Logbook: Caribbean Cruising; Winter 2007
After crossing the Atlantic with the 2006 ARC, our plan was to spend the winter sailing the Windward a Leeward Islands eventually returning to Granada where we had arranged for storage on the hard during the hurricane season. The log chronicles our island hopping adventure from January to May, 2007.
Click on the link below to skip to the island log.
Barbados and St Lucia
St Vincent, Grenadines and Grenada
1) St Lucia
January 23rd to February 9th 2007
Harmony and I returned to St Lucia on Monday 23rd January after a tiring flight from Vancouver via Toronto and Barbados. It takes almost 24 hours to do the trip. We left at 9.00pm on the Sunday night and arrived at Rodney Bay Marina about 7.00pm on Monday night. Ocean Harmony was safe and sound. We went to the local restaurant called Scuttlebutts and had local fish for dinner. Scuttlebutts became a regular haunt while we were at the Marina as they provide wireless internet for the price of a coke or beer.
Rodney Bay Marina is a good marina with security guards 24 hours a day and all amenities close by: laundry services, sailmaker, repair shop, grocery store, chandler shop etc. We were also visited by local men in small boats selling fresh fruit and vegetables every day. We made use of this service and found the quality good and probably not much more expensive than the local supermarket. I had the Honda outboard motor fixed by the local shop, but it was expensive at 700EC$ or Can$350.
By the end of the week we were anxious to get out sailing again and so, with the boat provisioned, we left on Saturday 27th January and sailed just 10 miles down the coast to anchor of the small fishing village of Anse La Raye in 5 metres of water. Almost immediately we were approached by half a dozen young swimming boys aged from 8 to 14years I guess. They clambered onto the stern and began talking away to us. They were not threatening, but it was annoying because we were in the middle of our lunch. After about 20 minutes I politely asked them if they could leave us to enjoy our lunch. One of the more aggressive youngsters then demanded dollar coins from us. I declined but gave them a packet of biscuits instead, which they accepted. The one boy, lying on a battered surfboard, kept the biscuits dry. I think they were all eaten long before they reached shore. We were visited by several other boats selling souvenirs and fruit and vegetables. We also met some fellow Canadians from Barrie, Ontario, Ross and Beverley aboard Raft. We had an excellent swim and barbecued chicken on board.
Next morning we rowed ashore in the dinghy and strolled around the small village. The main street was lined with small cottages, some of them brightly coloured and obviously cared for, whilst others were rather tired. It was a Sunday and the one church was well attended. Some tourists on an island tour were also wandering around buying up tacky tourist T shirts etc.
We hauled up the anchor at 11.45 and sailed the 9 miles to Harmony Beach. We had read in the Pilot book that Benny, who runs the Harmony Beach Resort, will help you tie your lines ashore for free if you eat at his restaurant. So we called him up on Channel 16 and indeed within 5 minutes two young men in a boat arrived and directed us to a mooring buoy. After tying on to the buoy, they ran the stern line ashore and tied us to a stout palm tree. Just as well, because while we were there, a strong swell began to come into the bay. The stern line kept us bow into the swell, but the waves crashing on the beach just yards behind the boat was disconcerting. That night we were picked up by the same two men who had helped us with the mooring, and ferried to the restaurant. We had a fantastic meal of local creole style fresh fish followed by flamed banana's. We were ferried back to Ocean Harmony after the meal.
Despite the swell which was even bigger the following morning we decided to stay another night and visit Benny's restaurant again, which we did. By the evening, the swells were so large that he couldn't land his boat at the small dock next to the restaurant. So they took us by boat to the town of Souffre, about a mile away, and Benny picked us up in his car and drove us to the restaurant. The meal was once again excellent and worth the extra day. Benny and his family try very hard to serve the boaters and we appreciated their hospitality.
One of the highlights of the Island of St Lucia is the famous Pitons. Two rocky peaks that rise sheer up out of the ocean some 2600 feet. We moved around behind the Pitons the next day and tied up to a mooring buoy between the Piton's. The wind really blew hard for the next few days. It gusts off the peaks creating blasts of wind up to 30 knots at times. But we were safe on the buoy and went ashore to explore and we had a dinner at the restaurant run by the Hilton Hotel.
Our next stop was the picturesque town of Marigot Bay. It was a good 13 mile sail with a single reef in the main. We once again tied up to a mooring buoy in the very well sheltered bay which is almost completely landlocked with a spit of land jutting out across the entrance. The story goes that in the 18th century the Royal Navy hid their fleet here while the French fleet sailed right by, not being able to see the ships from seaward. The bay is being developed with a new hotel and restaurants, but they have preserved the mangroves which fringe the bay. It was interesting to be able to walk over the boardwalk and see the mangrove swamp swarming with colourful crabs. It is a good thing that St Lucia is keeping its mangroves because without them, the reef fish will disappear as they spawn in these mangrove swamps.
