Departing Tobago Cays, we sailed downwind a very short distance west to Union Island where a man named Janti built “Happy Island.” This is similar to the island off the Bitter End Yacht Club in the BVI’s called Saba Rock. Saba actually was a rock that was expanded dramatically, but HAPPY ISLAND did not exist before. Janti created the island by piling up conch shells on the reef. WHAT? Yes, he gathered up conch shells tossed away from the harvest of the conch. Next, he hauled and piled these shells up until he had enough area to build a small shade building. Eventually, this grew and grew and grew into what is now Happy Island with a complete house and bar with a dinghy dock, palm trees, picnic tables, and large speakers for party music. Happy Island is the place to stop on Union Island, it is right in the middle of the reef! Look at these photos over the years!
A walk around Union Island
In order to leave for Grenada, one must check out of the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. That requires a stop on Union Island at the Customs and Immigration offices at the airport or at the local town’s office building. The local office will charge an overtime fee if you request services over lunch or on a weekend. We stopped in at 1205 and decided to walk the town until early afternoon and spend the overtime fee on ice cream instead. Union Island is a busy little town with street vendors, gift shops, bakery, grocery store, banks, and a coffee and ice cream shop. Of course, we hit Gypsy Soul, the coffee and ice cream shop above the Captain Gourmet.
Union Island, the town of Clifton, is the home of all the hard-working people who run boats over to Tobago Cays. They sell bread, fish, jewelry, collect trash and they created a Beach BBQ for cruisers and charterers. The trip from Union is about 7 nm in small homemade wooden boats with outboards. Supporting these industrious people at their BBQ is well worth the $40 US, including transportation from your boat in their boats. The menu is a choice of chicken, fish, or ribs with vegetables, rice and bread served family style. They all work so hard to make it a special event for the cruising boaters. Then after running the Beach BBQ, they make the crossing across open ocean waters to Union Island late at night. Thank you CLIFTON, we will be back.
Where is Happy Island?
Zoom Into our Travel Map Here
Thank you for sailing along with us, we really enjoy sharing this adventure with our friends and family.
Tobago Cays, south of Bequia, is a National Marine Park managed and protected by the country of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Several islands surrounded by a large fringing reef make this a top sailing destination. Cruisers anchor behind the reef with nothing to the east except Africa. Behind the reef is a sandy bank only 10-20 feet deep. One of the islands has become a Green Turtle nesting area. The area is now fully protected. It is one place where you can easily swim with large sea turtles and watch and listen as they feed on the seagrass floor. We spent two nights and three days here and swam with turtles every day. It was the highlight of our trip south so far!
Photo Essay of Tobago Cays
We are living a DREAM
We wrote down this sailing goal in 1996. Now, in 2019, it has become a reality and it is better than expected. That makes it all even more special. In 1996, we said we would retire in 2011, and set sail, and we did. We are very happy with the outcome and reflect every day how fortunate we are to be here. Our hearts are full of gratitude!
Zoom into our LIVE tracking Map here
Also, when looking at the tracking map, switch the layer to AERIAL and you will see the reefs and the sandy beaches and the islands.
After two wonderful days in Marigot Bay on St. Lucia, we set sail for Bequia, passing St. Vincent. Sadly, many cruisers skip St. Vincent because of the bad experiences we all have had on that island. The only place we might stop is Blue Lagoon Marina on the south side, as for the other harbors, we sailed past. Bequia, the next island south, has Admiralty Harbor, a dream harbor where the boat boys do NOT bother you and the locals welcome you and want you to stop in. Every cruiser you meet down here LOVES Bequia, and so do we. It was a joy to sail back here for the first time since 1991 and see this great harbor doing so well.
Walking the town
The waterfront is well managed and is alive with all the businesses centered around the very active ferry dock. These ferry docks are where all the products arrive and where all the tourists arrive as well. So there are taxis, fruit stands, gift stands, banks and customs and immigration. On our first walk we went into the St. Mary’s Anglican Church from 1828.
The entire waterfront has a concrete seawall with a walkway designed and built to move the people along the harbor. Along this path, there are many dinghy docks for boaters to tie up and to enjoy a coffee shop or pizza shop or fine restaurant. What a great idea to help the boaters with a place to tie up and explore. This walkway is well over 1 1/2 miles long.
Great Restaurants on the harbor
Boaters LOVE pizza and ice cream and Mac’s is the place to stop in and enjoy a great meal. Of course, this was our first stop on night #1 in Bequia.
