Ships Log – 1st to 28th February 2009

Having had an early night, we both felt refreshed, although where we were anchored was a bit rolly poly, I was up a few times checking, but on the whole a good night. We just had a lazy day, we went swimming, read our books, ate and drank, and fell back to sleep again. That is the trouble when you do an overnight sail, you lose the next day!

We decided at breakfast that we would move onto St.Bartholomew, then either onto Barbuda or Antigua, where ever the wind will let us go the easiest.

We left St. Martin’s at 11.00 am, and guess what on the nose again, but this time the waves were high as well, so the only progress we could make was tack right out, and then back in, which we did, instead of the 12 miles, it took us 21, but it was fairly comfortable, if sometimes frustrating, to be going in the wrong direction, plus we had to avoid rocks etc., making it harder to tack in, still we arrived safe and sound, with Geoff supplying the meals on route. I cleared up when we arrived, and cooked dinner, to make up for all his hard work on route.

We had a quiet and early night. We are anchored in a very tight spot, when we turn the guy only just misses us to the back, and we have a buoy next to us, which I am hoping no one will use.

Up quite early, we are heading for Antigua today, so another all nighter, it is 67 miles to the north of the Island, so it will probably be another 10 miles before we get to a bay. We are leaving at 4pm tonight, if the weather forecast is ok. Going into town now to do emails, and shopping.

Did our emails, checked the weather, and decided to stay for another day, the wind was over 20 knots and the waves 2.8, bit less tomorrow, so we are in no hurry, as long as we are there by the 13th when David arrives, no worries.

We have watched the turtles here, they are so funny, they pop their heads up, and swim around, and just watch everything, they are obviously used to having yachties around, it looks like a periscope of a submarine, their little heads are so high out of the water. We are in a French Island at present, so Geoff decided he wanted the traditional French lunch, so we had a bottle of red wind, French cheeses, and French loaf, fantastic, there goes the diet again. We went for a swim later, but the sea was so choppy, we didn’t stay in long. I sorted out our food cupboard, filled all my jars, with cereals, rice and pasta, decided we would not starve for a few more days, just off to beat Geoff at Dominoes???

Having thrashed Geoff at Dominoes, (rubbish Geoff has just shouted)we went to bed, oh boy, what a night, the wind and the waves really rough, We dragged anchor about 2am, so we upped and moved, the only place we could find was just outside the channel, which we did, and tried to sleep, we would have been better of leaving. In the morning, we had to move again, when we looked we were almost in the middle of the channel. Geoff went into town to get weather report, I had already decided, I did not want to spend another night here, the anchorage was so exposed, not pleasant. Geoff came back, said the weather was the same, but we decided to go, it is on the nose, with up to 2.9 m of waves, great!!!Filled the tanks up with the cheap fuel we had, Geoff did the dinghy, we had a quick lunch and decided to go for it. We both agree we do not like St.Bart’s, over-rated, over-priced, and Geoff reckoned over-sexed! Plus a really bad anchorage. We left at 3pm, with lots of big waves, we set the staysail, and main-sail, which was very comfortable, and managed to get near the course we wanted, so we headed off into the sunset. We did three hour shifts, I took the first one, Geoff came on at 6pm, but I stayed on watch whilst he did the dinner. Geoff struggled to cook it, under horrendous conditions, it looked lovely when he presented it, (chicken curry sauce) but sadly we both agreed it tasted horrible, we picked the meat out and left the rest. I then went off watch, and left Geoff on his own, just getting settled in saloon, when Geoff called out. ‘Dinghy’s gone’ by this time it is dark, and poor Geoff had to put extra ropes around one end to support her. We tried the main halyard to lift her, but somehow, Geoff let the rope slip, and it got caught in the wind generator, so that was no good. All the time, we are bobbing up and down, in nearly 3m of waves, I did slow the boat down. For an ‘oldie’, I am very proud of him, he was standing on the sugar scoop, I did make him strap on. We should not have left the engine on, but the problem was it was so rough in St.Bart’s, the engine is heavy, we took a gamble. It was a good job Geoff tied extra ropes round before we left. Back to bed, the rest of the night was pretty quiet, although I had some more trouble with the cruise ships, I think they do it deliberately, because they are bored, this one was following me, would not overtake, just kept on coming, I was scared he had not seen me, in the end, they veered off to Barbuda. We managed over the night to get on track, and by morning, we were heading straight for Antigua, we came into Deep Bay, which we have been too before, it is where Geoff and Jane, boarded the boat February 2005, and Rose went to hospital. (Fun days). The sea was flat, the beach was lovely, welcome back to Antigua.

