Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas in Antigua

Before sailing to Barbuda we stayed in Deep bay for a day. This is Heron, photo is taken from the fort .

The night was rolly, there was a huge swell coming into the bay. On Saturday morning we sailed to Barbuda, but decided to go straight to Coco point, we knew there would be impossible to stay in Low bay on the western side of the island in that kind of swell.

The weather was cloudy, though without any rain. The wind was strong and unfortunately on the nose, so sailing was wild and uncomfortable. But it must have been good weather for fishing - we caught this beautiful cero (we had it later that day for dinner with garlic, lime and butter) ....

 ... and let go of this big barracuda and couple of small tunas.

Coco point was almost empty and all the beautiful colors were there and so were the turtles. But the swell was getting bigger and bigger, huge waves were breaking onto the shore. We tried to get on shore by boat, but it was impossible. And it was even too wild to get ashore swimming.

 So we decided to sail back to Antigua the next morning.

 On our way back we again had good luck with fishing - we caught even bigger barracuda and let it go ...

... and this is one of the two ceros that we caught.

We ate one of the ceros that evening in Nonsuch bay, grilled in a aluminum foil and it was delicious. Next day we did some snorkeling around the Bird island. I was really lucky and had a close encounter with beautiful Spotted Eagleray - I was floating over the reef and he came to see what I was doing, swam one meter beneath me for a while, and then slowly circled away into the deeper water. It was breathtaking, I was really sorry to not have my camera with me. I consider this one of my Christmas presents.

We left Nonsuch bay at two in the afternoon for Falmouth harbour. We passed these two boats - here you can see side by side how not to anchor and how you should anchor.

 The same evening we visited Trapas restaurant for dinner.

After a great meal our faces were even happier than on photos. Trapas remains our favorite restaurant in Antigua, maybe even in whole Caribbean.

 On our way back to boat we stopped in Seabreeze for a pina colada.

There were even Christmas carolers there, singing gospel songs. We really had a great Christmas eve.

 And yesterday, after some swimming and snorkeling in the morning, we went to English Harbour. On our way we saw this "Rudolph the reindeer" car.

 When we came the party was already going on with full steam.

We drank a lot of champagne - after all it's for charity and one has to help! We had a great time!

We are staying in Falmouth today, swimming, snorkeling, and maybe visiting Shirley heights in the afternoon. Tomorrow morning we are returning to Guadeloupe, our friends are flying back home on Saturday. And Captain and myself sill have to figure out where to party on New Years eve.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Miracle of Le Saintes

Our friends Laura, Mitja and Nejc, flew in from Slovenija on Saturday evening and joined us on Heron. On Sunday we all made a nice trip to the east of Guadeloupe. We drove around and ate a good meal in St Francois. But the best part was visiting the most south-eastern point of the island, Pointe de Chateaux.

Pointe de Chateaux with island of Desirade in the back.

We were staying in Bas du Fort marina in Pointe a Pitre for two days, we wanted to make it easy for our friends to board the boat with their luggage and we wanted to do some provisioning on Monday morning. Marina is full of Green Herons, they sit on the lines with which the boats are tied ....

... and they come to sit on the boats too. I got a good shot of this one sitting on our bow rail through front cabin hatch.

On Monday afternoon we sailed to Le Saintes and anchored behind Paine de Sucre already in the dark. And the next day the miracle happened. I was still in bed in the morning when I heard captain saying to Laura and Mitja, that were swimming, that there is a dolphin ten meters away from them. I rushed outside but was too late to see anything. I was sure this was a short visit and that dolphin is already far away. But then we saw two dolphins circling in the bay and a group of about ten snorkelers from other boats gathering around them. We watched for a while and we realized that dolphins were obviously happy with the attention they got and they were in no rush to leave. We put our masks on and joined the crowd. And it was unbelievable. Two dolphins, maybe a mom and her jung one, were swimming around the bay, curiously approaching the swimmers, almost posing for the photos. And it looked like they were smiling all the time.

 Nejc swimming with dolphins.

 You have to love these faces. And all the photos are taken without the zoom.

They stayed in the bay all the day. And entertained all the swimmers that happen to be there that day. What a beautiful experience! I was soooooo happy to be a part of it!

Next day we left for Deshaies and made a stop for a great snorkeling around the Pigeon Island, the Custeau natural reserve. And today we sailed from Deshaies to Jolly Harbour, Antigua. We plan to sail to Barbuda tomorrow and come back in good time to go to Christmas party in English Harbour on Tuesday. Can't wait to see Barbuda and all the turtles again.

