Heading south: Windward Islands
04 June 2017
Photo: Weight out, Martinique.
Our last night in Portsmouth, Dominica, a localised storm appeared and not long after we went to bed we were awoken with flashlights and to the sound of horns. Several boats had dragged their anchors, and one its mooring, and were heading out of the bay. It appeared the local PAYS guy had spotted the boats and was organising to get them re-anchored. After a short period of time all was under control and we returned to bed. We were up and away by 05:45 the following morning and headed down to St Pierre, Martinique 53nm away. The trip down was the usual of no wind behind Dominica, we then sailed across to Martinique with the highest wind speed of 30 knots, eventually motor sailing the last 7nm with little wind into St Pierre, where we anchored and Brian took the dinghy into town to clear in.
There is nothing at St Pierre and Brian commented the town looked pretty ordinary, so Saturday morning we sailed 16nm and anchored in Grand Anse D’Arlet. D’Arlet was a small holiday spot with a few cafes and holiday homes on the beach. The cliffs at the entrance to the bay were a popular dive spot, we saw several dive boats on our way in and others leave the anchorage. Apart from one boat that came in after dark with no lights on and decided he wanted to anchor close to shore, it was a quiet night.
Sunday we motored around to the Cul de Sac at St Annes. Whilst there we went and said goodbye to John and Kerry “Lurata” who were heading off to the ABC islands and onto Panama. We have enjoyed their company over the last 5 months and will catch up again when both yachts are back in NZ. Brian also used the calm waters to touch up some of the varnish spots that had deteriorated faster than the main parts which will be done down in Grenada, as our plans have changed and we will leave Dol in Spice Island, Grenada and not Trinidad as originally planned.
Tuesday 16th we sailed the 25nm across to Rodney Bay Marina, St Lucia. We did not want to suffer the Rodney Bay roll again and it will give us the opportunity to get some canvas work modified, wash the boat and fully charge the batteries. Oh and run the air conditioner as the humidity has certainly increased in the last week or so.
Two days later we filled the diesel tanks with duty free fuel and headed out of Rodney bay, motor sailing 8nm down to Marigot Bay where we picked up a mooring. We hadn’t visited Marigot on our way north so it was a new place for us. Marigot Harbour is an interesting place, the outer harbour has moorings and room to anchor either side of the channel, the inner harbour is moorings and a marina with an up market resort and facilities. Covered in the mooring fee, US$30 you can use all the facilities of the resort, we had to check out the Rum Cave. The harbour is a busy place with an eco-resort and several restaurants and cafes. Water taxis run constantly taking people from one side of the harbour to the other, as it is bordered by mangroves and there is no track around. All the staff we came into contact with were very friendly and helpful. We went ashore and walked the Ridge Trail to the lookout for great views across St Lucia. In the evening an outdoor movie was set up dockside, not sure what the movie was as we were just too far away.
05:30 the following morning we were motoring out of the bay for the 63nm trip to Admiralty Bay, Bequia. The trip was largely uneventful, we managed to sail over half of it and motor sail the rest. In the channel between St Lucia and St Vincent we experienced a couple of heavy rain squalls that had wind of 34 knots. We also saw a couple of water spouts from whales, they did not surface fully so we could not tell the type of whales. We had the anchor down in Bequia at 15:00, completing the loop as this was our first anchorage after we came across from Barbados in January. After Brian had cleared in with Customs, he snorkelled the anchor to make sure it was buried, he saw a couple of really nice eagle rays under the boat. We spent the weekend at Bequia, relaxing and enjoying swims and a couple of walks in town. After dark it was amusing to watch people motoring around the anchorage in their dinghies trying to locate their boats.
Monday we headed off and sailed to Canouan Island 20nms away, spotting two very nice large turtles on the way, but decided it did not look the most attractive anchorage, there were no other boats there, so we carried on another 5nms and anchored at Petit Bateau, Tobago Cays, having navigated our way through the reefs. A very pretty spot, there is a strong current and some water movement but not unpleasant. Tobago Cays is a national park and the ranger came alongside to collect the $10EC per person for the night. Tobago Cays is an area of uninhabited sandy cays and reefs, the area is not large and with the strong easterly winds we had, 18-24knots, the larger anchorage was not tenable. On the largest of the cays there is a lobster bbq and small stalls. We could see why the place is a mecca for kite surfers, with the year round constant trade winds they are guaranteed winds and plenty of room. It was best to swim from the beach as the current in the anchorage meant that you hung onto the boat or had fins on, one yachtie has reported the current at 2 knots. We were happy to visit the Cays in the low season, it would be crowded in high season. It would have been better if we had less wind, calmer days would have been ideal to snorkel the reefs and the turtle watching area. After a broken night’s sleep, we motored out of the Cays and around to Saline Bay, Mayreau Island, for morning tea. The bay is large and open with a sandy beach, although the wind was blowing the anchorage was quite calm. We stopped for morning tea watching the local fisherman casting their nets. On the way into the bay we almost went too close to two of their fish spotters who were snorkelling looking for fish, unfortunately they were towing clear plastic bottles not flags so were very difficult to see.