Fabulous anchorage, we sat down after clearing up, had some coffee, and then released the dinghy, and the main halyard from around the wind generator, it is ironic, the only night it was quiet, we didn’t get any sleep. No damage to either, so that was good. We had lunch, which turned out to be a cooked breakfast with bubble and squeak, tomatoes, frankfurter’s and eggs, and a glass of wine, we decided we deserved it. We both had a siesta, then a swim, which was fantastic, we went ashore, then I swam back. We watched the sunset, which was amazing, had some tea, and an early night was taken.

Geoff turned the wind generator of for me, so no noise at all, within seconds we were both asleep.

Lazy morning, Deep Bay is such a lovely place, we have just chilled out, I did the washing, and we decided to clean out the forward cabin, ready for David to arrive, we checked the forward locker, to find it full of water again, so out with the pump to clean out, this in turn meant we had to empty the sail locker, which we did, to find more water, I guess we need an extra bilge pump up there. We think the water comes over the bows into the sail locker, plus of course the rain, and then it gets trapped , so Geoff is on the case to keep it dry. (Electric pump). Whilst pumping out the water, we saw a huge jelly fish, plus we have another turtle in the bay, who pops up from time to time. Washing and ironing done, we had a quick swim, watched another fantastic sunset, had dinner, and played scrabble, two very close games. (Don’t want to brag, but)

We finished off doing our jobs, Geoff was in the sail locker, most of the day, I was cleaning, and doing the womanly bits. We then decided to explore the Hotel, was it really the place where we met up four years ago. We went ashore in the dinghy, met a lovely American couple, who helped bring the dinghy ashore, not sure how they do it, but they have been travelling for two years now, just drifting from one place to another, they seem to be having fun too, in the winter they go to Puerto Rico, and the summer they are exploring the Caribbean, they are mid thirties / forties, wish I could have done it then.

We walked along the beach, and yes it was the Hotel, at present they have only eight guests, so they were looking for business, we tried to get free internet, but that did not work, so we decided we would not buy a drink, but atleast we did not get ushered out like we did last time. We went for a swim, made our way back to the boat, where Geoff beat me at crib. That night, there was a storm, with strong winds, so we had a hectic night on anchor, I spent a lot of the time on anchor duty. I need not have worried because the anchor was going nowhere, but it was quite an unpleasant anchorage, needless to say Geoff slept through it.

I am a bit grumpy and edgy today, lack of sleep, we had breakfast, then washed the decks down, and as soon as we finished it rain, so that was good, because we used sea water, so that would have taken the salt away. We then left, and made our way to Jolly Harbour, not far to go, but we put the jib up, and just cruised at 5knots, the wind was gusting 22 knots, it was a lovely sail. Came into Jolly Harbour, and took up a buoy, I am going to have a good nights sleep tonight. Geoff went to Customs and booked in, and then we went to supermarket. Geoff had cooked lasagna, which was lovely, we then went back to the internet, and caught up with all the gossip, had a couple of rum punches, and back on board, to be thoroughly thrashed at Dominoes. Then to bed, and catch up with some sleep.

Up bright as a button, had a complete night’s sleep, fantastic, we went over to the marina office to pay for our buoy, and Geoff decided we would stay another day, he likes it when I have had a good night’s sleep. Did the internet, did the shopping, had a look around, it is so quiet here, it is not only Britain, that has been effected by the credit crunch, when we were here last time, the place was heaving. Back on board for lunch, we are saving money all round this time, and losing weight. We are not doing our diet strictly, but trying to be careful, only drinking at week-ends etc., Geoff was doing his old man bit, and wanted to soak his feet, so whilst he was doing that, I beat him at scrabble, so just to even things up, he beat me at dominoes, so all is fair in love and war. I have turned the wind generator off, it is like a mill pond outside, so if I don’t sleep tonight, it will be because of Geoff’s snoring!!!!