Grenadine Sails and Canvas, Chaps in a Day
As much as we thought we would never add chaps to the dinghy, we have watched our 2007 AB dinghy take a beating in the tropical sun. The fabric was starting to deteriorate and we felt that if we added the chaps as so many boaters do, then it should last two to three more years. So, we called Grenadine Sails and Canvas on VHF. They said to come in now and we will take the pattern on the beach. That was Friday and by Monday afternoon we had them installed.
Chaps are made differently here. Usually, they are designed to go over the rub rail but that will simply chafe thru as we hit docks and pilings. So these chaps stop above the rub rail and then holes are drilled in the rub rail to tie down the chaps. Interesting idea. At first I did not like it, but it really is a good way to make and install chaps.
Fruits and Veggies abound
There are no shortages of fruits and veggies down here. The bananas are to die for, with so many different kinds. There are passion fruit, mangos, grapefruits, oranges, papayas, and much more. The street vendors sell everything, and we do mean EVERYTHING!
Dinghy Docks abound
Bequia caters to the to cruising boaters and they are very smart to make their waterfront so friendly to the boaters. There must be 6 dinghy docks like this along the waterfront. Here is Whale Boners and Frangipani.
For Jan and Al
Our good friends sent us a picture of the two of them on these chairs when they cruised into here years ago, so we needed to send them our photo. Thank you, Jan and Al, wish you were here aboard Coral Moon, too.
The South End of the Bay
We anchored right off this area on the south end of the harbor. What a view from on shore at the beach pub named Jack’s.
Fun on the LaaDeeDah, 65 foot Grand Banks
We met up with Gary and Betty owners of the 65 foot LaaDeeDah Yacht, a beautiful Grand Banks 65 footer. They invited us over several times to enjoy their company and their wonderful yacht. Having a happy hour up on the third floor of a 65 footer is like nothing we all have ever experienced. WOW, the view is amazing. But better yet, Gary and Betty make us feel so welcome, with lively conversations. Betty is such a fantastic chef. From delicious appetizers with great cocktails to fine dining on the aft deck with comfortable deck chairs, these were evenings to remember. Thank you, Gary and Betty, what a joy! We look forward to seeing you next season!
The LaaDeeDah, 65 ft Grand Banks
Bequia is a JOY
With all the services and support and a wonderful harbor that is safe and secure along with a town that wants boaters to stay, this all makes Bequia a real joy. Many boaters will spend weeks and even months here and make it a home. We can really see why. We love Bequia….
See our Travel Map here
Zoom in and Zoom out to see our entire trip from Annapolis, MD (Sept 22 to here!)
During our taxi tour around St. Lucia, the driver stopped at beautiful Marigot Bay. In November 1991, we chartered a 50-foot Moorings bareboat there with our dear friends Freddie, Gail, Scott, Barley, Craig and Wendy and we have not been back since. When we arrived by cab and walked around the newly built resort, we knew we had to sail here and spend a day or two. So, we checked out of Rodney Bay Marina and headed south along the coast, an easy sail of just 10 miles. Traveling in the lee of these islands, we find winds from the North, South, and West and if we are lucky, maybe East. The winds in the lee are so unpredictable. To really sail, it is best to be miles off the island, out of the wind shadow, where the winds come back down to the sea, steady and easterly.
Look at this happy sailor girl Radeen inside the harbor at Marigot with the resort to our starboard bow and palm trees off our stern. Memories of being here in 1991 flood our minds and we reflect on how lucky we are to now have sailed into Marigot on our own little Island Packet 35. Thank you ISLAND SPIRIT, you got us here….
Let’s take a look around
Much has changed since 1991, and yet, some of the places were still easily recognizable. DOOLITTLE’S is the same and we remember a really good time here. with our dear friends. We felt so remote, so wild and so far from home. With a poorly equipped and poorly provisioned Moorings 51 footer, we sailed out and south to Tobago Cays and Union Island and up to St. Vincent. It felt as if we had sailed to the moon and back. Here is a photo of Doolittle’s and the place where the Moorings base was located. We stayed in the hillside villas.
What did they build?
The other side of the harbor, which was just a ferry dock to get across the cove to Doolittle’s now has a 5-star resort, called the Marigot Marina and Resort. WOW, 5 restaurants, bars, spas, rum caves, grocery stores, gift shops, and swimming pools that waterfall into each other with swim-up bars and sushi chefs. We were amazed at what they have built! This is also a destination wedding resort and the day before there was a wedding so we could see the fresh floral arches and other decorations. We love boating into these kinds of places where we can either anchor out or take a mooring ball for only $30/night. With a mooring ball here comes full access to the resort. NOW you are talking! So, we stayed for two days. 🙂
Radeen loves pools
Of course, Radeen hit the pool right away. She loves to swim and she loves to do laps. All Pisces love the water and Radeen is here to prove that. We nearly had the place to ourselves as May 7 is towards the end of the cruising season and the resort was moderately occupied.
