26 April 2015 | Oualie Beach, Nevis
This morning we motored just two miles to the north of Nevis, to try to escape the rolling off Pinney's Beach. It was so bad last night I had to put the fiddles on the stove to cook, and non-slip mats on the table. We are now in a shallow bay with less than a metre under the keel, but it is more sheltered! There is a decent dinghy dock here (a rare occurrence lately) and we only had to walk 20 metres to this cute restaurant, which provided us with a decent burger and ice cold Carrib on tap. Not quite the Golden Rock, but still pretty good.
All a bit Zen
25 April 2015 | Nevis
Nevis is small and friendly, and has avoided large scale development. Several old plantation estates have been turned into boutique hotels. We caught a local bus today to Golden Rock Inn. The stone ruins of an old plantation have been restored to provide the dining area, and the gardens are a delight, hiding a selection of simple wooden bungalows acting as the bedrooms for the inn. We filled an hour before lunch with a walk round the grounds, and a swim in the pool which we had to ourselves. Lobster sandwich for lunch, with this view.
22 April 2015 | English Harbour, Antigua
Nelson's Dockyard is a fully restored and working Georgian dockyard, with several boat-related businesses and a handful of excellent bars and restaurants. Nelson didn't enjoy his time here. He refused to turn a blind eye to trading with ships of the newly independent USA, insisting that only British ships called into Antigua. This made him very unpopular with the wealthy planters. An excellent small museum gives a good feeling for what life was like here in the 17th & 18th centuries.
20 April 2015 | Freeman Bay, Antigua
We haven't posted a photo of any sea creatures for a while, so here is a lovely one. The water is really clear here in Freeman Bay, and the rocks on shore are a good snorkelling distance from where Yarona is anchored.
A Different World
19 April 2015 | Engish Narbour, Antigua
On the Sunday of Classics Week, all the yachts parade around English Harbour after racing. It's a long way from our experience on board a boat.
Barrie gets a bath at last
18 April 2015 | Shirley Heights, Antigua
We walked up to Shirley Heights this morning with Doug and Shana, last met in Las Palmas. A 7am start ensured we beat the heat, and gave us a wonderful view over the yachts at anchor. In the 18th Century a large English garrison was stationed here, keeping the French at bay, and an impressive number of old buildings remain.
Barrie has been dreaming of a bath for some time, but this was the best I could find.
The most beautiful yachts...
17 April 2015 | English Harbour, Antigua
We are anchored in Freeman Bay, in English Harbour. This is a really beautiful spot, and very calm. This week is "Antigua Classics" where the most gorgeous classic yachts in the world come together to race. Some are old, some are new replicas, ('Spirit of Tradition') and they vary in size from under 40' to Rainbow, at 120'.
They sail out of Falmouth Bay, round the corner, but we have a good vantage point on Yarona as they sail past the entrance to this bay.
A fast and furious sail
14 April 2015 | Antigua
It's a forty mile open ocean passage between Guadeloupe and Antigua. We waited in windy Deshaies for a reasonable forecast, and left at first light today. The forecast was for 15-20 knots from the East. What we actually got was 20-30 knots from the SE - a better wind direction, but too much for an easy passage! To make matters worse there was a large confused swell from the NE, and we got a lot of water over the decks. Even well reefed, we averaged 7 knots, and were anchored in Freeman Bay with our Q flag hoisted by noon.
This is the first place we've come across where customs and immigration insist all crew stay on deck until the Captain has checked in, so Barrie set off in the dinghy for Nelson's Dockyard on his own.
Checking in procedures vary hugely throughout the islands, from DIY on a computer in a café in the French islands, at a cost of 2 euros, to St Vincent where Customs and Immigration were two miles apart and it cost considerably more plus a bribe. Fortunately the internet allows me to research the latest requirements before we move to a new country.
A very Windy Bay
10 April 2015 | Deshaies, Guadeloupe
We are spending a few days at anchor off Deshaies (pronounced Dayhay) on the North West coast of the large island of Guadeloupe. This is known as 'Butterfly Island' due to its shape, and the west wing is the mountainous one. This topography has the unfortunate effect of acting like a giant wind scoop, funnelling the wind down into this bay and giving us gusts of over 30 knots during the last two nights. The anchor is well dug in and we haven't budged, but it doesn't make for a restful evening.
