Banana boat from Antigua to UK
27 May 2017
One of the reasons for buying Deep Blue was that she has fabulous storage space. You can safely hide your belongings away, store lots of provisions, dedicate large lockers to certain items like ‘tool locker/cleaning products/spares’ etc and not notice just how much stuff you have. This has certainly proved to be the case as we sorted through our personal belongings when packing everything we wanted to keep into boxes to be shipped back to the UK.
Humping boxes from the boat, into the dinghy and then into a storage locker didn’t make sense in the Antiguan heat so we checked into Jolly Harbour Marina to do this, and then put the boat to bed, until her new owners arrive. After sorting, giving away and finally throwing away anything that wasn’t returning with us, we ended up with 35 boxes!
Shipping the boxes back has turned out to be a straight forward exercise. Internet research led us to Geest Line, who has been carrying cargo back and forth between Europe and the Caribbean for over 60 years. The origins of the service lie in the shipment of bananas eastbound. Instead of the ships returning in ballast, it provided the perfect opportunity for establishing a general cargo service carrying everything from small packages to large project machinery. Between their office in the UK and their agent here in Antigua, Francis Trading Ltd, they have guided us through the necessary paperwork which basically means putting together a Packing List of the numbered boxes which identifies what is inside and the value, providing copies of our passports and, for the UK side, completing an online Customs form.
Our two shipping options were putting the boxes onto one or two pallets or a 10ft x 8ft container. The difference in price was small (pallet US$1250 minimum charge or container US$1500) that we opted for a container and yesterday, after receiving confirmation that the Customs Warrant had been issued, we headed into the capital St. John to pick up the final paperwork and then to the port to load. Finding transportation of our boxes proved a bit tricky as they don’t seem to have ‘a man with a van’ or even hire vans like we do in the UK. However, our friend Barry, originally from the UK/USA, who now lives here, offered to provide the transport and so we packed his SUV and had to do two trips.
The port area is like a small city with people and machinery moving here, there and everywhere, lots of shouting and laughing, and a constant flow of trucks arriving and departing with goods. Docked in the port was a large ship being loaded with yachts on their way back to Europe. Many boats in Jolly Harbour Marina were getting ready to be loaded. This is a big operation and big business too.
Once our boxes had been signed off by Customs we were shown our container. A fork-lift truck moved our boxes from the loading area to the container on a pallet and would you believe it, one box fell just as the pallet was lowered to the floor – yes, of all the boxes, it was the only one containing crockery! It didn’t drop far so should be ok. Once everything was in, our belongings only just about covered the floor area of the container. With the doors closed and sealed our container will now await the arrival of the ship Klipper Stream in a couple of days’ time for the 10 day trip to Portsmouth.
We headed back to Deep Blue who now sits considerably higher in the water!
End of an era
21 May 2017
After 11 great years of ownership of and adventures with Deep Blue, we have decided that the time has come to get on with the others things on our bucket list before we become too old and decrepit!
We've had the best years of our lives exploring the Mediterranean and parts of North Africa, crossing the Atlantic Ocean to reach and visit the Caribbean. Through all of this, Deep Blue has looked after us perfectly and the three of us have had some great times together.
Deep Blue has provided us with memories to treasure forever and we are sure that she will do just the same for her new owners.
England vs West Indies - One day international cricket match
12 March 2017
Whilst in Antigua, we couldn't miss the opportunity to watch England and the West Indies play the opening match of a three match series.
It was the first cricket match that I had ever watched in my life and Chris's first international. A group of us headed off from Jolly Harbour marina to the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium where England's Barmy Army travelling fan club were already settling in to watch their idols.
Rain delayed the start of the match but once the rain clouds had passed over we had a blustery but sunny day ahead.
England batted first and scored just under 300 runs in 50 overs followed by the West Indies who, in the same amount of overs, were about 50 or 60 runs from England's total. So, England won the match. There was some powerful batting with several sixes, one of which resulted in the ball being lost as it was catapulted out of the stadium. Not bad for my first cricket match!
Half time entertainment was provided by local dancers showcasing Antigua's carnival celebrations and the many food stalls were in full BBQ mode with Chris sampling barbecued lobster.
It was a great day out and England went on to win all three matches of the series. Well done!
28 February 2017
Antigua is most famous for its international yacht racing and historic English Harbour. We managed to combine both watching the 2017 Super Yacht Challenge perched above English Harbour sat in the shade of the ruins of an old fort.
The waters around Antigua are shoal with plenty of reefs to catch sailors out but polarised sunglasses helped greatly. Watching the depths drop to just a few metres, still quite a way from our anchorage, made for heart in your mouth stuff until we got used to it. We draw 2m and had never anchored in just 2.5m before! We had been advised to check in to the country in Jolly Harbour on the west coast, as it was simple and straightforward there, and these were wise words. After a great re-provisioning at the Epicurean supermarket, we headed round to the south of the island and anchored in Falmouth Harbour, next door to English Harbour.
Wow, were we in grand company! Super and mega yachts of all shapes and sizes glittered along the pontoons by day and provided a light show by night, each one seemingly trying to out-do the next. We recognised the names of many yachts that we had only read about in magazines but it was a treat to see Kialoa III, a classic sailing boat from the '60's that Chris's brother Ben had skippered many years before.
