Cruise of the Boundless

We've been threatening to do this for a while and now, by Jove, we've done it. We's gone sailing!

06 March 2021
30 October 2020
14 September 2020
09 June 2020
01 June 2020
14 March 2020 | Your Tired of Being Politically Correct Narrative Manager Samantha Wells
14 February 2020
12 February 2020
26 January 2020

While waiting out Henri...

22 August 2021
By your Friendly Narrative Manager Samantha Wells
Carissimi!

Welcome again to sailing, the lifestyle that teaches you a very important lesson: never drink a cappuccino with a lot of foam on top facing windward when it blows 20 knots.

We are currently anchored in Long Island's Oyster Bay, to wait out hurricane Henri. It looks like we are out of the tropical force winds zone but we'll keep our eyes open while staying nice and tucked in. We came here after spending a quiet night in Westbrook CT, where we motored to from Portsmouth RI, two days ago. In Portsmouth we spent a week at Hinckley Shipyard for Part 2 of the Boundless Summer 2021 Projects Collection. And before Portsmouth, we wrapped up our Maine cruise with two exciting weeks doing Part 1 of the above projects at Front Street Shipyard in Belfast. There, now you're all up to date!

The biggest project, in Belfast, was a full navtronics (navigational electronics) refit of which la pièce de résistance is a brand new Furuno chart plotter including a state-of-the-art touch screen and capabilities reaching above and beyond your traditional chart plotter: it can even play music from our devices and, with some persuasion, double as food replicator.

Pulling, cutting, connecting and disconnecting various wires and cables, usually from inside compartments the type of which would make a contortionist happy - was a key feature of this project. Some of the wires were bundled in such a way to earn the title of "Overcooked Spaghetti Art"; others didn't connect to anything at either end. These and more peculiar findings have added extra-spice to it all.

The Cap'n began planning for this project more than a month ago while we were still hanging out at anchor off stunning granite rock islands drowned in evergreens. He updated Boundless' old electronic diagrams, ordered all the parts in advance, talked to the Furuno people to fill in his knowledge gaps...The groundwork payed off as he was able to do 70% of the job himself and the contractor he had hired only had to help pull wires and do the wires terminations. At completion, only half-jokingly did the contractor offer the Cap'n a job in his organization...

In the meantime, your Friendly Narrative Manager has been doing some interior cleaning, laundry, running errands in town, including visits to such specialty stores as Eat More Cheese and Vinolio ('nuff said) and pulling carts piled high with packages - think Leaning Tower of Pisa in corrugated cardboard - mostly items we had shipped here in advance of our arrival, from the yard stockroom to the boat.

I also helped the Cap'n with some of the more elementary tasks of the navtronics project, specifically none that could prompt me to say, "Ok, I cut the blue wire! Or was I supposed to cut the red one?". I'm actually very good at tool handing, like during surgery: "Scalpel!" "Scalpel." "Phillips head screwdriver" "Phillips head screwdriver" "One tall vanilla latte, one macchiato!" "One tall vanilla latte, one macchiato.", etc.

When emerging from the rabbit hole at the end of the day, we've occasionally strolled along the waterfront to one of the restaurants in the vicinity for a lobster roll, a peak at the Tokyo Olympics on a large screen and the excellent ice-cream from Wild Cow Creamery, (travelers beware: kitchens close at 8pm!). On nice, warmer evenings, I've enjoyed sitting on deck at sunset playing mini-guitar concerts, to the enthusiastic reception (well, let's not get carried away) of some of our neighbors at the dock.

Maine is goygeous...when you can actually see it: man, how foggy it gets at times! Of course fog can be visually magical, for instance when it lets out first one, then two, then many delicate tendrils to gradually cover land and water, or when it slowly lifts up like a diaphanous stage curtain to reveal the solid shape of a lighthouse. But once it swallows everything around you it can feel, well, a little heavy on the soul. Nothing that a mug of Swiss Mix Dark Hot Chocolate won't cure, mind you, but still.