After morning tea we left the bay and motored across to Chatham Bay, Union Island. The bay again is large with a sandy beach and high hills, so there were a few gusts, but the holding is good in sand.
The bay has several bbq places ashore, one more up market than the rest, there were also lots of turtles coming up for air, making the snorkel interesting along with the shoals of fish. After a quiet night we motored around to Clifton Harbour to clear out. Clifton is a lot busier anchorage, most boats anchor behind the reef or take a mooring closer in the harbour. Again there were several kite surfers enjoying the flat water and winds behind the reefs.
Once we cleared out it was a pleasant sail with only the headsail down to Carriacou Island, Grenada, our last country for the season. We anchored in Tyrrel Bay in 5ms of water, with plenty of other yachts many we have seen during our trip south, all heading down to be below the hurricane lattitudes by 1 June. We took the dinghy into the dock and cleared in at Customs and Immigration, then went for a walk along the beach to the mini market. On the way back we stopped at the Slipway Restaurant and were happy to give a donation to the Carriacou Children’s Education Fund in return for the password to their Wi-Fi which we could access from the boat.
Thursday 25th May we left Tyrrel Bay at 06:30 and sailed down to the bottom of Grenada Island, 33nms away, careful to ensure we stayed outside the exclusion zone for Kick’em Jenny, an underwater volcano that last erupted in 1989. The volcano lies in almost a direct line between Carriacou and Grenada and you certainly do not want to be on top of it when it blows. We had the anchor down in Prickly Bay, Grenada at 12:40, this is the last anchorage for us, as we leave the Dol in Spice Island marina for the hurricane season and we will head back to NZ for a break. Time to start all the jobs that need doing to prepare for leaving Dol for an extended period of time.
Friday 2nd June, 09:00, we were at the travel lift and Dol was lifted out of the water, power washed and placed on the hydraulic transfer “truck” and taken to her allocated place in the yard. The cradle was then constructed and the tie downs put in place. Although this is below the official hurricane lattitudes, every precaution is taken. We decided not to stay on the boat in the yard and moved into Cool Runnings Apartments for 3 nights while we did the jobs.
It has been a long season but an enjoyable one. We have travelled over 6000nm from Licata in Sicily out of the Mediterranean, down to Morocco, Canary Island and then across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. Time for a break at home.
Heading south: Leeward Islands
11 May 2017
Photo: Salt Plage, St Kitts
On our final evening in Virgin Gorda we had drinks on Max and Shannon’s catamaran with Emily and Stephan. We had last seen Max and Shannon in Antigua. Both of them had just arrived in the Virgin Islands so we had an information sharing session. Part way through we noticed a laser sailor in difficulties close to the reef, Brian and Max took the dinghy across to see if he was OK and ended up towing him into Bitter End Yacht Club, he was very grateful with a ripped sail and strong head winds.
At first light Friday 21st April, 05:30, we motor sailed out through the reef and continued to motor sail for 82nm dropping the anchor at 17:30 in Simpson Bay, St Maarten. Simpson Bay is on the Dutch side of St Maarten and therefore the spelling of the island is different from the French side. As we said previously St Maarten is basically a large workshop for boats with everything the boatie needs to service and maintain their yacht/launch. We had a minor issue with the invertor which once the electrician started to look at it, turned into a larger problem. Basically it appears the invertor had been installed incorrectly in Turkey.
Wednesday 27th April we walked around to Mayo Beach, at the end of the runway at Princess Julianna airport. Standing on the beach the jets and smaller planes come right in over your head to land and take off. The blast from the jets on take-off give you a free dermabrasion, blast you off your feet or down the beach into the water. It is like a giant sandstorm. The roar of the jets coming in over your head is deafening, logic tells you they will not hit you but they are so close the illusion is they will.
