Saturday, March 31, 2012

Farewell to the BVIs

     This morning we sailed for Road Town with the intention of getting a slip at a marina for the night to spend time provisioning and enjoying the laundry and shower facilities (these amenities have been non-existent over the past months and are now a special treat for us!). But it wasn't meant to be. Our plan quickly disintegrated when the marina staff told us over the radio that they have no space until after Easter! We didn't realize it would be so busy here at this time of year. There is an increased amount of charter boats sailing about, most of them American, and a large regatta going on this weekend, so the Sir Francis Drake Channel had over one hundred boats sailing on it today. It was quite the sight to see.

     We continued on into Road Harbour, which was very busy with boat traffic, and anchored just outside two marinas in rolly ocean swell. A substantial grocery trip and failed attempt at getting propane later (apparently the main gas station in Road Town isn't open on about "island time"!) we headed off for Soper's Hole. Now we are fully stocked with provisions, water and diesel and are planning to check out of customs tonight to leave for Mayaguana tomorrow. The weather forecast is telling us that in a few days there will be no wind at all, and over the next two days light winds and small seas, so we will take advantage of all the wind we can get and be content with motoring the rest of the way.

     Well, it's time to be off for somewhere new. We are all getting to the point where heading homeward feels right. So next time you hear from us we'll be in the Bahamas. In the meantime, here are some pictures from our second experience of the BVIs.

Wish us luck,

Friday, March 30, 2012

Norman Island

Hi everyone, we've been anchored at Norman Island for a few days now and have been without Internet, so here's a quick update. We must have caught a cold back in St. Martin and gradually each of us has caught it over the last week...the first illness of our trip. There's definitely something to be said for living in open, fresh air constantly. Dad and I got a scuba dive in before the cold set in at Great Dog Island on our way from the North Sound earlier this week. Other than that we've been snorkeling a bit and recovering while the weather is calm.

Tomorrow we plan to sail to Road Town for a serious provisioning trip and then leave for the Bahamas sometime early next week. After a bit of discussion we decided making for the Bahamas is the best idea because there are so many islands to explore there. Plus it gets us further north so that a favorable passage can be made to the US near the end of April. The passage to Mayaguana in the Bahamas will take about three days we think. I will update the blog with pictures before we leave.

All the best,

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Video St. Martin and the BVI's

Jamie put together a new video of our last weeks of travel in St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands. Enjoy!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Photos from St. Martin

Here are some photos from our time in St. Martin earlier this month. Enjoy! The BVIs have been surprisingly rainy the last few days, but Dad and Jamie have managed to get a few brief kiting sessions in the north sound.

All the best,

Snorkeling at Rocher Creole

Squid look like aliens!

Fort St. Louis

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jamie's Top 5

Hey guys, here’s a list of my favourite spots we’ve been to so far. I figured I should put it in point form since I’m obviously not the storyteller my sister is. I hope it does justice to each place. Enjoy!

5. Iles Des Saintes
  • Compact buildings & roads; very European
  • Most houses are just 2 steps from the road
  • Not many cars, mostly scooters
  • Amazing airport where planes take off directly over the open ocean
  • Gusty kiting
  • Great snorkeling (a lot of fish in a small area); found 20 Euros on the bottom!
  • Saw an iguana while walking out of town
  • Many goats at the fort on Ile Cabrit
View from Ile Cabrit
This guy was happy to see us
4. Frigate Bay, St. Kitts
  • Anchored in South Frigate Bay
  • Dad and I walked about 10 minutes from South Frigate to North Frigate Bay to kite
  • Kited in large rolling waves, fun session
  • Ate lunch at Mr. X’s Shiggidy Shack
  • Saw lots of sand dollars and starfish while snorkeling

North Frigate Bay
North Frigate Bay from above
South Frigate Bay
3. Norman Island, BVI
  • Took my scuba course here  
  • During first scuba experience saw a small sting ray the locals call “No Tail”
  • Many different snorkel and dive locations
  • Dove at The Indians, Spyglass Wall, and Angelfish Reef
  • Saw a shark while diving Angelfish Reef!
  • Saw a sea turtle while snorkeling The Caves

Stad Amsterdam's a little bigger than us
Fishermen at Norman
2. Portsmouth, Dominica
  • Took an island tour around the Northern half of Dominica
  • Tasted cassava bread in the Carib reserve
  • Tried local fare
  • Swam in the Emerald Pool (waterfall)
  • Dense green forests everywhere
  • Took a tour of the Indian River, saw a boa constrictor and many iguanas
  • Tried fresh grapefruit, coconut, banana, cinnamon right off their trees
  • Attended a weekly cruiser barbeque where they served chicken, salad, rice, vegetables, and lots of  rum punch… good times!
Banana Plantation
Emerald Pool Waterfall
Indian River Tour

