Thursday, August 29, 2013

Barbuda. Still beautiful.

On our way to Barbuda we stopped at Long Island and anchored in front of Jumby Bay Resort. We were the only ones there and the anchorage comfortable. Jumby Bay Resort is pretty exclusive and though we swam ashore and walked the beach, there was no welcome mat out for us to come in for a drink or meal. (We asked.) No problem.... we had a nice enough view right where we were.

Well defined squall line over Jumby Bay
The last of the sun lights up a cloud 
As always we were looking forward to being in Barbuda, so we left Long Island behind and headed north. Being such a flat island, it doesn't look like much as you approach.

Barbuda ahead
Usually we anchor along the beach at Coco Point just west of the Coco Point Lodge, but this time we worked our way in a little farther south to a spot that's surrounded by reef and still deep enough for our shallow draft. We anchored just off a small sandy beach that rounds the corner of the shoreline before it turns up toward Spanish Point. The changing light gave us different scenery throughout the days. I took far took many shots and edited down to just these few.

Aside from the potential for hurricanes, which are forecast practically as soon as thunderstorm activity picks up off the west coast of Africa, the weather here this time of year is magnificent. The anchorages are calm and the trades are a pleasant 15 to 20 knots. And, since most sailors don't hang around the northeast Caribbean during hurricane season, we often have the anchorages to ourselves.

We had company a few times during the week we spent in Barbuda and we got to know them over drinks.

Monique & Vivienne from m/v Raw
Monique and Vivienne are from Martinique but live in St. Martin now and they zipped over to Barbuda with their husbands for a long weekend. We met them walking along the beach and later they hailed us from their boat as we dinghied past to ask if we could take them back in to the beach.

Their husbands had gone off in the dinghy in search of conch and hadn't come back to give these two a ride back to the boat from the beach, so they ditched their clothes and hats on the beach and swam back to the boat. We gave them a ride ashore to pick up their things and they had us up for a Ti Punch as a thank you. While we were there, Vivienne's husband called to say they'd run out of gas and were being helped by a local fisherman who came to their rescue. Yikes. It turns out that Monique and her husband own one of our favorite French grocery stores in St. Martin! (We told her we LOVE the cheeses they carry....)

A charter boat came for a day too and we met the captain, Bernard, and his guests, a German family with roots in Trinidad, now living in Singapore, whose daughter is in boarding school in England. Whew.

Bernard came by for a chat about the forecast
Bernard borrowed our machete after he saw Skip hacking open.... I mean, deftly slicing open... coconuts on the beach. We all got plenty of coconut water and meat and thankfully no one lost any fingers (or toes) in the process. Farmer John in Dominica would have been so proud.

We met with a fruit we wanted to eat! 

Barbuda remains one of our favorite islands no matter how often we visit. It's stunningly beautiful and serene and we just can't get enough of it. The water is crystal clear and warm, the sand is powder soft and bright white with shades of pink and the beaches go on literally for miles. Once again, the photos say it better than I can...

This conch was really here; Saralane in the distance
Me, happy.
Magnificent squall approaching
Sea stars were everywhere
Saralane in Barbuda
Full moon over Coco Point
Enjoy this post; it's the last of the lovely Caribbean water blog posts for a while. We're bound for the boat yard....

Monday, August 12, 2013

Jurassic Antigua

It's been raining since the day after we arrived in Antigua about a week ago, dampening everything including our enthusiasm for sailing around to the North Sound and Barbuda. The forecast is beginning to look better though so we'll pull up the anchor and move along soon.

The trusty John H sits patiently in the rain
On the up side, we've got lots of water. Our tanks are literally full to overflowing and the bucket I always put out to catch the rain that drips off the corner of the solar panels as the boat rocks, is full too. Saralane's decks are as clean as can be from the heavy rains and with the abundance of water, we're all caught up on laundry.

Drying laundry is tricky in this weather though. It involves stringing many lines from various parts of the bimini frame and hoping the wind doesn't shift too quickly and let the rain blow in to soak things I've hung on the lines. It also involves some gymnastics when moving around the cockpit so as not to garrote ourselves in the process.

Those drips add up to four gallons
I've advanced my wildlife photography skills a wee bit since we've been here, though to be truthful it's due more to the fact that this specimen wasn't moving much than to any real improvement on my part. The mantra of one of my college photo professors that's stuck with me all these years was "F8 and be there". In other words.... it's less about the details of your camera settings and more about just being there with your camera ready. (See references to: 'best shots I didn't get', in multiple previous posts.) I was camera-ready for this guy.

This was the first thing we saw when we peeked up out of the V-berth hatch when we heard a noise. 

Looks kind of prehistoric
We set up an awning over the hatch to block the sun's heat during the day and so that we can keep the hatch open if it's raining during the night. The awning blocked our view of the whole creature, so we inched forward for a better view.

