British Virgin Islands

Saturday the 19th of March at a dark hour of 5 am, we lifted the Anchor from the French side of ST martin and took a bearing across on our full day passage to Virgin Gorda, 80 miles Westward. I DID eventually get out of my jammies.

We enjoyed our coffee until the dawn broke and we were able to raise the sails on a broad reach with 15 knots of wind. The forecast was good for the day and we were expecting no change.

By later morning, we were able to drop the white sails and put of the colorful downwind sail, heading DDW to our destination. It was a textbook sail. Perfect wind conditions, good seas, with only a 4-6 foot swell running, and perfect sky conditions reflecting the crystal clear blue tropical waters.

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The day got even better when ZIIIIINNNGGG on the Starboard Rod holding the purple tinselly Lure that Darren picked out!!!! All hands on deck! While Colin and Darren maneuvered the rod and fish, we held that boat steady and dropped the speed as best we could. He was monster Dorado on the hook! The biggest one we have seen. With Gaff in hand, and the fish at the back of the swim step, one shake of its massive body and POOF! It dropped the hook. We do; however, have footage of this so its not “just a fish that got away” story. We really did see it,.. she/he was huge…. So out the rod goes again.

See the YouTube Video here on our Channel The One that Got Away

About 30 mins later ZIIIINNNGGG on the rod again. The same rod! Obviously they were liking the lure color. Darren fought the fish for about 15 minutes before Colin and he landed it. And to our amazement and surprise it was a 6 foot MARLIN! Landed, safe, secured, we celebrated this catch. Niether of us had ever caught one before, and it gave a fabulous fight.
[caption id="attachment_629" align="aligncenter" width="3216"]Marlin Madness Marlin Madness

About an hour later, ZIIINNNGG on the rod, AGAIN! Cols rod this time with a pink lure. When he got in the 20 pound dorado, we decided that was enough fishing for the day. Our freezer is only so big!

Cols dorado
Cols dorado

So with two fish onboard, one that got away, and a few hours before sunset, we dropped the sail, and motored our way thru the north passage of Virgin Gorda to Gorda Sound. I guess there is no need to tell you what we had for dinner… for the next week. The sashimi off that marlin was FANTASTIC!

Marlin Dinner
Marlin Dinner

We spent a few days in Gorda Sound before heading south to Savannah bay on the western shore of Virgin Gorda for an evening just off a sandy beach. In the morning we headed to Trellis Bay on Beef Island for the famous Full Moon Party. Yachts cram into the bay by the hundreds for the monthly event, and anchoring spots are hard to come by, so getting there a day early was our plan.

The community of Trellis Bay is a fun combination of restaurants entertainment, artists and local crafters. The Full Moon party should not be missed If you are in the area. Giant iron fireballs and burning man are lit right on the waters edge, while giant dancing mocko jumbies ( stilt dancers) come out for the celebration. It’s an evening worthy of the hangover the next day.

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It was a slower start the next morning when we left for the main harbor of Road town. We needed to get a few things completed, and reprovision our veggie stock, so to the city we went. Road Town is an odd little city. We had a hard time finding the center of town, supermarkets and such. Its seems really spread out. Sort of like Parksville. We did have lunch at a great Food truck just behind Village Cay Marina, though. $12 for more food than you could eat, ribs, chicken, macaroni pie, stewed fish ( yes Darren had fish!!). We completed our business, and headed to Norman Island, and The Bight for a few days, where we would be safe from the 20 knot wind that was forecasted to hang around for a few days.
We will enjoy some snorkeling, beaching general maintenance, office work, watching the general debauchery, and sunshine while we wait out the wind so we can get to the dive sites we have been looking forward to.
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Score Carding the activity
Score Carding the activity

St Maarten and Pam’s Arrival

We had an excellent passage up to St Maarten with wind starting just aft of the beam at about 15 knots. It developed a bit more while underway and we had to keep a reef in. When we decided to take in a second reef due to the building wind and sea conditions…. One of the blocks broke not allowing us to tack down the front of the sail under the second reef. The choice then was; reef one, or reef 3??? We chose reef three, and a full jib, and continued on a close reach to Philipsburg in St Marten, where we could fix the block.
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All was well again after sending Colin up the mast to fix the broken lazy jack pulley. Just as we got him to the spreader, the rain started pelting!!!
Just another day in the saddle

Entering Simpson Bay Lagoon in St Marten is interesting as you have to wait for the swing bridge to open, which allows traffic one way or another on each hour for only just a few minutes. You have to be in the queue or you don’t get thru, and they close it shortly after the last boat, with not a lot of room to spare.