Meanwhile, back on the boat
Sunsets from the boat were a dream through the palm trees off our stern. The winds are always EAST so the sunset is always off the stern in the Caribbean when at anchor. Our daily routine is to enjoy the sunset while sipping an icy cold drink when the sky presents the many colorful hues as night falls.
The next morning I swam around the boat and cleaned up the boot stripe and the thru hulls and then went for a walk on the beach. Living on a sailboat is so simple, so peaceful (when all systems are working) and so different than living in a home.
Reflect on Life
With this cruising lifestyle, one really takes time to reflect on life and to take in nature and the beauty of a sunset. It is such a joy to see a sunset drop over the horizon and then watch for another hour as the sky darkens and the colors change. We find the time after the sunset is actually better than the sunset itself. Take time to watch a sunset this way and you will enjoy a small piece of the sailing and cruising lifestyle. Thank you Marigo, St. Lucia, for this reflection.
After stocking up on French wine and delicious cheeses, we finally pulled up the anchor off lovely St. Anne, Martinique and sailed south to St. Lucia. We needed a slip where we could lower our wind turbine and troubleshoot the wire connections. On the north end of St. Lucia, there is the perfect place to dock and that is Rodney Bay Marina. This is the primary destination for the World ARC sailors as they arrive from Europe. We can now see why. Rodney Bay Marina is 5-star top notch IGY marina with 50 foot floating slips which worked perfectly for us.
First the sailing. Once again the sailing south was a joy. Beam reaching in 20 knots just like the last several legs south has been a dream. Here are a few photos….
Docked at Rodney Bay
We sailed into Rodney Bay Marina to access a dock, as we needed to look into an apparent wiring short in the wind turbine. Little did we know that this marina had floating docks and full-length finger piers of 50 feet. PERFECT for the job we needed to do. Our request to dock to starboard was easily accommodated. The dock hands were fantastic in assisting and everyone we met was so helpful and kind.
Lowering the wind turbine pole to the dock went smoothly. I designed the mount to do exactly this in the case we would ever need to access the machine. We unbolted the two down struts and loosened the bottom bracket so it would hinge. We have not taken it down this way before, so it was a new process and we were pleased with how well it all worked out.
Re-wire the Wind Turbine
Since arriving in Antigua, we have been troubleshooting the turbine shorting out. This short would only happen on a port tack at about 20-30 degrees off dead ahead. When shorted, the electromagnetic brake would come on and the turbine would power down. When back to straight ahead, the turbine worked fine. So we wanted to find this shorted wire and document this for the company, Jeff Fields at MarineBeam.
We removed the turbine off the pole, inspected all the wires and even cut the wires off, removing perfect crimps and heat shrink. We checked all internal wires, taking the turbine totally apart. I sent photos Jeff which showed nothing chafed or disconnected. We could not find any issues. We reassembled the unit and made new crimps and added new heat shrink and reinstalled the turbine. Now it is working just fine once again. How odd, we never found a problem, but we are glad it is back to normal operation once again.
While docked, Let’s Wax
With the wind turbine fixed and back up, we decided to spend a few days servicing the boat. We have not been at a dock since early March at Samana, Dominican Republic, and our boat was looking neglected. The constant exposure to salt and sun really takes a toll. The cabin top needed to be compounded and waxed, the stainless steel needed to be polished (again!) and the teak needed a service coat of varnish.
Hello, SHERMAN! Yes, we met up with a very nice local man who works around the marina as a subcontractor, like so many others. We really liked him. He offered to help us with any and all jobs. Let’s get to work! We hired him to compound and wax the cabin top and the cockpit and then clean and polish the stainless steel. With the front sunshade up, Sherman worked on wax and I worked on teak. Two days later the boat was back to her beautiful self, clean and waxed and looking great. We highly recommend Sherman at Rodney Bay Marina if you need any help.
We took a small tour
One of the boats we are running with is a 65 foot Grand Banks called the LaaDeeDah. Betty and Gary were docked at Rodney Bay and we enjoyed time together, including a great cocktail party on their beautiful yacht up on the third floor roof deck. WOW, what a view and what a yacht! Together we hired a taxi to show us a few sights. We toured Castries, Marigot and the beach at the Sandals resort in Rodney Bay. St. Lucia is very large and we only saw a small part of the island. The driver also took us to the large Massey Supermarket, which was like a Costco.
