Thursday, December 31, 2015

Growing roots in Antigua

For various reasons, not the least of which are the howling Christmas winds and high seas, we're still hanging out in Antigua. We're in good company here and content to stay put for the time being. There are always odd projects to do on the boat and beaches that need to be visited for daily swims.

Slinky, one of three black cats in Melini's dockside restaurant, is also content to stay put.
View from Saralane in Jolly Harbor
Replacing our balky windlass switch
Occasionally we move from Jolly Harbor over to Five Islands or Deep Bay and our view changes a little. In Five Islands we watched some filming going on with this big motor yacht 'Slipstream' and her toys. The helicopter chased the tenders and jet skies endlessly, swooping off from time to time to reposition. It was all very James Bond. We looked up Slipstream and found that it belongs to Simon Cowell. I guess judging/crushing aspiring talent has it's upside. 

Faster faster!
John H was in need of some TLC again and we're doing our best to keep him looking stylish. In addition to his ID numbering needing a refresher, he's starting to get a little squishy in his old age (as are we all) and we finally got around to using the patching material we snagged in Virgin Gorda to help puff him up.

We reinforced the main areas with two big fancy pieces we scavenged from the ruined beached dinghy in North Sound. First we patterned the sections with paper, then cut and contact cemented them in place with special glue meant for use on dinghies.

Port side
The tape barely keeps the paper in place with the wind blowing
Sticky stuff goes on here....
...and here.

Fancy eh?
Repeat the same process on sections on the front and in the back....

Looking good!

Skip added the extra little flashy red pieces which I'm trying to convince him to remove, though it does make John H easy to spot in a row of dinghies. 

Each year around this time there seems to be some sort of massive hatching of butterflies in the north east Caribbean. We've seen it in St Martin and in the BVI and this year in Antigua. It may be hard to see how many butterflies there are in this shot, but I can tell you there were zillions of them.

The little white specks are butterflies
Our buddies Simon and Hilda on Brisa did in fact bring us cheeses from Guadeloupe (thanks!) and we dinghied alongside them when they returned to Jolly Harbor with engine trouble. 

Brisa makes her way to the customs dock in Jolly Harbor.
Other friends have arrived from St Martin and we've met some new people who are sitting out the weather here too.

Having a dinghy chat with Fred and Dorothy from Aviva 
A Christmas day gathering on Q Queenie included, Simon & Hilda (Brisa), David & Jennifer (and furry dog Crew, from Triple Cream), Stefan & Lynne (Beyond). Q Queenie is a beautiful and spacious catamaran belonging to Barbara and Steven (that's Barbara in the dress and white flip flops; Steven is to her left).

Christmas Day on Q Queenie
Just another windy day here...
Aviva at the end of the rainbow in Five Islands.
We've embraced the local tradition of making sorrel juice for the holidays and with a few recipes I got by asking the young guys stocking the produce section of the market who shared their grandmothers recipes, I managed to make some pretty tasty sorrel juice. Just like any recipe handed down from generation to generation there were a some unknowns. There were a few "add a little bit of this or that" or "I think she put in some of this or that" directions that took some experimentation.

Start with a whole lot of sorrel flowers
Cut out the seed in the center
Rinse off any bugs or extra ick
Note to self: sorrel turns everything VERY RED
Toss the flowers into a pot with water, a few cloves, a cinnamon stick, a few thick slices of ginger and some orange peel. Simmer for a bit, then turn off the heat and let sit covered overnight. In the morning, strain out the solids, add lots of sugar and voila! Sorrel juice.

Add LOTS of sugar. Yum.
That's all I've got for now, and since I'm making the curry for tonight's New Year's Eve gathering I'll wrap it up here and wish you all a good end to 2015 and a good start to 2016. See you next year! (Ha ha ha! That just never gets old....)

Friday, December 11, 2015

Placeholder Post

Well hi there. We're back. We're getting off to a slow start this year which accounts for the very late first blog post, as well as the "Placeholder Post" title. I wanted to at least get something posted to say that we're back on board and also to make sure I don't forget how to put up a blog post. And why not start with a pretty sunset shot from our first night anchored out in Jolly Harbor?

Oooooh..... ahhhhhh..... 
After a few nights in the marina getting shipshape, we spent probably too many nights anchored out in Jolly Harbor. But, as always, with friends around we find it hard to come up with reasons to move along too quickly.

We've been spending time with friends on Absaroque, Brisa, Worry No More, Golden Fleece and Triple Cream. Some we've know for years now and others we're getting to know since we all seem to be hanging around and pondering where (or if) to go.

Denise and JP from Absaroque
David and Jennifer with THE fuzziest dog out here, Crew. 
We did manage to go north to Deep Bay for a few days with everyone else, but other than that we've been well anchored.

Absaroque has since left for St Martin with plans to come back this way; Brisa and Triple Cream have headed south for a brief stay in Guadeloupe. We've extracted promises from everyone to bring us French cheeses. That's what friends are for, right?

Saralane and friends in Deep Bay, Antigua
Back in Jolly Harbor, daily trips to our favorite tiny little beach around the corner from the anchorage kept us occupied. The water is in the low 80's which is warmer than usual for this time of year, which makes me happy.

John on the beach, Skip in the water
On the hillside at the beach, a bird's nest in a prickly spot
Prickly pear
Not only are we off to a slow start on the big boat, but we're off to a slow start on the little boat. We let John run out of gas and had to flag down the dock master in his dinghy to give us a tow to the fuel dock. Oops.