We returned to Rodney Bay Marina after our 10 day exploration of the island. Once again we made use of the excellent facilities before clearing customs on February 8th, in preparation for our trip north to Martinique and the Leeward Islands. We anchored out in Rodney Bay for the night.
February 9th to February 16th
We weighed anchor at 0845 and hoisted sails in the sheltered bay before reaching out beyond Pigeon Island on our way to the French Island of Martinique. The wind was gusty as we cleared the north end of St Lucia, but it soon settled in to a 17knot easterly Trade Wind. We were sailing northwards so we had the wind on our beam. With a single reefed main we sailed comfortably at about 7 knots. We sailed in company with a Jeanneau 45.5 and were pleasantly surprised that Ocean Harmony was able to gradually pull away from her. We reached Marin, a large charter boat and sailing centre, on the south east coast of Martinique, at 1300 hours and anchored east of the red buoys marking the approach to the Marina. Armed with our “French for Cruisers” dictionary we headed for Customs. It turns out that clearing customs in Martinique, which is administered as a department out of Paris, was a very easy process. We had just one form to fill in to allow us to clear in and out.
At Marin, we were able to stock up on excellent, cheap wine and beer. The Mango Bay restaurant, overlooking the marina, provided free wireless internet connection. The restaurant is cleverly divided into two sections, one being reserved for all the “boaties” with their laptops, sipping on a coffee of cold beer, and the other for those who want a nice meal overlooking the marina and harbour. We availed ourselves of both facilities. Marin is not a pretty town, but it certainly bustles with activity.
After 2 days we motored across the bay to anchor off St Anne, a picturesque town with red roofed buildings and a prominent church on the main street. We visited the local grocery store and stocked up on excellent French wine and cheeses. This is a good place to provision. Several restaurants line the foreshore, serving creole and other foods. At lunch one day we met a Canadian couple Mark (“Madgog”) and Candy who were from St Maartin. They were well into their second bottle of Rose and told us all about their lives and adventures. Candy was from Edmonton and had worked the oilrigs. She looked tough enough to have done just that. They had both bailed out of the cold and had been sailing for 17 years in the Caribbean. Although the town was very enjoyable the anchorage was crowded and rolly so after two days we left and sailed to the west side of the island.
We passed between the mainland and Diamond Rock, which sits about half a mile off the south western tip of Martinique. During the Napoleonic wars, Admiral Hood who was stationed in the Caribbean, decided that Diamond Rock was in fact exactly where he would want to station a ship to monitor and control the movements of the French fleet in and around Martinique. So Hood commissioned the Rock as a ship, HMS Diamond Rock, and armed it with naval cannons and enough supplies for a full crew. Looking up at the Rock, we could see only one flat section on the north side where some sort of shelter could be found. How they dragged the canons and positioned them on the steep sides of the rock is a mystery to me. Apparently they gave the French fleet a surprise the first time they came by! It so enraged Napoleon, who's wife Josephine was born in Martinique that he instructed his admirals to retake the island. However the British held out for 18months before an enterprising French admiral set adrift a load of rum that floated on to the island. When the French then attacked they were able to overcome the drunken defenders with ease!
We anchored at Grande Anse d' Arlet in crystal clear water over white sand. This is a beautiful place. We swam, snorkelled and read books. Ashore we found a nice restaurant and had our favourite local cuisine, accras which is a kind of fish cake with herbs and goes very well with a salad. For dinner, we had a smoked chicken which was delicious. After two days of lazing about, we sailed in the lee of the island to St Pierre at the northern end of Martinique where we anchored for one night before the 60 mile crossing to Portsmouth on the north end of Dominica.
16th February to 20th February
We left St Pierre at 0700 and set a double reef mainsail in anticipation of the forecast 20 to 25 knot wind. Initially we had light,variable winds but, as we have learned, once we cleared the headland at the north end of the island, the wind filled in at 22 knots. Broad reaching at 7.5 knots is perfect trade wind sailing. Spray flew over the deck and occasionally water would run down the windward side of the deck and cascade into the cockpit. We reached the lee of Dominica, which is a mountainous volcanic island, after 4 hours. An hour later the wind dropped so we shook out the reefs and then finally we lost our wind and ended up motoring with a light westerly blowing on shore! This phenomenon has occurred in the lee of all the mountainous islands and is caused by the slightly lower pressure gradient on the down slope of the mountain resulting in a back wind blowing toward the shore. A similar effect to the lift created by an aeroplane wing. As we approached Portsmouth, at the north end of the island, the trade wind was back and we reefed the mainsail. We anchored in 6 metres, off the Purple Turtle restaurant.