On a Saturday, we rode a local bus (a privately owned mini-van) to and from the Mall. The shoppers were a mix of locals and cruisers from nearby anchorages. On days when there are 5 cruise ships in port, it must be very busy!
Eventually, we Need to Move on
After a full week, (we had intended to stay 2-3 days) we really needed to break free of this dock and marina. It was not the rate, as it was a reasonable $0.75/ft x 35 feet is only $26.25 a day to dock! YES, that is a deal, and it was why we stayed a week and worked on cleaning up the boat. But there is so much more to see. On our taxi tour, we saw MARIGOT and we knew we had to go there by boat. So, we celebrated our completed work with a happy hour drink at one of the many pubs and cafes and made a plan to move on.
Onward to MARIGOT, St. Lucia
The last time we were in Marigot was November 1991, when we chartered a 50 ft mono-hull from the Moorings with friends Craig and Wendy, Scott and Barley and Freddie and Gail. Wait until you see what has been built at Marigot, St. Lucia now…..next post!
After spending only one night in Dominica, which we will fully explore next season, we sailed south to St. Pierre on the northwest corner of Martinique. This was known as the Paris of the Caribbean for its culture, theater, and refinement. It was destroyed on May 8, 1902, when Mt. Pelee erupted, killing the entire population of 30,000 people instantly. The only survivor was in a stone prison cell. Next year, we will explore the ruins and the museum.
Like so many Caribbean Islands, Martinique was charted by Columbus and has a colorful history from the Arawak and Caribe Indians to the British to the French. Columbus first charted this island in 1493 and later sailed back in here in 1502. He named the island Martinica after the sister island Dominica. It was not until the end of the Napoleonic Wars that Britain handed Martinique over to France. Interesting to note when slavery was abolished in 1848, many former slaves chose to fish and farm rather than work for their former masters. The plantations imported East Indian laborers in order to continue. Martinique remains a department of France and, as French citizens, the people may move to and from France freely.
The Island is divided into 4 main government sections. St. Pierre, Fort De France, Le Marin, La Trinite. After leaving St. Pierre, we anchored off the southeast point in the town of St. Anne and fell in love with the location. This could be our favorite harbor of the entire trip so far. It is a calm, easy anchorage in sand 10 – 20 feet deep, with a great dinghy dock, and a wonderful little French town. Here is a map of Martinique.
Our Anchorage view
The Town of St. Anne
Anchoring off St. Anne is a dream. We can see our anchor, the harbor has no swell, and the wind blows from the town out to sea. There were over 100 yachts on anchor here and we can see why. The French live well! At the dinghy dock is trash and recycle drop off bins plus a public area with a playground, park benches and a plaza under shade trees. The beautiful church is straight in from the dock. The coffee shop and bakery and grocery stores are just a block away. This is a great location!
Touring the Banana Plantation
We rented a car for two days from Theviein at Madinina Loc’Auto in downtown St. Anne. Excellent service! Our first stop was Habitation Belfort. While we rode a train through the fields, our guide narrated in French and English. We learned so much! A banana plant will produce one bunch per year. The banana weevil is controlled by putting out one dish of soapy water per acre. If more than 15 weevils are caught in 2 weeks, then more dishes are distributed. The bananas grown in Martinique and Guadeloupe are exported solely to France. This was a very fun tour with rolling hills and miles of vistas. Afterwards, we tasted banana chips, dried bananas and banana wine.
Touring the Rum Plantations
Our first rum distillery was Habitation Clement. With an excellent 2 hour self-guided audio tour, we saw the process of growing and harvesting sugar cane and processing it into varieties of rum. We were amazed to learn about the “Angel’s Share” which is 8% per year that is lost to evaporation. You could smell this in the air and warning signs of explosions were posted in the aging buildings! We took very deep breaths in there 🙂 We toured the airy and comfortable 100 year old plantation home in the middle of 160 acres overlooking the rolling hills. The next day, we toured the Trois Rivieres Rhum Plantation first established in 1660 and enjoyed their “rhum” even more. Martinique is very interesting and we have so much more to discover!
What makes Martinique so wonderful?
Martinique is charming and very clean. The schools and other public buildings are better maintained than what we have seen on the English Islands. The roads are amazing, with freshly painted lines and excellent signs. The busy four-lane highway leading to the capital of Fort de France has many traffic circles with no tolls and no red lights. And then there is the food, the cheese, yogurt, and the wine is totally Irresistible, not to mention the bakeries.
We will return to Martinique
My sailing buddy and dear friend Reuben would love the little ice cream parlors which are everywhere. These alone are worth sailing back to Martinique for, but we also know there is so much history to learn and so many more tours tp take and more wonderful anchorages to enjoy. One thing is for sure, we really like the French Islands and their way of life.
