Fantome Repositioning Cruise.

Antigua to Cancun

October, 1996

Tony Sibol

The following is a trip report on the relocation of Fantome from Antigua to

Cancun, Mexico. (10/13 – 10/26)

When I first heard about the opportunity to sail on the relocation of

Fantome to Mexico, I had mixed feelings about going. I got out my charts

and “did” the voyage about seven times in my head … assuming all kinds of

weather conditions. It looked like fun so I booked 72 hours later. (These

mental/prophetic trips are documented in a trip report under the subject

WJ-FANTOME – MEX. posted about 10/1/96. I will refer to this as the PTR

in the rest of this report)

After a pleasant flight to Antigua and passing customs and immigration,

I met some old friends, Valerie and Jeremy whom I had sailed with on Flying

Cloud a few years before. We took a cab to the dock. We quickly found some

other shipmates and a bar. In the two hours before we boarded, I consumed 2

1/2 days normal ration of beer and had a great time meeting new friends. At

five, the ship was not ready for boarding and snacks and swizzles were

served on Amazing Grace. There I quickly found Steve, Blanca, Dale and

Connie, who I knew from this BB and whose company I enjoyed very much

during the next two weeks. I ran into a number of people I had sailed with

before. I had no idea what kind of a group I would be sailing with, but

within a few hours of landing on the island, I could see it was going to be

a good time.

We got our cabin assignments and dinner sometime after dark … too much

to drink to really care. My assigned cabin mate was Joe, we got along

really well and seldom were in the cabin at the same time during the day. I

must admit I had too much to drink … I don’t do that very often. I was

told by people the next day, as I introduced myself, that we had long

conversations the night before! I have no Idea when we set sail or if I was

on deck at the time. However, I am sure it was just like I said in my PTR.

The next morning (10/14) we arrived at St. Barts (81 miles, avg. speed

14 knots) The distance was short, but the engines were required to get us

there early in the morning. The first story time gave an idea of how

experienced most of the pax. were on this trip (Sea Dogs, people who had

sailed 5 weeks or more were given first opportunity to book and made up the

majority of the pax.). It went something like this:

Captain Sean’s remarks are in lower case letters.

Pax. spontaneous response are in caps.

“We have arrived at the island of … ST. BARTS! Its’ original inhabitants

were the … THE ARAWAK INDIANS! They were later eaten by … THE CARIB

INDIANS! The island was discovered by … CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS! Why am I

doing this? Most of you have been sailing WJ’ers longer than anyone

presently working for the company has been with the company!”

While some explored the island using taxis or rental cars, I felt like

walking and did quite a bit. The usual Wine and Cheese party was to be held

at 5pm. I bought a bottle and sent it back to the ship. I am a barbarian

when it comes to wine … buy it in 5 liter boxes and drink it over crushed

ice. Four of us got together to have lunch in a little restaurant near the

dock (Across the street from Le Select, where Jimmy Buffett DID NOT write

Cheeseburger in Paradise!). The crab sandwiches appealed to all of us …

we were going to order four, until we saw how huge they were as the next

table got their’s. We quickly decided to order two and split them. They

were very good.

During the wine party, a launch from Polynesia came over and Popeye

(Chief Steward), Curtis (Bartender), and Annie (I think.) came over for a

visit … Curtis stayed with us till we reached Jamaica. Good to see them

all again.

That evening we sailed for Tortola (105 miles, avg. speed 8.8 knots) The

next morning, as we sailed into the British Virgin Island through “Round

Rock Passage”, I felt like I was coming home. I sighted Flying Cloud at

Cooper Island and talked to Captain Adrian on VHF radio … sorry we didn’t

have a chance to visit.

My BVI drivers license was still current so Steve, Blanca, and another

pax. rented a car ($24 per day from Budget.). I told them they could get in

some shopping and I would pick up the car and meet them at Pusser’s pub. I

joined them at Pusser’s, after greeting all the people in the pub … they

all know me at Pusser’s. I had just ordered my beer when I got a phone

call!!! … I guess I spend too much time in the BVI’s.<G> As I said in my

PTP, we had lunch up on Mt. Sage, good food – great view … beached at

Cane garden bay, then did an island tour and stopped a Bomba’s Shack for a

beer and a visit with Bomba. A very good day.

The next day was our first day at sea without a stop. We had a number of

days like this and they were pretty much the same. The Activities Mate gave

out word/logic games … one per day. A prize from sea chest was given to

the person turning in the first correct answer sheet or the most correct by

late PM. The games/puzzles were very hard and we formed groups to work on

them. It was a pleasant morning/afternoon diversion. We had an inflatable

wading pool filled with sea water … great photo op! Since we sailed over

1500 miles without tacking, the location of the sun and shade were

predictable. I followed the shade, others followed the sun by moving our

deck pads around as the sun headed west. After lunch I completely avoided

the sun by taking a 1 – 2 hour nap. By the time evening rolled around, most

were ready for partying and dancing. I was pleasantly surprised at how fast

the days at sea went.

