On Saturday we were in St Lucia but have logged 200 miles since then, hopping up the island chain to Antigua. We didn’t clear into the 3 islands along the way due to needing to leave early the following mornings but flew the Yellow Flag.
The winds haven’t abated this year, so we always had a good Force 5 between the islands and usually crossed the 20 miles in 2 hours, despite reasonable swell. At the northern tips of the islands, the seas and winds are worse, not surprising when you consider the water was last seen off Africa and suddenly, thousands of miles later, it comes across the land masses of the islands and has to rush around them. We kept a reef in the main sail all the time and when the wind got up over 20 knots we had a reef in the genoa too. Still hurtled along at 8.5-10 knots though!
The island chain has a bend in it so once you reach St Lucia from the south the worst is over. Up to then, the islands are consecutively east of north and if there is a north-easterly wind, you are sailing very close to the wind. After St Lucia, the islands bend slightly westwards, so you can sail off the wind slightly, making it more comfortable.
Leaving St Lucia for St Pierre on Martinique the sea was a bit bumpy until we were clear of the island and we then had a good trip to the lee of Martinique. Staying a few miles offshore meant we could continue sailing most of the way to St Pierre, where we anchored for the night. I haven’t been this far north in the Caribbean for over 2 years!
There is a narrow shelf off the beach before the depths become too deep to anchor, so it was a bit crowded. In addition, due to trying to protect the wrecks of ships burnt in the volcanic eruption early last century, there is an area marked by yellow and white buoys denoting a No Anchoring Zone, so this limits your options even further. The history of St Pierre is an interesting one. There was plenty of warning before the volcano erupted but the town’s elders decided to ignore it. The consequence was all but 2 people died, a cobbler working in his cellar and a prisoner in the dungeon. There are many buildings left as a reminder of the tragedy and a museum we should visit next time.
We spent a quiet night and the alarm went off at 0530 for our next leg to Dominica. We experienced the same pattern for this trip but had better conditions just north of Martinique. We made a quick charge across the passage between the islands followed by gentler sailing in the lee of Dominica up to Prince Rupert Bay in the north. We were approached by one member of PAYS (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security), the boat boys organisation but we couldn’t take up his offer of a tour this time as we were just staying a few hours. Next time we’ll visit the boiling lake and waterfalls. The anchorage in the north of the large bay was busy, it being Sunday night and time for the famous beach BBQ to raise funds for PAYS, so we joined 5 others in the south eastern corner, which was lovely and peaceful and had another good night’s sleep.
Our sail to Guadeloupe was broken by the lee of The Saintes, a very pretty collection of islands, 8 miles south of Guadeloupe, which we visited over 2 years ago. On our way south we intend to spend a few more days there. Our plan was to stop for the night in Deshaies, a deep bay in the north of the island. It was very busy when we arrived but we found a spot half way in and squeezed ourselves into the gap. When it became clear we weren’t going to hit anyone when we swung in the wind, we had another restful night before getting up a bit later, 0600, to head off for our final trip to Falmouth in Antigua. We heard on the Ocean Cruising Club net later that a gale hit the bay the night after we left, so we were happy to have continued north!
We got a weather forecast on my Kindle, a free Internet connection, which is a godsend sometimes. Although the weather looked kind for a few days, we decided to press on and get to Antigua and spend a few days in Guadeloupe coming south in May. There is a Cousteau diving park near Pigeon Island, about half way down the west coast of Guadeloupe and we hope to do some more diving there as several people have recommended it. They even have yellow moorings for yachts, so we can dive on our own off the boat.
The final passage was over 40 miles and all in the open sea straight from Africa! The other trips between the islands were about 20 miles or so. As usual, the forecast winds were slightly under the reality and we whizzed along covering the 47 miles in less than 6 hours. Although it was a fast trip, the waves weren’t too bad and our autopilot, ‘Cyril’, steered all the way whilst we read and braced ourselves in the tipped up cockpit. The easterly wind made it possible to head straight for Falmouth on the south coast of Antigua and we furled away the genoa and motored through the entrance before dropping the mainsail in 20 knots of wind.
The bay is quite large and not too busy with plenty of room to anchor. There are a few shoals but the red and green buoys mark most of these. They are flashing tonight too, as I write! A few moorings are available, coloured orange with a label telling you they cost 20 US$ a night and who to call. We anchored though but when Rob tried to check it, the water was too cloudy to see the bottom, even when he dived down. We can hear the anchor chain rumbling over rocks but the boat has stayed in place all afternoon.
I went to clear in as soon as we arrived. From Falmouth Marina, a short walk brings you to English Harbour and the Customs, Immigration and Port Authority Offices all in Nelson’s Dockyard. They were all very helpful and friendly. I had to use eSeaClear, the online system I last used in 2011 as they are not using the replacement SeaClear, used now in St Lucia and Curacao. It didn’t take long to feed the information in and it will be retained for our departure next month. The cost for the cruising permit, park charges, entry fees and garbage was less than 30 GBP, not bad for a month’s stay and we can visit Barbuda and any of the other bays in Antigua.
So, we are here in good time and ready for Kym’s arrival on March 8th. Beyzano has done us proud as always, taking all the wind and waves in her stride. Rob loves to race and the worst scenario is a few boats ahead of us. His eyes turn red, I swear and he becomes a racing demon, tweaking the sails every other second and pushing the poor boat along as fast as possible. Not very comfortable at times but he was happy to pass 3 yachts which had left ahead of us this morning! In the process we took a few waves over the decks and Beyzy is covered in salt and in need of either a heavy rainstorm or a night in a marina to hose her down ☹
Tonight we were treated to the spectacle of the host of super yachts in the marina all lit up and as their masts are so tall, they even have red lights on the tops! The size and immaculate presentation of these super yachts is amazing and one even had a sailing yacht on her side deck and she was a sailing yacht herself!
Tomorrow we will explore Nelson’s Dockyard and Falmouth Harbour a bit more. We came to Antigua on holiday in 2007 and visited the dockyard then. It feels wonderful to have our own boat here now, quite unbelievable sometimes. Pinch me someone!