Sailing, Sailing, Sailing is amazing in the EASTERN CARIBBEAN SEA, as the winds are always blowing from 090 degrees (east) plus or minus 10 degrees and the course is 180 degrees (approximately) southbound. For the non-sailor, that means you are sailing on a beam reach with the winds blowing from the side of the boat. Sailors love beam reaching and even better, we love downwind. (But to sail downwind from here, we would have to point our bow towards Central America and Panama so for now, we will accept the next best sailing, beam reaching.) We are loving this! We paid the price to get here after 1,200+ nm from Florida bashing into the easterly trade winds. Now, take a look at this photo…
Departed Antigua for Guadeloupe
We departed Falmouth Harbour on April 16th setting sail for Guadeloupe, our first French Island. Falmouth Antigua to Deshaies Guadeloupe is a 42 nm run. sailing south on a beautiful beam reach. Radeen and I were smiling! Little did we know how much we would also love the French Islands. Pulling into Deshaies was a real joy seeing the cute and astonishingly clean little town spread along the water’s edge, with the church steeple straight in from the dinghy dock and of course, the bakery. The French love their coffee and baguettes and croissants and so do we!
IP 350 IVORY STAR
We were happy to see Island Packet 350 IVORY STAR owned by Bob and Margo, whom we had met in Farjardo. They love this little French town of Deshaies and they had a really cool anchoring spot right off the cliffs, great for snorkeling. Island Spirit hosted happy hour and we shared great stories. The Island Packet Fleet cruises and gets around; we see IP owners everywhere. Good times!
Iles de Saintes were calling
We wanted to stay weeks in Deshaies with Bob and Margo, but southbound we headed because “The Saintes” were calling. We had heard that Iles de Saintes is a favorite of so many people, including Pat and Eric of IP460 CUTTER LOOSE. Catching up with our buddies on Jeanneau 45 KINDRED SPIRIT was another goal. The run down the leeward side of Guadeloupe and then into open waters toward the Saintes is a 22 nm leg, very simple, very short. One would expect a calm, casual sail down the leeward side, but that does not happen. The mountains deflect the east trades up and over their peaks and then the wind comes from every direction, South, West, North, East, who knows. So after several auto-tacks and backwinding of sails, we stopped this silly game. After double reefing the main and furling the full jib and deploying the staysail, we added 2500 RPMs on the engine. Oh, we know this procedure well. At the bottom of Guadeloupe, the winds whipped around and accelerated to 25-30 knots as we left the lee of the island and pointed SE towards Iles de Saintes. Next thing we knew, we were all-out bashing into the winds again. The winds bend and change from East to Southeast on the bottom of this island, directly onto our bow. Here we go again, let’s get it done and let’s get to Iles de Saintes…
Ahhh, the Saintes are so interesting
Everyone is right about the Saintes being a wonderful place to visit. The island has very few cars and no fuel, only a ferry dock where visitors from Guadeloupe arrive daily. They walk off the ferry dock, stop at the bakery to pick up a baguette and have an espresso. Then they walk the town stopping in the various shops on their way to the beach. Some arrive with rollerboards and luggage walking to their simple rented rooms and apartments nearby. This ferry dock is the hub of activity on Iles de Saintes. We loved just hanging out there with our coffee in the am and watching the arrivals and departures of locals, plus many tourists from France and other countries. Our relaxing days were spent walking the town and hiking the hills, all the while Island Spirit was on a mooring ball in the harbor. Thanks to John and Darcy of KINDRED SPIRIT for guiding us to a choice ball.
After spending 5 days in Iles de Saintes, we headed south for another dream sail of 20+ nm on an easy beam reach. We sailed into Portsmouth, Dominica, which has mooring balls and a very well managed “boat boy” system called PAYS, Portsmouth Association for Yacht Services. BRILLIANT. Many boat vendors are part of this one organization. They have logos on their shirts and badges and they all work together. Now, this is the proper way to deal with yachts, instead of being harrassed by multiple, aggressive “boat boys.”
We arrived at noon on a holiday, Easter Monday, and the harbor was already one big booming party after another. WHAT FUN. Sadly for us, we had decided to Q flag here for only one night and move on in good weather. Next season, we plan to dedicate several weeks to this island. We know Dominica is not to be missed, but we needed to push on. We enjoyed the lively crowds from the boat well past midnight; these people know how to party!!
Why Leave Dominica?