Even before we were anchored we were approached by a man in a colourful wooden boat called “Cobra”. The cruising guide advises that the boat vendors in Dominica are well organised and have an association which controls their activities, and so based on this advise we agreed to have Cobra “organise” our visit. Cobra (real name Andrew O' Brien!) directed us to the anchorage and the following morning took us in his boat to the customs office. It being a Saturday, the office was closed but he directed us to the officers house. He agreed to open up the office for us. We were able to clear in and out at the same time provided we left within 72 hours. This is similar to the French islands and it certainly streamlines the process enormously. They charged us an extra 50EC$ to clear in on a Saturday. Fair enough. Once cleared in we met up with Cobra who invited us to join a group of German tourists that he was taking on a tour of the island. This we did, climbing into the back seat of his 12 seater mini van.
Dominica is an unspoilt, lush, green mountainous island. Initially we travelled east, joining the coastal road the runs down the eastern side of the island. We were treated to magnificent ocean vistas with almost deserted white sand beaches. Then we climbed inland along a surprisingly good asphalt road, which Cobra told us had been donated by the Canadian government 20 or so years ago. Based on the awful quality of the rest of the roads on the island, Canada should offer to build all their roads! We stopped for lunch at a small impoverished village of small corrugated iron shacks with chickens scratching around the dusty sidewalks. The lunch looked a bit dubious but Harmony's chicken (fresh off the sidewalk no doubt) tasted good and my turkey stew was marginally edible. Then back into the van and up the mountain into the rainforest. We left the van by the side of the road and hiked in about a mile clambering over roots and down ravines finally arriving at a beautiful water fall and deep pond. Harmony and I and one other German climbed in and enjoyed a cool swim. Standing under the falls was like being belted with rocks and one could only stay there for a few seconds before retreating. Back in the van for a switchback ride through the mountains to the island capital, Rousseau. It is a bustling city and the main tourist destination. There was a large cruise ship in the harbour. Our German friends left us at the seashore just down the coast road where they rendezvoused with a charter sailboat that was anchored out waiting for them. We headed back north along the coast road from Rousseau to Portsmouth stopping to watch the sunset and observe the famous “green flash” that occurs just at the moment the sun disappears below the horizon. It was an interesting day out. We were ferried back to Ocean Harmony and after a cocktail aboard, we motored ashore in the dinghy for a fish dinner at the local restaurant on the beach.
The anchorage at Portsmouth is well protected and we did not get much of a swell so we were looking forward to a restful sleep. But it was Carnival in Dominica! The music started at about 10.00pm and went until sunrise the next morning. We turn on our fan in the cabin which creates enough white noise for us to sleep anyway. We went ashore to watch the Parade next morning. This consisted of a large truck and semi trailer with a band set up on the trailer and six of the most enormous loudspeakers I have ever seen. To provide the power for the volume of sound, they towed a diesel generator behind the semi-trailer. Surrounding the semi-trailer, front, back and sides was a crowd of gyrating, drunk dancers. It was not a pretty site and to us painted a rather negative picture of the culture. But as one of our fellow sailors said, it is an opportunity for an impoverished people to let their hair down once in a while.
Dominica certainly is poor. According to Cobra, their main export of banana's has declined by 80% in the past 5 years as a result of competition from South American suppliers. We saw evidence of many deserted banana plantations. Sugar cane has long since ceased to be produced. Tourism is in its infancy and there is little infrastructure to support it. When we were there, Chavez, the President of Venezuela, paid a state visit. Venezuela is helping Dominica with finance, including building a new airport to encourage tourism. There seems to be a lot of sympathy with Venezuela and I would not be surprised to see Dominica follow the socialist path that Venezuela and several other South American countries seem to be heading down.
On our last evening, we were taken in a row boat up the Indian River that flows into the bay. Although there are 365 rivers in Dominica, yes, one for each day of the year they say, Indian River is the only one that is navigable for about a mile upstream. It takes about 30 minutes each way to row about a mile up the tidal stretch of the river. It is surrounded by dense mangroves. We saw Iguana's in the trees and we were rewarded for coming in the evening by the sighting of a Parrot which is native to Dominica and is the emblem on their National flag.