All day Thursday we had the electrician on board re-wiring the invertor the way it should have initially been installed. That is now complete, although the issue with the damage it has done to the invertor will continue for a while. We cleared out of St Maarten and on Saturday morning after a final trip to the chandleries, we said good bye to Wayne and Ally “Blue Heeler” and motor sailed 14nm, anchoring in Colombier Bay, St Barts.
St Barts as an island has more rocky outcrops and small islets than any other Caribbean island we have visited. Brian took the dinghy around to Gustavia to clear in and then it was a quiet day on board. Sunday we went ashore and had a very nice walk following a small track around the cliffs to Flamands. The town/village was very quiet, we even saw a couple of tortoises wandering down the streets. As we walked along the track we saw what looked to be a small boat regatta tacking along the south of the island. As we arrived back at the boat, the same boats, with committee boat, came into the bay and rafted together. It appeared to be some sort of regatta, the boats were all the same type, each flying the flag of a different Caribbean nation. The bay was a lot quieter when they left around 15:00.
The wind whilst in St Barts has been a constant 15-20 knots, gusty at times. Monday, Brian again took the dinghy around to Gustavia to clear out in preparation for sailing to St Kitts (Christopher) on Tuesday. It was a quiet night except for a yacht that decided to drop its mooring and anchor at 01:15 in the morning. Lots of shouting and flashlights.
Tuesday 2nd May, we had the anchor up and were on our way out of the bay at 06:45 and with a great broad reach sail in 15 – 25 knot easterly we had the anchor down in Basseterre, St Kitts & Nevis at 13:15. St Kitts looks to be a typical volcanic island with a cone and lush green hills, all the housing and villages look to be around the edge. The highest point of the island is 3,750ft which may have accounted for the wind being very gusty along the coastline. The anchorage outside the marina was very industrial as Brian took the dinghy into the marina to clear in. Once Brian returned, we moved down to re-anchor in White House Bay, a more picturesque bay. We found out Wednesday morning why the island is so green, we had several hours of intense rain which then cleared to a lovely, sunny day.
White House is close to the Christophe Harbour development, an upmarket marina, housing, hotel and shopping development which when completed will take up the entire peninsular. We took the dinghy into the marina for a look and a walk around, it is in the early stages of the development and looks very upmarket and it would be interesting to see it in 10 years’ time. Wednesday evening we went ashore to the Salt Plage bar in White House bay, part of the Christophe development. What a lovely surprise, from the boat it looked like a couple of ram shackled sheds with chairs out front. The buildings are constructed of corrugated iron, but by design, the seating is a mix of standard white plastic tables and chairs, booths overlooking the water, nets over the water and seating on the end of the dock. All very nicely done, with the palm trees and lighting it has a very nice atmosphere, the food, although a limited selection, was also good.
Thursday mid-morning we picked up the anchor and sailed 6nm to Nevis, picking up a mooring buoy off Pinney’s Beach. The mooring is part of the clearance fee, there is no anchoring inside the moorings only a fair way out. Again Nevis is a volcanic island, smaller than St Kitts but just as lush and green.
We were up early on Friday 5th with the intention of going 35nm to Monserrat, however as we passed the island at 11:20 we decided to carry on to Deshaies, Guadalupe. Sailing past Monserrat we saw the devastation on the south of the island from the volcanic eruption in 1997. We could smell the sulphur from the smoke billowing from the volcano crater and the old ash and lava flows down to the sea. As we continued along the coast we had a large pod of dolphins for company, the first we had seen in a long time. We had managed to sail as far as Monserrat, but from then onto Guadalupe the wind angle was too tight and we had to motor sail in 15-23 knots of wind and lumpy seas. We eventually had the anchor down in Deshaies at 17:20 after a long day.
Deshaies is known to be an anchorage that has lots of gusty winds and rain, luckily most of it overnight. It lived up to its reputation, the boat is nice and clean, clear of salt water and more than a few boats dragged their anchors when the gusts hit. This is one aspect of cruising we will not miss, having to be vigilant every day/night for boats moving around in the dark and strong winds. The sunsets are very different, the green flash can be seen most nights on the clear horizon, we even saw one that lasted a bit longer than usual.