Sailing (and a lot of motoring) in fog has been tiring and, at times, disorienting - objects on the water at a distance can appear distorted in size and it's hard to pinpoint the source of a sound over the water, among other things - but avoiding lobster traps has posed quite the challenge (second only to big tidal ranges and swift currents). Being grateful consumers of the delicious bug it wouldn't be fair to complain too much, but Maine waters can be an expanse of traps whether along the coast, in the harbors, even way off the coast in open ocean and at considerable depths!

Painted in vivid hues that should make them easier to spot in the fog (ha!) the trap floats on the surface can be a cheerful view at first. Hot color combinations this Summer include fuchsia pink and lime green, heliotrope tips on lemon yellow, and even the stylish silver on black for the discerning fisherman. Stay well away from these "eye candies" and don't get your props fouled in their lines, otherwise the last one in the freezing water with a wetsuit and a knife is a rotten egg. Boundless' shallow draft and great maneuverability are an advantage, especially dodging traps spaced narrowly between each other. We can also let the floats pass in the space between the two hulls if all else fails. Some traps can go unnoticed till the last moment because hidden just under the water surface. It's the case of the "lurkers", lost traps often with a partly decayed float covered in seaweed, which usually get you as you're still basking in the glory of just having successfully dodged fifty traps in a row...

We've met some great fishing crews along the way, and it's been interesting to see them in action on their powerful boats and learn more about their operations. In Cutler, authentic Down East Maine fishing town, we began by exchanging compliments with the local fishermen about each other's vessels ("Great rig!") and ended being allowed to use one of the local boats empty mooring for a few nights. The main outfit in Cutler is run by one family who owns the town wharf and a boat building business. The place was busy with the loading and unloading of the precious catch, sent up the wharf with a hydraulic elevator, and delivered to trucks for distribution. We learned that eight hundred traps are allotted to each boat in Maine (and there's a ton of boats!) and we were given four "it doesn't get any fresher than this" lobsters as a welcome gift!

We were always willing to buy lobsters but on another occasion, in South Addison, we actually got 7 lbs of them in exchange for a tour of Boundless for the owner of the lobster boat and his daughter. We even thought of putting a sign outside advertising free tours of our cat in exchange for fresh lobster and it definitely reminded us of when we were given plenty of fresh cod by locals up in Newfoundland. Finally, we learned that lobster boat races are a thing. We were tempted to go check one out but it turns out they are just slightly less interesting than curling, so we bailed.

In many ways Maine reminded us of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland: its scenery and weather, the remoteness of certain areas, the welcoming people, fishing as the main occupation... If you look at our Map page and zoom in or out as needed you'll see we've "zigzagged" from Passamaquoddy to Penobscot Bay along a fascinating coast rich in islands, islets, rivers, insets, bays and quiet harbors. Here are some highlights of the cruise, in any category and no particular order.

Playing with the water: letting Boundless play around the Old Sow whirlpools off Deer Island in the Western Passage of Passamaquoddy Bay, during their "milder" manifestations, was exhilarating. Wheeeeeee!

The wildlife: what a treat! Majestic bald eagles perched on top of spruce trees, loons with their melancholic call, razorbills, ospreys, cormorants, harbor porpoises, seals... Seals put a big smile on your face. If you stay at anchor in the same spot for a few days they'll start getting used to you and swim closer to check you out (they'll do that from a distance too as they are very curious). You'll hear them breathing first and then see the cutest bobbing heads and shiny black eyes, like the glass marbles we used to play with as kids, pointed straight up at you. Fast yet graceful in their motions, they'll leap out of the water and plunge in again as a silver burst indicates a school of small fish trying to... get the heck out of the seals' way! Cormorants also can offer amusement: I saw one catching a rather large fish and its long neck literally taking the shape of said fish as the bird kept pushing it farther down its throat trying to swallow it. Obviously the cormorant had done this before, as the operation was successful.

Hikes: one of our favorite Maine hikes was Cutler's Eastern Knubble Preserve, with trails winding in silent fairy tale-woods, thick moss covering the exposed roots of ancestral trees and, out of nowhere, huge openings onto beaches of pebbles and driftwood. And flowers everywhere: Queen Anne's lace, daisies, dogwood, beach roses ...