Dominica is certainly worth a visit and we were very glad we stopped over for 3 days.
February 20th to February 25th
The crossing from Portsmouth to The Saintes is only about 16 miles of open water and once again it was a broad reach making for a fast crossing. The anchorage at Bourg des Saintes was very busy when we arrived and we spent a long time trying to find a good place to anchor that was close in but out of the ferry lane. Eventually after 3 tries we were well hooked albeit a bit close to the ferry traffic. The town itself was very pleasant. Most of the local population is originally from Brittany and the island never had a slave population. There are neat rows of red roofed houses and a waterfront lined with restaurants and boutique shops. Boatloads of tourists arrive on fast ferries from Guadeloupe at about 9.00am every morning. During the day, the town bustles and restaurants are full for lunch. Then at 4.00pm the ferries begin to leave and the town empties out for us yachtsmen to enjoy. We explored the town and of course stocked up on French wine and provisions again.
But the highlight was our visit to Fort Napoleon which sits atop the hill overlooking the anchorage. The hike up was quite a climb but there are rewarding views over the harbour and towards the main island. The fort was built in 1867 so it must be named after Napoleon 3rd? The fort is surrounded by a well tended garden containing various species of cacti and succulents. Inside the fort is a museum which has an excellent display of the Battle of the Saintes when Admiral Rodney demolished the French Fleet under De Grasse in 1782. There is a graphic display of the tactics of the battle showing the decisive breaking of the line that led to the routing of the French Fleet.
The Battle of the Saintes
In 1782 the British were in a very vulnerable position. They had just lost the war to stop the American independence thanks in no small measure to the naval support afforded by the French under Admiral de Grasse. It was he who had landed French troops to assist in the defeat of Corwallis in Virginia and then defeated the British fleet at the Battle of the Capes when the British attempted to come to Cornwallis's rescue. After his successes in America he sailed to the Caribbean and proceeded to capture island after island. The Caribbean islands were strategically important to Britain and a source of revenue from the plantations, so the British dispatched their most competent commander, Admiral Rodney, to command the British fleet of 36 ships of the line, based in Jamaica. By this time only Jamaica, Antigua, St Lucia ad Barbados were under British control. Through his scouting frigates, Rodney learned that de Grasse had left Martinique. Rodney immediately left harbour and gave chase. He came upon the French fleet of 33 ships just off the Iles des Saintes on April 12th 1782.
The battle started out following the standard fighting tactics of the day, with the two fleets sailing on opposite courses exchanging fire at close range. When de Grasse reached the end of the British line he ordered the ships to reverse course to continue the battle with exchanging the other broadside. This was following the line of battle tactics of the day. For whatever reason, Rodney, at this point changed tactics and, instead of reversing course to exchange broadsides, he turned 90 degrees and made directly for the French line. This was the same tactic Nelson was to employ at Trafalgar in 1805. The effect was devastating. Once the British ships had reached the gaps being created in the line, they could use both broadsides to rake the French without counter-fire. De Grasse's flagship struck her colours and as the day wore on most of the fleet was either sunk or surrendered.
The overwhelming victory at the Saintes restored the reputation of the British fleet and ensured that in the peace that followed Britain would keep the Caribbean colonies and the revenues that flowed from them.
After 4 days, we tired of the continual tourist invasion at the busy Saintes anchorage and left to sail up to west coast of the island to the quiet fishing village of Deshaies (pronounced Day-hay) at the north end of the island. We motor sailed most of the way as the winds were light and fickle in the lee of the mountains. Once again we experienced the on shore light westerlies described in our trip up the west coast of Dominica. With favourable winds forecast for the following day, we decided to leave early the following morning to cross to Antigua.
February 25th to April 12th
The crossing to English Harbour, Antigua was once again a nice broad reach in 18knots of wind. Averaging about 7knots with a single reef mainsail, we covered the 42 miles crossing in 6 hours. Initially we were planning to anchor out in the bay, but when we saw a vacant space at Nelson's Dockyard we decided to stern tie. At Nelson's Dockyard, the berthing is Med style with an anchor out front and stern lines to shore. We hadn't done this since leaving Spain last year and I was a bit anxious. We dropped the anchor and backed in as usual. All went according to plan until I threw the stern lines. The dock hands were a bit slow and the wind gusting on the side of the boat so that by the time they had tied us off we were all sideways. However, we soon had it sorted out and safely secured.