….because the French Island of Martinique is calling! Yes, we have discovered that we really like the French Islands and we heard that Martinique is one of the best. So sadly we departed Dominica under Q-Flag without checking in and traveled down the lee shore towards open water. The island of Dominica looks so tropical and so lush, we cannot wait to discover it fully next season. Here are a few photos as we traveled south.
On to Martinique
Portsmouth Dominica to St. Pierre Martinique is about a 55 nm run. Look what we sailed into…..it truly looks like a stage set from the Broadway musical, “Les Miserables” ……more in our next post on Martinique! Here is a teaser photo 🙂
We arrived Antigua from St. Barth’s after an aggressive bashing into the wind and found Jolly Harbor to be a very large and blissfully calm anchorage. Lowering the dinghy I headed into Customs and Immigration where check-in is very efficient via their online E Sea Clear service. Yes, I could have prefilled out the information but I completed the information in the office. After all the paperwork was signed and the entrance fee was paid, we were free to enjoy the country.
This is a very nice place to sail into and there are many services in this harbor. The marina and fuel dock at Jolly Harbor Marina are really fantastic with a protected approach and full marine haulout. Danny, the yard manager will even take your propane tanks to town and fill them, returning them the next day. At the head of the harbor is THE CROWS NEST, the primary cruiser hang out and wonderful happy hour spot. Across the street is the large grocery store which has anything you need. You could easily re-provision here. We really enjoyed the calm harbor, non-rolling anchorage, and the Crows Nest. I can see coming back here for more time in the future.
Lets go to “Town”
We like boating into towns, so we decided to head up to St. Johns. the capital of Antigua. It was an easy 6 nm run and we motored right into town and dropped anchor off the cruise ship dock. We lowered the dinghy and motored in and could not find the dinghy dock. Well, this should have been our first clue. We tied up to a random dock, climbed up and off to town we went. Typical of all cruise ship towns there were the usual duty-free items and pubs and t-shirt shops and jewelry stores and more. Luckily, there was only had one cruise ship in port that day. As we walked around we could see that it would be a ghost town after the ship pulled out. We were beginning to question how safe it would be to stay here on anchor off this town. After ice cream in freshly made waffle cones, we decided that it was not that safe and that we would be far better back at Jolly Harbor. So, back out to the mothership, up anchor, roll out a jib and sail south. This is what we are looking forward to, the discovery of all these new places and where to go. We later heard that no cruisers sail to St. Johns. Well, now we know….
Onward to Falmouth
Safely back in Jolly we decided it was time to move on to the hub of Antigua, Falmouth and English Harbors. This was a simple trip around the SW corner of Antigua. As most will figure out, the East trades of 25 knots come whipping around the SW corner and so it is yet another beat into the winds and seas. Lucky for us this was only a two-hour trip and soon we were entering Falmouth harbor for our first time. Tall ships have been sailing into here since the 1600s and we can see why. The harbor entrance is to the north, the winds are from the east, and once inside, the harbor opens up to a large bay where we dropped the anchor.
Why Leave here?
We fell in love with Antigua now, as we began our discovery of the harbor side and the many services found here. The dinghy dock is at the head of the harbor along with coffee shops, pubs, chandleries, groceries stores and of course, the Antigua Yacht Club. This is our kind of harbor. It reminded me of what Annapolis Maryland must have been like 50 years ago. We could tell this was really going to be a fun place.
Across the street is “THE DOCKYARD”
What Dockyard? The one and only Nelson’s Dockyard where the British Fleet of the 1700 and 1800s serviced and managed their powerhouse of ships. Lord Nelson himself was here for 4 years. Today this is a World UNESCO site preserved forever and restored for all of us to enjoy. The most photographed placed is the PILLARS where the remains of the sail loft building of the 1800s still stands. On top of these pillars once stood a massive sail loft building where they would repair the sails of tall ships. The sails were rowed in via workboats under this building, between the pillars and then lifted up into the building overhead. The tall ships would be stationed out in the harbor. The remaining pillars are so interesting and very well preserved.
Today, Yacht Races and More
The month of April IS the month to be here as the Classic Yachts arrive for their races and then after that event, the Antigua Race Week kicks off the last week of April. Hundreds of yachts from around the world come here to participate in the race. We have been here a week already and the races start in another week and last for two more weeks, so we decided to return next season for Race Week. We will be sailing on to Guadeloupe and continuing south. We have 6 more weeks until haul out and so many more places to discover. The yachts here are massive, 100 to 150 feet seems average and 50 to 60 feet most common. Out little 35 footer feels likes a dinghy down here. But, we are proud to be here!
