Tuesday, February 28, 2012

More on Antigua

It was great spending a whole week on Antigua.  We were able to be in several different harbours and realized that there are lots of different cruising experiences available.  

Our first stop was Falmouth Harbour.  It was just a few days before the RORC 600, which is a sailing race of 600 miles around several of the Caribbean islands. Here is a link if you want to know more.   http://caribbean600.rorc.org/ It was very fun to see the raceboats and their crews while on shore and out practicing from our mooring.  Antigua also prides itself on its youth sailing program, so we were able to cheer the kids on in the late afternoons as they raced around the boats in the harbour.

On the RORC race day, we left for our next anchorage, right after the start of the race.  It was a bit rainy, but soon cleared up, and we were sailing right behind the classic yachts Adela and Windrose.  Absolutely gorgeous.  We suspect that Callisto was also in some of the pictures from the helicopter, but, of course, edited out...

We sailed most of the way to Nonsuch Bay on the eastern side of Antigua.  This reminded us of the Tobago Cays, there is nothing between you and Senegal but the Atlantic Ocean..and the large reef, of course.  No restaurants, no vendors, just a few other boats, enjoying the sand and water, plus lots of kitesurfing.  A very different perspective from the bustle and big money in Falmouth...

Our final destination on the island was Jolly Harbour, at the western side of Antigua, to allow for a shopping day in the capital St. Johns, and a quick taxi ride to the airport for our friend’s return to the US.   We had a quick sail, but quite a bumpy ride, with large rolly waves.  Our friends definitely won the iron stomach award!  We stopped at Carlisle Bay, a smallish bay just north of Falmouth Harbour, and Callisto was the only boat in the harbor well until evening when we were joined by only two other boats.  Since we had been “roughing it” for a few days, we decided to have both lunch and dinner at the resort.  A very good decision, the food was excellent, and the service included a wine sommelier, all very civilized.  The snorkeling was also very good, David reported seeing many new types of coral and some large starfish. 

After a leisurely breakfast next morning, we headed to Jolly Harbour.  The marina and condo development there is quite large, with several more homes in the planning stages.  We anchored outside the marina, and “enjoyed” the wet dinghy rides into the marina.  From there, we went by taxi to St. Johns, the capital of Antigua, visited the local museum, and walked around the restored quay near the cruise ship dock.  We also took advantage of the local market, replenishing our fresh vegetable and fruit supply.  

Antigua turned out to be a great place to entertain guests, get in some great sailing, and enjoy several different aspects of Caribbean living. 

Monday, February 27, 2012


Another fun thing when cruising is having visitors.  We just finished spending a week with old friends, Ed and Ellen Antal, who flew down from New Jersey to be with us in Antigua.

Having guests sure breaks up the routine.  We love showing off our boat, our sailing skills, and the wonderful places that we get to experience.  This past week was filled with philosophical discussions, some card playing, lots of swimming and snorkeling, and plenty of bragging on our kids.

The boat does feel a bit smaller with four people on board, but it works very well for that number.  The main downside is that we have to eat meals in the Saloon, rather than in the cockpit.  Our cockpit table really can only handle two people.

Now we are in a bit of a hurry to get up to St. Martin, where we will meet our daughter, Esther, and her friend James for a week on the boat, and then visit with Gretchen's mother for another week.  The forecast is for strong winds and fairly big waves, so we should have some lively sailing the next few days.

Green Flash

One of the fun things about cruising in the tropics is the daily sundown ritual.  Every evening, as sundown nears, we relax in the cockpit (perhaps with beverage in hand), and watch the sun disappear behind the horizon.

An important part of this is watching for the elusive "Green Flash."  If conditions are just right, the very last bit of the sun on the horizon turns a brilliant green, for less than a second.  It requires a clear view of the sea on the horizon, and an absolutely clear sky.  This makes it quite rare.  Despite watching virtually every day, we never saw the green flash in 2011, and so far only once this year.  The rarity is part of the fun.

We have never heard a really good explanation for the physics behind this phenomenon.  There is an old joke about floating (green) beer bottles, but it probably has more to do with the sun shining through the sea water.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Still Sailing

We continue to sail nearly every day.  This is very different from our experience last year, when we often would sit at anchor for a week between passages.

And the sailing has been great!  Most days we have been able to sail at very comfortable angles to the wind, which means we sail fast and directly to our destination.  Winds have been very strong this year, nearly always more than 20 knots (40 kilometers/hour, Beaufort 6).  We have been sailing very fast -- which for our boat means speeds around 8.5 knots (16 km/hr) or even more.  We have also sailed almost every day with our sails reefed, to cope with the strong winds.

Blue skies, blue water, sun shining, and fast sailing.  It doesn't get any better than that!

We are now in Isles des Saintes, which are several small islands off the coast of Guadeloupe.  This is a fantastic, beautiful anchorage, with pastel-colored houses in the village.  Guadeloupe is a part of France, and the French influence is very strong, especially in the restaurants, wine selections, and general attitude.

We have only two more passages before arriving in Antigua.  We expect to be there on Wednesday.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Lots to Catch Up On

Since our last post there have been several adventures.  Here's a sampling:

Invasion  We have had absolutely no problem with mosquitoes this trip, and have become somewhat lax about screens.  One evening, David left the screen on the main entryway open when he went to bed.  Mistake.  A bird (or maybe more than one) came into the boat during the night, and apparently stayed for quite a while.  When we woke in the morning, there was bird poop everywhere.  Hard to deal with before you've even had a cup of coffee.

Mustique Blues Festival  This is the seventeenth annual festival, and we sailed there in order to go to a couple of concerts.  Mustique is one of the Grenadines, a perfect tropical island.  It is privately owned, and the development company has made it a destination for the rich and famous.  Homeowners over the years have included Mick Jagger, Tommy Hilfiger, and Raquel Welch, among many other familiar names.  Apparently we missed Prince William and Kate by only a couple of days.  This wasn't all bad, because we heard that security made much of the island inaccessible to tourists.

The concerts were a lot of fun.  As usual, as "mature" adults, we ended up going to bed before the really good acts came on stage.  But we're used to that.

Sailing  Since we have a commitment to be on Antigua by the middle of February, we've been doing a lot more sailing this year than last.  It has been very enjoyable.  Yesterday, for example, we had some of the best sailing we've ever experienced in the Caribbean.  The winds were strong (20+ knots, Beaufort 6) and from a favorable direction, the waves big but well separated.  We sailed at 8.5 knots (even touching 9 knots a few times) much of the way, and arrived in St. Lucia 3-4 hours before we had planned.  This was a 55 nautical mile trip, and we made it in under 8 hours, including time for raising the anchor and setting/dousing the sails.  Exhilarating and magical.