20 April 2019 | Antigua
Race week in Antigua is fast approaching and here I am in Antigua. Throughout the season I timed my travels to be here for the classic sailboat series of racing even thinking I might want to crew on one of the classic designed sailboats. A friend of mine had done this two years ago and really enjoyed it. Giving this a little bit of thought I came up with:
I have never been in a sailboat race.
Once you commit to crewing you spend the next 5 days racing no matter what the weather is or high the seas are.
I do not think I am really the racing type.
So giving up on this idea I invited people aboard to experience sailing. It is their spring break so we will not have a lot of time but enough to enjoy various aspects of sailing. He is a history teacher so my first adventure was to go to the Nelson Dockyard on the south end of Antigua. Nelson’s dockyard is a cultural heritage site and part of Nelson’s Dockyard national park. A Unesco World Heritage site. When England Acquired British Antigua and Barbuda in 1632, it became a focal point for the establishment of the British navel base in the Caribbean. Very interesting history and very well restored.
I ask my guests “Do want to get a taxi to travel to the dockyard or would you like an adventure?”
They give me the what are we getting into look and decide,”We’re always up for an adventure.”
“Ok then the local bus ride is our ticket.”
The local bus system consists of various types of private vans with the capacity of seating 14 or more people. Some are quite new while others look like they could barely make it up a slight incline and may rust out half way up. There is no schedule for when they will arrive so we just walked to the nearest “Bus Stop” usually a wide spot on the road with some shade where you wave at the driver and hopes he might stop. He may be off duty or taking some friends to the local rum shop so you are never quite sure if he is looking for a fare or not. The fare, yes, it’s exorbitant cost 2.5 $EC which is less than one dollar US. It can take you from one bus station to the next, that might be 15 miles or more or you may only go two blocks. The fare is always the same.
We get on the bus and it is all locals except for us. A beautiful little girl of about 5 gets on the bus with her dad. Her white top is sparkling clean, her corn rolled hair is braided and closely cut, her 1000 watt bright white teeth smile explodes from her smooth flawless chocolate skin.
“Good Morning,” She yells at the top of her lungs.
Everyone on the bus smiles and returns the greeting. The innocence and exuberance is contagious on the entire bus.
When we finally get to the national park after another bus change I ask “How did you like that adventure.”
“It was amazing.”
13 April 2019 | Jolly Harbor, Antigua
To go places you have never been before, to experience new adventures, to break the chains of normal everyday living, to do something different just because you can are all reason for entering the cruising community.
The experiences are usually good but sometimes offer challenges you never expected. How you rise to the occasion to solve these trials determines if you want to stay with this lifestyle.
I have not been to St. Martin in over four years. In that time period many of the buildings on the island were destroyed by hurricanes. They are rebuilding but it is a slow process. The beaches are still beautiful, restaurants that have been able to reopen are still delicious, and the people are friendly. One of the best patisseries on the Island opened again while I was here. I wasn’t the first in line but pretty close. The simple pleasures in life.
The marina and working boat yards are in full work operation. When I left Grenada I had to have a survey or inspection done on Mile High Dream before I could get insurance for her. There were some definite concerns about the standing rigging that holds up the mast. I did some emergency repairs while in Grenada so I could start my sailing season. Once I arrived in /St. Martin I was able to have all of my standing rigging replaced while the boat was here.
After my wonderful snow break to Colorado I came back to be able to share the joys of sailing with a couple from Boulder and some of their friends. We explored new anchorages and visited some I had experienced before. They got to experience a part of this special cruising life.
My family (my brother and sister and their spouses) joined me in St. Martin and we explored countries new to all of us. Saba was our first new country. A volcano rising straight out of the water leads to difficult challenges for the legs as we walk up the 23% grade to the first town.
St Kitts is our next stop. I have spent one day on this island before and now we are anchored here for a few nights to allow for exploring. My sister’s friend had been here on a cruise and said one of the highlights of her trip was the train ride around the Island. We traveled on the narrow gauge railroad that was built to transport sugar cane from the farms to the factories. It did not disappoint us.
The last leg was a long sail with family through rough seas from St. Kitts to Antigua. The 40 mile 12 hour slog ended with dropping anchor after dark into the bay at Jolly harbor. The week was magical with laughs and new experiences sharing as a family. What a wonderful gift it is.
Antigua brings back many memories spent with lots of cruisers. Some if my closest cruising friends I met here for the first time. Over the years our paths have crossed many times and some have have sailed to far away islands and other I will look forward to sailing with again. Others have left this sailing world hopefully to be sailing in another dimension. It is the people you meet creating new bonds and family that you get to share this with that is truly the magic of this sailing lifestyle.