Up early after a very peaceful night, we had a quick breakfast, then over to the marina to pay our dues, last minute internet, then back to the boat. The dinghy has developed a puncture, we think it is the old patch, we now have to pump up every time we go ashore, and when we come back. As it is a big hole we are going to have it done properly in Falmouth Harbour. Put dinghy on davits, which have not been mended, but we have some of Geoff’s knots holding everything together. Over to fuel dock for water, a little diesel, and an ice-cream. We eventually left Jolly Harbour at midday. We have enjoyed our stay here, it is a shame it is so quiet. Once away from the meandering channel, we put the jib up, there is a lot of wind and waves today. Force 5 gusting 26 knots, and 8’ waves, I would never come out in ‘Annie’s Girl’ in these conditions, ‘Anam Cara’ just goes through them. We were doing really well, until we had to change course, then the wind came round onto the nose again, down with jib, out with staysail, and start tacking back and forth. The weather was changing, as we had a squall, which was a bit scary, lost the steering for a minute, could not see a thing, the rain was so heavy, and the sky was black, with only two miles to go, we decided to just go on engine, and get in as quickly as possible. In Falmouth Harbour we found a nice spot to anchor, then the boats either side of us said we were too close, because they had so much chain out, because we were in for some heavy weather, we then went for a buoy, being wet and cold, I could not be bothered, plus I did not want another rough night. Had a lovely hot shower, played scrabble, which I lost, had dinner, then an early night was called for.

Oh boy, what a night, the wind, and the rain, but we were lovely and warm and safe on our buoy. For the first time in ages, we took breakfast down below, and wondered how we were going to get ashore with our dodgy dinghy, we reckon it is force 5 in the harbour, we are reading up to 44 knots on wind machine, plus we have white horses, never seen it quite like this. Glad we are nice and secure and do not need to go anywhere. Geoff sorting dinghy out, we are blowing my old one from ‘Annie’s Girl’ up, and going to tow the other one to the local dinghy hospital, when it stops blowing quite so hard. I am staying below and doing David’s room for him, plus trying my hand at making bread, in between doing the ironing. Geoff is having fun on deck, making a hoist for the dinghy, and then we are going to lower the engine. We decided to cancel lowering the engine, it was so windy, we were not going anywhere until it eases.

We had spare ribs, jacket potatoes for dinner, they were lovely. My bread turned out ok, so we had bread and jam for tea. I won at dominoes and rumicup, Geoff did not want to play, so he said he wasn’t giving it his best.

Up late, still blowing a lot, but not as bad as yesterday, management decision to stay on the buoy for another night, we put the engine on my old dinghy, and it nearly toppled backwards, it is too powerful for my little dinghy, so we reviewed the situation. We would use the big dinghy, go ashore, do all the jobs we need to do, then take the dinghy across to the hospital. Everything went fine, until the man looked at our dinghy, and said well I can mend it but you will be back again, it apparently is past it’s sell by date. Well we hummed and arred, then decided to sleep on it, we have two prices, one for repair, and the other to buy a new one. I know what Geoff wants to do!!!! Back on the boat, we got changed and ready, tonight we are celebrating, we have been together for four years on the 14/2, (seems a lot longer) but because Dave will be with us, we decided to have a quiet dinner together. We are off to Trappas, which is a lovely little restaurant, owned by a Scottish lady called Caroline, her attention to detail, is fantastic, and she deserves to have a good business. Shower, changed, on deck for rum cocktails, concocted by you know who, then into the dinghy for a fantastic dinner. I had mussel’s Geoff had Salmon to start, and we both had steak, a nice bottle of wine, finished with two puds. There goes our diets again, still we had a lovely evening.

We decided to come of the buoy today, and save ourselves 20$ a night, we had some breakfast, then moved, we thought we had found an ideal spot, but now we know why there was no boats there, we went aground. Fortunately we could see it was shallow, so we were able to get out of that one quite quickly, we then went further in, anchor down, no problems, I just hope it holds!!! Having decided to buy the new dinghy, we went over to negotiate a price, which we did, that will arrive next week. They have loaned us a dinghy at present, so we don’t have to row anywhere. Next was lunch, then going over to meet Dave, which we did, although he was a lot later than we estimated. We had a couple of beers, then back to the boat for dinner. Dave managed to stay up till 8.30pm which was not bad considering he had been up since 4am British time, which would have been midnight with us, so it was a long day for him.