Prehistoric and BIG
You can just barely see the two thin plumes that stem from his crown and stick out a bit above his 'shoulders' (do birds have shoulders?). Our best guess, based on the bird books we have on board, is that it's a Night Heron. We're open to any corrections or additional information. 

Well the sun is up and the weather looks good, so we're off to new territory (North Sound/Bird Island area) and old territory (Barbuda) for a week or so. More soon....

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Blog-free month (again)

I must have tapped into my inner hermit while Skip was away; I hardly left the boat. Saralane and I spent two weeks tucked away in Porto Cupecoy where I spent my days doing boat projects and taking advantage of the plentiful wifi. And, of course, going to the GIANT POOL each evening after finishing whatever it was I was doing all day. 

We had a quick swim at Cupecoy before Skip left - and before the big squall kicked up the surf.
We were plugged in to shore power in the marina so the batteries could fully charge. We decided to unplug the boat after a week and see how the batteries were doing. Usually the solar panels allow us to run for a couple days without charging with either the engine or shore power, but Skip recently installed an on/off switch for the solar panels, that I'd accidentally switched off. This left Saralane without anything charging the batteries for almost two days and the batteries dropped so low that the fridge shut off.

It was one of those good news/bad news things - the batteries had become very weak, but if I hadn't switched off the solar panels, we wouldn't have known quite how weak the batteries were. Well, if you need anything to fix your boat, St. Martin is just about the best place in this part of the Caribbean to find what you need. One call to Island Water World and we had new batteries ready to pick up - and they took our old batteries off our hands too. We replaced our two 4D AGM deep cycle batteries with four smaller (6V) deep cycle golf cart batteries. The overall capacity remains the same.

Out with the old....
... and in with the new. 
Skip connects new cables
Our batteries are below a shelf under the galley sink and because they went in before the sink and countertop did we thought we'd have some trouble getting them out. Not just because of their location, but they're big and HEAVY and awkward. It all went smoothly except that the sink drain got knocked loose from the drain hose... which meant a few more parts to be replaced.

Do NOT turn this on or the battery compartment will fill with water.
New drain, ready to go
Sink drain repaired? Check. New batteries in? Check. New batteries charging perfectly? Double check! The condition of the batteries has been on our minds for a while and we came close to replacing them once. Now the captain is much more relaxed about our power and I don't feel (as) guilty plugging in my energy hogging Mac.

It wasn't all boat chores while we were in St. Martin - we caught up with our friends Tim and Nancy on s/v Larus who'd just arrived from St. Vincent to start work as fill in charter boat captain/crew. We're sure to see them again next year since we'll be traveling around the same islands around the same time. 

We also met John and Frances on s/v Kia Ora, from Australia and New Zealand respectively, when we were all clearing in to the Dutch side back at the end of June. They were hanging around St. Martin for too long, much like we were and we spent a couple of really nice evenings with them. 

Finally leaving the lagoon in St. Martin! Sally waves goodbye as we go through the French bridge.
Shrimpy (top dog at Shrimpy's laundry) sees something shiny in the water...
Skip and I planned on stopping at Columbier, a little bay on the western tip of St. Barth's, for a swim and an overnight before making the trip to Antigua, and John and Frances decided to join us. It's a beautiful beach with crystal clear water and countless star fish scattered across on the sandy bottom. (Here's where I should have a photo of the beautiful beach to drop in, but.... I don't. White sand, clear blue water, star fish.... y'know. Pretty beach....)

We cleaned the water line and chipped a few barnacles off the bottom but all in all, after sitting in the lagoon for too long, our bottom paint is holding up really well. 

It seems that Kia Ora and Saralane are heading in different directions when we all return in a few months but you never really know. John and Frances love the northern Caribbean and may even decide to sail north to the states rather than head south right away. Eventually they'll take Kia Ora back home to Australia, but she'll wait on the hard for them in St. Martin while they travel home the easy way for a few months. We hope to see them again in our travels.

Yellow park boundary marker in St. Barth's
Sunrise departure from Columbier
We had a great sail to Antigua; calms seas, wind 10 to 12 knots from the east northeast. We hooked a small tuna and decided to toss it back to let it grow up. A mackerel almost made it onto the boat but shook off the hook before Skip could gaff it. 

Jolly Harbor during the season is packed, but when we arrived just after dark there was only one other boat here. It's quiet, to say the least. It's kind of spooky, but also kind of nice.

Jolly Harbor, completely deserted.
Sailing lessons in the wide open harbor the next day
We'll roam around Antigua and if the weather forecast stays as good as it seems we'll fit in one more trip up to Barbuda before we get hauled out at the end of the month. I promise another blog (or two) before we go!