This blog is dedicated to those I’ve sailed with that are no longer physical with us but will always be part of our lives. My wife Mary, my friend Cherry and a good friend Mark who died earlier this week. I cherish the time I’ve shared with them.
01 March 2019 | St. Martin
I have been remiss in my blogging journal. The goal I had set at the beginning of the season was every two weeks I would enter a new blog. OK, well island time caught up with me or maybe the rum punches and I have failed miserably on the every two week writing.
I am still here on the boat and have had some very wonderful experiences the last two months.
Mile High Dream left the Marina in Guadeloupe and started her long passage north to St. Martin. We had a happy reunion with John, Chris, and Colleen. They have all sailed with me before and John has probably spent the most time outside of me on Mile High Dream. It was great to be with them again and they were more than happy to escape the frigid snow and cold of Wisconsin. We have 200 nautical miles to go to reach St. Martin. The first short leg brought us to the small national park area of Pigeon Island on the west side of Guadeloupe. The snorkeling here was amazing in the past and did not let us down this time either. From there we did a long 10 hour day sail to Antigua where we recharged for a couple of days at the marina.
“ Chris you dong ok,” John asks?
“What ? I don’t know.”
We are in the slip in the marina and I am up in the office checking in which sometimes takes a little time. Fortunately we had cleared customs before reaching the dock which is an hour long process at best. Why can you just breeze through the airport and I have to go through pages of forms to fill out whenever I take my boat into a different country and then have to do it all over again to check out. (short rant here). Back to Chris.
When I return to the boat, John has helped Chris get off the boat. This is somewhat a balancing act in Jolly Harbor marina. It entails climbing off the front end of the boat, over the anchor and then hopefully landing with both feet firmly planted on the dock.
“Whats going on,” I ask.
“Something is wrong with Chris. He is light headed and not thinking very straight. His heart is racing so I am having him sit down. I thought it was good to get him off the boat while he still had some motor functions,” replied John.
Colleen is on the boat and I go down below. I ask Colleen what is happening and she is not sure but has gone through this with Chris a few times before and it usually passes. When we go up to look for Chris and John, there are no where to be found. We checked the restaurants around the marina and finally find a security guard that told us he arranged a taxi to get them to the hospital.
Long story short, Chris does have some heart issues which he is taking medications for and had a severe cold while on the boat. He had been taking my 12 hour sudafeds thinking they were four hour time capsules. After taking 4 of them his blood pressure and heart rate were way above normal. By 1:00 am they had returned to normal and they sent him back to the boat. A little excitement we could have done without.
The sail from Antigua to St. Barts is 75 miles or 15 hours. I throw out the idea of sailing over night since there are four of us and we can take turns being on watch or sleeping. Everyone thinks that is a great idea so off we go. The seas were sailable and the wind a constant 20-24 knots. All went well and we arrived in St. Barts early the next morning.
It was then a short sail to St. Martin where the Heineken Regatta was going to start the next day. We had fun watching the race boats train and we tried to stay out of their way.
The Regatta is one of the largest in the Caribbean with lots of different boats and late night parties. A few fun nights were had by all.
I flew out of St. Martin the next day on my way back to Colorado to some tax prep, medicare prep and of course skiing and spending time with friends.
The Fishing enthusiasts
17 February 2019 | Guadeloupe
The adventures in Guadeloupe continue with the arrival of Sue and Gary. They are good friends that spend their summers in summit county where we hike, sail, spend happy hours together, trade dog sitting and Sue and I bike on a regular basis. This is their third trip on Mile High Dream and the first time they are flying in and out of one place. No long crossings on this trip.
The weather is acting up so we make plans to sail to Dominica to spend the windy days in a safe protected anchorage.
We make a stop in Iles Des saints and drop the anchor. Sue has her fishing pole out as soon as the anchor hits the sand.
"I got one," she soon yells out.
She gets it up to the boat.
"Where are my glasses? I can hardly see it. Are you sure that just isn't your bait?" I ask.
"Ok, its a little small but at least I caught one."
She throws it back in. I search on the internet to see what kind of fish it is and if it is good to eat.
"You can catch some more of those a little bigger so we can have them for dinner," I tell her.
Soon she has another fish on the line and this one is totally different that the first one and big enough for dinner. With all of the different variety of fish in the Caribbean, I try to check out and see if they are safe to eat. Some of the species are not. This is another good eating one .
