Tuesday, 21 April 2015

St.Martin and Anguilla. A visit with Sammy.

  After five rolly nights at St. Barth's it felt good to up anchor ( 7am. Sun. 29th March) and sail the approx. 16 nm down wind to St.Martin. It also felt good to be arriving at the next port of call within daylight hours, I much prefer to be tucked up in my bed at night, all night, asleep, than be on watch out on the high seas!

 The Island of St. Martin in made up of two countries, the Dutch side called Sint Maarten, and the French side, St. Martin. Fortunately, the powers that be have made it easy for cruisers and visiting tourists. Once you have checked in with customs/immigration in either country you are then free to move around the Island at will, on land or by dingy. That's not the case with your boat though. When moving it from a French anchorage to the Dutch side, or vice versa, you must clear customs with both countries.  

 We had decided to clear in at Simpson Bay Lagoon on the Dutch side. There is a swing bridge which has set opening hours for in-bound and out-bound boat traffic. We made the 11.30am opening and were thru into the huge lagoon.  The lagoon has many marina's, full of mega yachts, and is also a popular spot for cruisers because of the many boat stores and services offered here.  We anchored near what turned out to be one end of the airports runway and so had both small and large planes taking off overhead thru out the day, kind of neat actually.

Sammy's plane over Maho Beach

The next day was spent on boat "stuff" and stocking up with food in preparation for the arrival of my birthday present the following day. Sammy!!  She arrived right on time and with a big smile on her face, is it any wonder.  We were able to leave the dingy at a bar right across from the airport terminal, which saved us from having to take a bus or taxi ride. From there we walked past the airport to the other end of the runway, which ends at Maho Bay. The planes come in really low right over the beach here. They also line up here before take off and people hang on to the chain link fence( which separates the runway from the beach) for dear life as the planes rev their engines for take off. Its hilarious to watch ( safely from the sidelines) as anything on the beach, including people, gets blown into the sea by the jets engine blast. We were standing on the beach as Sammy's plane came in, it felt like I could have reached out and touched it, amazing! So, a quick walk back to the terminal and we were inside in time to greet her.

My birthday present arrives!
  Sammy and I took the local bus in to Philipsburg the following day. This is the port where the cruise ships come in and the shopping is supposed to be good but we were a little disappointed with it.

Sammy on Sandy Island
 The following day had us leaving Simpson's Bay and making the short sail over to Road Bay on the Island of Anguilla. Anguilla reminded me a lot of Barbuda with it's beautiful long white sandy beaches, the only difference being Anguilla has much more development with many upscale homes and resorts. While there we spent one day on tiny little Sandy Island where you can rent beach loungers and be fed a very nice BBQ lunch. We also rented a car for the day and attempted to visit as many Anguillan beaches as possible. I think our favourite was Shoal Bay, what a beautiful beach and view.

Ian hard at work, Sandy Island.

Walking on beach at Shoal Bay, Anguilla

Anguillan sail boats heading out of Road Bay
Dinner on beach - Road Bay, Anguilla

View from Fort Louis - Marigot Bay in foreground with Simpson's Bay Lagoon beyond

 Sammy's week was drawing to a close so we sadly headed back to St.Martin, this time to Marigot Bay which is located at the far end of the Simpson Bay Lagoon. Marigot is the capital city of French St. Martin, a very busy town with lots of shops and restaurants  and a large vendors market at the waterfront. The view from the top of Fort Louis is fantastic looking down onto Marigot town and Bay and out across the lagoon in the distance.  And then, a week later, another trip back to the airport to say goodbye ( I much prefer the arrivals from the departures!)  We loved having you Sammsy, anytime, anyplace, please come again soon.

Next up, Culebra.  

Monday, 13 April 2015

St.Barth's. Land of Boutique's.

After an overnight motorsail from Barbuda we arrived at the lovely Island of St.Barth’s. As you approach St. Barth’s from the south you can also see in the distance the Islands of St. Kitts and Nevis, St Eustatius and Saba. Behind St.Barth’s you see the larger Island of St.Martin. What a wonderful sight they all were that morning. We dropped anchor in the outer harbour of Gustavia, along with tonnes of other boats and many mega yachts. Gustavia has a very busy harbour, there was a constant stream of yachts, ferries and commercial boats going by while small commuter planes flew overhead to and from the nearby airport.

  Gustavia is a pretty little town wrapped around the inner harbor, which is full of mega yachts, some of whose tenders ( dinghy) put our boat to shame! The busy streets are lined with restaurants and upscale shops. The womens clothing available is to die for, but really not suitable for my current life aboard Zooropa. I have to admit I did buy several T-shirts, a hat and a bag which leave no doubt as to which Island I was recently on!
Downtown Gustavia 

  We rented a small car for the day, being informed that you could drive the length of the Island in an hour! We took longer than that and managed to see and walk several nice beaches, plus browse some very nice stores.   

Anse De Grand Saline

Historic downtown Gustavia

Rugged southwest shore of St.Barth's

Even though we really liked St.Barth's, after five very bumpy nights in the anchorage it was a relief to move on. St. Martin up next and a visit from Sammy!

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Antigua and Barbudaful!

Yikes, I am WAY behind with my blog posts, so even though we are now in St.Martin ( April 7th as I write) lets go back to  Feb 26th when we were departing from St.Lucia.

We had a good sail, beam reach,over to Martinique, motor-sailed in the lee of the Island and then another good sail across to Dominica, where once again we had to motor-sail and then just motor as the wind died in the lee of the Island. It was night by now but there were several other boats around which was comforting. I like to know there are other people out on the waters too in the dark. Once past Dominica the winds picked up again and we had a “rollicking” sail with gusts over 30 knots up to Iles Des Saintes. We arrived there around 8am. dropped anchor and fell asleep for a few hours. Since it looked like the weather was not going to improve over the next week ( high winds) and we were wanting to get to Antigua, we decided to continue on later that afternoon and so stayed on the boat instead of going on shore. The Saintes look lovely and we look forward  to visiting and exploring on our return trip next season.

So, off again at dusk, once again motor-sailing the lee coast of Guadeloupe. Once we were out in the open the winds and seas really picked up. I would describe the passage across to Antigua as “hairy”, Ian calls it exhilarating!  When we sit at our helm seat we are ten feet above sea level, the waves were often coming over the coach roof above us ( fortunately we are well protected by our enclosure).  The good thing was that since it was nighttime I couldn’t see the waves coming, better that way I think.
I love coming into a sheltered anchorage where the winds and waves die down   and once the anchor is safely down we can relax. Needless to say, that was the case when we arrived in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua on Feb 28th. 

                            Serious boat inventory in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua.

English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour are separated by a small spit of land. Nelson's Dockyard was built on the English Harbour side around 1745 and was Britain's main naval base in the Leeward Islands. Today the dockyard has been beautifully restored and offers restaurants, a museum, a great little bakery and grocery store along with many yachting services and supplies to the many boats and cruisers that visit here. 

We did the hike, on very well maintained trails, up to Shirley Heights from which are fantastic views of English and Falmouth Harbours.

I believe  this is a Century Plant. It looks like a giant asparagus!

          Hiking the ocean side of Shirley Heights.

The view from Mt.Obama, the highest point on Antigua.

A five hour sail north of Antigua brings you to Barbuda. A fairly large and low Island. It is sparsely populated and undeveloped. The beaches have pink sand and stretch on for miles, mostly deserted.

We visited the Frigate bird colony, the largest one in the Eastern Caribbean. The male birds puff out there red chests to attract the females.The babies still have their white fluffy feathers.  

Next stop St. Barths.