Our next stop was La Romana, Dominican Republic (287 miles, avg. speed

7.4 knots). I overheard Capt’n Sean’s conversation with the local pilot.

Sean asked how deep the water was in the port (which was just up a small

river). The pilot didn’t know. Was there enough room to turn around if the

water wasn’t deep enough … the pilot didn’t know! So we anchored near the

mouth of the river and Steve, Blanca, and I were aboard the first launch

into the port. We wandered around the river looking for a suitable place to

dock. Most of the docks were 10 – 15 ft. above the water. After about 30

minutes we landed at a small boat dock. There was only about 10 feet of

space at the dock, so we had to jump down from the bow onto the dock.

Everybody took this adventure in stride and Blanca, who speaks very fast

Spanish (I guess it’s perfect too, but how would I know<G>) arranged for

two vans to take us were we wanted to go and wait for us, all for $9 per

person for most of the day. The place I wanted to see was Altos de Charon

(see the PTR). It was a famous reproduction

of an Italian village. I took pictures of the streets and vine covered

walkways leading into the village … I thought this would be the most

beautiful part of the village. Next I came upon a group of shops, set

inside walkways covered with stone arches supported by stone columns. The

heavy wood doors with wrought iron hardware were fantastic and I took more

pictures. Around the next corner was a huge public square with a stone

church at one end … the scope and beauty of this place was ever

increasing! At the other end of the square was a breathtaking scene of a

river and rain forest several hundred feet below … more photos. Around

the next corner was another square with beautiful fountains. The fountain

area was almost 5,000 ft. square and contained stone carved sea creatures

spouting water in all directions. Here I ran out of film and didn’t get any

photos of the stone coliseum or the outdoor restaurant

where I had a great lobster dinner. I can’t remember ever being so

impressed with the beauty of a city before.

The cabs returned us to the exclusive resort, Casa del Campo, which had

made it facilities available to us. Spent a little time on the beach and

then headed back to the ship.

Friday, the 18th, was another day at sea. We discovered three stowaways

had joined the ship at La Romana. They were very small birds, a woman

knowledgeable in such things identified them as Honey Creepers. They were

almost tame as they walked around the deck looking for crumbs. They would

fly off into the distance and we would think they were gone for good …

but they returned an hour or two later and stayed with us all the way to

Mexico. There they left the ship … visiting relatives? We never saw them again.

Saturday, was another day at sea and to change the routine that evening,

a BINGO game was held in the saloon. The crew loved it! When I looked in,

almost all the crew not on duty was playing. The bar was a lively place

every night with conversation and dancing … more to my liking than Bingo.

We reached Ocho Rios, Jamaica (514 miles, avg. speed 12.4 knots) on

Sunday (10/20) morning. we tied up to a dock and took on fuel and water.

Unfortunately a break in the filler line allowed diesel oil to leak into

cabin 64 (My friends Valerie and Jeremy’s cabin). The entire lower cabin

level smelled pretty bad. [Thanks to all you people who helped me get cabin

47, it was one level up and directly amidships. No problems there at all

during the whole trip.]

It was sad to see Jamaica hadn’t changed in the 15 years I had stayed

away. Within the sight of all kinds of uniformed officers, drugs were being

offered as soon as you left the dock. The cab drivers were out to get you

for all they could … ours kept asking questions and if we didn’t know the

answer he said we needed a tour of the island. We kept repeating what we

had agreed to; “$2 per person to the center of town.”

Jamaica is a beautiful island, but totally out of control! I never saw

so many people walking and laying around, obviously drunk, on drugs or

both. We went to the beach at the Renaissance Grand Jamaican Hotel. The man

at the door asked for $10 to use the beach. I asked if there was a charge

to use the bar. He said no, I would find it on the beach! So I enjoyed a

pleasant few hours at the beach/bar.

When I was ready to leave, I did a dumb thing. I asked if it was OK to

walk on the street with a beer in my hand … answer: No problem! I decided

to walk back to the ship (about one mile). I could walk a lot of it on the

beach … then out to the street. I guess a guy walking down the street

with a beer in hand looked like someone looking to buy some thing! So

anything and every thing was offered. I didn’t feel in any danger, but I

have done smarter things. A simple “no” wasn’t enough for many prospective

suppliers … but a repeated firm no after hearing more details than I

needed to hear, did the trick.