As Sue catches yet another one, Gary is feeling left out so he throws a line out and soon catches one. Not to be outdone I drop some bait in the water and soon I have a fish. Sue is definitely the angler of the day catching five fish and Gary and I with one each. Gary's and mine were bigger. No competition here.
The next day we set sail and arrive in Dominica where we spend four nights due to strong winds. Gary and Sue take an island tour and we just spend some time exploring the island. We meet our friends from Holland that I had met the week before. They have just sailed back from Guadeloupe and are planning to leave their boat in Dominica for two months while they travel back home. It is very fun to reconnect with them.
After four days of wind, the weather report says the winds and seas will be mild so we take off for Maria Galant. Those weather forecasters, you just cant trust them. The winds are fifteen knots more than they predicted. The waves are higher and it is a very rough ride.
"How much wind do you like to sail in," Sue asks?
"20 knots is what I really like and not much more than 25," is my reply.
"How strong are they now?'
"Do you think we should turn back? We are only five miles out."
"I would except tomorrow is suppose to be worse."
We hunker down for a wet wild ride and four hours later we are safely at anchor. A little wet and tired, but all is good.
The next morning we rent a car and start exploring the island. A few rum factories are in order and then ending the afternoon on a beautiful white sand beach. A good day all around with the exception of not catching any fish.
A beautiful 20 mile sail back to the marina and are greeted by a pod of 6 dolphins escorting us into the marina. A fitting ending to a wonderful two weeks.
Friends part duex
06 February 2019 | guadeloupe
Greg and Amanda
We had spent an extra day in Dominica and it would have been easy to spend one more night and join our friends for a big Barbecue held every Sunday evening but the bakery search compelled us to move on. That and it is more enjoyable to do two shot sails instead of one long one especially if weather makes a change for the worse. We were fortunate and the weather held as we sailed 18 miles to Il Des Saints, an idyllic French island. 20 years ago when I first sailed with Mary in Guadeloupe we asked the charter company where we should spend our ten days of sailing.
“Go straight over to Il Des Saints and don’t leave,” was his suggestion.
It is still beautiful but it has been discovered. Everyday multiple ferry boats filled with tourists invade the island.
We arrived around 1:30, grabbed a mooring ball for the night and headed in to shore. Amanda was in heaven with all of the french shops and the masses speaking French. We headed to the rental shop where they rent mopeds and electric bikes. We needed to wait 45 minutes before they opened so that allowed for a pastry stop and more browsing. Ahh yes, we are back in the land of French bakeries. The big one was already closed for the day so we settled in the corner cafe patisseries for some liquid refreshments and treats. mmmmmm so good.
Having fortified our body’s we headed back to the bike rental and hopped on the electric bikes. Amanda has never been on and the first one I had ever been on was when I was here last year. These bikes have improved over last year and they were rocket bikes. We headed towards a small sandy beach that I saw last year but never had a chance to swim at. It was wonderful and felt so good to be in the salt water. We had not done as much swimming this year as compared to other years so this was a treat.
Amanda was amazed at the power assist that the electric batteries provided. On a long hill, she was not quite convinced that her’s was fully charged. I was in the lead and soon I was standing up pedaling with all my might. There was no way I was gong to stop and let Amanda catch up. I would be eating crow for days or months if that happened, so I slogged on. I am sure my heart rate was close to 175 but I did finally make to the top first. Maybe I needed another chocolate croissant for fuel.
Well, Greg, you’ll have to wait until morning for that croissant. My radar, not some Francophone version of Yelp, tells me that closed bakery will be worth getting up early. Rise early we did. Put in some pushups on the foredeck and a few squats before heading by the dinghy into centre ville. We witnessed the village wake up, void of tourists. Parents on mopeds are zooming by to deliver their kids to school. Older elementary kids hammering on pedals determined to make it on time. As we walk and mind you my calves are screaming from the waterfall hike en pointe, I fret that the bakery will already be out of the good stuff if any of those kids stopped a la boulangerie. Alas we make it and I can tell by the smell it’s going to be good. In the display case were heaps of croissants. Greg was so taken back that he didn’t see the the pain au chocolat camouflaged behind the croissants. We decide to be good and order one twisty flaky delicacy, one pain au chocolat, and a croissant with jambon et fromage for a sailing snack in case lunch is pushed back due to the seas or wind. Yes, such restraint. It would have been so easy to have ordered a second pain au chocolat. Oh and don’t forget the daily baguette! We head out to the shoreline park and inhale the sweet goods while our eyes inhale the turquoise water. Poof! The pastries vanish. Oh mon dieu! They are the best all week. Let’s go back and claim another pain au chocolat. So worth the calories. And we do go back. Zut! We were too late! Well at least now we don’t need to do the rest of those squats or pushups.
