Thursday, February 26, 2015

Accidentally still in Antigua

Our obsession with all things Barbuda is still in full force and we sailed up from Antigua as soon as we could. We only had four days there before the weather chased us away, but we'll head back up when we can. The windward side was wild with breaking surf from high winds and big seas, but around at Coco Point all was calm.

We picked up our share of coconuts around the old K Club and got the scoop from some local guys about the big changes coming to the property. It's been purchased by Robert DeNiro and casino tycoon James Packer with plans to turn it into a super upscale resort, which I'm guessing means there will be no more wandering around the property picking up coconuts. Kind of good for the island, but kind of sad for us.





For now though, we're back in Antigua poking around the protected reefs in the north east and popping back around to Falmouth and Jolly Harbor to catch up with friends. Last year our friends Dan and Jackie on s/v Chill connected us with Denis and Arleen on Tiger Lily II; Denis does a daily weather forecast on the SSB that we've been listening to and the social group that's collected around him over the years is remarkable. Nice people.

A Friends of Denis "meeting" on a local beach in Falmouth. That's Denis in the middle wearing the "D"  burgee around his neck.
Skip had some customer/friends that were wrapping up a stay in Antigua about the time we arrived and they donated all their extra food to us before they left. Thanks Andy and Lisa!!

Cruising bonanza!
On the way from Jolly Harbor to Jumby Bay... tanker at the offshore dock in St John
Nothing but blue looking north from Jumby Bay
Hell's Gate in northeast Antigua
We hiked around Bird Island and I attempted, mostly in vain, to get a good shot of the tropic birds that sailed back and forth along the cliffs. Moving things.... camera... me...? Hopeless.




Grape Bay on Guiana Island... nobody there but us
We dinghied over to Parham to check out the sleepy town and it was indeed, very sleepy. A few young school boys on their way home kept us company as we walked around, chattering nonstop and telling us about their dreams to go to Atlantis and ride the giant waterslides. Sounds like a worthwhile dream to me. 

They asked if we were American (they were pretty sure we were) because we were white, but not to worry because they'd seen white people before so it was OK with them. These kids were ear to ear smiles and made our walk around town a lot more interesting than if we'd been just walking on our own.  

Life in sleepy Parham includes games of dominos under the trees
At the dock in Parham.... a shot for my little sister Ruth!
Ruth's backside (so to speak)
Most of the sailing around we're doing lately is in shallow waters so we haven't been fishing much, but at one point we were in deeper water and threw a line out and the strangest thing happened. We caught a fish! I think we were more surprised than the tuna. 

Tuna + wasabi + ginger + soy sauce = Dinner
Filleting underway
Anyone suffering through the cold and snow in the northeast probably has zero sympathy for weather related issues down here in the sunny Caribbean, but the constant exposure to sun/heat/salt/water wears on everything here. Exposure to the elements is slowly ruining our skin, our hair (OK, my hair) and all of our clothing, and is degrading the stitching on the dodger, bimini and sail cover. We'd stitched a few things here and there, but when Skip was cleaning the "glass" (plastic) on the dodger recently the glass completely pulled apart from the canvas with a terrible ripping sound when all the stitching gave way. It's clearly time to get more serious about our canvas repair. 

Stitching on zippers is giving out too
This one gets restitched by hand
The machine takes care of the bigger problem areas
Bimini is off for repairs - a good time to check the connections under the solar panels
It's a good time to clean the 'glass' we can't other wise reach too
Bimini back in place, clean and restitched
As for the wear and tear on skin, hair and clothing? Not much to be done about that, but now I understand the appeal of dreadlocks. Wikipedia says "matted coils of hair".... yep, I got that.

Curly hair should come with a Do Not Comb warning
The winds are forecast to blow like mad for at least another week or more so we're content staying local and seeing new things around Antigua. We've been so content in fact that we almost overstayed our month long cruising permit and had to hustle back to the port authority to renew it. Oops. We'll go south at some point, but not just yet. Not until we go north to Barbuda at least once more.

Storm blows through Jolly Harbor...
... and is gone in minutes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BVI - SXM - ANU

A quick look back at my last post tells me I left you several islands back, so I'll skip all the humdrum sunset and fish photos and start with the good stuff.

My cousin Amy's daughter Lizzy was here with some friends on their own Caribbean adventure. They're an energetic group of college grads and soon-to-be grads with a keen interest in conservation. During their travels they'll be gathering samples and data for various marine conservation groups which will help with efforts to measure the impact of all the plastic that ends up in the sea. They're measuring and tagging sharks for another marine research group and cleaning up beaches where they can. Mostly.... they just wanted to go sailing! More power to them that they found a way to do it and to do some good along the way. We first caught up with the young salty crew in Virgin Gorda on their Tartan 37 s/v Jormungandr.

The "kids" from L to R: Henry, Kerry, Grant and Lizzy
The guys stayed on board to work out some things on the boat in preparation for the passage to St Martin, and Skip and I went hiking with the girls in North Sound. I thought I was in pretty good hiking condition until we hiked with these two athletes. Apparently.... I'm not. 

Lizzy and Kerry on the trail at Alvin's Heights
Kerry, Lizzy and me at the top
Skip and I hiked a few other days and came across the Frangipani caterpillar again, as well as another fuzzy spotted one we hadn't seen before. I've attempted to include a video of the Frangipani caterpillar chowing down, but our wifi is sketchy here so I'm not sure how successful it will be.

