Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Antigua - an island with 365 beaches! Honest that's what the brochure says. So, if you like beaches, this is the place. However, we know we are true cruisers when we didn't pick the pretty anchorage in front of Pigeon Beach but moved well into the harbour where, although not so picturesque, there is a good signal for WiFi.

I must admit, it was a bit of a culture shock coming into Falmouth Harbour. When we arrived, we motored past the entrance on our way to anchor near our friends on Reverie. This harbour is home to many Super Yachts, Mega-Yachts and just generally humongous boats. I am not sure what the difference is between a super yacht and a mega-yacht. I know that a mega-yacht has to be over 100 feet in length. But it is likely a question that if you have to ask, you can't afford it. Anchored at the harbour entrance is Mirabelle V - the largest single masted sloop in the world topping out at 175 feet in length. The Maltese Falcon, the largest sailing ship in the world at about 289 feet, is also due in. The masts on these yachts are so tall that they have to have red lights mounted atop to warn low flying aircraft. The power boats are also huge. It is not uncommon for a helicopter to be berthed at the stern for those quick trips to pick up pizza. These boats are kept in immaculate condition by their full time crew and an army of locals painting, polishing, etc - just waiting for their owners or charterer's to pop over for a few nights. This luxury is in sharp contrast to the island people who are similar to the other islands and not well off. The contrast is just more striking.

After anchoring, Mike & Chris told us about a boat building contest on Friday. There were 27 entries, mostly crews from the mega-yachts. Contestants were given some materials, had to build a boat in 2 hours, then sail the boat from the beach and around the marina. It was great fun for all. We walked the dock watching the various imaginative creations taking form. Many actually made it around the course to the surprise of all. It was a fun afternoon.

Then on Sunday, we took a taxi up to Shirley Heights for a BBQ and pan music. Shirley Heights was the lookout station for Admiral Nelson's crew and has a great view of both English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour (they are separated by a long peninsula). You could see why Nelson liked both these harbours for Hurricane season. The harbours are well protected from all directions. Unfortunately Nelson hated living there due to the mosquitoes and the fact that the local land owners had taken a contract out on his life for restricting trade with the colonies. He lived a virtual prisoner in the dockyard at English Harbour.

Another day, we walked around Lord Nelson's Dockyard in English Harbour. Many of the buildings are being restored to Nelson's time and there is a little museum giving some of the history. I also spent a fun day replacing the alternator belt - a typical boat job, including the squall that decided to go through just when I had the contents of both cockpit lockers strewn about the cockpit. Karen enjoyed her day unable to move from the corner I alloted her, imprisoned by the contents of the quarter berth. She was so thankful to move at the end of the day she insisted on washing AND drying the dishes after cooking dinner. Maybe I should do this kind of boat job more often?

Today we are off on the busses to see the big city of St. John. Next weekend, we plan to go to a secluded anchorage at Green Island on Nonsuch Bay with Reverie. More later.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


As I mentioned in the last update, we were sitting at anchor off Portsmouth, Dominica, when the wind died. Vagus slowly turned with the current, beam on to the incoming swell. We started to roll - not a gentle roll, but a hang-on roll. It also had been raining a lot during our stay and there was the type of overcast that made you feel you were in Vancouver (although warmer, Karen says). As well we had been subjected to three nights of loud music from the partying ashore - till 4 or 5 in the morning - as carnival was starting. Although it was not the best day to leave according to the weather reports, it was an okay day and we needed sleep.

After we raised anchor and motored out the harbour, Legend called to say they were leaving as well. They volunteered to take our picture under sail and they got some great shots, including the one posted. Yes, that is Vagus and we are not sinking. These were just some of the big swells we were sailing in. Legend is a 62 foot sailboat and sits very high over the water compared to our boat. The sail was actually quite comfortable; the seas were just big. We did get hit by a 30 knot squall near The Saints (our destination). We were two miles from a tricky passage through some reefs when the wind and rains hit. Visibility dropped to about 50 feet as we raced under main sail only (we had already rolled in our Genoa)at 7 knots towards the hard bits ashore. We decided to heave-to and wait through the squall. After about ten minutes, Vagus and I were thoroughly washed (Karen, of course, was still dry), the sky was clear and we could see where we wanted to go.

A few miles later, we anchored off the main village in a group of islands called The Saints, or properly called Isles des Saintes. They are part of Guadeloupe, a French Island. Ah! Back to the land of fresh baguettes! The Saints is a tourist destination for people from Guadeloupe. Every morning ferry loads of people arrive at the main dock, disperse throughout the island, walking or on motor scooters, and visit the forts, beaches, restaurants, etc. It was a great spot to visit and explore. The area is clean and picturesque. We hiked to Fort Napoleon, once again on the highest hill in the area. And we got in some snorkeling with Legend. Hopefully you can see one shot of Karen in the water and us relaxing in the dinghy before heading aback to the boat. The water temperature was down to 26C - a little cooler than we are used to.

After a week, we decided to go to Deshaies on the North West corner of Guadeloupe. We met up with some friends on Rovinkind II, a Canadian boat out of Nova Scotia. We had last seen them in 2004 in Spanish Wells, Bahamas. Together we toured the botanical gardens. Karen averaged a picture every 95 seconds - glad we are digital. The gardens were great. There are numerous hikes here but the weather opened up for a run to Antigua - due North 43 miles away. So once again we were off. More later.

