28 Feb 2017

28/2/2017: Jolly Harbour, Antigua

We've just waved off our third set of guests after a fun 10 days circumnavigating Antigua and are now looking forward to a bit of peace and quiet.  We toured the island yesterday (my aunt and uncles last day) visiting the restored ruins of a sugar plantation (Betty's Hope), a blow hole called Devil's Bridge, a drive through the rain forest and a lovely lunch overlooking north sound at the top end of the island.

We also had our photo taken at Morris Bay, all having Morris as surname at some point in our lives!

Unfortunately Paul tweaked his back and is laid up today forcing me to be in charge of ferrying my aunt and uncle ashore in the dinghy.  Yikes, I've never been in charge of the dinghy before!  All went well, although I got soaked as it is a breezy day.  We finally saw a dolphin as we entered the marina so they went home happy!

We'll rest up here a few days now to let Paul's back recover and get the laundry and re-provisioning done.

27 Feb 2017

26/2/2017: Hermitage Bay, Antigua

Our planned second night in Barbuda didn't happen .... it would have been another rolly night so instead of that we had a great sail back to Antigua where we anchored in Hermitage Bay, home to a very nice five star boutique hotel.  So this morning we headed ashore for cocktails, after shelling on the beach first.  The cocktails were first class and we all needed a snooze after lunch to sleep them off!

It's going to be pretty windy the next few days, not really suitable for our novice sailor guests, so we're hiring a car tomorrow to explore more of the island.

25 Feb 2017

25/2/2017: Low Bay, Barbuda

We had to motor-sail here yesterday as the winds were light and we wanted to make it by mid-afternoon.  Amazingly in the 30 miles or so between Antigua and Barbuda the sea was rarely more than 25 metres deep, ideal fishing depths or so we thought.  Six hours of trolling the line behind us yielded nothing when just as we were approaching the reef surrounding Barbuda the line started whizzing .... we'd got a bite!  Paul sprang into action reeling it in whilst I dug out the "despatching" gear.  As he reeled it in closer we could see it was a pretty big fish, possibly a wahoo or barracuda.  He had it almost landed on the deck and identified as a barracuda (well over two feet long) when it managed to bite through the line, or the line snapped, and flopped back into the water.  Damn!  It was floating on the surface so we turned the boat to go back and hook it out but by then it was gone, complete with yet another one of our lures.

We took a boat tour of the world's biggest frigate bird colony in Codrington lagoon yesterday afternoon. These birds migrate from the Galapagos every year to breed in Barbuda with over 20,000 birds being here.  The males have red sacks underneath their throats which they can inflate to attract the females.  Our guide got us up close and personal .... the smell of guano was strong ... and explained quite a bit about the history of the island.  It was leased to a guy called Codrington back in the late 1700s who ran it it as a plantation, supplying food to his other sugar plantations in Barbados and Antigua.  The workers were very hardworking and didn't need an overseer, and when Codrington left the island the local people were given the land.  The entire island is still owned by the community and has maintained the tranquility of this remote place.

After a very rolly night we woke to a stunning sunrise this morning.

We're heading around to the south coast of Barbuda today to Spanish Point and hopefully a calmer anchorage.  The snorkeling is meant to be good so we're looking forward to exploring the underwater world.

23 Feb 2017

23/2/2017: Nonsuch Bay, Antigua

We've got our third set of guests on board at the moment, Debra's aunt and uncle (Janet and Philip) who have never been to the Caribbean before, nor on a yacht, so it's all a big adventure for them!  So far they seem to be loving it, enjoying the warmth and sunshine after wet and cold old England, and loving the colour of the water.  Janet even gave snorkeling a go yesterday.

On the subject of which (snorkeling that is) Paul spied a big spiny lobster on our outing yesterday and tried to grab him out of his hole for our dinner last night, to make our steak BBQ a surf and turf affair.  Unfortunately and unbeknown to him, there was a big sea urchin just inside the hole and so he ended up with no lobster but two urchin spines in his finger.  Not nice.  Fortunately there doesn't appear to be any infection and hopefully the poultice we've applied will draw out the spines.

Weather conditions are pretty benign this week, perfect for our novice sailors.  After a lazy day today exploring the bay by dinghy, we'll sail up to Barbuda tomorrow to take a tour of the frigate bird colony.  We're hoping it doesn't tip it down with rain this time!

18 Feb 2017

17/2/2017 : Jolly Harbour, Antigua

We had a great sail up from Guadeloupe on Wednesday, probably one of the best days of the season, and were lucky enough to have a pod of six or seven pilot whales swim right across the bow.  We initially thought they were dolphins, until we realised their size and that they were black.  Unlike dolphins they showed no interest in us and swam on their way without a backwards glance.