Nelson's Dockyard is a popular destination for sailors and it was to be our “homebase” for more than 6 weeks. So first a bit of background on the dockyard itself. It was built 1745 and was Britain's main naval station in the Lesser Antilles. The dockyard takes its name from Lord Nelson who was stationed here in 1784. The British abandoned the dockyard in the late 19th century and it soon fell into disrepair. In 1947, Nicholson, opened up Nicholson's Yacht Charters, and initiated the restoration of the Dockyard. Today it is managed by the National Parks Authority and is the only restored Georgian Dockyard in the world. Many of the old buildings have been fully restored and serve as restaurants, hotels and shops. The entrance to English harbour is guarded by Fort Berkely where you can see the old armoury and gun emplacements. On top of the hill opposite English Harbour is Shirley Heights, originally the location of the barracks for the sailors and workers who manned the Dockyard. Today it is restored and on Sunday evenings a BBQ is held with a steel band in attendance. A very worthwhile visit.
Harmony returned to England for 10 days, leaving me to look after the boat and catch up on minor maintenance. Time passed quickly. Most mornings were spent with chores. In the afternoons, I took the dinghy to the sandy beach on the opposite side of English Harbour, and enjoyed swimming. Two small Canadian boats were anchored off the beach with a stern line ashore and I got talking to them. They were both single handing there way around the Caribbean and had been living aboard for several years.
Harmony arrived back on 12th March and we left on Saturday 17th to explore Antigua and the small island of Barbuda. We were also keen to check out a number of possible anchorages for later in the month when our good friends, Tim and Maureen, were joining us for a combined sailing and World Cup cricket holiday. This exploration helped enormously in making for an interesting trip together. There were two places we visited which we did not return to with them because of the time constraints and it is worthwhile mentioning them here.
Firstly, Barbuda. The island is 25 miles due north of Antigua. We sailed from Jumby Bay on the north coast of Antigua, passing through the outer reef at Horse Shoe Reef Channel. Now this channel is less that 100 feet wide and is surrounded by reefs. We approached the channel with a double reefed mainsail, following the course indicated in the pilot book. We had the engine running but frankly with a strong wind on the beam, doing 7.5 knots, we were committed and no turning back. With hearts in our mouths we were anxiously looking for the drying reef on our port side which would confirm our exact location, when a small fishing boat appeared off our starboard waving frantically for us to turn around. I think they thought we were headed strait for the reefs! Fortunately, moments later we spotted the exposed reef with waves breaking over it, and continued on our course through the reef. A bit hair raising. The sail to Babuda was an exhilarating broad reach. We anchored off Cocoa Beach resort with its long pinky-white sandy beach, in the most beautiful clear water.
The island is famous for it's beaches. In fact the island is composed of beach sand and not much else. The one and only export from the island is beach sand, which is collected from the centre of the island in large trucks and then loaded onto barges for shipment to other islands who want perfect “beaches” for their resorts. The other unique feature of Barbuda is the Frigate Bird colony which we visited the next day, taking a taxi over the sand roads to the town of Collingwood and then a water taxi with George to see what is reported to be the largest Frigate Bird colony in the Caribbean. They occupy a section of the mangroves in the protected lagoon. They are majestic birds and can fly for great distances over the oceans. They feed on Flying fish that they catch on the wing, when the little fish fly out the water to escape their underwater predators. The male birds have large bulbous bright red crops that were visible but apparently a mere shadow of what they are like in the mating season. On our way back to Collingwood, George detoured out of the lagoon to pick up some people off two catamarans that were anchored inside the reef on the north side of the island. They were planning to go bone fishing in the lagoon. What a surprise when we met the people, they were two families from Sidney BC! We have exchanged cards and we have an invite to visit them when we arrive this summer! Also, along the deserted white beaches, George pointed out the tracks of a leatherback turtle that had laid her eggs on the beach above the high water mark. The tracks were as wide as a tractor tread, which gives one an idea of the size of these magnificent animals.
Back at Cocoa Beach, we were invited to sundowners on the beautiful beach, by fellow yachties. There must have been about 8 crews off the boats that were anchored there. We had a great time exchanging stories and enjoying a few drinks. What a place. Definitely the nicest beach we have seen so far.
After 3 days we left Cocoa Beach and sailed, close reached to the east coast of Antigua, anchoring behind Green Island, in Nonsuch Bay. Nonsuch bay is also the location of Harmony Hall, which has an exclusive restaurant with a view over the bay. We had dinner there. To complete our circumnavigation of the island we sailed around the south east end, stopping for one night off another exclusive resort called St James's Club in Mamora Bay where we dined in style at their restaurant. Eric Clapton's mansion is on the west side of the bay overlooking the ocean. We returned to Nelson's Dockyard after our 12 day exploration of Antigua and Barbuda.