Friday, February 9, 2007


Dominica - an island in transition. It is amazing. There is only 70 000 people on Dominica and eight volcanos - more volcanos than any other island. Presently it is likely the poorest and least developed island in the chain. But that is changing. They are going after the tourist trade and have a beautiful island for display. Their target is the Eco-Tourist and they back this up with numerous rain forest hikes, river tours, an aerial lift through the rain forest tree tops where the parrots fly, a working Carib Indian village and more. Most of the island seems to be park land. When we arrived at Portsmouth, we found the boat vendors that greeted us friendly and helpful. They all have taken lessons on how to greet visiting yachts and it shows. Gone are the aggressive sales tactics of the past. Even in town no-one begged from us, although they were more than willing to show their goods and barter for a sale.

Our initial contact was David, one of the water taxi operators. These water taxis buzz around the anchorage and will pick you up from your boat and take you wherever for a reasonable fee. They will also arrange island tours. Most are also registered tour guides for the nearby Indian river. This was a must tour for us so we booked a time with David for Saturday morning. We didn't realize that there is always a party in town on Friday night - one that actually lasted until 5:00am Saturday morning. We know, as the music was quite clear in our boat as we tried to sleep. We thought David seemed very happy when we changed our pickup time to Saturday afternoon as there were rain showers in the morning when we got up. David arrived promptly at Vagus at the appointed hour and we were off. At the start of the river, he shut down the engine and took out oars - engines are not allowed on the river. He then took us on an hour excursion, about a quarter mile up the river, explaining the various trees, plant and animal life that abounded along the banks. The growth along the banks was incredible. Karen averaged a picture every minute and a half - thankfully we have a digital camera. We even saw another spot where a segment of the Pirates of The Caribbean was shot (I think they covered the whole of the Caribbean). About a quarter mile in, we came to an old plantation garden that was being developed into a rest spot. We were able to walk the garden and enjoy a rum punch called Dynamite (two glasses and you will see crocodiles on the river). David then took us on a leisurely tour down the river and back to our boat - a great day.

We also managed to walk to Fort Shirley one afternoon. Our friends on Legend had just arrived and said that the walk was well worthwhile. They were right. The fort is one of the numerous forts put up by the British or French - in this case British - and is being beautifully restored. A dock for cruise ships has been put in at it's base so it looks like it will be a busy place in the future, although we didn't see any ships using it while we were there. Forts, of course, are always on the top of hills that make for an interesting climb/hike. I still do not know how they got all those cannons up there.

The anchorage got really rolly on Sunday night. It was difficult sleeping while our skeletons were being rolled about in our skins. Monday started out rainy so, with Legend, we decided to head out. Next stop is the Isles des Saintes!  

Sunday, February 4, 2007


Martinique - one of the French Isles. What a delight! The people of the island are friendly, helpful and courteous. We struggle with our limited French when on the island and they respond with their limited English - which is usually better than our French - with a smile. Even if they couldn't speak English, they would patiently try to understand what we said. And the "joie de vivre" was ever-present.

The beaches are incredible. We anchored off the small village of Ste. Anne in the south of Martinique. The water is clear and the sand beaches stretch for miles. There is quite a cruising community who make Ste. Anne a long-term stop-over. Of course there is dominos on Sunday at a local restaurant. And it is a short ride to an excellent dinghy dock to pick up freshly baked baguettes for lunch and, of course, some pain au chocolat to tide one over until lunch. The pastry is wonderful and definitely not low calorie. The village is clean (a treat from some of the other islands) and very cruiser friendly. We can see why people make long stops here!

We arrived in Martinique with Paramour.  Paramour and their friends off Kokapelli introduced us to a hike to the far side (South end) of the island to a popular beach. Along the hilly trail, we passed numerous beautiful, almost deserted, clothing optional, sandy beaches and, after about two hours, we reached our destination - Saline Bay.  We were ready for lunch at a beach front restaurant! There, relaxing with a cold beer and a sandwich, we could admire the bathing suit girls showing off their wares to prospective customers. These enterprising young ladies had a basket full of bikinis. When approached by prospective customers, they would strip and model whatever suit caught the customer's interest. I wanted desperately to buy Karen a new suit but all I got was an "I don't think so, Jim". Oh well. It made for an enjoyable lunch.

We stayed in Ste. Anne 11 days (2 domino games), wandering the village and visiting Marin, the nearby town. After that, the weather looked good so we sailed up to St. Pierre at the North end of Martinique. This town was destroyed in 1902 when Mt Pelee blew up. It literally did blow up, with 29000 people losing their lives in a giant fireball explosion. Ste. Pierre had been the center of commerce for Martinique and a thriving city, the "Paris of the Caribbean". Now only 5000 people live here. Many of the ruins are still visible. We anchored just off the main dock and could see and hear the street traffic in town. In the afternoon we went to a small museum and saw the recorded evidence of the destruction. It looked like the aftermath of a nuclear explosion. We stopped in St. Pierre for only one night as the weather was still good to head for Dominica - our next stop.