Work began in English Harbour Dockyard in 1745 and was completed around 1789. It was Britain's main naval base in the Lesser Antilles, with Nelson stationed here in 1784, where he became Naval Commander. Today, the restored Georgian-era dockyard attracts many visitors and is best visited either when there are no cruise-ships in or around lunchtime, after the morning busloads of cruise-ship passengers have departed. There are plenty of story-boards around explaining the original function of each building and walking around you are transported back in time both by some classic yachts moored on the quay and by the hotels such as the Copper & Lumber Store, where afternoon tea on the lawn is a must. It was also here that the Atlantic Challenge rowers arrived to the sounds of boat horns being blasted around the harbour to herald each new arrival. Having seen the start of the 2016 race when in La Gomera, it was great to see the finish line of the 2017 race.
Falmouth Harbour was an ideal placed to be based; the holding was good, the white-sand Pigeon Beach was a dinghy-ride away and the Happy Hour at one of the many bars was the place to meet up with friends. It was also a great place to follow the trail behind Pigeon Beach and climb towards Fort Berkeley from where we had a panoramic viewing spot to watch some of the 3 days of racing during the Super Yacht Challenge. We'd seen some of the boats coming in and out of Falmouth to practise but to see them on the water together was a treat, especially the downwind leg when huge colourful spinnakers billowed in the skies. In complete contrast, the 2017 Wobbly Boat Race, a charity race to raise funds for the local Search & Rescue services, provided lots of laughs.
Whether a super yacht or cruiser, rich and famous or a liveaboard like us, English and Falmouth Harbours made us all feel welcome, sharing a part of British naval history.
Supermarket in Falmouth Harbour
Laundry in Falmouth Harbour or call Beverly's Laundry on 268 724 6563. 40EC$ for wash/dry/iron
Jackie's Kwik Stop restaurant, opposite Falmouth Harbour, serves Mexican food in the evening and local dishes. Inexpensive and good.
Cloggy's, upstairs at Yacht Club, with views of Falmouth. Good for lunch, for views. Reservations needed.
Budget Marine chandlery, left from Falmouth Harbour
ICE Ltd - English couple with communication and electronic business in English Harbour. Gave us free cabling to fix our VHF. Great service.
Cousteau Marine Park
23 January 2017
When we were growing up, Jacques Cousteau was the man who brought the world under the sea to TV screens across the world. On the west coast of Guadeloupe, at Pigeon Island, is the Cousteau Marine Park, where Jacques himself had declared the area of great importance and we just had to go there.
After a fantastic sail from Pointe a Pitre and an overnight at anchor at Basse-Terre, we arrived at Pigeon Island and dropped the anchor for a couple of days. Just snorkelling off the boat was great with turtles swimming around. Although we jumped out quick at one point as we were cleaning under the hull and what looked like a shark came over and nestled up against the keel. We took some photos and are now not so convinced that is was a shark but we don't know what it was either.
Next morning, before the day tripper boats arrived, we took the dinghy over to the marine park and tied to one of the boat buoys whilst we explored the area. As soon as we jumped in, we were in another world, and surrounded by lots of fish. Some were familiar to us but lots were new. The water was crystal clear and very calm which enabled us to see everything clearly.
Just like when we were in the Saintes, a shoal of Blue Tang's swam past but this time I had my camera ready and took a video of them. If I can ever work out how to put this on the blog, I will. It was wonderful.
Not only were the fish fantastic as they munched away looking for their breakfast, but the corals, sponges and plants there were mesmerising too.
Friends of ours had passed through there the previous week but with different weather, had had a completely different experience. If we hadn't stopped to get the fridge and other stuff fixed, we would have been there at the same time and would have missed out on a great experience.
No charge to go to marine park.
Anchor depths were much more than our chart indicated.
Leader Price & Carrefour supermarket next to the fisherman's tiny harbour, about ½ mile south of anchorage. Self-service laundry there too.
BOAT = Bring Out Another Thousand
22 January 2017
Anyone who read our blog of Martinique may recall that our fridge was playing up but we got it fixed there. Well, 3 weeks later, on Christmas Eve to be exact, it stopped working completely. We were in Dominica then, going to the Saintes and neither places had anyone who could diagnose or repair the fridge, so we kept it stocked with bags of ice-cubes, which worked very well, until we could get to Guadeloupe to sort it out.
We booked into the marina for 3 days in Pointe a Pitre as that was the easiest place for our fridge man to see us. Richard arrived, as promised, first thing Monday morning and by the afternoon, we had a completely working fridge again, which meant cold beers and gin & tonic – hurray!! Turned out that a connection had loosened and some gaskets needed replacing. The refrigerant was then taken out to make sure that there were no blockages anywhere and then replaced.