Mildly embarrassing to us but pretty amusing to anyone watching.
We've moved a notch north along the coast to Five Islands for the peaceful anchorage and blazing fast open wifi. It looks good for a trip to Barbuda today or tomorrow so there may be Barbuda shots for the next post. However, I'm reserving the right to back up and cover things I've skipped in my effort to get started here. That's it for the moment.... see you back here soon!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


As do many of our posts, this one could have had several different titles. I already used "Sailing Sucks" (parts one and two, no less) so that was off the table. "Rhumb line, Squall line... Same Line" was another. "Get Me Off This Boat!" was another, and "Saralane For Sale", was put aside after we had a quiet night or two post passage.

I've opted instead for the simplest one, "Nevis" which focuses on our short but really pleasant visit to Nevis and mostly overlooks what was undoubtedly the worst sail we've ever had. We hadn't been to Nevis before and while we were waiting out the wind (we thought) we stopped in for a look. So... Nevis.

Just in case we were wondering where we were
We sailed the short distance from St Kitts to Charlestown, Nevis and cleared in on a Saturday morning. The town was pretty sleepy when we arrived and by Sunday it was completely asleep. Perfect for walking around and being able to see both the brightly painted buildings as well as the worn down facades and also for conversations with locals relaxing on their days off.

Clockwise from top L: bright orange firetruck, a few bright orange flamboyant blooms, the 'N' of Nevis, shops closed up tight.
From the center of town we walked north and saw the monument to the more than 200 islanders whose lives were lost when the inter-island ferry M/V Christena sank on August 1, 1970. The overloaded ferry boat sank in the Narrows, the passage between St Kitts and Nevis and remains upright on the sea floor.  

We followed the road out of town for a few blocks but quickly gave in to the smell of curry coming from a small cafe. A young Guyanese woman tended the curry while her two young girls chased each other around, trying their best to help, but mostly just ending up in their very patient mother's way. They came to chat with us for a while and gave us some guidance about what to see around the island. Her chicken roti was pretty tasty, but we couldn't talk the recipe out of her. 

Inside info from the chef and her two little ones
Also pretty tasty was the mango and spicy dipping sauce she set out for us
Sunday baseball game under Nevis peak, quiet streets, John H obeys the sign and remains unlocked at the dinghy dock.
Stag - apparently it's a man's beer.
Trying to stay cool.
Swanky hotel under the cloud shrouded peak
Tiny crab digs in the black sand beach
Nevis claims the oldest tourist hotel in the Caribbean, The Bath Hotel, which was famous for it's volcanic hot springs that people swear by for treatment of just about anything that ails you. Built around 1780, the hotel has had it's ups and downs and now houses the island's government offices. 

We're big fans of hot pools... but as it turns out, the difference between 105 degrees and 110 degrees (besides the obvious 5 degrees) is the difference between being able to just sink right down into the water, or having to very slowly inch down into the water. Yowza. This water was HOT. I think having a cold pool nearby to cool off once in a while made a big difference too.

Hot stuff.

Enter at your own risk (and please... no soap!)

It was quiet at the hot pool when we were there, but the locals we did meet said some evenings there are so many people wanting a soak that there can be quite a wait to get in. We met older Nevisians who swore by the healing properties of the water as well as young professionals that come once a week for their soak. 

Our two night stop didn't allow for much time for exploration here, so we're putting Nevis on our re-visit list and hope to be back next year for a better look. We left the anchorage in Charlestown and anchored on the north end to be better placed to leave for Antigua early in the morning. We were sailing in tandem with an Aussie single hander we'd met in the customs office in Nevis, both of us deciding to take what was to be the "least worst day" to make the 40 mile trip to Antigua. 

View of Nevis peak from the anchorage in Tamarind Bay on the north side.
Zoomed in on part of the lush green mountainside.
This would be the time to change the title of the blog to one of the above mentioned. I guess I'd go with "Sailing Sucks, Part Three". We rounded the tip of Nevis and looked around for the forecast 15-ish knots and 3 to 4 foot seas. We tacked out through the South Channel of the Narrows and never really did find the comfortable seas.

Early morning fishermen, north side of Nevis
From the start seas were 5 to 8 feet, with short intervals between and with the occasional 10 footer in there to keep things interesting. True wind was 18 to 25 all day with more than 30 knots over the deck often enough to make us both really crabby. The problem was not so much the forecast, but the squall line that ran along our rhumb line drawing in the wind and increasing the wind speed for the entire trip. We crashed through the crummy conditions with water pouring down the decks for 10 hours and arrived in Antigua with no desire to sail anywhere ever again. Even Barbuda. Yep, it was that crappy. We're counting on having short memories though, so we'll get back to Barbuda soon enough.

It looked pretty to start out with...
...but turned bad in a hurry.
One of many water spouts that dropped down out of the squall line. Montserrat barely visible below the spout.
Our Aussie friend, Bruce, arrived in Jolly Harbor an hour or so after us, looking a little stunned. Bruce bought his boat just a few weeks back and is single handing, and sailing in the Caribbean, for the first time. He wasn't really sure what's thought of as normal here and when he asked what we thought of the passage and we said things like "It was just awful!" "The worst trip ever!" "Just terrible!", he was pretty relieved to know it wasn't all in a day's sail for us too. We were chatting on the radio on the passage, but you don't tend to say things like "Isn't this the worst passage you've ever done?! I hate sailing!" to anyone while you're all just trying to get through it!

Captains Bruce & Skip talk about better passages
Two days later... swimming off Jolly Beach Antigua. Squalls still haunt the stretch between Nevis and Antigua
We managed to get out of Jolly Harbor at least for a few days and are comfortably anchored in Carlisle Bay where we watched a wedding on the beach last night and snorkeled with lion fish and puffer fish today. We waved Bruce off this morning and we'll head back around to Jolly tomorrow to get Saralane ready to be hauled later this week.