Valentine’s Day, no sign of the red roses, perhaps they are coming later!!!! Did some jobs, went ashore, did the emails etc., then Geoff bought me back, and Dave and Geoff went to watch the rugby. I got dinner, made some more bread, washing etc., then the generator packed up. Then the rains came, and they did not stop. We had dinner down below, can’t remember doing that for a long time, then we got the scrabble out, Geoff and I were white washed by Dave, apparently he was taught years ago, and used to play a lot with his Mum and Dad, he knew every trick, we got thoroughly beaten. So we quickly came up with another game, that he had never played Rummicup, and it was a long time, before he started winning, we were both ok with that.

We had breakfast in the sunshine, the weather is improving, we were minding our own business, when suddenly the boat next door was almost on us, he was shouting abusive stuff at us, apparently we had anchored on top of his chain, so we quickly got organized, and pulled in the chain, he was not a happy teddy, still we got out of his way without any mishaps. Dave made us an amazing curry, so I might forgive him for the scrabble, we then went ashore . Later we went to Shirley Heights, taxi up there, had a few drinks, saw a lovely sunset, watched the steel band, then eventually Geoff decided he wanted a burger, so we all ate more than we needed to. Dave suggested we walked home, I thought it would be fun, which it was, Geoff was not impressed. The road was very dark, twisty and full of pot holes, and the taxi’s were driving very fast past us, still we are here to live another day. I feel better for it. Geoff has sore feet.

Up early, called the engineer for the generator, he was here within half an hour, very impressive, not sure how much it is going to cost, as he has to move the engine, to get at the impellar which is behind, obviously not well planned, hope it doesn’t cost too much. We have gone ashore to book me out and book Dave in, then an early lunch, then taxi to the airport. Dave is going to continue to do the log. So I will say goodbye to Antigua, I have really enjoyed my first half of the trip, not sure when we will be back here.

Logs now written by Dave Littlejohn

Monday 16th February
Christine departed about 3pm and and drove off into the distance bound for Antigua airport and a flight back to the UK leaving me the responsibility of writing the log. So that’s it…. no more witty repartee. Straight facts as I see them. After a tear strewn departure Geoff and I wandered over to the Mad Mongoose bar to catch up on e-mails and skype. Then over to Betty’s Caribbean food where we had a Chicken Roti (very nice meal like a large spicy pastie with soft pastry), followed by an ice-cream, a few beers and back to the boat. Geoff then tried to explain the nuances of crib to me and I was soundly thrashed a few times before heading to bed. I tell you being the cabin boy is a tough life out here…

Tuesday 17th February
Slow start to the morning, clear weather, beautiful day, and started the morning with a dip in Falmouth Bay swiming over to a sandbank covered in sea urchins. We had a leisurely breakfast on board and read books for bit before heading ashore to get the dinghy engine fixed. During the three hours ‘dey was tinkerin wid de enjin’, Geoff found a nice bar called the Captains Quater’s and I decided to head up signal hill, which overlooks Falmouth Harbour. After some rough scambling for about half an hour I came across a set of overgrown ruined defence walls surrounding the top of signal hill. There was also a huge water cistern which must have been 4m deep and about 10m by 10m, so it must have been a fairly important look out post. All the defences were completly overgrown and in years to come it will probably become another Shirley Heights, nicely developed with bars and steel bands. From the top you can clearly see the entrance to Falmouth Harbour and some impressive views across English Harbour to Shirley Heights. When we went back to the dinghy it had been fixed and now starts smoothly every time. We are now resupplying with gas bottles and fuel before returning to Anam Cara for Lasagne. I might convince Geoff to a game of scrabble.