Captain and myself wish you all Merry Christmas, happy holidays and all the best in New Year. And a miracle or two every now and then ....

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Deshaies to Ponte a Pitre

 We didn't stay in Deshaies long, although it is my favorite town in Guadeloupe.

Photos are from recent years, this weekend the anchorage wasn't even half as full as in photos.

 Entrance to Dehaies river.

Pelicans occupied the fishing boat.

We sailed on already the next morning. After thoroughly cleaning the front cabin, retightening of the front hatch, that was leaking, and sewing the zipper on bimini that got torn by the strong wind the day before.

We knew that when the wind is light, Guadeloupe high hills stop it and many times there is even a westerly wind on western coast. But we were hoping that we would have a steady easterly wind for the day, since the wind was so strong. It would surely make it over the hills. Not so. We had wind ranging from 2 to 33 knots, changing directions from north east to south east and behind the tallest hills it even came from west. It was a lot of work, watching the sea to spot next wind gust, to guess wind direction and to try to prepare sails for another 30+ knots. By the time we reached south west point of Guadeloupe we were already pretty tired. But then the fun only just begun. Wind was coming only from one direction, from south east, but with constant 25 to 30 knots and the waves were steep, high and mean. Soon we had sea and salt all over the boat and us again, some of the water even managed to get down the stairs into the salon.

At about five we reached the anchorage behind Paine de sucree. We were again wet, tired, cold and hungry. And the routine was the same as the evening before - first we cleaned the boat, then ourselves and then we had dinner. It was beef chili burritos, Susie's hot sauce, celery and yoghurt, very yummy.

Night was quite rolly, but we decided to stay another day. You don't have a free wi-fi in French islands very often. After another rolly night we escaped to Anse Fideling on neighbor island Terre de Bas in hope of less swell. We anchored twice to find the spot that was the quietest. The night was a bit better.

Anse Fideling is not the prettiest bay I've seen, but it's not bad. It is very quiet and there's some good snorkeling at the west side of the entrance.

Still captain decided to leave for Pointe a Pitre on Wednesday, our friends Marion and Harald were already there. They are our "oldest" sailing friends, we first met on Menorca last September, and we haven't seen them for half a year. So we were anxious to meet them again, but I would maybe stayed on Saintes till Friday, until the wind would calm down a bit.

It is a short ride, only about 24 miles, but the wind was getting even stronger and turning more to the north. We put out the storm jib and second reefed main, but gave up hopes of sailing to Pointe a Pitre already after few miles. We just couldn't stay on the right corse and the sea was too rough to tack. So we pulled down the main and started the engine. At the beginning we didn't even fish, it would be even harder to get the fish in than on Saturday. After some time captain couldn't help it and he tossed the hook into the water, but without any success this time. We reached Pointe a Pitre after four and a half hours of very bumpy ride. Should I say we were wet, tired, cold and hungry? Well, maybe not cold, but the rest was true. And the familiar routine followed - cleaning the boat, cleaning ourselves and then eating.

We met Marion and Harald already on Wednesday evening, and had some very nice time together since then. In the company of good friends one almost forgets wild and wet and bumpy rides.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Escape to Nonsuch Bay and passage to Guadeloupe

We did some more snorkeling while still in Falmouth Harbour at the beginning of last week. Even on the northern end of Pigeon beach there were some nice things to see.

Like this Yellow Sponge.

This is the green variation of Variegated Urchin - they like to camouflage themselves with pieces of corals, small stones, sea grass or even with an empty shell or another urchin.

There were lots of fish, these are Horse-eye Jacks.

I saw lost of Rock-boring Urchins. The whitish almost see through bunch of small branches above the middle urchin are Christmas Tree Hydroids.

The small green things in the middle belong to Green Grape Alga.

The weather forecast for the week was little wind and sunny weather for the first couple of days and some more wind from Thursday on. So we decided to escape to Nonsuch Bay on Tuesday morning and sail to Guadeloupe on Friday. Our friends Dana and Wayne sailed to Nonsuch also, a little later in the same day. We were hoping of having a few nice days in good company, and some good snorkeling, and of course some boat projects. But the forecast was completely wrong. Already on our way to Nonsuch we had far more wind than forecast, but we were actually glad, since we were able to sail most of the way. But already in the afternoon the big black clouds came with lots of rain and lots of wind. Dana and Wayne just had enough time to tie their boat to the mooring buoy before it started to pour. Then it rained and rained for the rest of the day and wind was getting stronger and stronger. We downloaded new forecast - and it was completely different. Lots of wind, some rain, and even more wind towards the end of the week. After some deliberation we decided to stick to original plan. On Wednesday we did the laundry, the gods of rain were kind to us and there was no rain the whole day. But the wind was strong and laundry was dry very quickly. In the evening we were invited to Journey to have dinner with Dana and Wayne. It was great - all of it, food, and of course the company. Next morning Dana and I went snorkeling, all around the Bird island. It was very pretty, even visibility was not too bad despite the wind and the waves. And then it was time to say goodbye. We liked Dana and Wayne's company so much, they are such nice and open minded people, so easy to be with. Hope we meet again.

