Sunday, March 29, 2009

Familiar Places

Sailing in the Caribbean Islands can be as beautiful as a picture postcard. When the weather turns stormy, however, it is more like a bad movie where even the audience can get seasick. We have learned how to avoid the latter and so for the next two weeks we hide out in this amazing lagoon on the island of St. Martin. Outside the lagoon the wind is blowing from the north/ north east and the seas are big and nasty. We are happy to be safe and sound.

The lagoon is sheltered from the north and it offers the best of two worlds: France and Holland. Want great coffee, chocolate and fashions straight from Paris? Visit Marigot. Want tasty gouda cheese, international grocery stores, cheap electronics, cheap liquor, good ribs (I can go on and on), visit Phillipsburg. We stay here for almost two weeks, weather not being the only reason.
Best of all, we have been here before on our trip south so we know all the good places to visit.

There are good boat repair facilities, good technicians and boat parts galore. We catch up on a few chores. Steve is up the mast replacing yet another LED anchor light. How come they only last 3 months? You would think the manufacturer would be tired of hearing from Captain Clean!

This island has limited WiFi in the lagoon but we have found a nice location to catch up on phone calls, etc. It looks like a department store because it is. This is sort of their storage area. They are well diversified. We see some of our friends anchored close by. This is Jim and Wendy at the end of the rainbow.
And then there is Adrian Pringle. We met Adrian last summer right here in St. Martin. We went south and he went east all the way across the Atlantic to the Azores. By himself. 15 days of solitude. He then continued on to the Canary Islands. By himself. 6 days of solitude. You might think Adrian likes being alone but that is not the case. We find out his return trip included a kitty and a woman. Smart guy. The kitty is still onboard but the woman is missing? Adrian is a good story teller and he entertains us with his stories of romance and breakups. He also knows the best rib places in town. He is a great friend.

We visit one of our favorite venues in St. Martin with Adrian. The plane, the plane.

The Sunset Bar and Grill sit at the end of the island's main airport runway. It suffered some damage last summer during Hurricane Omar but we are happy to see it up and running again.

It is never tiring to see the big planes come in to land right over our heads.

It just so happens the Heineken Regatta is in full swing. Planes, boats, beautiful water, what else could you want?

The Heineken Regatta also brings lots of people to the island. It can make it a bit crowded. Here our dinghy is buried in a mass of inflatables. We play bumper boat to get out of this maze.

There are lots of parties during the Regatta with good food and.....Heineken beer Great music

And most fun of all is watching the race boats when the race is finished. Returning to the lagoon from the sea you must enter through a very narrow bridge. The local yacht club is located right next to the bridge and as the boats pass through, crowds of people cheer the crews on. The crews entertain the spectators.

Soon it is time to head north. We leave St. Martin early in the morning. It will take us all day to get to the Virgin Islands. There is not much wind and the seas are behind us, not too big, just right.

As we enter the British Virgin Islands we see a familiar sight. Raising her sails, the Maltese Falcon is ready to get underway.

With all her canvas up, the 200 foot yacht quickly passes us by.

We find a nice calm anchorage at Peter Island and enjoy a beautiful sunset. The next morning we head north to the US Virgin Islands. It is a mere 10 miles away.
Soon we are in St. John. Back with our traveling companions, Makai, Salida and Leap Of Faith.

Steve and the guys take advantage of another north swell. Steve and Fred catching a wave. Surf photos courtesy of Kathy on Makai.
St. John is one of our favorite places to hang out. Most of the island is under the jurisdiction of the US National Parks. It is clean, pristine and well managed. The water is crystal clear and there is plenty of sea life to enjoy.

Eye to eye with an octopus

A Remora befriends Steve as he feeds him leftover pancakes. The flat area on top of his head is a suction cup used to attach to other fish. Free ride, free food...he is a freeloader.

A few days later we see our first whales (Humpbacks)up close.

We keep our distance and are rewarded with lots of jumping and cavorting

Another great day in the Virgin Islands. Think we'll stay awhile.