Wednesday 18th February
Geoff had an appointment in St Johns for blood tests so we braved the local bus network to get there. We started off with plenty of space and by the time we got to St Johns we had grannies on our laps, but no chickens or goats. We struggled to find the blood test centre, and were eventually directed down this back alley off the main street. Past a dead rat! or maybe he was just sleeping off a hangover of rat bait. We were just about to turn back but the door opened and sure enough a very clean and clinical environment awaited Geoff’s blood. The service was very efficeint and clean. (Antigua has been a pleasant surpirse of efficiency, from dinghy engines, generators, to blood service…etc… is all very good and does what it says on the tin). After the blood tests, which are all clear, Geoff needed breakfast. We found a place near the docks which served an English fry up under the name of a Napoleon’s Breakfast. In spite of the name we risked and it and restored our cholesterol levels. As the day was declared a tourist day we wandered off to the Antigua museum. Apparently yesterday I was nowhere near Signal Hill, but actually scrambling around Fort George on Monks Hill. I hope I no not have to do any navigation on this trip – might be a bit embarassing. Geoff also found a barber, but I think Geoff should have had him under the trade descriptions law, as he came out scalped. I do not think we can risk going to the Artillery Barracks at Shirley Heights again in case Geoffs head gets loaded into a canon breech. Braving the bus again we went to Jolly Harbour, reviewed the real estate development, decided it was overpriced for poor sterling buyers and moved swiftly on, catching the bus network back to Falmouth Harbour.

Monday 23rd February
We were up early and banging at the door of Customs clearance so that we could be signed off Antigua only to be told they were open at 8:30am. So we had breakfast in English Harbour and noted the boats seemed to be all French and American – it seems British boats can’t afford the nice spots that Nelson chose years ago. We lifted anchor around 10:00am and had the jib fully out with the main a cautious third of the way up due to the squally weather. As we wanted to get to Deshaies in Guadeloupe before sunset and thanks to our late start courtesy of customs we had the motor on some of the way. At one point the wind went up to a Force 6 and we were on a comfortable beam reach the whole way, sometimes making 7 knots. Since Anam Cara’s chart plotter is being mended while Christine is in the UK, Geoff was taking manual fixes and plotting the course. After a days sailing we arrived at the waypoint into Deshaies at 17:20, and spot on with Geoff’s navigation!! It took us three attempts to anchor and some Frenchman was shouting abuse at us for being too close, probably because we had an English flag. There seems to be a fair bit of nationalism associated with sailing. After dinner we broke into the Sharpe’s Rifles DVD set.

Tuesday 24th February
We went ashore around 9am to find somewhere to register and met up with another couple trying to find the customs office. The customs office was closed. The car hire place was closed. So we went for a coffee and gleaned the following information. Someone had managed to hire a car but there was no fuel anywhere on the island and he had to use his own reserves off his yacht. Gradually we learnt that Guadeloupe has taken its French nationality to heart and was on strike. A few riots in the main town, and even a couple of deaths. No food in any of the stores and most of the shops were shut. We slurped our coffees fast and made haste back to the dinghy past the “Gawdloup Resitans” graffiti. We decided to continue sailing to the Les Saintes islands, still part of Guadeloupe, but far enough away from the mainland. We weighed anchor at 11:40. We unfurled the jib, staysail and little bit more main that yesterday, and at one point were sailing at 5knots purely on wind power. But as we came down Guadeloupe the wind veered more towards our bows and sailing became tougher. Even with the engine we only made around 4knots. Turning at the bottom of Guadeloupe towards Les Saintes Geoff was getting concerned we would not even make Les Saintes as the wind was 30degrees off the port bow and not enough to sail into. The engine was struggling against the current and an all night sail to Dominica might have been on the cards. With a couple of tacks we managed to get enough wind in our sails and still maintain course for Les Saintes. By sunset we were still 4 miles from harbour and struggling. Gradually we made it but the channel to Les Saintes harbour is tricky at night as the entrance is protected by a small rocky island. We managed to navigate our way past it and into the channel. It did not help that the harbour lights were not working. Eventually we found the harbour, anchored first time, and after pasta and rum punches headed to bed.