Roque Island: we definitely wanted this island, the star of a pretty archipelago in Englishman's Bay, to be one of our destinations not only because it's a sailing tradition but because, fun fact, the Cap'n flew us over it (see picture in the Gallery) many years ago when he had a private pilot license. This H-shaped Island has a tropical, one-mile long white beach on which you are allowed to land and walk, it's privately owned since the early 1800s and is a self-sufficient farm.

Mistake Island: "With a name like Schmucker's it has to be good". The island makes up for its...not-so-inviting name by providing a peaceful and protected anchorage where you are free to release your inner hermit (only the occasional lobster boat will come by to check its pots), enjoy prolonged looks at the wildlife and enchanting sunsets. A short dinghy ride away, the stroll to the island's Moose Peak Light, with plenty of ocean views and textured granite formations is very pleasant.

Granite: did you know that the largest pieces ever cut in Maine were the shafts for eight columns of the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York? Its industry may have known highs and lows, but Maine's granite has always been widely known and appreciated. We saw one quarry in Burnt Coat Harbor on Swan's Island, where the granite rocks hang over a fresh water pool. We must have hit it at "seagulls bathing time" as flocks of seagulls kept diving in and out, giving themselves a thorough spa and flying away to dry. And of course pink granite, offset by deep green conifers is "the look" in most of Maine.

Bar Harbor: Back in "civilization"! Lots of boats! People! Tourists! Acadia National Park! Mount Desert! Fourth of July fireworks! And a very interesting visit to the Abbe Museum, where we learned about the Native American Abenaki Nations, a confederacy of which 10,000 people currently live in Maine and that consists of four federally recognized tribes: Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, and Maliseet. It was a truly immersive experience and at times it felt as if the members of the tribes themselves were telling about their history and culture, not only their beautifully displayed works (particularly attractive were objects done in quillwork, including vegetable-shaped baskets). We enjoyed listening to audio samples of the four languages and we later joked with the Cap'n that, the same way we say Spanish is poorly spoken Italian, Passamaquoddy is just poorly spoken MicMac. Then we spent some time practicing how to pronounce Passawassaquakeag (name of local river).

Sorrento: blame it on the widespread fascination with that famous part of the Italian coast all you want but if you have a Naples in Florida, you just got to have a Sorrento in Maine. How did it get to "Sorrento" from "Waukeag Neck", its original name, is unclear, but it's reasonable to assume that whoever wanted to add to the harbor's image that of a low-key elegant resort with stunning sunset views was looking for something a little...catchier. Refraining from singing "Torna a Surriento" as we were scouting this delightful spot as a place to wait out hurricane Elsa was difficult... (we eventually picked Flanders Bay instead as it had more room, no boats, no moorings, no lobster pots).

Swan's Island: taking its name from Colonel James Swan, probably not the wisest speculator history has known, this large island is another one of Maine's gems. We spent a couple of days at anchor in Burnt Coat Harbor, at times sharing room with one or more of the beautifully restored windjammers part of Maine's fleet of actively sailed historical vessels that today run charters almost anywhere along the coast of Maine. We bought our last couple of fresh lobsters here, had a nice ride on Achilles Novus, our recently launched new dinghy (with electric starter and beach wheels, yay!) and matching heir to Achilles Vetus, connected with really nice and in-the-know people (see "New friends" below), but most important we endlessly picked raspberries from bushes on the side of the road. What an unexpected surprise and... what a flavor!

Devil Island and Hell's Half Acre: here are those crazy island names again...but no worries: no trace of the Devil nor did any soul-selling take place in this blissful spot in Penobscot Bay. We just chilled grokking the scenery and some porpoises even paid a visit for my birthday in July.

Portents(?): First, the biggest firefly I've ever seen, on our aft deck at night in Federal Harbor emitting an extra-bright green light, the only dash of color against the white of the fog. 2) A meteor, or "fireball" the night of July 30th that, with a "Whoosh!" and a long green-and-golden tail made an arch in the sky lighting it all up. I thought it was some rogue firework at first and it must have been part of the Aquariids meteor showers, which was peaking that weekend.

Things with blueberries: blueberry pancakes, blueberry ice cream, blueberry...cider! That was a new one for me, five stars.

