Thursday, March 28, 2013

Guadeloupe fly by

The passage from Antigua to Guadeloupe is short - 47 miles - and gives us a great view of Montserrat most of the way. We did the trip on a crisp dry day and could clearly see the crater smoking. It would have been a good day to revisit the island and see it in a brighter light but Guadeloupe beckoned so we sailed on.

Our plans have changed a bit and now include a trip back up to the BVI to connect with our friends Wendy and Dave who are coming in for a visit. Since we have plans to visit with Skip's family in St. Croix at the end of April, we've decided to start wandering back that way and make this first pass at Guadeloupe a slow one rather than packing in ten hikes and long sails each day to try to take in the whole island in a week. It's a BIG island and if you know anything about us by now.... it's that we tend to travel s.l.o.w.l.y. and stick around places for a while.

So.... Guadeloupe at a glance. We like it!

Putting up our Q flag in Deshaies Guadeloupe
We've spent a lot of time in the clear water here - in Deshaies, Pigeon Island and in The Saints, a small group of island off the southern coast of Guadeloupe.

Bright corals in Deshaies

A Peacock flounder comes to check out our anchoring job
Skip chases him... hoping to make him give up his camo and show his bright blue spots
Our bottom looks great but our prop needs a shave
On the one day we spent in Deshaies we hiked along the Deshaies River, climbing over rocks and stopping several times to swim in the clear fresh water pools.

Bright flowers and all kinds of edibles grow wild along the sides of the roads here and we're salivating as we pass the mango trees with their young fruit.

Carambola (starfruit)
Because we really wanted to see The Saints, we spent very little time ashore on Guadeloupe during this visit. It's the biggest island in the Eastern Caribbean so there's a lot to see and we'll stop again on our way south.

We had big seas and high winds on our way from Pigeon Island to The Saints
Looking back toward Guadeloupe once we come into the lee of The Saints.
The main mooring field near the town on Terre de Haut was not only full, but very exposed to the wind and seas when we arrived. We passed by some friends on their boat in the windy harbor and they shouted to us "Don't stay out here if you can help it!" so we opted to pick up a mooring at Ilet a Cabrit - a small island just north of Terre de Haut. It was much more protected and the John H, our trusty dinghy, kept us dry on the ride to and from town. The peace and quiet, and the snorkeling off the boat at Ilet a Cabrit was enough to keep us there during the few days we had to spend in the islands.

Friends Tim and Nancy on s/v Larus had even less time than we did to spend in Guadeloupe before heading off to Martinique to meet with friends. We'll look for them down island in a few months... but here's their pretty boat sailing off from The Saints.

Fair winds Larus....
We walked across the island to the beaches on the far side of Terre de Haut and up to Fort Napolean which, FYI is only open from 9 to 12:30. We arrived at 2:30. At least we got some nice views from the top.

Locked out of Fort Napolean
The Star Clipper cruise ship parks right in the middle... no need to worry about moorings or crowds
Terre de Haut is a lively little town with an active fishing community. It has a ferry dock and big ferries full of day trippers blast over from Guadeloupe all day long. Pretty little houses, painted all colors and color combinations, line the streets and it's hard to say if the houses or the flowers in their gardens are more colorful.

We had Mahi envy watching this fisherman slice up his catch

More than a little run down - but charming still.
The fishing boats are brightly colored too
My favorite photo from the day - a break from all those bright colors
We wandered through the shops and, stopped at a cafe for a Pastis and a beer and wifi - the French islands have a lot of great things to offer, but wifi access is not one of them. 

Looks like we found a new laundry soap to use.
Still enjoying Pastis
 As always, the Caribbean sunsets leave us a little something at the end of each day....

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Antigua & Barbuda

Saralane looked clean the whole time we were in the lagoon in St. Martin.... but two weeks in the marina at Cupecoy left her with a stripe of muck around her waterline. To be fair, we were tucked into the snuggest corner of the marina where there's not much room for water to flow in and out so all the muck stayed put. In the clear water at Ricketts Harbor on Green Island, Antigua we gave her a scrub and she's sparkling clean again.

Crystal clear water at Ricketts Harbor Green Island
The same clear water and pristine beach brings in day boats full of cruise ship tourists in each day. We considered pretending we were day trippers too when we smelled the chicken the crew was grilling for everyone for lunch!