Wednesday 25th February
Les Saintes in the daylight is charming. It’s as if their planning officer may have actually studied aesthetics. The main street is quaint, with plenty of tourist shops and restaurants. After convincing Geoff we did not need to spend €20 each on a scooter, we found our way up a hill to Napoleon’s Fort. This is an amazing fortification with gun emplacements, magazines, 10m high walls, overlooking the strategic Les Saintes Harbour were the French Fleet were based in the Caribbean. On 12th April 1781 the French Fleet of 26ships with Grasse as admiral sailed just south of Les Saintes to encounter 34 English Ships led by Admirals Hood and Rodney. The English won. I wish I could write more but my French was not good enough to get any further information out of the carefully illustrated museum story boards. A couple of Iguanas had also decided to make the fort their home and dutifully posed for photos. We wandered back into town and had a fine lunch at one of the local restaurants. During the afternoon we took the dinghy over to Isle de Carbit, to watch some wind and kite surfers, and then over to Sugar Lump hill. There was some good snorkelling around the hill with some steep drops off and large shoals of fish taking advantage of the food chain. Just before sunset we stowed the dinghy on the yacht which sounds a lot easier that it is. Plenty of heaving outboard engines onboard and winching the dinghy onto the davits. The very same davits that were repaired in Antigua, but are still of dubious strength and not quite right for the job. I could have spent a lot more time exploring Les Saintes and Guadeloupe (if we had the chance) but we need to be in St Lucia by the 3rd March so its onward down the Leewards tomorrow.

Thursday 26th February
We sailed to Dominica from Les saintes with the wind just on the port side of the bow. We use the motor most of the way and made reasonable good time to get to Prince Rupert Bay by about 11am. As we neared the port a boat boy approached us on his motor boat while we were still some way out and offered to help us with whatever our needs on the island. Its a mild form of mugging that you have to put up with in order to ensure your boat is secure when it is anchored in the bay. We agreed for the boat boy, Alexis, to take us ashore as the dinghy assembling would have killed the afternoon. We were taken to the Purple Turtle restuarant on the beach, one of the few shacks along the beach and had a very fine Dominican meal of fish and chicken with casava and rice. We then managed to check in and out of customs at 2pm and had enough time to be taken to the Indian River nature reserve and mangrove swap. As no motorised engines are allowed you are rowed through some amazing root formations, and apparently it was the location for the film Pirates of the Caribbean III, for the scene when the heroes seek Calypso’s advice. We stopped at an eco-lodge, Dominica style, and had a very fine rum punch with fresh nutmeg, and a pina colada. Not exactlly that primitive when it comes to eating and drinking. We headed back to the boat for an early night as we had booked a parrot tour the following morning.

Friday 27th February
Alarm at 5:30!! Sure enough we were picked up by Alexis to be taken ashore, transferred to a minibus and driven about half an hour up into mountains. The highest peak in the north was Morne Diabolitin which is over 1400m and we were glad the minibus did the climbing for us. The nature trail was good but the guides information was fascinating as he explained all the different types of hardwood and their various uses, in house building, boat building and medicinal. One tree had its sign removed and its bark was hacked to pieces – the guide explained its bark had viagara like effects. . . We then wandered through a part of the forest that was being farmed. We had a chance to sample some of the fruits, cocoa beans (sucked they are very sweet), raw sugar cane, extremly juicy grapefruits, and collected spices such as nutmeg, cinnamon, basil, ginger. The tour ended at the Syndicate Waterfalls. As the river still provides fresh water for towns below, no littering or swimming is allowed in the river. We got back to the boat around 10am and set sail continuing on down the Domincan coast to Roseau Bay, which is the main port. We arrived around 4pm and had quick resupply run ashore.

Saturday 28th February
We weighed anchor around 7:30 and sailed to Marinique. We made good time and decided to push on to the the main town in Martinique called Fort de France. As we arrived we were amazed that there were only three boats anchored. As we had made it to Fort de France tomorrow would be spent looking around Martinique so we assembled the dinghy. Once ashore we found out that all the shops were shut and boarded up, which was odd for a Saturday afternoon. There was a very small market but the main town was worryingly quiet. On our way back to the boat we stopped at one of the other three boats anchored and the owner explained that Martinique was in the grip of riots, a curfew at 7pm, and he was only anchored in the bay as he had a business in town. Just after sunset we started to hear loudspeakers and rabble rousing crys from the town. We were thinkin of departing that night but with a 2.5m swell and a crew of two a night sail may have more dangreous than being anchored 200m offshore.

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