Saturday, March 16, 2013

Horror nights in paradise

First night in Antigua we spent in Jolly Harbour. We checked out Carlisle Bay in the South, then Fryers bay in the West, but both were too rolly for the night. The storms in North Atlantic and North America send large waves down here, and the swell is making many anchorages, that are usually very nice, unsuitable for anything but a short stop.

In the evening we heard the dolphins swimming around our boat. Unfortunately it was too dark to see anything. Next day we moved around the corner to Five Island Bay. These are two of five islands.

The bay is big and shallow, with manny pretty sandy beaches. Believe it or not, despite the amount of time we spend in Antigua, this was our first visit here. It was perfect summer day, water nice and warm. We enjoyed the freedom of not having to do anything and not having to go anywhere.

 In the afternoon we saw two dolphins swimming into the bay. Later one of them came by and swam under our boat. What a nice sight! I suspect they were the ones from Jolly Harbour from the night before.

On Tuesday afternoon we sailed back to Jolly to pick up the girls, Janja and Lidija, who came to spend ten days on board of Heron with us. We then sailed straight back to our Five Island anchorage, it is much nicer for bathing, and I was hoping that dolphins might come back. But all we got was a big swell in the night, that kept us all awake the most of the night. We hadn't have a night like this for a long time, we always check weather reports and pick the calm places for the night. But this time the weather report was wrong, the swell was much bigger then forecast. I was sorry for Lidija and Janja, to have such a lousy first night, and for Jana and Grega to have such lousy last night with us.

Next afternoon we returned to Jolly Harbour to dinghy Jana and Grega ashore, so they could catch their plane. The rest of us went shopping to make provisioning for next ten days, and afterwards we decided to stay in Jolly for the night and not risk another sleepless night. In the evening we met with Madeline and Skip of Saralane, we met them last April in Barbuda and haven't seen them since them. It was so nice to catch up a bit.

On Thursday we sailed to Deep Bay. Wind was very weak and from the West. We knew that meant there was disturbance in trade winds, that are normally blowing here. And the wether report confirmed that - the storms in West Atlantic changed the wind even this far South.

We enjoyed the day, swimming, watching the turtles and climbing up to the fortress. And I started to learn to use to my new camera, the girls brought along, the Olympus TG-2.

On Saturday it was March the 8th, the Women day - captain remembered and each of us got a plate of papaya with lime and a heart for breakfast. How sweet!

After breakfast we sailed to Barbuda. We studied the weather and saw that this was the only real opportunity in the days to come.

Well, there was not much sailing anyway. This is how the sea looked. Calm as a mirror.

So we were motoring all the way. This is what we ate for lunch - classic Slovenian walnut potica. The girls brought it from Slovenija, and it tasted great.

Happy crew enjoying the views after nice lunch.

It was already half past three as we anchored the boat in Coco Bay. My first thought was to get into the water and snorkel my tunicates. According to forecast the swell would get even bigger during the night and I had a new camera to try out. Despite bad visibility and little light I managed to shoot some decent photos. I still have a lot to learn about the camera though.

The evening was hot and without the wind, like the day was. The air didn't move, not  even a little. We went for a swim even after dinner to cool down a bit. In the night the horror begun. Somehow hundreds of sand flies (or sand fleas or "no see ums") find the way into our boat and ate us alive. These little creatures are a menace on evening walks on the sandy beaches or during the beach barbeque, but they are very poor flyers and even weak wind hinders them to fly out to anchored boats. In all our time here we only had them in the boat once, last year in Freeman Bay in front of English Harbour, when couple of them made it to the boat in the night without the wind (and this is one of the reasons why I don't like that anchorage and we almost never anchor there any more). Even with no wind I never thought they would manage to invade Heron, that was anchored about 150m from the beach. We tried keeping them off us with bug repellents, but nothing worked. We didn't know what to do. Their stings felt like needles, and even though we managed to kill a lot of them, we looked like we had chicken pox (norice) by the morning - all covered with red bite marks. 

The swell got considerably bigger by morning too - and after the breakfast we decided to return to Antigua straight away. There was no snorkeling or going ashore because of the swell, and there still was absolutely no wind. We didn't want to risk another horror night with sand flies.

We motored all the way back. It was really unusual, to have the sea so flat and calm. But it was also very beautiful, we could see the corals on the bottom even at 20m depth.

On the way we got a bit of rain, finally after many weeks of dry weather. At last our boat was washed, but to thoroughly get rid of all the salt, we would need a stronger shower that that. But the clouds and the rain brought a bit of wind with them and we were able to sail for 15 minutes. Shortly before Antigua we caught a Cero, that we ate that evening.

We entered the Nonsuch Bay through Spitthead channel, we did it before, but it was getting dark and visibility was really bad. I was very nervous, but I managed to steer the boat clear of all reefs and even keep it in water deeper than 10m. Navigating Spitthead channel is very tricky, mostly because the charts are incorrect and it is not possible to sail by them. The channel that charts (Garmin, Navionics..) show is offset quite a bit to the west, the real channel is much more to the east than shown in the charts. One has to keep to the outer, eastern reef, where the water is deep, and avoid the inner, western reef, where the water gets shallow quick. And ignore the charts. If one sails like this, the water in channel is deeper than 10m all the time, although chart plotter shows the position of the boat being right on eastern reef.

Nonsuch Bay looked really busy, there were almost 40 boats there and all the buoys were taken, so we dropped an anchor. But luckily there was a bit of wind and we had a quiet night. Well, all did but me. I had very strong reaction to the bites and I woke up often and went into the cockpit to cool down the skin with vinegar and different ointments.

Next day we did some snorkeling, but the visibility was so bad, I didn't even manage one photo with my new camera. This is Janja and me, getting ready to go snorkeling.

We stayed in Nonsuch Bay for another night. This time I was smarter - I took a pill that helped ease the allergic reaction I was having and I managed to have a fairly good nigh.

On Monday we sailed to Falmouth Harbour. The wind got stronger and we had nice sailing. In the evening we went to Trappas for the dinner. We all enjoyed it very much.

Next day Janja and I went snorkeling on Bishops Reef and it was a good opportunity to test my camera.  And I was impressed with the results. And I haven't even read the manual yet!

This is Sun Anemone.

Flamingo Tongues (the small shell-looking nudibranches) eating a Gorgonian coral.

Another Gorgonian - Yellow Sea Whip.

One of the sponges.

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