Monday we motor sailed down the island and across to Iles des Saintes and picked up a mooring. Tuesday we went into town and walked up the hill to Fort Napoléon, built in 1867. The fort has been restored and although it is now more of a museum with exhibits than a fort, it was worth the hike up the hill, the views of the islands and across to Guadalupe were great. Once back down the hill, we walked through the town, cleared out in preparation for heading to Dominica on Wednesday then went back to the boat for a quiet afternoon. Late afternoon we decided to go for a snorkel around the bay, it was one of the better snorkels we have had in the Caribbean. There was a good variety of soft and hard corals and fish of all shapes and sizes, at one point we must have gone over the starfish suburb as we have never seen so many in one place, some quite large.
Wednesday morning we dropped the mooring lines and sailed 20nm across to Portsmouth, Dominica, picking up a mooring at 11:20. Albert, one of the PAYS guys assisted us, gave us information on the area and agreed to take us on the Indian River trip tomorrow. Albert picked us up from the boat at 08:30 Thursday and we headed off up the Indian River, after stopping to purchase our Sight tickets, US$5. The Indian River is a heritage site and no motors are allowed, therefore Albert switched to the oars and off we went. The river is largely untouched, with this being the off season it was quiet, only a couple of other tour boats, we would not like to do the trip in the height of the season. Drifting along we could hear the birds, see the wild life and enjoy the peace of the river. The trip took about two and a half hours, it was hot and humid and you really felt like you were in the tropics.
Our plan is to head down to Martinique on Friday, the start of the Windward Islands, as the winds look comparatively light.
Return to British Virgin Islands
20 April 2017
Photo: Fuel dock Marina Cay.
After clearing in, we motored around to Green Cay and took the dinghy ashore at Diamond Cay to walk around to the Bubble Pool. On the way we again saw lots of signs warning not to touch the Manchineel tree, which is poisonous or even deadly. We had seen similar signs on St John as we were walking across to Coral Bay and were very careful not to grab a tree if we slipped, not being entirely comfortable we could identify the Manchineel tree. The Bubble Pool is a natural pool surrounded by large rocks with a small gap out into the ocean. The waves roll in through the gap and over the rocks creating a bubble effect. There was not a large swell running but we could see how in a larger swell it would be exciting. After the walk we went over to Green Cay for a look but decided not to snorkel, it was very busy. After our last experience at Green Cay where it became very rolly overnight, we decided to lift the anchor and motor around to Benures Bay, Norman Island.
Once again Benures Bay was peaceful, we spent the evening and following morning watching the fish and pelicans feeding close to the boat. Good Friday we motored around to Manchineel Bay, Cooper Island and picked up a mooring buoy. This is not normally our sort of bay, but for one night it was entertaining. When we arrived just after 09:00, about half of the 30 mooring buoys were vacant, by 10:00 they were all occupied and during the day we watched boats racing other boats for a buoy if one came free or motored around waiting till someone left. After a short walk ashore we took the dinghy over to Cistern Point for a snorkel, this was the best snorkel we have had in the Virgin Islands. There were plenty of fish, including a school of about 40 or more dark blue fish with iridescent aqua blue tails, eagle ray and plenty of coral, both fan and hard, including some colourful ones. Late in the afternoon the race for available moorings stopped and the bay quietened down. We went ashore for dinner, lucky we had booked earlier as the restaurant was very busy even in the shoulder season. The meal was very good and the atmosphere pleasant and relaxing.
Saturday we dropped the mooring and motored across to Maya Cove, Buck Island, Tortola. From there we took the dinghy over the shoals into East End Bay essentially to get Wi-Fi for the weather and some provisions. Being unable to get Wi-Fi we took the provisions back to the boat and then dinghied into Maya Cove marina. Whilst there we took the opportunity to look around the Marine Max 443 power cat, the marina is the BVI charter base. Thank you Joe, Joan and James for the guided tour, information on boat performance and handling and also for all their end of holiday unwanted provisions you gave us. Still no Wi-Fi, it was back to the boat and a motor around to Trellis Bay and picked up a mooring buoy for an hour for lunch and Wi-Fi. All done we dropped the mooring and motored across to Marina Cay and anchored for the night.
Marina Cay is home to the Pussers Co Store and restaurant. We took the dinghy ashore for a walk, noticing the English red telephone box next to the fuel dock, followed by a quiet night at anchor. Sunday 16th April, we motored across to Spanish Town and picked up a mooring. Moored behind us was a catamaran, The Larrikin, flying a Kiwi flag, as we left the Dol in the dinghy to visit The Baths, we went over and introduced ourselves. Bill and Barb will basically be doing the same trip as us over the next 18mths as we both make our way back to NZ, so we swapped cards and agreed to keep in touch.