Things we had to get re-used to: much longer daylight. Colder weather (we burned more fuel for the heaters than to motor! To be fair though, only July was actually the coldest/dampest month). Warm clothing. Not swimming.

New friends: for one reason or another, not the least Covid and my introverted personality, it's only relatively recently - and particularly in Maine - that our cruise turned into something a little more social. We really enjoyed (in no particular order or attribution):
- help, availability and pointers
- loaning of vehicles
- in-depth knowledge sharing and hospitality on Swan's Island
- yummy homegrown tomatoes and baked rosemary bread
- schlepping parts for us from the US
- or even simply the simpatia and fun chatting
Therefore, shoutouts go to: Pip & Judy, OCC port officers in Belfast, and Jeff & Christa on Agility; Jeff's daughter Jenna; Robin & Fort on Mo'orea (we actually met in Antigua but I hadn't got the chance to mention them yet); Russell & Lynn on Blue Highway running the OCC radio net; we hope to see you all again soon!

Ok, I'm getting signs that I should really wrap this up. Feel free to visit our Gallery or you can also check @boundlesscruise on Instagram for the occasional video or three. We've also now set up our Map so that it shows our updated position every night while daysailing, and every 2 hours on passage. Next in our plans is to sail back to the East Fork of Long Island and spend some quality time there, including, possibly, relaxing.

Be well, be safe from Henri if you're in the area, and thank you so much for your comments and emails!

Passage from Antigua to Eastport, ME.

20 June 2021
Your friendly and northerly Narrative Manager Samantha Wells
Carissimi!

We are currently at anchor in Northeast Harbor on Cross Island in Down East Maine. We have forests of pine trees at our bow and...tall radio towers that communicate with armed submarines on Cutler Peninsula at our stern, an interesting contrast in sceneries!

As I'm still gathering all my notes of the first couple of weeks we've been in Maine, please allow me to backtrack a bit. So, we stuck to our plan to leave the Caribbean after a year and a half spent there on Boundless and sail back to the States to spend the summer and fall sailing the US Eastern seaboard. You heard me. Leave the Caribbean. Let's observe a moment of silence. It was a reasonable decision, albeit not a lighthearted one - we must have averaged at least 2 second-guessing sessions per day since it was taken -. We didn't want to spend another hurricane season sitting tight in Grenada, as beautiful and familiar as she is, monitoring any sinister-looking developing weather system. The tropical hot summer (and its complimentary servings of bugs) was also a bit of a deterrent, even to a complete lizard like me. But mostly we needed a change of scenery and do a little more sailing without having to clear into a new country every time we'd arrive at a new place, as would be the case in the islands. Sailing the US East Coast, with all its beautiful destinations, would allow for that and for us to get vaccinated, which Neptune only knows when it was gonna happen in Paradise.

So for the last part of our stay in Antigua, aside from some more sailing in the "immediate neighborhood", including another visit to Barbuda to celebrate the Cap'n's 60th, and soaking up warm sun and turquoise waters, we focused on preparing for the passage: making sure all systems worked, fixed anything that needed fixing, provisioning (it is illegal to leave Antigua without adequate supply of fresh tuna steaks and ice-cream from Ari's Fish Shop and delicious mini-vegetable quiches from Cork and Basket in Falmouth Harbor), testing all the safety gear and getting a new anchor windlass installed in place of the old one that died on us right as we were dropping anchor in Deep Bay (for details about the shipping adventures of such windlass, go right here).

The Cap'n also connected with officer Troy Case at Customs & Border Patrol in Eastport, ME, the designated port of entry where we would re-enter the US, to advise of our intention to arrive by boat, get updated requirements and in general to "establish a relationship" in advance rather than just showing up "Hi, we're here!" and start everything from scratch. Officer Case was great to work with and it was a pleasure to eventually meet him in person. He made the boat inspection and all paperwork a breeze ("Just get rid of any citrus fruit!") and was pleased to see that a larger yacht was visiting the area: Boundless tied at the Eastport Visitors' Dock was definitely a sight, and several people walking by or driving by the pier took pictures. That was also part of the reasoning behind choosing Eastport as our first destination: it's very quiet, off the beaten track, just behind the corner of Canada and fishing and lobster boats are its main traffic. Everybody is super-friendly, no stripping-your-boat-bare for inspection, no attitudes... The other reason is that a passage from Antigua to Eastport is about 1,800 nautical miles pretty much on a straight line, a relatively uncomplicated sail, at least in theory, and with limited exposure to the Gulf Stream which, in certain conditions, can present some challenges. And let's see, I'm sure there was another reason... Lobster, of course!! The season had just closed in the islands and was about to open in Maine...