We sailed back to Jolly Harbour and were naturally too late to clear out already on Thursday. So we changed the plan - we would clear out on Friday, do some shopping and sail off on Saturday morning.

On our way to Jolly Harbour we again passed the pretty rocky southern coast of Antigua.

This is Shirley Heights above the entrance to English Harbour. There are some good parties up there Thursdays and Sundays. It is named after admiral Shirley, who was British commander at about the same time as Nelson, and is mostly known not so much for his military records, but for poking his eye out while chasing cockroach with the fork.

On Friday we checked out, and did some last shopping. On our way from Budget Marine we stopped at Claudia's restaurant, which caters mostly for workers in marina and boatyard. We've eaten there plenty of times, it is simple, good and cheap. We were lucky and got conch roti (a bit like a burrito with conch curry filling) and dungee with saltfish - some kind of mildly sweet corn dumplings with a sauce made of vegetable, salt cod and spices. Very nice. Then we did some last moment provisioning in Epicurean supermarket. Just the things they don't have in France. I was able to resist my favorite ginger-lemon biscuits, but not the Antiguan yoghurt, beef pastrami and fried chicken. Chicken was meant for lunch on the passage. But it nearly went right away - I was waiting my turn in the line with half a dozen of locals, chicken was being fried fresh right there and it smelled so nice, I almost forgot we just had lunch.

It took us some time to get ready the next morning - we knew it was going to be a wild ride, so we stored away everything in the boat that might fly around. We ate breakfast and then we prepared the storm jib. We haven't used it since Atlantic crossing and on many occasions when we needed to reef our small flock captain wondered if it wouldn't be better to have storm jib out. So we sailed off at about ten.

At the beginning, when we were sailing along Antigua's western coast and were still protected from the waves, we put out all three sails - main on second reef, storm jib and whole flock. And we just flew through the calm see, at 9 to 10 knots.

But after a while the waves started to build up, the dark clouds in front of us came closer and grew darker, and the wind got stronger. So we put the flock away, but with 25 knots of wind we were still making 7 to 8 knots. The sailing was very wild and bumpy, thanks to very strong wind the waves were very annoying. They weren't too big, 2m on average, every now and then there were couple of 3m, but they were very steep, close to another, and all wearing white cap at the top. Heron was making very good speed, but was jumping like jung bull from one wave to another.  Every couple of waves we got a hefty amount of sea in the cockpit, so everything, including us, was wet and salty. We realized we are not going to have lunch while on the way. Instead we just ate some cookies. Unfortunately not only cockpit got a lot of water, but also our front cabin. Port side hatch (levo okno) is bent at the hinges and it is not always closing very tightly. We forgot to check it before leaving, since it was behaving well lately, and sea water managed to get on the beds, into captain's tools and on some of my clothes. We managed to temporarily fix it with the towel that we stuck between the hatch and the curtain and it managed to soak all the water that followed. But I was really sad - it meant a lot of washing and cleaning to get all the salt out.

The nicest moments on the passage were when a booby (strmoglavec) joined us and was fishing around the boat for flying fish that were jumping out of the water. This is the second time that we saw this and obviously the birds learned to use the sailing boats to get their meal. Clever.

Shortly before reaching Guadeloupe we got this barracuda on the hook. I'm not sure we were really pleased, we were sailing with about 8 knots of average speed with no possibility to reef the sails any more or turn the boat in the wind, the waves were too big and with turning they would be right from the side. Still we decided to keep it...

... and captain managed to do the cleaning on the swimming platform while we were surfing down the waves with 11 knots.

I was glad all went well. At half past four we sailed into Deshaies. We were cold, wet, very tired and totally hungry. But first we washed the cockpit, then we washed ourselves, then we wiped the water from the front cabin and only then there was the time for the chicken. We heated it up in microwave and it was unbelievably good, accompanied with tomato and fresh basil salad, bread and some wine. And some lemon cake for desert. All this still didn't much improve our opinion of the day. There are good days on the boat and there are "the other" days. This one was surely "the other".