Monday, June 30, 2008

Guadeloupe And La Douane

Arriving at a new island the first thing a yacht must do is check in with the island authorities: Customs and Immigrations. Some islands are very strict about this formality. The French are not. The French are very easy going when it comes to checking in. As a matter of fact, we are not sure it they really care whether we check in or not? But since you have to show a trail of where you have been and where you are going, it gets a bit complicated if you do not follow the rules.

We arrive in Deshaies, Guadeloupe on Sunday, Father's Day. The French do not celebrate Father's Day but they do celebrate Sunday. Nothing is open on Sunday. Families are together, enjoying a day of rest. We must make an attempt to check in with customs. We find La Douane(customs) but of course they are closed. We can try again tomorrow but they only open for 1 hour in the afternoon? We are not planning on staying. Oh well, we tried.

Next obstacle is money. They do not use the US $ here so we must find an ATM for some Euros. We find a nice French guy who tells us in broken English to go to La Posta. Of course, the post office for money. Sure enough, that is where the ATM is.

We pick out a very nice looking restaurant on the hillside for dinner. They are open, thank goodness since neither of us wants to cook. Besides, when on a French island you must eat French food.

We sit on a covered patio. We are surrounded by tropical lush vegetation and the tree frogs are serenading us. We feel like the jungle king and queen.

Our meal is great and our waiter speaks a little bit of English. With our very little bit of French we manage to order a great meal of Mahi Mahi. Each course is a delight and we enjoy every morsel including the very nice French wine.

After dinner we must navigate our way down the stairs, across the rocky beach and into our dinghy. In the dark. Steve is "lead man". Happy Father's Day!

The next morning we pull up our anchor and head for Pigeon Island, just a short hop down island. We hear the snorkeling is great there and we are not disappointed.

This is a Princess Parrotfish. They are efficient recycling machines that turn coral and rock into fine sand in the process of grazing algae from them.
This is a Smooth Trunkfish. It feeds on burrowing organisms. To find it's prey it spits jets of water into the sand and uncovers dinner.

This is another Parrotfish but the Sea Urchin behind him gives him an exotic look.
Fish parade

After a long day of snorkeling we headed for the shore and dropped our anchor in a nice bay. We were too tired to go shore and there was not customs office here anyway. Tomorrow we'll make a real effort. We will head for the capital, La Basse Terre.

The next day we motor south. The coastline is so very pretty. The seas are calm.

The trolling line is out and Steve works on a project as we slowly motor to our next destination.We arrive in La Basse Terre just in time for lunch. That means customs will be closed until at least 1:30pm-2pm. We find a nice looking pizza place and look the menu over. We know some of the french words now but to our surprise the waitress speaks Spanish. Ok, now we are in business. We order our meal in our best Espanol. Trying to speak so many languages in one day is wearing the captain out. And why are you wearing Anne's sunglasses??

We find customs but it seems they closed at 2pm for the day. Strike three, we are out. We leave and head south again to a small day park. Here we find a dive mooring and a great snorkeling area. We swim, we watch the people walk run and bike along the ocean road. We watch the sun set and realize we are too tired to go anywhere and why not spend the night on this nice dive mooring? No one else is here?

The next morning we are awakened at 5am by French fishermen. Seems they want to use our dive mooring. Anne makes an appearance on deck in her pj's and tell them to go away. They don't understand but they make it very clear with hand gestures they want us gone. Go Go Go! How rude. We decide to comply since they out number us but we take our sweet time. Coffee anyone?

We head for The Saints: 8 small islands about 10 miles south of Guadeloupe. These islands are very French and picture postcard perfect. We find the customs officers. They check us in and out. Very easy. We spend the day looking around and come back in the evening for some great pizza (yes we have an addiction problem).

There is some bad weather coming our way and we are in $$$ vs Euro shock. Time to go. The next day we decide to head south to Dominica but will return here someday when the Dollar and Euro are on a more level playing field. Hopefully in our lifetime?

See you in Dominica

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line

Monday, June 23, 2008


Out trip to Antigua from Nevis was anything but pleasant. It did not help that we had Killer Bees the night before. Bad Karma! We found ourselves heading directly into the wind and the swells.

This video is a good sail. It is a sail we love. It is a sail we hope to do more of. Without this kind of sail we would pack it up and go home. We would not video a bad sail like the one to Antigua because we would both be sick filming it and so would you watching it. Promise.

We were happy to reach Jolly Harbor six hours after leaving Nevis. We were happy the anchorage was calm and sheltered from the wind. After a good nights sleep life was good again. We spent the day cleaning the boat and getting ready for our friend Nancy's arrival.

Nancy missed her flight, however, and would not arrive for another day. We are flexible and so is Nancy so not a big deal. We decided to sail north to St. John's Harbor to be a bit closer to the airport.

Soon enough our friend was safely tucked aboard and we headed to a secluded part of the island for some serious swimming and snorkeling.

Antigua is a major Caribbean yachting destination for racers and cruisers. It is probably best known for the Antigua Race Week. But by summer everyone has left this potential hurricane area. Big yachts head for the Mediterranean or the USA.

That meant we had paradise to ourselves.

Anne with good friend Nancy visiting from Las Vegas

The north/east side of Antigua has amazing reefs and the snorkeling is magnificent.

This is a Bluehead Wrasse. One of our favorite fishes.

Stoplight Parrotfish

A nice little eelMuch too soon it was time for Nancy to leave. Heading to the Cayman's for a weeks dive trip, we were not feeling too sorry for her. We spent our last night in Jolly Harbor enjoying some very traditional Indian Food.