As crew for the passage, we were set to do it just the two of us, but at the last moment Laura Leigh, who was onboard for the passage from St. Simon's Island, GA, to Halifax in '19, was able to join us, which was great. Even just one extra person is a big help with the night watches. Also, all three of us being US nationals, we met the most important requirement for entering the country on a boat without a hassle.

The passage: ugh...passages. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of folks out there who love the entire experience or, love the good parts (days of endless views of ocean and horizon, the wind in your hair, the feeling of freedom as the boat cuts - or crawls, as the case may be - through the waves, the joy of the voyage, this is what the old sea explorers must have felt like, etc.) and cope with the rest, kudos to them. However I remain convinced that even when done in the most perfect conditions passages are one of the ways the universe gets back at you for any bad karma you may have spread in your previous lives. Because why would an otherwise mentally sane individual decide, of his or her own volition, to live inside a washing machine for days without even getting to pick the cycle? No worries, I know the answers... and lest this paragraph turn into a roast of a passage that was actually very good, let's move right along.

The Cap'n picked a good weather window to leave and cross to Maine in one shot (one back-up plan had us dropping anchor in Bermuda for a night or so if the weather got... funny). There was no equally good window after that, we would have had a lot of strong winds close hauled, and as we know, gentlemen don't cruise to windward. The passage was busy! We were on a reach most of the way but we did a fair amount of sail handling and trimming, due to variable wind strengths, It took us 8.5 days to get from Falmouth Harbour to Eastport (5-31 to 6-8) and we averaged 8.75 knots, starting with a 240 mile day right out of Antigua. A few things broke, misbehaved, or generally demanded attention underway, each in its own unique way. For example, our port running backstay snapped loose from the cleat it was stored on and it took about a half hour to get it back. It was flapping pretty high over the boat and we worried it might end wrapped around something important. The Cap'n tried grabbing it with a boat hook first, but it was way out of his reach. Eventually, by tacking and falling way off the wind, the backstay "came down" enough that I could grab it. I was shouting in triumph like after winning a game of Ring Toss, but without getting the teddy bear prize. The first reef clew line also broke and had to be fixed involving bringing the mainsail down and getting into the end of the boom, and then putting big blocks back on the new sail's reef points that we saved from the old sail. Feeling a need to be part of the drama, during a gust in the high 20s and a big wave, our auto-pilot lost it and the helm did a big turn off course, but quickly caught and no damage. A good old restart seemed to fix it. Never a dull moment! During this passage (although it's true of him in every passage), except obviously while getting some sleep off watch, the Cap'n was running around like the nautical version of the Energizer Bunny. I swear at one point I thought I saw him in different places, at the same time, doing different things...a singularity! Good thing I was only taking Dramamine, not Scopolamine... On top of all that, earlier in the passage a stray booby "camped" one night on Boundless trying to balance himself on our railings while the wind wasn't being too gentle. We didn't see it the next morning, and we all hoped he was eventually able to make its way home somehow, as we were very far from land at that point! On a more epicurean note, thanks to the excellent Antiguan provisioning, meals onboard were great, fulfilling and varied. We even grilled fish one night! Though we were mostly going too fast to catch any.....

Later in the passage, the cooler temperatures outside, the different angle of the sun, the blanket of northern stars at night, the thick fog off our bow as we were crossing Georges Bank - we were able to catch a short glimpse of a couple of dolphins - we heard them breathing before we could actually see them - were more unmistakable signs that... we weren't in the tropics anymore. Aside from a small fishing fleet in that same area, there was absolutely no one but us. For almost the entire passage we didn't see one sailboat, one motor boat, anything. Only towards the very end we saw a couple of tankers. It felt a touch... different, yes, but frankly... not so bad, after months of having to share space with bare boaters... ok, sorry for my meanness. Did I also mention that the Gulf Stream didn't seem to want to let us go? It looks like an eddy caught us and shook us around a while before we finally sailed clear.