That evening Patrick the Chief Steward from Flying Cloud visited the

ship … what a surprise. Sam the Fantome’s chief Steward and Curtis the

bartender had to leave us in Jamaica because their Mexican working

documents had not come through. They joined up with us in Cancun the next week.

Our next destination was Georgetown, Cayman Islands (287 miles, avg.

speed 7.6 knots). After a day at sea (10/21), we arrived mid morning on

10/22. I did a little looking around in town, had lunch with Steve and

Blanca, and a few others in a nice English Pub. Most of the ship’s officers

were there eating and drinking also. As on most of the islands we visited,

there were tours offered by the ship. I had done many of the attractions on

earlier visits and really felt like walking after the days at sea; so I

walked out toward seven mile beach and later met up with Dale and Connie

for a drink in a second floor bar that looked very appealing. We left the

island in the late afternoon for our last leg to Mexico.

Our last day at sea was Wednesday 10/23. It was the first day that

things began to get cloudy. In the late afternoon we tacked for the first

time since we left Antigua. We sailed around the storm and arrived in

Cozumel, Mexico (320 miles, avg. speed 9.4 knots) early on 10/24.

We went to a dock and tied up opposite the huge “Sun Princes” (2,000 +

pax.). Their gangway was just opposite our bridge, so since we had been at

sea so long and really not fit to mix with humans yet, we (both male and

female pax.) made rude remarks about the Sun P. pax. coming down their

gangway. My, they were well dressed!

We were warned that the Mexican authorities would inspect the ship very

thoroughly, including our cabins … possibly with dogs. The ships pax.

were cleared almost immediately and we were free to explore the island.

Again it was a return trip to Cozumel for me. I had been there 18 years

earlier … what a difference, and all for the better. I could not get over

what a “tourist friendly” place it had become. I walked around and

exchanged some U.S. $’s for pesos 7.75 to 1 … a very good rate … the

peso crashed the day before we arrived. I had a wonderful lunch at Carlos

and Charlie’s with a group from the ship.

That evening I was invited to join a group, led by Chuck and Rhonda, to

a restaurant they knew. It was called “Prima” (See my report on my third

week). Rhonda took my picture with a parrot sitting on my shoulder while I

was eating. She sent me a copy and did I ever look happy! After dinner we

went to Carlos and Charlie’s for general fun, music, pop corn battles, and

lots of drinking. (Except for me, I always had a beer in my hand, but each

one lasted 1 1/2 hours.) We closed down that place and went to a disco up

the street; closed that place too. Finally got back to the ship 2:30am …

most in the group don’t know how they got to the ship, let alone what time

it was!

We sailed for Cancun, Mexico (55 miles, avg. speed 8.6 knots) at 3ish

am. and arrived early in the morning. I didn’t think we were there yet,

when the anchor let go … we were two miles from land! The water was

really shallow. A tender had been hire to ferry us to and from the dock;

but the first tender didn’t fit/match any of our gangways. So our launches

took us to the tender and the tender took us to the dock. Later the tender

service provided a smaller, high speed (two 150 hp outboards) which allowed

us to step from the deck of Fantome to the flying bridge of the tender …

we them climbed down a ladder into the seating area of the tender. This was

OK in calm seas, but with a little swell it could be dangerous …

particularly for pax. who were not too spry. (The next week a woman in her

80’s had to be carried in the arms of a crewmen, from the boat to the ship.)

I spent the day exploring Cancun. It was filled with huge hotels and

shopping malls. They had a wonderful bus service. A bus was always only

minuets away and the cost was 3 pesos. There were plenty of good

restaurants and of course a Carlos and Charlie’s and A Senor Frog for fun at


That evening was the Farewell dinner and I was really going to miss all

these wonderful people I had spent the last two weeks with. Fortunately we

made up a list of addresses and I have been in contact with many. I hope to

sail with them again. Saturday morning was a little sad … finally we were

down to the ten of us that were staying for at least part of the next week

Saturday night I ate at the Guadalajara Grill. Fantastic Mexican food

… the waiter brought all the ingredients for the salsa to the table and

we prepared an extremely hot salsa at the table to my specs. I ate a half a

bowl of chips and so much salsa, I could hardly finish my crab enchilada

dinner. They also had live music. After dinner I went to Carlos and

Charlie’s and joined up with some crew and pax. who were staying in Cancun

for a few days. The next day was spent doing a little shopping, walking,

exploring, and beaching. At 5pm the next group of pax. came aboard and that

weeks adventures were covered in my report posted about two weeks ago. They

were written out of order because of the high level of interest in the

Mexican itinerary. The end of a great trip!