Happy day trippers.
Same beach photographed about a hour later.
We had planned to head right for Barbuda but we had this pleasant anchorage all to ourselves so we decided to stick around for a few days. We both had some work to do and I must admit that part of the decision to stay had to do with the great wifi signal we got on the boat here. We did boat chores too. Our list of boat chores is ever expanding, but thankfully "fix windlass" is off the list (for now). It, um.. magically fixed itself - so we're crossing it off the list. 

Cleaning the 'glass' windows

I made a cover to protect our fishing line from the sun.... maybe it'll help us catch a fish?

Made a little 'seatbelt' arrangement for our herbs for passages
Before moving around to Green Island we'd gone into Falmouth and stopped in at a small local grocery for fresh herbs. The closest dinghy dock to the store is a tricky one. If you've been following along you'll remember the sign at the other end of the not-so-welcoming dinghy dock. If not, click here to see it.

Tricky and unwelcoming dinghy dock.
Once the weather was in our favor again we made a beeline for Barbuda. We loved it as much this time as we did last time. We did the rounds at the K Club collecting coconuts and spent most of our days here swimming and walking.

Century plant
Aloe plants at the K Club bungalows
The first of many coconuts cracked this day.
After a few days anchored off Cocoa Point, we threaded our way through the coral heads into Spanish Point and spent several days there. The visibility was good and we snorkeled on the reef around the boat. Unfortunately we spotted a lion fish - which were plentiful in the Bahamas and are not indigenous to the waters of either region. They have no natural predators in the waters here and there's concern about their affect on the local fish population.

There's something about Barbuda that really appeals to both of us. The more time we spend there the more we like it. I have too many photos of the beaches and skies from this trip there and thought it would be best just to show the photos and not keep trying to describe it.

Walking the windward beaches we met up with some locals....

Checking out the view
There's lots of 'treasure' to be found on this side - where stuff washes up from across the ocean.

Skip models his big find from the windward beach
Back on the boat I try it on....
We decide it's time to sail back to Antigua and make plans to continue south. Barbuda will always be on our 'return to' list.

Stormy skies behind us as we leave the shallow water at Spanish Point
The dark weather follows us all the way into Jolly Harbor.
First stop was Jolly Harbor. We had to fill our water tanks - despite the threatening looking storm we didn't get a drop of rain - and pick up some provisions. Our friends on Absaroque arrived from St. Martin while we were in Barbuda and we saw them on our way into the harbor. We also saw friends Tomaz and Lili on s/v Heron, who we haven't seen since last year in Barbuda. They had guests on board and we chatted over drinks in their cockpit one evening. We're all planning to spend some time around Antigua before sailing south and I sense some Pastis, prepared by Jean Pierre, in my near future. 

Passing Five Islands on the west side of Antigua
There's certainly no snow down here, but the big weather patterns up in the western Atlantic have been having a marked affect on the conditions here. The lows up north have generated huge swells that roll down to the islands in heights up to 14 feet. Some anchorages are not comfortable during north swells, but Nonsuch Bay north of Green Island in Antigua is pretty secure. We came around here to sit out the latest swell and found almost 40 boats in the bay. We typically see about six or eight boats in here. 

Sailing around to Green Island - Monserrat in the distance
It's been beautiful though, and the winds have been light ahead of the weather pattern that's on it's way. We've been snorkeling and socializing here with the crowd. We met some young Swedes on a boat they spent ten years or so building. Having already spent three years circumnavigating - on a 25 foot boat - they knew they wanted to live their lives exploring the world by boat, but this time - a big solid boat. Talking to them I felt like the sea-going rookie that I am. There's no end to the interesting people from around the world that we meet out here.

Damselfish on the reef in Nonsuch Bay
Saralane anchored up close to the reef.... seen from my snorkeling point of view
We were anchored up close to the reef so we felt the swell as soon as it started to roll in. We decided to move west into the bay to a calmer spot. There are private homes and a resort or two along the shores in here and it's lovely and quiet. We snorkeled with schools of little tiny fish and baby barracuda in the mangroves along the shoreline and floated over bright starfish in the shallow water.

Glassy calm evening in Nonsuch Bay

We'll be in Antigua for a few days more, then we're off to Guadeloupe.