As we meander back to centre ville, we pass by an atelier where the artist is cracking open the doors and shutters. We peer in, thinking it will be a bop in and out. The paintings are of classic scenes of paradise and island life. Then the artist’s style captivates us. His depiction of the hurricane balances force and chaos pulls you into the eye of painting or storm. Another image is a wave stopped in time, ready to curl and crash. Alain Joyeux sees our joy in his talent. He engages us in a mélange of Frenglish telling us the workshop was his grandmother’s. She was an artist of sorts, crafting dolls. And one of her most famous guests was Jackie Kennedy Onassis who dropped in and conversed in mais bien sur French with his grandmother over a cup of tea. The atelier had survived many a storm and if we had our guess would be passed down to Alain’s son, Martin. We were so enchanted with the haphazard cultural moment we decided to take a little piece of it with us. Greg has a small sailing scene by Alain on wood and I adopted a sailing scene on canvas by thirteen year old Martin. Oh la la! Quelle chance we had by venturing early to unearth treasures. My hope is Greg will continue to do bakery research this season. We all benefit from his dedication and sacrifice.
fun with a friend
05 February 2019 | guadeloupe
Greg and Amanda
The sun is about to set, most projects have been completed for the day, so it time for a rum punch.
"Oh this ones got a little to much rum in it." Did I just say too much rum. That's blasphemy
for a pirate to say. Let me rephrase that so that all is well with the sailing pirates. "This one has lots of good rum in it."
My last sailing first mate is back home enjoying the cold whiteness of Colorado. Quite a change from the warmth of the Caribbean. She is no stranger to Mile High Dream so sailing with her and being on the boat comes very natural. She is also very fluent in speaking French. This is a great bonus since we are in the French islands or were for the most part. Bon jor amigos, cervasas see voo play, prego prego just doesn't seem to get the meaning across.
I had a tentative plan on where I wanted to go on this trip. There is a saying that all sailing plans are written in the sand at low tide, ready to be washed away and changed at any time and this was no exception.
We headed over to Maria Galant. Our start was little later than planned since the downtown area of Pointe a Petri was calling us to explore. A large vegetable market, fish market, spice market and then a flower market all stimulated our senses. The town is filled with eyeglass stores so I decided to splurge and purchase a fun pair. It was very nice to have a translator.
Maria Galant is a sleepy island with some amazing beaches. My original plan was to stay in the french islands. That got washed away and we decided to go to Dominica. The only problem was that we needed to check out of the coin try and find a customs office. We hopped the local bus to the large town at the end of the island. The custom officer was out and about. we finally gave up on trying to find him and saw a sign that the small town we were anchored at has just started dong customs there. A bus ride back and we were ab le to clear out of customs. The afternoon was spent taking the dingy over to a beautiful beach and swimming and walking on the soft sand.
The next morning we are off to Dominica, The Nature Island, or as I see it Greg's favorite island. It's a mélange of raw rainforest, hearty humans, amazing adventures embedded in its nine volcanos and 365 rivers. Perhaps its only downfall or opportunity if you think like the shoes salesman in Africa is a good bakery. In fact thus far on our sojourn we have yet to unearth a bakery worth the calories consumed in our research. Surely we've worked off those calories on the hike to Middleham Waterfall, a 275 foot cascade of power enhanced by recent rain and strong enough to produce white caps in the pool where Greg had swum last week and prevent the classic rainbow bouncing off the spray (the rainbow that his last crew member farted out of his armpits). During the three-hour walk we are ballerinas on pointe teetering on each log laid for trail perseverance in this jungle. For the next days my calf muscles scream for all the micro balancing they were forced into. The day's adventure continues to a freshwater swim through a crack in a rock wall. Despite English spoken on Dominica, we had no idea we would swim through a canyon gorge to a roaring waterfall. Enchanted! Spoiled! A day to be etched in life's scrapbook for sure. And it didn't end there. We went to the natural hot springs. And perhaps what made this magical was seeing the Dutch cruising couple with whom we spent the day with lose their hot springs virginity. They are sold on the wonders of thermal waters. We are too. The day turned into night as we returned to the boat and hosted a finger food dinner aboard Mile High Dream. For MHD, this was her second social event in Dominica with 8 other cruisers (Brenda & Alan, Phil & Crystal, Lauren & Bill, Nancy & Mike) this week. Greg and MHD will be back to Dominica. As much as we'd like another adventure, we need to continue our bakery research.