Jon and Hannah flew home yesterday.  We've all had a great time with a lot of fun and laughs along the way.  Our next set of visitors (Debra's aunt and uncle, Janet & Philip) arrive tomorrow so we've had another 48 hour turnaround to get the laundry done, boat clean and cupboards stocked .... it's all go!  We'll be staying in Antigua with them, possibly sailing up to its sister island of Barbuda if winds permit to visit the frigate bird colony that lives there.

The Christmas winds finally seem to have abated and more settled weather patterns are the order of the day with some spectacular sunsets, this one with Tumi in silhouette.  We need to get a phone with a better camera to capture them!

12 Feb 2017

12/2/2017 : It's official, we're not leaving Les Saintes

Well not for another day at least!  We all love it here and yesterday afternoon were lucky enough to experience some island colour in the shape of two marching bands practising, we think for the Mardi Gras carnival at the end of the month which sadly we'll miss given we'll be dropping off guests in Antigua.  Such a shame but at least we got a flavour of it yesterday afternoon.

Our meal out last night was fabulous, the best food we have ever eaten out here.  We all chose the same starter (ravioli stuffed with langoustine, truly delicious) and whilst we had four different main courses they were all first class.

This morning I plucked up courage to go snorkeling for the first time in my life and it was amazing!  I've always feared fish swimming around me but Paul and Jon said the snorkeling site was so good (a coral garden of corals of all shapes, sizes and colours and myriad fish) that I decided to take the plunge, and boy was it worth it!  Definitely a convert.  Paul and Jon snorkelled over a wreck yesterday and so that will be my next outing. Jon took some amazing underwater photos of Paul at the wreck.

11 Feb 2017

11/2/2017 : Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

It's just so lovely here, picture perfect, great restaurants, warm and sunny .... feel like I never want to leave!

We visited one of the three forts yesterday, Fort Napolean, which has been restored and is open as a museum ... very interesting.  The other two, Josephine and Caroline, are both in ruins but between the three of them it gave the French 360° protection for this beautiful place.

Our first few nights here we had to take a mooring in a small bay about a mile from town called Pain du Sucre (sugar loaf) because of the shape of the rock at the entrance.  The water was so incredibly clear that we all dipped in and out on a regular basis and Paul and his son, Jon, enjoyed the snorkeling.  Yesterday we were lucky enough to get a town mooring (we took over one a boat we know was vacating having agreed a time with them to do so) and now have very easy access to town.

I find it amusing how many character traits Paul and Jon share, including both being competitive souls whether playing cards, climbing childrens' activity frames (say no more!) or even washing up .... Hannah and I smile to ourselves every day!

We're working our way through the list of top restaurant recommendations and are dining at "number 2" this evening.  All this drinking and eating is definitely having an impact on our waistlines!

We'll spend a couple more days here before starting the trip back to Antigua via the Jacques Cousteau marine park for Paul and Jon to try out the snorkeling.  Weather conditions don't look too bad for the return sail so hopefully it won't be too bouncy.

7 Feb 2017

7/2/2017 : Les Saintes, Guadeloupe

We're back in our favourite place in the Caribbean, the small island chain of Les Saintes just south of Guadeloupe.  It's a truly beautiful place and the perfect place to celebrate achieving 30,000 nautical mikes (37,500 statute miles) just before we entered the harbour.  Quite an achievement in sailing terms!

The winds continue to be strong and our sail down from Monserrat on Monday was exciting.  Jon and Hannah handled it with aplomb and we arrived in Des Haies in under 6 hours.  Today, after a morning snorkeling, we have walked into the small capital of Bourg De Saintes for lunch overlooking the harbour ... lovely.  Despite the high winds it's 30 degrees today so we're not complaining!  We'll be spending several days here relaxing now ...

4/2/2017 : Monserrat

The weather forecast made a trip to Monserrat to let Jon and Hannah see the devestation caused by the volcano a possibility so after fitting the new windlass (well done Paul, and thanks to Quick for sending $1300 worth of replacement parts under warranty) we sailed the four hours over to Little Bay on an island where about two thirds remains an exclusion zone.  As we approached the anchorage we got a length of rope joining two lobster pots wrapped around the prop so Paul had to dive in with a knife to cut it off.  Such a versatile chap!

Since we were last there, some of the island has been re-opened so we were able to visit places that were last time out of bounds.

After an informative 4 hour tour we returned to Tumi and spent a very rolly night at anchor .... no-one slept well at all.

1 Feb 2017

Jolly Harbour

We are anchored off Jolly Harbour in 3 metres of water waiting for a new windlass motor and gearbox to arrive from the USA to replace the one that has failed us. The last one had been operating at less than half speed and I have been having to haul up the anchor by hand to assist the struggling windlass which at 60 I shouldn't really have to do!

The oil seal had gone between the gearbox and the motor and the motor was full of cruddy iron filings suspended in black oil. Not good. However, the manufacturers have kindly replaced the unit under warranty and the new parts are on their way. They should arrive tomorrow night and be cleared through customs and delivered to me on Friday (hopefully) which will allow us to sail to Guadeloupe on Saturday with a fully functional windlass.