The Baths are eroded granite rocks with the sea washing between them creating rock pools with interesting shafts of light coming between the rocks. We left the dinghy at the dinghy line and swam ashore, with Brian keeping the dry bag above water. Once ashore there is a trail that winds its way through the labyrinth of rock formations, ducking beneath rocks into caverns where the pools have been created. As someone else said, “no photograph can do them justice”. We were really happy to have seen this natural phenomenon.
As there was a little too much water movement at the Spanish Town moorings for us and with the wind and swell predicted to increase in the next 24-36hrs, we dropped the mooring and motored around to Gorda Sound and anchored in peaceful water. We stayed in Gorda Sound for several days catching up on the household chores and checking the weather. Lurata arrived Tuesday so it was catch up time again. A weather window with some lighter NE’s was in the forecast, the best we could hope for to get back to St Martin. We cleared out of the BVI’s at Gun Creek ready to depart early Friday morning.
US Virgin Islands
17 April 2017
Photo: Turtle, Christmas Cove
After clearing out of the BVI’s we motored to Lind Point, just outside Cruz Bay, St John, US Virgin Islands and picked up a mooring buoy. There is a 3hr anchor area inside Cruz Bay for boats checking in but it is usually very busy. We jumped in the dinghy and headed into Cruz Bay to clear in. After filling in the appropriate forms we were called forward to see the officials. His main concern was the type of visa we had for entering the US. As we had an ESTA and were arriving in a private boat, the ESTA had to be activated by first arriving in the US via commercial transport, luckily for us as we had returned from NZ via Houston and were OK, many boats are refused entry and have to return to the BVI’s, leave their boat and get a ferry across to clear in, activate the ESTA, return to the BVI’s, before returning and clearing the boat in. That all seems ridiculous but they are the rules.
All sorted, we headed off to the supermarket for groceries, went to National Park office for the rules and regulations when anchoring or picking up a mooring, then returned to the Dol, dropped the mooring buoy and went to the fuel dock to refuel. It was then back to the boat for lunch and finally motored 2nm and anchored in Christmas Cove, St James Island for the night, with drinks on Lurata.
Sitting on the boat in Christmas Cove we saw lots of large turtles surfacing next to us, great to see. In the bay was Pizza Pi, a small yacht that served pizza and snacks between 11:00 and 18:00 each day. The pizzas were 16 inch and although not cheap, were very nice. Lurata left Christmas Cove on Saturday and headed for St Thomas, hopefully we will catch up with them before they leave for Panama. We decided to go for a snorkel around the small island in the bay, again the coral was OK, plenty of brain coral and some fan coral, plenty of fish but we did not see the eagle ray that John and Kerry had seen the previous day. Back to the boat and time to change anchorage.
We motored down St John’s and picked up a National Park mooring buoy in Francis Bay, looking forward to some walks ashore in the coming days. The moorings are US$26per night and free during the day, you pay at a floating pay station in the bay. Motoring down we again experienced choppy seas in the passages between the islands and negotiated our way through a set of yellow buoys marking a reef.
Sunday we were up early and off ashore for a walk. We walked around to the Annaberg Sugar Plantation ruins, along the beach at Leinster Bay and around the Francis Bay Trail through the mangroves and back to the beach, great to do some walking. The next day was a quiet day, the first day of rain and clouds we have seen for a while.
Tuesday we took the garbage ashore, paid the mooring fee and motored 2nm around to Leinster Bay. Watermelon Cay was crowded with day boats and snorkelers, which calmed down around lunch time. We took the opportunity, grabbed our snorkel gear and headed over. We would have to say it was pretty ordinary, we saw one large turtle, an eagle ray and some fish, not a lot of coral. Talking to someone who visits often, we must have picked the wrong day, they reckoned it is normally like an aquarium. There was another Kiwi boat in the bay, turned out to be a couple of guys who had bought the boat in Spain and were sailing it home, heading for the Panama next week. Wednesday we decided to walk the John Hora Trail over to Coral Bay. The trail was steep in some places, got the heart rate going, stopping for a look at Murphy’s Great house ruins on the way. Coral Bay was a quiet village, we had morning tea, visited the local market and then walked back across the hill to Leinster Bay. Time for a swim and a quiet afternoon and evening.