Our daughters will soon join us. Can't wait.
Anne and Steve
S/V Fine Line

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Paradise Found

Barbuda is a sister island of Antigua and is located about 30 miles to the north. The island is flat and sandy. It measures 14 miles long by 8 miles wide. It has the largest stretch of beautiful beach we have ever seen and the water is crystal clear. It is as near to paradise as you can get.

This anchorage is called Gravenor Bay and it is located on the southern end of the island.

Lucky for us our boat can get into very shallow areas. Here we are anchored in 6 feet of water.
There are great small reefs around us. Easy to swim to and fun to look at.

Some of the reef has been damaged by recent hurricanes but there is still a lot of beauty here. Soon we see our friends Mike and Renee on Jacumba . They find a nice spot next to us. Hello!
Although we are in paradise, there is still work to be done. Here is Mike going up the mast to replace an anchor light.

Later we go for a hike on the windy side of the island. The windy side faces the Atlantic Ocean. It is in stark contrast to where we are anchored but also beautiful.
But , like many islands, lots of debris washes up on the shores.

We do a bit of shopping here, never know what you might find .
It is hot so later we do a bit of swimming and snorkeling. Mike spots a nurse shark.
There is plenty of small colorful fish to look at.

And some nice coral

A few days later we move around the corner to Coco Beach. It is still beautiful. The beach goes on forever. The sand is like pink sugar. Great for long walks and just hanging out. There are two resorts on this section of the island. Coco Beach Resort is small and very private. It has been here for 46 years. Another resort on the beach has closed its doors. There are no restaurants or bars for boaters but all sorts of boats come here for the sheer beauty.

A few days later we move around Palmetto Point to Low Bay. A short walk across the beach and you are looking at the town of Codrington and the Codrington Lagoon. The wind is blowing and the seas are whipped up in a frenzy.

There is no easy way to get to the town of Codrington on your own. We opt for a local water taxi.
The locals will also take you on a tour of the Codrington Lagoon. It is shallow and long poles are used to get close to the nesting birds.

There is a nature reserve in the lagoon that is home to the largest frigate bird nesting colony in the world. There are many types of birds here, over 400 species to be exact. Here is a nesting colony of the black frigate birds. Some of these birds have a wingspan of up to 8 feet. They do not swim due to low oil content on their wings. They can dip their bills in the water but mostly they catch flying fish in the air or they steal the catch of other seabirds.

The males display a huge red breast during mating season to attract the females.
The lagoon has a large system of mangroves and channels. It is like a maze.
The mangrove lagoon is also home to lobster, lots of lobster. The local rate is $6 US per pound. Guess what Steve and Anne had for dinner?
Since it was almost time to check out of Barbuda we visited the local port authority, customs officer and immigration. They are all housed in different areas. They hold regular business hours but they are not always where they are supposed to be. Steve spends two hours trying to get the paperwork completed. The hold up is primarily the customs officer. His house is also his office. Seems he is sound asleep with the TV on full blast. Despite loud pounding on the door, we can’t wake him. We return to immigration but they won’t talk to us until we see customs. They call him and after many rings he wakes up. Not a happy guy. Such is island life.

We have 24 hours to leave so we decide to stay one more day because the weather is still good. We take a nice walk on the beach and this is when our dinghy disappears….out to sea by itself. Steve makes a dash down the beach, jumps in the water and starts swimming.

It is a far swim and the boat keeps moving, there is no one around to help.

Steve has on his mask and snorkel, but no fins. He is still far away and getting tired It is a bit unnerving and could have been life changing.

Steve comes back to shore a different man. WOW, what an experience!!

We take off for St. Martin early the next morning , about 80 miles to the north west. It is a nice day but we know a wicked cold front from the US east coast is heading our way. We will be safely tucked into a big lagoon in St. Martin by tonight and soon we will be sipping coffee and eating croissants in the lovely French town of Marigot. See you there.
Bird Video

Steve and Anne

S/V Fine Line