But long story short (just kidding), one lovely afternoon we finally took a right into Grand Manan Channel - we could see the soft profiles of Grand Manan Island in the mist on starboard - made a left into Head Harbour Passage leaving Campobello Island and East Quoddy Head to port and got into Eastport, as we deeply inhaled big wafts of warm air mixed with an amazing scent of pine trees which we hadn't really expected, all topped up by the pink glow of a sunset that seems to never end in the much longer-lasting daylight of the north. Welcome to Maine!

We tied at the Visitor's Dock with the skilled help of Lynn, Laura's partner, who had come to pick up our bold crew woman and check the area with the occasion She and Laura helped us out a lot with our more immediate after-passage to-do list, and were a lot of fun to hang out with!

Okeydoc, I think I'm gonna wrap it up here, as I'm bordering "War and Peace" lengths and don't want to make you fall asleep. As I work on the next entry, feel free as usual to visit our Picture Gallery, check the Map to see exactly where we are and, for immediate gratification, you can always check us out on Instagram. A presto and Happy Father's Day to all you Dads out there!

It's been a while...

06 March 2021
Your Friendly and (your adjective here) Narrative Manager Samantha Wells
Carissimi!

It's been too long, I know... A severe case of Procrastinatio Imperitura Caraibica must have finally taken control over your Friendly Narrative Manager. Symptoms include more hours spent just sitting on the back porch (the aft deck) looking at the ocean, having an ongoing "wear your oldest and most ragged clothing till it falls off you" contest with the Cap'n (who's winning so far), etc. The truth is, all has been generally quiet on the Antiguan front since our last entry. But lest you think that we've turned into complete marine couch potatoes, let's fill you in a little.

After our last blog entry in Deep Bay, we eventually made our way down Antigua's west coast back to Falmouth Harbor, stopping at Jolly Harbour along the way. Jolly Harbour is a big full-service marina and condo development, with charming houses, each with their own little dock, lining the waterfront. The only eyesore in the neighborhood is an abandoned casino project which Mother Nature helps making a little less noticeable by covering everything else around it in vibrant tropical flowers. While there we were able to provision at a large Epicurean supermarket, run errands for this that and the other and enjoy some nice meals (we dined on delicious Greek and Indian takeouts on a couple of occasions, a forgotten ritual!). Then, aside from sailing to Barbuda in early January, which I'll tell more about later, we've been mostly hopping around Falmouth, Jolly and Nonsuch Bay, playing musical-chairs-sur-mer with many of the other boats in the area.

While in Falmouth we had the foot of the new main sail adjusted and a new bag made for it, as trying to stow it in the old one was like trying to fit, today, into a pair of leggings from the '80s: ain't happening. It involved a fair amount of fussing with the sail to flatten it and push it in place, including getting on top of the boom and jumping on it as needed, for the amusement of anyone happening to point a pair of binoculars in our direction. The performance of the headsail has also been improved by tweaking the tension in the forestay. The Cap'n also installed a new fresh water pump as the previous one had reached end-of-life, being unresponsive even to the reviving technique I had mastered so well, that is, whacking its starter valve gently yet vigorously with a bespoke hand held citrus juicer (very liberating by the way, but don't try it at home). Alas, that these Shurflo pumps should not last as advertised...

More recently, while in Jolly Harbor again, Boundless was given a full spa: deck and topsides washing, awlcare rubbing, de-rusting, polishing of all things outdoors, window cleaning, hull scrubbing...she needed that! You could almost see her after this rejuvenation session, wearing a robe, sitting with the other boats in the spa lounge and sipping cucumber-and-Rimula Motor oil-infused water before getting back-to business, or, "Now let's go out and get her all salty again!".