With Easter Friday the following day, we left Leinster Bay early and motored over to Grand Harbour, Joost Van Dyke, BVI’s too clear in. We really enjoyed our week in the US Virgin Islands, it is a good cruising area.
British Virgin Islands
17 April 2017
We had the anchor up and were away from Marigot Bay at 05:00 for the 80nm sail to Virgin Gouda, British Virgin Islands. As it turned out we had to motor sail the whole way as the predicted forecast did not eventuate. Not long after we left the cross bar on the davits broke, it appears the bolt connecting it has sheared. Brian braced the davits with rope and we continued. We finally dropped the anchor off Prickly Pear Island, Virgin Gouda at 16:15.
The following morning we fixed the davits and cleared into the BVI’s, where our immigration status allows us to stay a maximum of 30 days. From Customs we took the dingy around to Leverick Bay, a small bay with a resort that has a couple of cafes, beach bar, laundromat, grocery store and a Pussers clothing store. Pussers is a BVI brand of clothing and rum which no doubt Brian will sample whilst we are here. Having cleared our emails and checked the price of diesel we went back to the Dol for a relaxing afternoon and swim. Saba Rock and Bitter End are a couple of bays within Gorda Sound that have cafes, shops, water sports and fuel. We went for an exploratory walk around, had lunch at the Crawl Pub and stopped to let what looked like an Iguana walk across the path in front of us. The afternoon entertainment was watching a boat doing anchoring practice, they must have anchored about 6 or 7 times before leaving the bay.
Wednesday 29th, we woke up, looked at the weather and decided if we were going to visit Anegada, a coral island 11nms away, today was the day. So it was breakfast and we were off, motor sailing, arriving in time for morning tea. It’s nice to be cruising again. With Gail on the bow, we followed the markers through the coral and anchored with 0.4m under the keel at Settling Point to the sound of a steel band. The anchorage was definitely a catamaran anchorage, we counted 38 catamarans and only 4 monohulls, talk about being outnumbered. It was a beautiful and peaceful spot.
Anegada is a coral island that has extensive reefs around it, one of the reefs extends 10 miles out. The local water taxi guys will take you on a tour of snorkelling and fishing spots. Talking to one of the girls in the Anegada Reef Hotel complex she thought there were about 2-300 permanent residents on the island, “we all know and look out for each other”. The people we met were all very helpful and friendly. The following day we went ashore for a walk to the Flamingo Ponds, and have to say we could see a cluster of pink in the distance but would have needed the Hubble telescope to see them. Still we enjoyed the walk. That evening we went ashore for dinner at the resort and had the specialty of the house, lobster cooked on the bbq, (the bbq’s were steel drums cut in half) sitting at a table on the beach, very nice.
Friday we had casually arranged to meet Lurata in Trellis Bay, Tortola. We made our way out through the markers and had a very pleasant 20nm sail arriving and picking up a mooring buoy in Trellis Bay at midday, just behind Lurata. Trellis Bay is a bay crowded with mooring buoys, and at the end of Tortola’s airport runway, which is very busy with small jets, prop planes and private jets. They are known to have a good full moon party which is a couple of weeks away. The bay is very yachtie friendly with cafes, small market and laundromat. In the evening we went ashore with John, Kerry and Davin for dinner at the Loose Mongoose, a very pleasant evening sharing tales of our adventures since we last saw them in Barbados.
Saturday we put the headsail out and tootled, looking at various bays on the way before anchoring in 13m at Green Cay, Little Joost Van Dyke. This feels like the cruising we do at home around the Bay of Islands and Great Barrier, although here the water is the true Caribbean turquoise. Unfortunately a ground swell developed overnight making the anchorage a little too rolly for us, so we never got to snorkel the cay or take the walk to the Bubble Pool, will have to save that for another day. We left the bay and motored around various anchorages for 2 hours, including through the Tortola Race Week fleet, before dropping the anchor in Benures Bay, Norman Island. A delightful, quiet bay with no swell and no facilities. We took the dinghy around to The Bight, the main anchorage on Norman Island. It has a small resort and a couple of restaurants, there is also a restored steel schooner that is now a restaurant and party venue. From there we went around the corner to Treasure Point and the caves for a snorkel, there were plenty of small colourful fish but the coral was bland. We decided not to go out to Pelican Island and the Indians, about 1nm away, which again were meant to have good snorkelling.