Boat Buddies Make it all MORE fun
While here at Antigua, we bumped into sv TEMERITY owned by Chris and Laura whom we meet years ago in the Exumas. They stored in Puerto Rico as well and were lucky to not take damages from IRMA or MARIA. Our first night here, we all headed up to SHIRLEY HEIGHTS for the Sunday Fun Day event. What a great time with good friends!
Denmark meets the United States
For many years, we have been following Judith and Haakon on sv TOUCHE, an Island Packet 380. Haakon is from Norway and Judith is from Denmark and they have sailed all over Norway, Scotland and even north to the island of Svalbard above the Arctic Circle. A few years ago, we hosted them on our boat at the Coconut Grove Sailing Center to give a presentation to the club about sailing to Svalbard. That same year, Judith presented at the Miami and Chicago Boatshows. In Dec 2018, they crossed the Atlantic and arrived in the Caribbean at Barbados. We departed Annapolis after the Boat Show and now we both have arrived at Antigua, with TOUCHE sailing north and ISLAND SPIRIT sailing south. We actually SHARED A HARBOR together! They are very serious sailors and we were honored to spend time with them.
We toured Nelson’s Dockyard and enjoyed meals and of course a few celebratory drinks together. We attended Shirley Heights on Thursday night for a good time, with rum punches, steel drum music and a raggae band. Now, they are sailing north to Annapolis where they will store the boat by end of May and we will sail south, storing in Grenada. We all will be at the Annapolis Boat Show together for our IPYOA Noon Lunches, so Judith and Haakon look forward to meeting many IP owners there.
Our final bottle of Bubbly
After three days of fun, we popped one more bottle of bubbly on sv TOUCHE and we shared our charts and navigation information for heading thru the Exumas and up the USA east coast. We are excited to see them in our home waters of the Chesapeake Bay this fall.
We depart tomorrow, Monday for a 45 nm beam reach south to Guadeloupe and then onto Iles de Saintes. The French Islands await. Our course finally is 180 (south) on a wind of 090 (east) so this should be a real JOY. Yes, the winds are 22-27 knots gusting 30 knots, but we will sail, finally. Oui Oui 🙂
With one last push Southeast from St. Barth’s to Antigua, we were excited to make this run. We waited in St. Barth’s until the winds were forecasted to be north of east giving us a better angle. When the forecast is “to the north of east” not “north east”, that means that it moves from 090 to 080, a ten-degree shift, that is all. This run calculated to be a course of 130 degrees. Place the winds at 080 and that would mean that the winds would be 50 degrees off our port bow. WOW, we should be able to sail into that. Here is a chart of this with 090 winds.
Off we go at 0200
With 13-14 hours to go, we decided to up anchor at 0200, or as sailors say “oh dark hundred” 🙂 ! Luckily, we were anchored near the edge of the channel with only two others anchored between us and the deep channel. Added to that, we had a tall ship lit up at the end of the channel. So it was an easy nighttime departure to reach deep water and to turn southeast onto our course.
Protection from St. Barth’s
As we started out, the island provided a really nice wind shadow and a very calm sea. This lasted about an hour and by 0330 we were passed the protection and into the full force of the east tradewinds. The sea state was the problem that we did not expect, it was 4 feet at 5 seconds! If you know the ocean, then you will read that a 5 second interval is a very uncomfortable sea. The forecast was for 4-5 feet, 8-9 seconds. That we can do, but this 5-second sea was tough. Here we were again leaping off of waves, bashing the anchors into waves, our bow light illuminating underwater and then highlighting the spray, with bow waves coming over the windward port bow into the windshield and over the roof. We have seen this several times from Miami to the Caribbean Sea. Daybreak came and once again we had saltwater covering our entire boat!
Do we divert or push on?
As the sun came up, we started looking at the time and distance and we were worried that we would not make Jolly Harbor by sunset. Should we divert downwind over to St. Kitts? Should we push on and enter at night? These debates were thoroughly discussed as we bashed onward. Fortunately, we have a fantastic engine remanufactured by Alfred Holtzer which Radeen and I installed ourselves. We call this “Yannie New” for Yanmar New and he never complains. We have so much faith in this engine. So we decided to bash onward into the sea. You may wonder why we are not under full sail? The winds were 090 to 095, NOT 080, placing them 45 degrees off the port bow. Add forward speed and the apparent wind is then 30 degrees off the port bow, so yes, maybe a J-35 could have sailed this. but not an IP as they like 50 off the bow at best for upwind sailing. Add in 4-5 foot seas at a 5 second interval and the boat would be beating under sail alone at about 3 knots. So, it was “Yannie New” to the rescue…
Great Motor Sailing Photos
Our sail set was a full 110% jib sheeted close hauled and staysail in winds of 17-20 knots. With 2500 rpms on the engine , the boat was doing over 6.5 knots. In a sea state of 4 foot waves at 5 seconds, the bow was crashing into and thru the seas, due to the 20,000 lb boat going nearly 7 knots. At this speed, heeled over with a better waterline, the boat CAN power through these difficult seas without rounding up. This provided for some great video on the GoPro and some GoPro photos.