Simpson Bay Lagoon Swing Bridge

Although St Maarten is only 7 miles in each direction, it is perhaps the best know holiday destination in the Leewards. It’s blessed with superb white sand beaches backed by scenic hills. Casinos, condos, cruise ships; yachting and shopping are the main industries here. St Maarten is French on the northern half and Dutch on the southern half. Our purpose here in St Maarten, was to wait for Pam to join us, collect a bit of parts and do some provisioning. We were lucky to see some of the Volvo Ocean Race boats here while we were here. Team Brunel was not far from behind us.
Team Brunel Volvo Race boat Behind Darren

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Wednesday came soon and we ventured over to Maho beach and the sunset Grill to wait on the famous beach that is at the end of the runway. People line up behind the jets to feel their take off power, and watch overhead as planes land just above the reach of your fingertips (it seems). I saw in the crystal clear water while watching Pam’s plane land just a bit ahead of schedule.
See our YouTube Channel Video here
ST Maarten Beach

We have now checked out the country and are waiting for a bit of provision to be done, a bit of shopping for pam and I today and tomorrow, enjoy some French pastries on the other side later this evening before heading to BVIs Saturday morning.

St Kitts- And The Elusive Fish!

FISH!!! NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE!!!!
Finally our bad luck has broken. Two Barracuda and a nice sized Dorado!

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The 10 hour passage to St Kitts was mostly downwind, in an 8-10 foot swell. This Island group is locally know as the Islands that Brush the Clouds, as each one of them reach skyward and are topped with a ring of cloud forest. Stunning to look at.

St Kitts has a dramatically steep central mountain range rising to 3750 feet, which of much of it is covered in rainforest. Apparently in the heights of the land live thousands of green vervet monkeys. The Caribs called St Kitts Liamuiga whch means fertile island. We can believe it as it is very green. Columbus renamed the Island after his patron saint, and nowadays it is known either as St Christopher or just St Kitts.

The Dorado in a white wine Basil cream sauce was excellent for dinner… Finally.

7 am came early and we motored out of St Kitts for our day long passage to St Maarten.

Antigua- Wind, Seas and Shrouds

Deshaies in Guadeloupe is known for its blustery winds all night due to the way the winds form and drive over the mountains, and it proved to be correct for us. At 0130 in the wee hours of the morning, the anchor bridle broke with a BIG SNAP; it is the “sponge” that takes the load off the anchor roller and chain which makes a horrible sound all night in the wind and swell without it. So a necessary fix was due in the rain and wind. Thanks guys.

Deshaies, Guadeloupe
Deshaies, Guadeloupe

At 0700 we lifted the anchor for our 45 nm passage to Antigua. Winds were expected at 20-28 knots, and a 10-12 foot swell, so a double reef was put in the main, and off we went into a close reach from the Starboard side.

It was about three hours into the crossing when we heard a LOUD SNAP and all the sudden noticed a frantically swinging shroud on the leeward side of the boat. This is bad. A shroud is one of the cables that holds the mast upright from the sides. With a 12 foot waves and 28 knots of wind, it was very difficult to contain the piece of wire with a large metal end whipping around the boat. I guess you can imagine that we don’t have any action pictures of this. We quickly headed up into the wind, and took the sails down to ease the pressure off the mast. A fix underway was not possible in the sea conditions, so we motored the remainder of the 25 miles we had left to go to Antigua.

The sea was rough, the swell was large, and we had to have our foulie gear on. The cockpit of FMD sits about 14 feet above the waterline, and we were taking waves over the boat on the odd bigger one. We should have had our snorkel gear on. We did not catch any fish….. we did try….
Tropical Sailing???

We arrived in Antigua at English harbor at our scheduled time, albeit wet and salty. The entire boat was covered in a layer of sea salt. We should have bottled it. Commencement of boat chores began. Fixing shrouds was the priority.