A very nice December surprise was the visit of Mark and Rita, the couple that specified and built Boundless - they called her aVida . They happened to visit Antigua and reached out to us after finding us on our blog. It was great to meet them and have them over for a tour of the boat, chat and compare notes ...they loved their time and travels on aVida-now-Boundless and it definitely showed throughout their visit! We're looking forward to hear about their next nautical adventures...

Right around Christmas, the fabulous Jupiter-Saturn conjunction reached its closest point. As a refresher, this was going to be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226. I'm really glad we got to see it, bright and clearly most nights, as planning to view the next one with the same characteristics in... 2080 is a little too ambitious ... The other striking astronomical event was the Geminids meteor shower that peaked the nights of December 13-14. I had never seen anything like it: beginning around one o' clock in the morning, with almost zero light pollution, it was Shooting Stars Central! At times the showers originating from the radiant in Gemini seemed to overlap with random shooting stars coming from other points in the sky. You didn't know where to turn your head!

So the Holidays went quietly. We celebrated onboard, working the grill, enjoying the occasional sundowner and the traditional panettone. The one we got in Falmouth came in a tin box so big it could have doubled as a foot stool. We spent New Year in Nonsuch Bay, and for a few days we were tucked inside a nice and cozy creek to avoid a period of strong winds and swell (with some exceptions, it's been blowing like crazy and non-stop since December). It worked great except for the back and forth of tenders running around on errands or taking folks out for water sports. The Cap'n at one point talked on the radio to Samadhi, a large motor yacht to which one of these tenders belonged, and asked if they could slow down, not so much for the wake you get from their passage but to give a chance to the poor sea turtles, who come to the surface to breathe and hardly have time to dive down again if they happen to be... on the wrong track at the wrong time so to speak. Samadhi's captain was very receptive to the plea: the next time we saw their tender it was going at a much more reasonable speed!

Shortly after New Year we sailed to Barbuda, whose name, it is said, comes from the abundant lichen found on the island by the first explorers who consequently called her "bearded". The other thing Barbuda abounds in is reefs, which surround the whole island making the navigation challenging. Having left Nonsuch earlier that day through the notorious Spithead Channel, a narrow passage between reefs with 6-10 footers crashing over them, dealing with reefs at the other end added a certain symmetrical quality to the expedition. Unlike on keeled boats, the shallow draft of catamarans allows them to go more easily through tricky spots. Even so, approaching Barbuda in full daylight with the sun in your favor and have an extra pair of eyes looking out for reefs or shoals is a must. Many underwater wrecks, old and new, attest to the treachery of the area even with the miles of beautiful pink sands beaches and pristine waters to distract you. Think of it as the island equivalent of Ulysses's Sirens.
It is common to anchor off Cocoa Point on the south-east coast, but we headed west to Palmetto Point instead, taking a look at the remains of the Palm Beach Hotel, destroyed by a hurricane, along the way, then north, anchoring for a night outside Codrington Lagoon. Codrington is Barbuda's main settlement, named after the family who leased the island from the British "for one fat sheep" - beware of real estate transactions involving thin sheep - in 1685 and basically kept the island for private use. The day after we kept going north, into "experienced reef navigators only" territory. Partly because, according to the guide, we were going to get more protection from swells anchoring somewhere north of Cedar Tree Point, and partly just because we wanted to check it out and see how far we could get weaving our way through the reefs. We motored cautiously along, monitoring any change in water color, depth and underwater features. We recorded our track on our navigational software to be able to go back the way we came in case we decided to bail but ultimately we were able to continue a long way: we picked a good spot and laid anchor more or less off the pretty Barbuda Bell Hotel on the beach there, and not far from the renowned Frigate Birds Sanctuary.
The weather wasn't really ideal for snorkeling during our visit, too bad as it's supposed to be excellent. But we arranged a visit to the Sanctuary with a local guide who took us there on his boat. It was amazing. After motoring through a channel along which shining white egrets peek out of the mangroves, looking up you could see dark wings and more dark wings circling the sky while hearing screeching sounds and beaks clicking...think Hitchcock's "The Birds", well, actually don't think that. The one in Barbuda is the largest rookery of frigate birds in the whole Caribbean. The adult males puff up their striking red chest piece to attract the females, a successful courting technique as witnessed by numerous cute white-headed chicks nested among the mangroves. The frigate bird has a large wingspan and can weigh up to three pounds. Its legs cannot support its weight and one consequence is that the bird cannot float on the water, let alone get into it. If it falls in the water, one or more of his winged comrades will come to its rescue. How does it feed then? It goes after birds of other species, pokes them and pesters them until they drop their catch, which it skillfully grabs. Such behavior explains the name "frigate", referring to a type of warship and, if we want to look for a little Italian connection with the word "fregato" (colloquial for something that's been stolen) or in this case even "che fregatura!", "what a rip-off!", which, I'm gonna guess, is what the poor, other-than-frigate bird must think every time its fish gets...confiscated.