PP is a great place to get anything sorted for boats and Chris took the opportunity of replacing the starter motor battery. We washed the boat and got ready to leave. However, when going under the floorboards to get something, we found fresh water under there sloshing around (about 2 litres). Some boats do have systems that mean they have water under the floor but our boat doesn’t and so we had to find the leak. We traced it back to the hot water heater/storage but to mend if meant getting it out and this involved Chris doing a Houdini act to get into a very small space, turn upside down and get the tank out. The washer at the top of the tank had split and was letting water out, so we replaced it and put the tank back and turned it on. Straight away, the electric popped off. There was a short somewhere. More investigation proved that one of the heater elements had corroded the inside of the tank and so the tank had to come out again but this time could not be fixed. Thank goodness that the chandlers had a replacement that worked for the space that we had and so a new tank was purchased (600 euros later) and installed.
Together with jobs and then making the most of being tied to the land for shopping and laundry, we spent a week there and lots of euros!!!! So much for just a 3 night stop.
However, we did visit Pointe a Pitre which was just like being back in France but with a Caribbean twist. The central market was very colourful with the flower ladies stalls brimming with flowers and the fruit and vegetables piled high on tables. Strolling past the fish stall, a Yellow Fin tuna had just arrived and so we bought a steak each for dinner.
There is a very good holding anchorage just outside the marina from where you can dinghy into town or just sit and watch the happenings when the big container ships come into port to deliver or take on goods for other destinations. Huge cruise ships came in most days too and it did take a little getting used to, sitting in the cockpit watching these huge vessels of all shapes and sizes passing quite close by.
Marina Bas du Fort – 33 euros per night incl. water, elec and wifi (which hardly worked). On site laundry, post office, supermarket and several chandlers.
Fridge Doctor – Richard Dubois. firstname.lastname@example.org
Iles des Saintes, French West Indies
16 January 2017
With two reefs in both sails, we headed north for Iles des Saintes, a small group of French islands just 20 miles away. We had a great sail there and made for the only small town, Bourg des Saintes, on the largest island Terre d'en Haut, where we took a mooring close to the shore, as it was too deep to anchor there. Since the islands were never used for agriculture, no slaves were imported, and the local inhabitants are all there because they want to be, and we understand why.
Bourg des Saintes is a pretty town with a strong French feel. It is very popular with day-trippers from Guadeloupe who arrive on the many ferries that bring the tourism euros to the island to spend in the shops, restaurants and holiday activities. But the same ferries also take everyone away at the end of the day and quiet descends. We spent New Year Eve here with friends, Dave & Anna, enjoying a meal on the waterfront followed by music and dancing in a local bar. At midnight, we were treated to a great firework display as we popped the bubbly aboard Dave & Anna's boat, Apollo. We were very pleased to have arrived a couple of days before New Year because very quickly all available mooring buoys were taken and the only permissible anchoring area was exposed to wind and waves.
Mooring buoy 12-14.99m - 13 euros day/85 week/290 month Dec-May
Laundry 10 euros wash & dry
Lots of recycling but regular rubbish goes on street parallel to the main street
Make sure you have fuel and cooking gas before you arrive as it's not easy to get there
15 January 2017
Terre d’en Haut is small enough that you can get about on foot and we did quite a lot of walking and hiking. One such trip took us to Fort Napoleon, built in 1867, which stands on a hill overlooking the whole of the harbour. The fort has been very well restored and is now a museum and art gallery. Part of the museum is devoted to the famous battle of the Saintes, when England’s Admiral Rodney demolished the French fleet under the command of De Grasse in 1782. The surrounding gardens are well maintained and a walk around them gives commanding views across to Guadeloupe and Dominica.
Only open until midday. Get there early to avoid the crowds when the ferry arrives.
Baie de Pompierre
14 January 2017
This bay is on the windward side of Terre d’en Haut is protected by two rocky islands whose cliffs rise to about 130 feet. The horseshoe bay is surrounded by coconut trees and we can testify that the local goats love eating fresh coconut!
To get a different view of the bay, we decided to make our way over to the rocky islands which involved Chris balancing our bag on his head as we waded across the narrow gap between the bay and the islands. Just as the water got to chest height, the ground started to come up again and so we didn’t get a soaking. Most visitors stayed on the main beach but we had our own, private beach on the island where we had a picnic and did some snorkelling. We were both a little taken aback when a school of about 50 large Blue Tang’s swam by. I could have kicked myself for not having the camera with me. There were such a deep but bright blue with a yellow dot just in front of their tail fin.
Hike to Le Chameau
13 January 2017
The islands most spectacular view is from Le Chameau with an old Napoleonic lookout tower. From below, it looked very steep and high at about 1000 feet but the road up there was in very good condition and it took us about 50 minutes to reach the summit. The reward was indeed the view. We were above the height at which the small airplanes were descending to the tiny airstrip far below and Deep Blue looked like a pinprick in the harbour. The lookout tower was in need of some restoration but must have had an important job in its day with commanding views all around.
The island is full of well-marked walking and hiking trails and we noticed that one would take us down the front of the hill, through woodland and over rocks, so we decided to return that way. We were very pleased to have come down that way rather than have gone up that way, as it was much steeper and more of a direct descent. On the way, we were amazed to see a type of hermit crab living in the woodland, so high out of the water. They carried their shell homes on their backs as they scrambled about the leaves and tree roots. It was incredible to see.