This IS the superyacht Capital of the Caribbean. Many HUGE boats are lined up along the quay here, with their crews polishing and tidying all day long.

Nelsons Dockyard in English Harbour sits side by side with Falmouth Harbour and they both meet the requirements for being easily defensible, easily accessible to trade winds, and be protected enough to during hurricanes. Their potential was realized in 1745 when work was begun on the Dockyard. It was completed in 1789 and it stands today in much the same condition after its excellent refurbishment in 1949 into a beautiful yet functional monument. It was Britain’s main naval station in the Lesser Antilles. Lord Nelson was stationed here to replace Sir Richard Hughes, who blinded himself while chasing a cockroach a fork. Nelsons Dockyard has been named in deference to Britains favorite hero.

The next morning we took a spontaneous visit to St Johns, when we found we had to venture into the city to get a new Digicel card for our router. It cost us 3 dollars each to take the bus into ST Johns and it was a lovely way to spend the day.

We found RUM for $10 a litre! We looked at the three large cruise ships, walked the streets and checked out the museum. There is quite a history on this island with native Caribs, British and French. Antigua is a major Caribbean yachting center now and tourism drives the countries economy.

Shirley Heights was our destination for the evening for its fabulous view and breathtaking sunsets. It is a restored Lookout and Gunn Battery for the British Navy due to its excellent 360 degree scenic landscapes. The RUM punches were only $5 EC ( $2.50 CDN or $AUS)

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Steel drums fort shirley

Bright and early, and a little bit groggy… we left Antigua for our passage to St Maarten, via St Kitts.
Leaving Antigua at Dawn

Guadeloupe

Guadeloupe is known by the Caribs as Karukera; the island of pretty waters, has a population of 330,000 people and belongs to France. Tourism, sugar cane and Rum are the main industries. As in France, shopping hours are from 8-noon and 1500-1730, with a two to three hour break in the afternoon. EVERYTHING closes in the afternoon. Its hard to get used to. One place there is in EVERY town is a local market. This I like.

Market Spices
Market Spices

market
market

Flowers at the Market

Besides the delightful time we spent in The Saints, Guadeloupe is unremarkable. It would not be a place we would set a destination to visit, the downtown Point a Pitre is dirty and busy, its typically French. Besides the chocolate croissants and beautiful baguettes, I was not that impressed.

Point de Pitre

The best thing we found so far in Guadeloupe is that you can buy RUM in a 5 Liter box!!!
Darren and 5 L Rum

We moved from the city of PP to a little delightful island for the night, beautiful white sand beach and Darren and I snorkeld in 2 meters of water for about a quarter mile to the little island for a beer.

The small town of Deshaies, on the Northern West shore was a delightful little town, with charm and character, where we did our check out of Guadeloupe to make our passage to Antigua.

Deshaies
Deshaies

We did have a delightful anchorage and fantastic dive on our way northward at Pigeon Island off the western coast of Guadeloupe. Pigeon Island is a Jacques Cousteau National Park. We had a 45 minute dive for our first dive on FMD in crystal clear waters full of fish, rocks, coral of all types, and tons of sea creatures. It was a fantastic dive, follow this link to see the footage.

Guadeloupe Sunset

Tomorrow morning we leave for Antigua to make our way northward. Pam is scheduled to join us about the 15th, and we need to get to St Marten to greet her. It will be nice to have another woman on board.

The Sainte’s

After a 4 hour motor north, as the wind was just not favorable for us to sail, we arrived in the lovely island group called The Saintes, belonging to Guadeloupe. It’s a charming, picturesque island village, full of one-way streets only big enough for golf cars and scooters, of which there are many.

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Friday morning we ventured into town before the hustle of the ferry which brings day-trippers from neighboring Guadeloupe. We rented scooters, and off we went to discover this little colorful island.