Our good friends, Tim and Maureen arrived on Sunday April 1st. We took a taxi to Shirley Heights in the early evening to experience the barbecue and steel band which is a regular Sunday evening event. It was incredibly crowded with the tourists many of whom were cricket fans just arrived in Antigua for the world cup games due to be played the following week. Tim spotted Adam Gilcrest, the wicket keeper-batsmen for Australia in the crowd and managed to get a photograph with him, Tim, Harmony and Maureen. It set the right mood for the cricket.
The four of us went to 3 games in Antigua. We saw New Zealand v Bangladesh (won easily by NZ), England v Sri Lanka( a close fought game finally won by SL) and England v Australia ( a one sided affair, won easily by Australia) all played at the new Viv Richards stadium in the middle of the island. We really enjoyed the cricket (yes, even Maureen got into the spirit of it all). Tim and Maureen were actually booked into the Party Stand, which was exposed to the sun all day long. The consolation was that they were given 10 free drinks and lunch. However, because the ground was only half full, they were able to join us in the covered stands for most of the day anyway. The low attendance at all the games was a feature of the 2007 World Cup . The high cost of the tickets (US$75 US$ 100) precluded an lot of local people from attending the games and then the early elimination of India and Pakistan resulted in many thousands of tourists from those two countries just not showing up.
Now in between cricket games we sailed to the north end of Antigua and back. Our first anchorage was at Deep Bay, which is a in clear water with a sandy bottom and has a wreck, the Andes right in the middle of the bay. We snorkelled over the wreck and were amazed at the number of fish that were sheltering there. The restaurant ashore, by the same name serves fresh fish and we dined well. From Deep Bay we sailed north, tacking up Boon Channel and then into Jumby Bay where we anchored off the resort. Boon Channel is protected from the open seas by a reef that lies parallel to the north east coast of Antigua. Sailing in the relatively calm waters with the full force of the trade winds makes for exhilarating sailing. Jumby Bay has beautifully clear waters and a long sandy spit protecting the north side. The resort itself is very exclusive with $1000 a night accommodation. Previously, Harmony and I had eaten at their exclusive beach front restaurant, but when I went ashore to book for the four of us they said they were full. I called the manager and after much begging and grovelling, she agreed to let us eat there. The food is excellent and for US$100 you get a 3 course meal and wine. We really had a great time. Next day we reversed our course and sailed back south, past Deep bay and took a mooring buoy in Jolly Harbour. We had tickets for the all important Australia v England game and Jolly Harbour is a good place to leave a boat for a day.
Jolly Harbour was once a mangrove swamp, infested with mosquitos, but it has been developed into a very nice marina with condominiums and town houses surrounding the bay, each with their own dock. Then on the seaward side of the peninsula that protects the bay is a long white sandy beach. Harmony and I had stayed at the Jolly Harbour resort in February 2006 for a one week holiday and had fallen in love and almost bought a waterfront lot on the beach. So we took the dinghy ashore to show Tim and Maureen “our” lot which was still undeveloped, but apparently sold. Out of curiosity we called the realtor and learned that the lot was “still on the market” through a developer at a price about 30% more than it was a year earlier! Buying property on the islands is not an easy process from what I have learned and it would take a lot of research to satisfy one's self that you are getting a fair deal.
The cricket was great fun but England were thoroughly beaten and therefore out of the final 4.
We returned to Nelson's Dockyard and bid Tim and Maureen a fond farewell the next morning. We left a day later for Barbados. We had been in and around Antigua for 6 weeks. Its a great island with nice people and good sailing.
6)Barbados and St Lucia
April 13 to April 26
We had tickets for the World Cup in Barbados and a rendezvous with our niece, Caitlin and friend Nick. The direct course from Antigua to Barbados is south-east. With the prevailing trade winds blowing from the east, the 300 mile crossing to Barbados can be a hard slog to windward. The weather forecast when we left on 12 April was good, with 15 knot easterly backing to east north east on the second day.
We left English Harbour at 0600 and sailed close hauled in about 15 knots of wind, toward the north eastern point of Guadeloupe. As we approached the island the wind veered more to the south and we were forced to tack away to clear the point. As evening approached we passed between the island of Desirade and the south east point of Guadeloupe, motor-sailing in a light 10 knot south easterly. Overnight the wind backed to the east south east, but with a strong north setting current, we were averaging less that 5 knots over the ground. As the sun set on day 2, the wind finally backed to NNE and built to 15 knots and we had a glorious sail. There was no moon, but Venus was so bright in the western sky that it cast its own reflection on the sea. By dawn we were in sight of land. We tied up at the Customs dock at Bridgetown at 1015, 52 hours from English Harbour. An hour later we were tied up to a mooring buoy in Carlisle Bay. Interestingly, the “boat” anchored next to us was in the shape of a bottle, with a cork in the top (bow). It was owned by a Dutch couple who had built her from scrap metal in Holland and sailed her across the Atlantic. It had taken them many months to do the crossing. She was aptly called “Message in a Bottle”.