1. Green Island, Antigua
  • Most beautiful water colour
  • Outer reef protects the anchorage which makes for great flat-water kiting
  • Anchorage looks straight out into the ocean
  • Could also kite outside the reef where there were some fun waves
  • Kited 8 out of the 10 days we were there (the old guy made it out 10/10)
  • Learned a bunch of new tricks
  • Great snorkeling
Shot from Green Island

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Returning to Familiar Waters

     Grand Case is a lovely waterfront town with a long main street that runs parallel to a curving golden beach. It struck me as the perfect place for a low key beach vacation. The main street is packed with unique shops and restaurants ranging from inexpensive BBQ bars flouting ribs to fancy French cuisine with lobsters awaiting their fate in well-lit display pools. At night the town comes to life: tourists and locals spill onto the street, irresistibly danceable music pours from countless speakers, and welcoming light seeps from shops open well into the night.

     A rocky island called Rocher Creole sits off the north end of the bay with excellent snorkeling. While testing out our new waterproof camera chasing various fish around we were lucky enough to see three spotted eagle rays soaring off into the deep water to the north. The only other time we've encountered them was in the BVIs while scuba diving.

     Speaking of the BVIs, we've decided it is time to move on again and will be sailing back to Virgin Gorda this evening. We should arrive back in familiar waters tomorrow morning. Part of the desire to return is to enjoy some more of the amazing scuba diving found there. It is by far the most convenient place for it, with dive shops scattered throughout the islands and mooring balls available at most dive sites.

     Also it will be nice to have free Internet again. The French islands have a strong hold over wifi and we've only been able to access the Internet through the chip in the iPad. So pictures will be coming soon!

Until tomorrow,

Update: We are actually leaving tomorrow night as customs was closed today due to elections.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Sailing to and in the Caribbean - Thoughts

     There is plenty of upwind sailing getting to the Caribbean and going east on your way through the islands. The never ceasing eastern trade winds are relentless day and night through December, January and February. I am told it will calm down in March and April but I haven't seen it yet.

     When we were at Green Island Antigua the wind blew at between 20-25 knots from the ENE 24 hours a day for 14 days in a row. The never ending upwind sailing is tough even on a fast upwind boat. We love upwind sailing back home, much more than going downwind. We have a boat that is very fast upwind especially in heavier weather. After 5000 miles it seems as though 4000 of it has been with an apparent wind angle of 50 degrees or less.

     A 135 LP headsail is too large considering the amount of upwind sailing. We nearly always go out with a triple reefed main which on our boat (a headsail driven boat) is the best configuration as it allows us to sail with a less furled, more efficient headsail. For our next trip we will either carry a 100 LP headsail on the headstay instead of the current 135 LP or more likely will add a smaller roller furled sail to our inner forestay. Today we carry a storm jib on the inner forestay as a sail for really heavy conditions. When we convert to a furler on the inner stay the sail will be small enough that it will be a reasonable sized storm jib when partially furled.

     Terri complains about rough ocean sailing too much, I need to find a new wife. This comment was provided by Terri :)
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Thursday, March 15, 2012

St. Martin: The Shopping Capital of the Eastern Caribbean

     Sailing overnight from Antigua was calm and uneventful- exactly the sail we needed to boost our night passage confidence again. Although it was more upwind than down (no matter which diction we head we always seem to be going upwind!) the wind speed remained at a manageable 15-20 knots and the swell was small. Stars shone brightly overhead and a waning moon cut brightly through the blackness of night. St. Barts looked small as we passed it's shiny lights in the small hours.

     Sunrise saw us anchored at Marigot on the French side of St. Martin (the southern half of this small island is Dutch). Our guidebook highlights a quaint, though inaccurate, story of the border being decided by having a Frenchman with a bottle of wine walk from one side and a Dutchman with a flask of gin from the other. They cemented a border where they met and the French ended up with slightly more territory due to the strength of the Dutchman's gin.

     The shoreline of Marigot is packed with shops, older hotels and resorts. Swarms of tourists sitting in sidewalk cafes and browsing the waterfront market for colourful beach clothing and souvenirs make it clear that this island has it's feet firmly planted in the tourist industry. There is also a small spice market nearby where fresh produce and homemade spices are sold by local ladies with colorful head scarves.