First stop was Fort Napoleon. Built in 1867, it stands high upon the hill and has a commanding view of the harbor and southward to Dominica. Is been marvelously restored. Inside, the museum holds early furniture and a section on famous battle of the Sainte’s, when England’s Admiral Rodney demolished the French fleet under De Grasse in 1782.
Fort Napoleon

Fort Napoleon

Fort Napoleon

There are beaches on this island to suit any desire, from soft sandy calm clear to roaring swell and surf. They are all within scooter distance, and you could visit many in a day.
Sainte’s Beach

We had an excellent snorkel after our morning day trip on both a reef and a submerged Ferry. The water was clear and warm.
We moved our anchorage over behind the delightful headland, met another Aussie boat, from the same port as Colin, and had a peaceful evening in a smooth anchorage, before getting ready in the morning to head north to the main island, Guadeloupe.
Saints Sunset

Dominica

Departing Martinique at the crack of noon, we set off for the 30-something nautical miles north for the Island of Dominica. It was on this passage that Darren got his first look at sea for 360 degrees. No land in sight. With a horizon of 15 miles, it was in between both that we lost sight of Martinique, but not yet had visual of Dominica. It’s a lovely sight to not see land everywhere you look.

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We approached Dominica and its awe inspiring mountains with a reef in the mainsail and a full jib under 20 knots of wind until we hit the lee of the island. The wind dropped at 5:00 and we carefully calculated our arrival just a bit further up the coast, missing out the capital of Roseau. Colin had been there before, and it offered nothing of what we were looking for.

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So we timed our arrival for a small bay off the abandoned Castaways Beach Hotel, and approached just after dark. Its sort of policy not to arrive anywhere after dark as there are fishing floats and nets everywhere. And it’s a good policy, one that we will stick to more definitely in the future.

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After cutting the lines off to the best of our ability, we managed to get the anchor dropped in the dark, and in the morning Colin went under to check for damage. There was only the rope, nothing more, this time we were lucky.

Morning arrived and we travelled the 8 more miles to Portsmouth Bay.
This was the most casual, unofficial Customs office I have ever seen in my life. It was in a building that was thru a fence, and another fence, behind a workshop, and not even marked.

Port Captain Portsmouth
Port Captain Portsmouth

If Christopher Columbus came back today, Dominica would be the only island he may recognize. It is the Caribbean’s most unspoiled county and its most exciting destination for spectacular natural beauty. Dominica is full of lush vegetation, greenery erupts everywhere, and the whole land is covered in a verdant tangle of trees, vines, shrubs and ferns. The land is known for its many rivers due to the high mountains attracting clouds creating the frequent showers we encountered, interspersed with sunshine and warmth, creating many rainforests.

Dominica’s population is about 70,000 inhabitants who have a natural curiosity about outsiders and enjoy meeting and assisting cruisers like us. Many of the local men have formed a group called PAYS- Professional Association of Yacht Services, who help yachties with anything they need; organizing of local tours, customs clearance, mooring balls, provisioning,- whatever a yachtie may need.

Tuesday afternoon after our anchoring and customs clearance, we took a hike up to Fort Shirley. It’s an old British Fort dating from the 18th century with a great museum. It has recently been refurbished and would make a wonderful backdrop for weddings or large parties, and rents out as such. There are ruins in the forest behind the refurbished Fort where you can see the history in the civilization of the 19th century. It was really cool.

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Wednesday morning Darren and I went with Andrew of the PAYS group up the Indian River to the sight of Pirates of the Caribbean 2, Witches house and “Carib”s small house in the movie.

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We saw many ginger and cinnamon trees, mangroves and the most crooked roots on the trees. Many Greenback Herons, hummingbirds, many finches, land crabs and fish survive in this jungle environment.

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The Indian River is a protected environment, and the guide has to paddle the boat up the current, as motors are not permitted. He told us of his daily encounters with Johnny Depp, Orlando and Keira as he was one of the boat captains who took them up the river daily.

Wednesday evening, we took advantage of the PAYS BBQ. At $50 EC/pp ( $25 Cdn/AUS) it was a good deal for a fabulous chicken dinner and all the rum punch you could handle. It was a great place to talk with the locals and meet fellow cruisers either heading north or South. Its put on Every Sunday definately, and Wednesdays when you can talk the organization into it. With more than 20 boats in the bay, I guess they were convinced to have, what looked like, a sell out event.

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We don’t have many pictures of this, as someone didn’t put the camera card back in the camera before she left the boat. Ooops.
Thursday morning, we groggily left the bay and headed northward to The Saintes, a small resort area belonging to Guadeloupe, 16 miles to our northward.

Next issue; The Saintes and Guadeloupe.