So, a wonderful visit, with one issue only: the nice and knowledgeable local guide unfortunately didn't have a clue how to pick up or drop off people on a boat...we wish we had known in advance. He hit our loyal vessel a few times in the various attempts, leaving paint marks on the port topside. Removal of the paint marks with acetone followed...

From Barbuda back to Antigua's Falmouth, where a nice addition to our not-so-frequent shore expeditions (see Covid below) has been hiking the Middle Ground Trail, a circular walk starting off Pigeon Beach and going all the way to Nelson's Dockyard. The 360° views of land and ocean, bays and beaches are stunning and the vegetation is so thick, thorny and luxuriant it must have struck some kind of deal with the fierce sun and the baked soil under it. Towards the end on Nelson's Dockyard side you walk by Fort Berkeley, which was built in the first half of the XVIII century to defend English Harbour. Viewing the well-preserved powder magazine and even just that one cannon still standing there pointed at the ocean can send you back in history, to the days when the British were busy building this important naval base.

More Falmouth, more Jolly, more English, more Nonsuch and finally, today - you still with me? - I'm writing from a very beautiful spot at anchor off Guyana Island, North East Antigua. Just us, the turquoise waters and a few other boats, plenty of room, a few islets, little beaches and reefs... We've had rewarding snorkeling, including an entire "forest" of yellow fan corals moving a tempo with a light chop at the surface (having opted for cruising low-tech, with no more than the strictly necessary electronic gadgetry to fuss with, at this time we are not taking underwater pictures, sorry...). We've been getting a little respite from the wind, so it's very quiet compared to our last anchorage off Bird Island in Nonsuch, where it was blowing hard, to the joy of the many kite boarders that go there to practice (or showcase) their skills and fill the horizon with their brightly colored kites!

Covid-wise it's not so great. There has been a spike in cases - currently more than 400 active cases - which has resulted in a 6pm to 5am curfew, in addition to the rules already in place, but no lockdown. We keep being cautious, doing only surgical strikes onshore, wearing masks and keeping pretty much to ourselves. We're also monitoring the vaccination program which began last Monday but it's difficult to tell whether we'll be able to get vaccinated here. We'll be here for quite a while still - we've just extended our visas - so we'll see.

What else. We've been swimming when possible, the water here is now in the high 70s which, having been spoiled by the 86° F Grenadian waters forever, it still feels, well, cool. But any time we're about to jump in we remind ourselves that we swam in Finland after all (long ago) and it only hurt for a moment... On the swimwear side it means switching from 3.5 mil neoprene to vintage-really-thick-fabric-swimsuit, progress!

I think that's it for the moment. As usual, feel free to take a look at our Gallery and the Map to locate us. where we can also post some short videos. Thank you for reading, for your comments and if you have any question or something you'd like to hear more about (we tend to take a lot of stuff for granted) let us know! Much love, be safe!
Vessel Name: Boundless
Vessel Make/Model: Chris White Atlantic 57
Hailing Port: Gorda Sound
Crew: David & Samantha
Boundless's Photos - Main
79 Photos
Created 6 March 2021
70 Photos
Created 26 May 2020
98 Photos
Created 26 November 2019
74 Photos
Created 14 September 2019
Drawings, etc. by your Friendly Narrative Manager.
14 Photos
Created 3 August 2019
Our favorite pictures in this part of the cruise.
243 Photos
Created 22 June 2019
All about the boat
45 Photos
Created 22 June 2019