Yesterday we hired a car for an explore, a supermarket hit, and some serious retail therapy in a giant Decathlon. It's good to be in France!
Today we walked a mile uphill to visit a beautiful botanical garden. This was a much easier way to enjoy the plants and birds than the walk to Boiling Lake!
07 April 2015 | The Saintes, Guadeloupe
We feel as though we are on holiday here in The Saintes. This small group of islands with just one pretty town is very popular with the French, who visit by ferry for the day from Guadeloupe.
We arrived in the bay on Saturday to find John and Julie on Petronella, last seen in Marina Lanzarote. They made landfall in the north of the Leewards and are now heading south, so we swapped recommendations and guide books, and enjoyed a snorkel and a walk up to Fort Napoléon with them.
The Easter weekend has been very busy, but once the day trippers departed we were left with a choice of excellent French restaurants for a special meal out. Dinner of poisson-cru Hawaiian style, followed by rack of lamb with goats' cheese, was certainly the best meal by far we have enjoyed since arriving in the Caribbean.
The Indian River
02 April 2015 | Portsmouth, Dominica
The classic trip from Portsmouth is up the Indian River. This can only be done with a guide, and no outboards are allowed. Martin collected us from Yarona at 07.00, and we blasted across the bay to the mouth of the river. He then switched to oars, and rowed us about a mile upstream under the canopy of the forest. He delighted in pointing out interesting birds and trees, and the huge crabs that lived in holes in the river bank. It was a calm and relaxing way to spend two hours.
Dominica is the only Caribbean island where the original Carib Indians survived the arrival of the British and French, and they still live in a reservation on the east coast.
The Waitukubuli Trail
01 April 2015 | Portsmouth, Dominica
A long distance trail was opened just four years ago, running South to North through the forest and river valleys in 14 stages. Completing it would be quite an achievement. Barrie and I walked parts of stages 11 and 12 with Lynn and Ken from Canada, first met at the PAYS beach barbecue. The paths again were muddy and slippy but the views and flowers were amazing.
30 March 2015 | Portsmouth; Dominica
Dominica has a highly regarded historian living on the island, with the great name of Lennox Honychurch. He was born here, and after attending local schools won a scholarship to study anthropology at Oxford University. He now lives back on the island. Barrie and I walked up to the restored Fort Shirley from the anchorage, and I bought his latest book at the entrance lodge. 'Negre Mawon; The Fighting Maroons of Dominica'. And then the man himself appeared to sign it! The book tells the story of how escaped slaves created a free and self-sufficient society in the forested mountains of the interior, evading capture over several generations.
Prince Rupert Bay
28 March 2015 | Portsmouth, Dominica
It was a challenging sail to the north of Dominica, with strong gusts blasting down the many valleys from the mountains. We kept a reef in most of the way, and made good speed, picking up a mooring buoy opposite the Purple Turtle in time for lunch.
The boat boys here are well organised, polite and friendly. They have formed PAYS, the Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services, and take turns turns to meet incoming yachts. Our man is Martin, and we will be taking a couple of tours with him during the week we plan to stay here.
Tomorrow night is the infamous PAYS beach barbecue, chicken, fish and salad, and plenty of rum punch. Any profit is used to fund a security boat to check on the anchorage overnight.
Giving Yarona a Clean Bottom
27 March 2015 | Roseau, Dominica
It's almost a year since Yarona last came out of the water, and she had a dirty bottom (a bit like me yesterday). A couple of fit young guys with diving gear made a good job of scraping off all the slime and barnacles, so she should slip along about a knot faster now. Money well spent.
A walk to Boiling Lake
26 March 2015 | Dominica
Today we walked in the Trois Pitons national park, through the Valley of Desolation to Boiling Lake. Awesome is an overused word, but this walk really was. This was a tough and steep seven hour trail, and certainly the muddiest walk I've ever done. Rain forest, humming birds, a narrow ridge to a cold and windy summit, thermal pools to swim in, hot rivers to cross, steaming vents where Sea Cat cooked the eggs for lunch, eaten on a crater rim looking down onto the second largest boiling lake in the world, gurgling away in the centre.