Time to move south again. Our next island is Guadeloupe, a French island. We are trying real hard to learn some more French words: vin, rhum, biere and ou se trouve le cabinet will only get us so far....

See you in Guadeloupe.

Bonne Nuit

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line

Friday, June 20, 2008

St. Kitts and Nevis

Ever wonder what it is like to live on a 44 ft. boat with one other person? 24 hours per day, 7 days per week? A little solitude in the dinghy is sometimes just what is needed. It seems as if Steve set Anne adrift here but the reality is Steve is adrift in the big boat... Later that morning we set sail for St. Kitts but saw something dragging in the water behind us. Seems we picked up and old mooring line. Luckily Steve was able to free it from the prop without any damage. It is not the first line we have "found" floating in the ocean. It is one of the biggest hazards we face. Floating debris and poorly marked fish traps. Later in the week we pick up a fish trap that wraps itself around both rudders and one prop. Out in the middle of the ocean with big seas, Steve has to cut us free.

St. Kitts is very "island". It is not part of a European nation. St. Kitts with it's sister island, Nevis, is one nation with a strong tourist industry thanks to the cruise ships that visit the islands regularly. It also means that you are constantly approached for taxi's, tours, buy this and buy that. Not always fun.

St. Kitts is, however, another beautiful island with a rich history of conquerors, slavery and pirates. We did take an island tour and our guide was a great story teller. The island is 23 miles long and 5 miles across at the widest. A drive around the island does not take long but we are dazzled by the beauty.

One of our first stops is The Brimston Hill Fortress National Park, often called the Gibraltar of the Caribbean. This fortress was constructed by the British to repel the French. The French took control of the fort in 1782 and then the Brits were back a year later with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles. One constant during this period was the slave labor. Slaves were imported to work the sugar plantations but were "loaned" to the government to assist with builiding this fort atop an 800 ft. volcanic outcrop.

After climbing around the fort we were ready for some refreshments. Our guide took us to a great watering hole. It was a very upscale watering hole. It is a magnificent restored sugar mill plantation known as the Rawlins Plantation.

Our lunch began with refreshments on the verandah. So very civilized.

Later we were served a fabulous meal of assorted West Caribbean dishes.

The next day we headed down island for some underwater exploration of a couple of boat wrecks. Our guide book tells us there is a wreck dating back to 1799. We find only bits and pieces but a more recent wreck is still pretty much intact.

Among the debris we find some colorful fish.

It is time to move on and Nevis lies only 2 miles south of the southern shore of St. Kitts. It is a nice sail and we have our trolling lines out. Soon we have a Dolphin fish (Mahi Mahi) hooked up. He is a wild one. Dancing as we haul him in, he flashes us with flourescent yellows, blues and greens. To our dismay, he is barely on the hook. We have him right next to the boat and we say every so nicely, please hold on while we get our gaff. Maybe mentioning the gaff was a bad idea because he now stands up on his tail and whips the hook out of his mouth. He is gone. There goes our Mahi Mahi dinner.

We don't spend much time in Nevis because we are expecting a friend in Antigua in a few days. We do sample the local drink at Sunshines Beach Bar and Grill. All we can say is watch out for the Killer Bees especially the night before you go to Antigua. Interested? Check it out. It is on Pinney's Beach

See you in Antigua

Anne and Steve

S/V Fine Line

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Leaving St. Martin we raised the sails and headed southwest for Saba. It was great. We were sailing. It is not just about conserving expensive fuel, sailing is nice. The motion is smooth and there is only the sound of the water rushing by the boat. No diesel engine noise.

We could see Saba from St. Martin despite the cloudy overcast weather.

Saba is an extinct volcano. It has not erupted for over 5,000 years. It is a tall mysterious looking island shrouded in clouds and greenery.
Approaching the island you have to wonder how anyone managed to land here many years ago much less build homes and a thriving community.
Approaching the anchorage we found the old customs house. Can you imagine anchoring your boat here, landing your goods and passengers and then hiking up the 300 + steps to the customs house at the top of the hill.

Saba is part of the Dutch Netherlands Antilles. It is an island known for superb diving and the waters surrounding the island are protected by the Saba Marine Park. Checking in with the authorities includes a visit to the Marina Park Office where the rules of the land and sea are spelled out clearly. Paperwork is part of the price you pay for this Dutch paradise. Steve and Roxanne got the job done.

Saba has two main villages, The Bottom and Windwardside. The two are connected by The Road. To get anywhere near the villages you must hike uphill or you can hire a taxi.

Hiring a local to drive and tell stories is the way to see the sights. Wayne came highly recommended and having been born on the island made the stories even better.

As told by Wayne: Engineers from Holland had declared it impossible to build roads on Saba. The locals, however, were not inclined to do without the modern convenience of the automobile so one of their own took a correspondence course in road building. With assistance from his fellow countrymen, a road was built.

And what a road it is. Are we in Disneyland? This narrow road winds its way up and down, around the mountain, very very close to the cliffs..... and it is a two way road! Help!

The view is incredible.
The local airport's landing strip is not much longer than an aircraft carrier. Glad we arrived by boat.
Toy boats.
The island has beautiful flowers

Wild raspberries

Fruit trees everywhereLots and lots of goats

The next day we went for a hike. It was a lush tropical jungle

Million dollar viewLots of climbing and a great workoutA well deserved lunch afterwards with friends Jim and Roxanne.Nothing better than a swim after a long hot hike

We have a new toy......can you tell? It was time to leave Saba and head for St. Kitts. When we leave an island we always swear we will come back someday. I hope we get a chance to visit this great place again. You should come yourself and see it.

Anne and Steve

Onboard S/V Fine Line