Carlisle Bay is not a great anchorage. It is noisy; disco's blare out music until all hours of the night. There is a nasty swell that works its way into the Bay from the north. We rolled all the time. It was worse than being at sea. But ashore the Boatyard restaurant is good and the town is easily accessible from there. Our main purpose of the visit was to see Caitlin and Nick and to watch the cricket match between England and South Africa. South Africa won handily. On the day following the cricket, we rented a taxi for a half day and the four of us took a tour of the island. We enjoyed the scenery and a visit to a plantation homestead that is maintained in its former colonial glory. The north west coast of the island is very developed with many expensive resorts built along the ocean. The most famous of which is . We ended our island tour at the Mount Gay Rum factory in Bridgetown. The factory tour was dead boring, given by a tour guide who's heart wasn't in it. But we got to sample some rum which went down well at the end of hot tiring day.
We had had enough of rolling around in Carlisle Bay, so the next day we left for St Lucia. We delayed our departure until 15.30 so that we could overnight arriving at Rodney Bay the following morning. It is a straight downwind sail from Barbados the Rodney Bay. We put the whisker pole up and goose winged the sails (the jib up on the opposite side from the single reefed mainsail). It was easy sailing in 12 knots of wind. At daybreak we were off the north end of the island and we were tied up at the Rodney Bay Marina by 1030. We spent the weekend re provisioning and sorting ourselves out before sailing down to Marigot Bay to meet up with Caitlin and Nick again. We took them for a sail down to the Pitons where we stopped for lunch, tied to a mooring buoy, before sailing back to Marigot Bay. It was their first experience of sailing and they both took a turn at the helm.
We went to the semi finals of the world cup between South Africa and Australia. To get to the ground we took a water taxi back to Rodney Bay and then an shuttle bus to the ground. This was the biggest crowd we had seen so far and the atmosphere was great. But South Africa won the toss and batted first. In no time at all they had lost 5 wickets and from then on the result was a foregone conclusion. Australia won easily and then, a few days later, went on to beat Sri Lanka in the finals to retain the world cup for the third time in a row.
Sailing to the World Cup venues added to the whole cruising experience. And being able to link up with friends on each of the islands made for memorable times together. I doubt we will ever do that again. The next world cup is in India in 2011 and I don't think we're sailing there!
7)St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada
April 27 to May 20th
We cleared out of St Lucia at Marigot Bay and sailed nearly 50 miles to Wallilabou on the west coast of St Vincent. We had light winds most of the way but were forced to drop our sails as a squall hit us with winds of about 30 knots. Wallilabou Bay is the location where they filmed the first of the Pirates of the Caribbean movie with Johnny Depp. Some of the set is still intact although the dock, which is now used as a dinghy dock, is showing serious signs of decay. The customs official at Wallilabou was very friendly but we were a bit surprised when she informed us that we had to clear immigration at the police station, only a “15 minute walk away”. It was more like 30 minutes up and down the very steep terrain to reach the town. Without the help of locals we would never have found it. The policeman was friendly enough but had no idea what forms were required to be filled in. Eventually after various consultations with other officers and including a lady who just happened to be walking by, all was completed. It was getting dark as we set off on the half hour return walk, hoping to catch one of the minibuses that are in constant use on the island. All the buses were full at this time of the day and went right by. But fortunately, one stopped to drop 2 people off and we clambered aboard the very overloaded bus. Still better than walking!
The Grenadines are part of St Vincent and are made up of many small islands strung out to the south of St Vincent. There are many attractive anchorages and they are popular destinations among sailors. We planned to spend the last 10 days of our trip checking out some of these islands on our way to Grenada. We left Wallilabou and sailed about 20 miles in a fresh 20knot trade wind, directly to Admiralty Bay on the small island of Bequia. In contrast with Wallilabou, Bequia is quite developed and has an attractive town with a focus on tourism. We were able to get the laundry done (pick up at the boat) and also do some shopping at the well stocked grocery stores. Another 20 mile sail south brought us to the pretty bay of Charlestown on the island of Canouan. We tied up to a mooring buoy off the Tamarind Beach Hotel. It is a nice anchorage with a sandy beach. The island is not overly developed although Donald Trump is developing high end Villas and a new golf course on the north end of the island. The bay itself is protected by a prominatory running east west with a large hill at the western end. Toward evening as we were sitting having a drink we were surprised by a massive explosion. We saw clouds of dust rising from the rocky hill. Apparently the “hill” is in the way of the runway extension that is required to allow jets to land. So Donald is dynamiting the hill into oblivion!