     For a late breakfast ashore yesterday we visited Sarafina's, a bread and pastry shop/cafe that sells everything delicious from delectable pastries and baguettes to sorbet and breakfasts of sausage, eggs and hash browns. Following brunch we wandered through cafes and past stores of all kinds to the West Indies Mall, a small two-story mall with natural lighting and pristine stores. After not seeing anything remotely resembling a mall for months it felt strange and wonderful to be in one again.

     We also huffed and puffed our way up to Fort St. Louis for a view of the blue bay of Marigot and Simpson Bay Lagoon to the south. The lagoon is a large enclosed body of water that extends into Dutch and French territory and forms a sheltered anchorage for boats of all sizes. Signs around the fort briefly explained the history of St. Martin and highlighted that it's population was long troubled by British privateers and pirates who would raid the islanders for coffee and other valuable crops.

     The anchorage at Marigot is filled with dozens of boats but has plenty of room. Though rather swelly, it is shallow enough to almost see the sandy bottom through the crisp blue water. We will likely remain in St. Martin for about a week and plan to move to a bay called Grand Case, slightly north from Marigot. Jamie has his first post coming soon where he'll highlight his favorite places so far!

All the best,

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Jolly Harbour, Antigua

     On Thursday we had our best sail in a while. It was downwind, calm, sunny and the swell was smaller than the typical 8-9 feet of late. Coming in towards Jolly Harbour along the west coast of Antigua there are several shoals and reefs so we navigated carefully through the striking turquoise water to anchor just outside the harbour entrance. The area outside Jolly is beautiful—green murky water, stretches of white sand beach, and a surprising number of sailboats from Canada.

     Our main interest in visiting Jolly Harbour was so that Dad could check out the waterfront condos here. Ever since we discovered how amazing Antigua is as a kiteboarding spot, the idea of a having condo here struck a chord with him. Also it is a port of entry, so we can check out easily when we head to St. Martin (possibly on Monday).  The area did not disappoint. In the harbour rows of brightly painted two-story condos sit along dredged canals with docks placed just behind back porches, making for the perfect low-key winter home for sailors.

     Basically, you can chill on your back porch, enjoying the hot sun, and then step right off your private dock onto your boat and head out for a sail. There is a nice beach nearby, shopping centres, a sports facility, a golf course on the northern part of the development, and Jolly Harbour is only a twenty minute drive to Jabberwock, an awesome kiteboarding spot frequented by pro kiteboarder Andre Phillip. After Dad visited a few real estate offices exciting possibilities began to brew for the future, easily supported by us kids as Antigua is just a plane ride away from Toronto. If it does happen, it won’t be in the immediate future, but there are some exciting options here for Mom and Dad’s developing retirement/cruising plans.

     Yesterday while the parents mused over condos for sale, Sarah, Jamie and I had our first proper beach day. You would think we’d have spent tons of time on beaches given that we’ve been sailing around islands for many months now, but this was the first time we’ve actually played in the swell and laid on a beach in the sun without being surrounded by kites.

     All in all, our first impressions of Jolly Harbour have been good and we none of us would feel put out in the least by returning here someday soon.

Until St. Martin,

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Antigua Photos

     Here are some pictures from English Harbour and Green Island, Antigua. Over the ten days spent at the lovely Green Island Dad managed to kite on every single one! The rest of us went out as it suited us, Sarah working on staying upwind, Jamie throwing huge tricks, and myself practicing jumping. The conditions were perfect and the wind never let up once. Mom enjoyed snorkeling the barrier reef and shooting videos with the dinghy anchored in the shallow turquoise water. We are now back at Falmouth Harbour with plans to make for Jolly Harbour on the west coast before sailing to St. Martin in a few days.

Until next time,

Sailing to Green Island

Sarah kiting at Green Island

Nicole kiting at Green Island

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Video of Guadeloupe to Antigua

Jamie has put this video together of our travels through Guadeloupe, Les Saintes, Dominica and Antigua. Thanks Jamie, well done.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Slowing Down Time - A Philosophical Blog Entry

One of the desired outcomes of going sailing to the Caribbean was to try to slow time down. It seems that at work that days turn to weeks, weeks to months and months to years. Time goes by really fast, every time you take stock of it another year has gone by.

So far cruising has had the effect that I was hoping for. It seems a long time ago that we left our slip in Kingston but it was only Sept 7 of 2011 (less than 6 months ago). It seems that Jamie has been on-board for a long time but his 2nd month anniversary just passed. It seems that we have been on the boat for years and it's not that it is unenjoyable. Every day is fantastic, going to new, beautiful locations in near perfect weather. Despite the fact that there is plenty of down time while in port or at anchor there is always a focus on something significant. I like this life!!!!


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