heard was that after the high pressure we were going to have more head winds and a swell much bigger than that we were already in. After many discussions between the crew and Jess the decision was made to call into Bermuda and wait for a better weather window.
After a nice but long 7 days in Bermuda waiting for the right weather to leave, mixing our time between maintenance on the boat and Golf. We finally got our chance to leave with one crew member down. The weather for the trip was all down wind with occasional light spells. Dorade was definitely not as balanced in these conditions and she would not necessarily sail her self as she previously did. As was expected the warm weather disappeared the further North we went, so the shorts and T-shirts got hidden at the bottom of you bags and the long trousers, fleeces and boots came out. Crossing the gulf stream we had fairly larger swell and wind gusting around 30kts but was otherwise not too bad. Goodbye beautiful deep blue warm water hello dirty green cold water. Around this stage we say a lot of wild life including basking sharks, whales and large fish. The last day and night before reaching Newport we were hit by heavy fog and could not see any further than the bow of the boat meaning blind navigation into the harbor. Luckily having Chris on bored with some local knowledge can in very helpful. Luckily the fog lifted when we where about 150ft from the dock.
All in all it was a good trip and Dorade lived up to her profile, proving her offshore ability. It is not difficult to see why she sailed and won as much as she did in her heyday. Big credit to the guys that have put the hours into restoring her into such a nice condition. Hopefully it wont be my last time sailing on her.