We had been experiencing a lot of sudden rain squalls since we entered the Grenadines and we had noticed that it was getting more humid. Most afternoons were too hot to do anything except splash around in the 30 degree C water. With the heat and rain showers we moved into the aft starboard cabin. We can have a porthole and hatch open even when it rains and it seems to be better ventilated and less susceptible to rolling in the swells which were a feature of many of the Grenadine anchorages.
Our next anchorage was at Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreaux Island, just 4 miles away. The anchorage is extremely popular, with many charter boats and it is rolly! We were lucky to pick up a mooring buoy which took away the stress of a tight anchorage. However, it is a unique bay with palm trees and a white sandy beach. One can walk across a narrow isthmus to the windward side of the island. We watched someone para sailing in the turquoise waters. We dined ashore in very rustic surroundings. From Salt Whistle Bay the famous Tobago Cays are only 4 miles away. We threaded our way between the islands and anchored south west of Baradel Islet, with the reefs the only “solid” protection between us and the coast of Africa. An eerie feeling. Ashore on the small islet there is a fine white beach. And snorkelling off the beach we were rewarded with seeing several turtles feeding off the grass. Snorkelling around the islands and reefs was excellent and we saw more fish here than at any other anchorage. We spent two days anchored at Tobago Cays. But our time was running short, so we departed for Clifton Harbour on Union Island to clear customs. We anchored off Nicholson Reef upon which a local guy has built a bar, called Happy Island, out of concrete and left over conch shells with a palm frond roof. We met another Canadian couple on the boat anchored next to us. They were from Barrie in Ont. and they invited us over for drinks.
It was May 7th and our time was almost over. So after checking the weather forecast (which was good. ESE 15 to 20 knots), we cleared customs and sailed 6 miles to Petit St Vincent (PSV) and anchored overnight. After a rolly night at anchor (we were getting used to this by now), we left at 0700 the next morning, for the 40 miles sail down to St David's on the south east coast of Grenada. Although most yachts keep to the leeward (sheltered) side of Grenada, we decided to sail down the eastern (windward) side to take advantage of the favourable winds and to avoid a beat back against the wind along the southern end of the island. We sailed with a double reefed mainsail and enjoyed our last Caribbean sailing of the season. Not only was the wind in the right direction, we even had a current helping us along. We covered the 40 miles averaging over 7knots. We tied up to a mooring buoy in St David's Harbour at about noon and went ashore to clear customs. We had lunch at the Barking Barracuda pub.
Harmony flew back to England on May 10th and I began the process of preparing the boat for storage on the hard for the hurricane season. Grenada Marina has a good reputation among sailors and I quickly began to appreciate the professionalism of the various staff. To make a long story short, I cleaned up the interior while still on the water. I had the boat hauled on Monday 15th. The insurance company has very stringent requirements for hurricane storage on land. Ocean Harmony was placed in an integral steel cradle and then anchored to the ground through clasps that are sunk into concrete pilings. All the sails were taken down for storage in a dry loft (to prevent mildew). Unfortunately, the mainsail, which is a performance sail called Marathon 3DL, has de-laminated to the point where replacement is now necessary. The engine was serviced (1000hours). The boom, sailcover, sprayhood and bimini were removed and stowed. Finally, arrangements were made for washing and waxing the fibreglass. A new awning, covering the entire boat is being made. This will protect the deck and teak from the weather. In the event of a storm or hurricane the awning is taken down by the marina staff. Marina staff who also check the batteries on a regular basis.
I did not live on board while she was on the hard. It is just too hot. I stayed at a local hotel called La Suggess which was very comfortably and had a nice beach for swimming after a long hot day at the boatyard. I left Grenada to return to England on Saturday 20th May. It was a strange feeling to be leaving the boat which had been our home for more than a year. Since leaving Turkey in April 2006 we crossed the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, covering more than 5000 miles. We met many wonderful people along the way. Although we are embarking on a more “normal” life now, with a new home in Sidney, BC we still plan to return to Ocean Harmony in the winter and enjoy the sparkling Caribbean for a little longer.