Sea Cat's love of the forest was obvious, and he stopped often to explain the differences between many species of tree ferns and plants. He showed endless good humour and patience and got us all down in one piece.
Back at the trail head I can't decide which was most appreciated- a swim up a cold and crystal clear river deep into a gorge, or a bottle of the local Kalibu beer.
A Day at Anchor
25 March 2015 | Roseau
What do we do all day at anchor? It varies, but today is fairly typical. The alarm went off at 0600, an early start to beat the heat. Barrie headed for the cockpit to lift some weights and do a few squats and crunches (I know, I should join him). We often then have a swim, but there are some tiny stinging jellyfish around at the moment, so not today.
Some mornings we listen in to one of the sailing or weather nets on the Long-Wave radio, but not today.
We have excellent Wi-Fi here, bought from a local firm ashore with coverage that just reaches us in the anchorage. It cost $10 for unlimited volume for a week. The Times downloaded at super-fast speed onto both IPads and kept us entertained over breakfast.
After breakfast we ran the generator for three hours to recharge the batteries, make water and I put a wash on. I then spent a tedious hour on deck polishing stainless steel fittings to remove some rusty spots. I packed in once it got too hot. It takes about an hour's slog a day to keep the boat looking good. Barrie took the dinghy ashore to collect a filled gas bottle and came back with some cherry cake to go with a coffee. They make excellent cake on this island! Lunch was a tuna sandwich, and we have found some excellent local passion fruit cordial and drink litres to keep ourselves hydrated.
We are making the most of the best Wi-Fi we've had for weeks to get the computers updated. I've worked on the blog and Barrie is trying to understand some new photo-editing software he's downloaded. I've checked the bank account and sent a few emails. Some days we have a siesta, or at least I'll lie down under a fan and read a book for an hour, or practice some French. Barrie often has 40 minutes sunbathing plugged in to some music, remembering to set his alarm in case he nods off.
Barrie checks the weather forecast every day to avoid any surprises, and if we are due to set off I'll spend a bit of time researching the next destination from both a sailing and tourist viewpoint.
Sea Cat is coming to see us at 1700 tonight. He is a highly recommended local guide, and we hope to go with him on a six hour trek to the Boiling Lake tomorrow. So I'll have a shower before he arrives, and once he goes we'll have a tonic with lime and ice as the sun goes down- we have agreed today is one of our occasional alcohol-free days. Then dinner- duck breasts, bought frozen in Martinique. We will probably head for bed at 2100.
A long way from Kew
23 March 2015 | Roseau, Botanical Garden
We chatted to a minibus driver yesterday about tour options, and he suggested a two hour introduction starting at 0800, before he started to 'work the cruise ship'. After visiting the botanical gardens (all the trees came from Kew Gardens in about 1880) we travelled up the Roseau valley into the rain forest, to visit the sulphur springs at Wotten Waven. Fredo was very knowledgeable and entertaining, and gave us a good value experience. We hope to explore more later this week.
Dominica- The Nature Island
22 March 2015 | Roseau, Dominica
We had a perfect sail to Dominica with the wind on the beam, taking about three hours between the islands. The Lesser Antilles lie in a curve, and we've 'turned the corner' and are no longer fighting north easterly winds. We have now moved on from the Windward Islands to the Leeward Islands, named when the distinction was more meaningful to sailing ships without the benefit of an engine.
Dominica is green and beautiful, but one of the poorer islands and a bit of an anomaly positioned between the French-speaking islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe. It was fought over for centuries by the French and British, but never regarded as a prime catch by either. It has also missed out on the latest wave of invaders as it lacks good beaches and infrastructure. There is no mass tourism or "all inclusives" but only a scattering of eco-lodges and guest houses. Most visitors arrive by cruise ship, and get whisked off for the day on Island Tours. There is also a small but growing eco-tourism industry, walking and staying in mountain lodges.
We have picked up a mooring off the capital Roseau. The island used to have a bad reputation for yacht theft and worse, but some entrepreneurial guys have put in a dozen or so mooring buoys and keep watch at night. We are staying a week for a bargain $50 US.
Pronunciation if interested: Domineeka; Rose-o