Frangipani caterpillar
Unknown fuzzy/spiky/spotted caterpillar. Anyone have an ID?
video

Another day we were hiking up Guy's Trail from the Bitter End and came across a foursome on their way down. "Skip?" they said. We drew a blank for a moment and then made the connection.... John & Terri from s/v Child's Play. We'd met them a few years ago when they were here on their C & C 41; we were anchored near them in North Sound. They'd taken their boat back north but were back chartering with family and we just happened upon each other.

Though we haven't seen them for a few years, they've been keeping up with our blog and recognized us right away. It was really fun to see them and it's good to know we're bringing some Caribbean warmth to them in the frozen north. Hi guys!!

With the wind turning in our favor we pulled up the anchor and headed for St Martin in the company of Kurt and Tina on Pneumatic. We must have pulled the last two mahi out of the sea on our previous passage. No fish this time for either boat.

In St Martin we joined the few other boats circling slowly out in Marigot Bay awaiting the early bridge opening into the French side and recognized one....

We're not really following you and reporting back to your parents that you're OK....
... well, maybe we are just a little bit.
After a few days of chores and errands, we went to check out the big boats coming through the Dutch bridge opening one evening. It was quite the event when Steve Jobs' boat Venus made an appearance. We've seen the boat in the BVI and in St Martin before, but not quite this close up. I call it the iBoat; Skip prefers iYacht. It just looks like an iSomething. We imagine the captain controlling all the boat's systems by swiping across and down touchscreens.


Just starting to peek through the opening

About halfway through

Squeaking through

Rear view. Venus enters the lagoon as a squall begins
The Sint Maarten Yacht Club is the bar/restaurant by the Dutch bridge and in addition to the up close mega-yacht viewing, they also have great wifi, which in wifi challenged Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, is precious. So, we stayed a little longer and watched the outgoing traffic.... and used the wifi.

Bye SXM
We've spent enough time here to have had several conversations with the irascible bridge tender Sam. He likes to yell. At everyone. Moving too slowly through the bridge? Sam will yell at you. Speeding under the bridge on a jetski and spraying the underside of 'his' bridge with saltwater? Sam will yell at you. Disagree with him? Sam will yell at you. But... he's also kind of a nice guy. Very opinionated, but nice. We chatted him up one evening and he told us there was a special bridge opening coming up (at a rumored $1000) for one of his favorite boats - Limitless. "Want to watch it from the control room?" he asked us. You bet! 

Sam lit a cigarette, popped open a fresh beer and took us below the bridge where we walked around the grinding gears as the bridge opened to let Limitless enter. Yep.... safety first.

Sam yuks it up by the (impeccably clean) gears that raise and lower the bridge, while Kurt and Skip look on.

Limitless, as seen from the control room. Note her home port, Newport RI. Funny... we haven't seen her there.
The wind wasn't good for the passage to Antigua but we were getting antsy in the lagoon and went out for a few days, back into the blue water of Grand Case and Anse Marcel on the North Coast.

Someone's nightmare in the lagoon
Someone's dream for sale in Grand Case
We hadn't been to Anse Marcel before since it's open to the north and it hasn't been a tenable anchorage any time we've been in St Martin. It's dominated by an enormous Radisson with a fabulous pool (that we weren't supposed to enter) that I had to try out. You'll recall the GIANT pool in Cupecoy? This one was bigger, and overlooked the sea, but like I said... technically we shouldn't have been in it. I just got in and got out. I couldn't help myself. We left before we got chased out.

Oooooooo..... giant pool
Iguana on the rocks on the dinghy ride away from the giant pool
Not feeling especially welcome on the beach at Anse Marcel (or in the pool) we pulled up the anchor and headed back to the lagoon. Rather we tried to pull up the anchor. The bottom here is sandy and seemingly free of obstacles but somehow we managed to snag a heavy chain that lay across the bay. When this happened last we were in murky Le Marin in Martinique and we used the same technique to free the anchor. We secured one end of a line to a cleat on the port bow, ran the line under the chain and secured the other end to a cleat on the starboard bow. The line held the weight of the chain and I lowered the anchor until it was free of the chain. With Skip at the helm I released one end of the line and the chain dropped to the bottom to lie in wait for the next anchor to catch.

Setting free the anchor
St Martin is indeed the Venus fly trap of the Caribbean and we were determined to take the first opportunity to continue east. We'd come across friends here that we hadn't seen in years... John & Jacky on s/v Worry No More and Daryl & Adri on s/v Leila who we last saw when they were on the hard in a yard by the bridge. Our friends Bennet and Susan just arrived on their Outbound, s/v Pratique, and we only had one evening with them before we left. We said our goodbyes to all and headed out the bridge.

Pratique arrives in St Martin
Familiar view heading out the French bridge

Safety not first... guys hanging out on the open edge of the French bridge watching the boats go by.

Daryl and Adri on lovely Leila.... looking much happier here than in the yard
The winds were light and the surface of the sea was smooth. We motor-sailed over big comfortable swells all the way to Antigua, only snagging one big barracuda that we let go.

Heading east in the morning... fire in the sky.

Looking west as the sun starts to light up the clouds

Not much to do except enjoy the ride

Big barracuda = Big teeth
The real excitement came as we approached Antigua, not counting the huge squall that arrived just as we arrived. Dolphins! They played in our bow wave, jumping and swimming as we neared the island. Knowing that I'm photographically wildlife challenged I was happy to get the few shots I did - and I'm attempting to post a video as well. Apologies for the wild swing in the middle of the video; I couldn't decide which dolphins to follow!







video

We're in Jolly Harbor, enjoying the company of friends and awaiting the arrival of others. Mostly though we're waiting for good weather to head for Barbuda. Barbudaaaaaaaahhhhh......