Wednesday we took the dinghy ashore and walked across to the Bight for lunch. The track was well marked across the ridge line, it probably took us 25 -30 minutes to reach the Bight or the Pirates Bight as it is known. Whilst having lunch we noticed Lurata leaving the bay and when we walked back to Benures Bay they were anchored in the bay. We had drinks on board the Dol and decided to head for the US Virgin Islands the following day.
Thursday 6th April we upped anchor just before 08:30 and motored across to Sopers Hole, Tortola to clear out of the BVI’s. Sopers Hole is the closest point to the US Virgin Islands and was very busy, we managed to find a mooring and Brian went ashore to clear out.
St Barthelemy, St Martins
17 April 2017
Photo: Lagoon bridge entrance, French side
We were up and away from Five Island Harbour, Antigua by 06:00 and motor sailed 73nm to Anse du Colombier St Barts, saying hi to Blue Heeler on the way as they were anchored in Gustavia, too bouncy for us. The Gustavia anchorage, the main town, had many mooring buoys and a large number of super yachts of all vintages, anchored out. Colombier Bay used to be owned by the Rockefellers and is now part of the National Park. There are mooring buoys to protect the sea grass and turtles, which having paid your 2 euro per person park fee, you can pick up or you can anchor in the middle of the bay. We only planned to stop overnight so we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and relaxed for the evening. It was interesting seeing the coloured lights boats put on after dark, gone are the plain white or blue underwater lights, the catamaran next to us had blue changing to green underwater lights and purple lights in the cockpit and lighting it’s mast.
Wednesday 22nd March we left Colombier Bay and had a good wing on wing sail in 20 knots to St Martins. St Martins island is half French and half Dutch, the latter being the side where you anchor alongside the runway and get the spectacular photos of the planes in the background. Unfortunately the wind and swell conditions dictated we anchor on the French side in Marigot Bay. Marigot Bay is a large, shallow bay with room for heaps of boats. Once cleared in, either on the French or Dutch side, you are free to move around by dinghy, on foot or transport, it is only if you are moving the boat between the two sides that you need to clear in and out. We took the dinghy under the bridge into the lagoon. The bridge opens 3 times a day to allow yachts and larger boats to enter, there is a lagoon entrance on both the French and Dutch sides. The lagoon is sheltered and would not get any of the swell in the anchorages, however there are many shallow areas as can be seen by the sunken boats. It appears that many of the boats in the lagoon have not moved in a long time. On the Dutch side there are more marinas for boats of all sizes including some large super yachts.
We had been told by friends that a large dinghy and outboard were preferable for anchorages in the Caribbean. How true that statement has proven. Most places we have been, the dinghy ride into the dock has been longish, we may be saving on diesel for the Dol with sailing, but we are needing more petrol for the dinghy outboard.
We found the Port Authority and cleared in, this must have been the most laid back customs official we have met, and we have had a few. From there, we went in search of Wi-Fi, with each island being a separate country, Wi-Fi is difficult. If this was our permanent cruising ground we would probably do something more lasting. We found very good Wi-Fi at Café de Brazil and managed to post our blogs.
St Martins is a duty free island and is known for its shopping and beaches. It is only 7 miles in any direction, like most of the Caribbean islands it is not large. Also like all the islands, they have their own brand of rum, it is often difficult to buy your favourite brand as they market their own. Brian has enjoyed sampling the various brands as we have travelled through the islands. We are not great shoppers, but do normally have a list for the chandleries, this time only small stuff. Brian has also arranged to have his dive compressor serviced here. We did buy a Wi-Fi booster which Brian installed, removing the now defunct weather fax, cable and whip aerial. There are several local supermarkets and we found the Carrefour more than met our needs. We did finally manage to solve the toilet problem, which had developed back pressure. After replacing every possible part, removing and checking all inlet and outlet pipes, we finally found a tiny sea shell inside the pump mechanism which must have been behaving like a valve. Oh the hours of frustration.
Sitting in the anchorage each day we would see a line of about 10 yellow inflatable dinghies blast through the anchorage, around the bay and back into the lagoon. Apparently that is all they did, you hire one and play follow the leader for half an hour and then go back to base.
We checked out on Saturday 25th March and had drinks with Ally and Wayne “Blue Heeler” and another Australian couple Gary and Louise “Taka Moana”.