The sea NEVER looks like it really is in a photo or in video. These photos look so calm, the sea looks like a lake, and the waves look like 1 to 2 feet. I don’t know why that is, but it is true. The above photos look so calm, yet look at our bow waves. Interesting. If you know boating and if you have watched the waves pass your cockpit then this next photo should show our speed and sea state.
Antigua rises over our bow
What a joy it was to call our “LAND HO” and to see our destination, Antigua, rising over the bow. Yes, we still had 5+ hours to go, but it was very exciting to see our destination. On this run, we had 3 squalls when the rains came and the winds built to 27 knots. Like Captain Ron says: ” They come up on you fast and they leave you fast!” and so they did. Our digital radar with our guard zone set alerted us well in advance to these squalls. Plus we ran our autopilot on wind vane steering so as the wind shifts the boat will maintain the same wind angle. (Most autopilots will steer to wind. Learn how to set up yours to do that; we use it anytime the sails are up.)
Drop Anchor 1530 Jolly Harbor
We arrived Jolly Harbor, our first destination on Antigua, and threaded our way between over 60 other boats, dropping the anchor near the head of the harbor. We were thrilled to have an anchorage that was NOT rolling and was calm, our first since Culebra. We were excited to discover this new port. We rested here and will spend a few days exploring this area and St. John’s, the capital, too. Welcome to Antigua, Island Spirit, a place we have never been before. Thank you, Yannie New 🙂
After the delivery of our school supplies to Jost Van Dyke Primary School, we had a weather window opening which caused us to depart BVIs after only being there 6 hours! No one goes to the BVIs for 6 hours, but that is what we did. This was very frustrating because it took away time we wanted to spend with the school and Ms. Blyden. But, when calm weather windows open and when you are trying to push east into the tradewinds, you go when they open. So, it was a rush back to St. Thomas to pick up our new Google Fi phones that Jenna shipped to us. We also received the shade fabric, Coolaroo, that we will use to cover the boat in Grenada. Everything arrived on time. Thanks to our great friend at home who manages our mail. Jenna is amazing!
Off to St. Barth’s
It took about 2 hours on shore side WiFi to get our phones working and as soon as we had them connected to our Google Fi accounts, we lifted anchor and headed to sea around 1700 hours, departing with the cruise ships. We decided to skip St. Maarten since we have been there 4 times and we are trying to push east. So, St. Barth’s was another 15 nm east and that became our target. Look at the sea state, it was like a lake and we had a beautiful night at sea.
St. Barths’s is a very special place
Well known to the rich and famous, many of whom own homes here or send their mega yacht teams to back up the quay here, St. Barthelemy is special. We departed St. Thomas at 1700 and we sailed / motored into St. Barth’s at 1400. We anchored deep into the harbor to try and get away from the roll, but even that did not help. The harbor is very rolly with the boat rolling side to side nonstop. Even in the inner harbor, the mega yachts are rolling side to side and surging fore and aft off the quay and tugging on their anchors set in the middle of the harbor. I can not imagine many will stay long. Remember, this was in calm weather patterns; if a north swell is running this harbor must be really difficult to tolerate.
That said, the town is so lovely with businesses and homes built up the steep hillside. It is a hike up to the shops on the third or fourth street off the harbor. After 4 streets the hill is too steep to develop and that is it. The cars are all tiny, like smart cars and Fiats, the pickup trucks are small and even the concrete trucks are small because the roads are so narrow and very steep. Here, small cars and scooters are the mode of transportation. People so calm here. Everyone greets each other first with a hello and how are you? Then they chat a little bit and then deal with business. Very nice to see.
Here is a photo essay of St. Barthelemy
After only 2 days, we moved on…
We only stayed two days because we are pushing to get east to Antigua and then sail south down the windward islands to Grenada. So, at 0200, we lifted the anchor and headed out the harbor past this anchored tall ship, Sea Cloud II…
Off to Antigua…
The 75 nm run to Antigua was aggressive as the winds came up, but that will be the next blog post. Thank you all for sailing along….
Live Tracking Map here
Remember, you can always see where we are via this live Garmin Inreach tracking map. Plus you can zoom into an area and study the routes and times and speeds we have run. We find maps very interesting. Enjoy…