I don’t like cricket oh no I love it – Dreadlock Holiday
We left English Harbour on a windy day and headed downwind towards Jolly Harbour, which was much closer to the cricket stadium. On the way we were passed by Lionheart, a “J” that was on its way to St Martin.
We got to Jolly Harbour and anchored outside near the boat channel. It was a longish dinghy ride into the marina passed all the houses on the various canals. We caught up with a few of the B50 fleet that were there along with Venture Lady who were also going to the cricket.
Its fair to say that some of us were looking forward to the cricket more than others. Dee for one was unimpressed how the shortened form of the game could still go a WHOLE day. Meanwhile the English contingent were pretty confident given the West Indies these days can’t seem to get a lot of their good players to play for them.
Me, I was just excited to get to see a cricket game in the Caribbean. And given I was going with some Pommie friends it was indeed necessary to barrack for the West Indies, my current home for the moment.
Anyway it turned out to be a fun day, despite my adopted team just failing to beat those dastardly Poms. Besides the cricket the highlights included the yummy well priced street food – Ribs, Pork and Chicken all delicious and meeting Ritchie Richardson and Sir Andy Roberts. Even got Sir Andy to smile.
We left Deshaies at first light on Sunday morning bound for English Harbour in Antigua. It took us 40 minutes to clear the wind shadow of Guadeloupe and start some real sailing. At 45 degrees to the wind we could just make the line we needed, whilst doing 5-6 knots. A squall came half way across and we had to put in a reef, but that didn’t slow us down any more.
We got to English Harbour just before 3pm and we were surprised by how small the three different choices of anchorages were. We’d gone to English Harbour in preference to Falmouth because the e-SailClear system only had English Harbour as an option. In reality we could have gone to Falmouth as it’s only a 10 minute walk around to the same Customs and Immigration office at Nelson’s Dockyard.
After checking out all three anchorages in English Harbour we settled on Galleon Beach, where we were just able to sneak in – as there were a lot of yachts in a small space; and to top it all off, the holding was not the greatest with a rubbly bottom. We ended up putting our secondary Fortress anchor out, shackled to our primary Rocna on 7m of its own chain to make sure we stayed put, especially since the wind was picking up during the week.
Shortly after getting our anchor set, Maisie dinghied over and we had a drink or two on the bow. Then they disappeared on a hot date at a local restaurant; and Dee and I headed for the hills. Shirley Heights on a Sunday evening is the place to be. There is a steel band to start with and then when the sun goes down there was another band with lots of dancing to be done. In between there was some great cheap barbecued food. It’s an Antiguan Institution on a Sunday Night and it turned out to be loads of fun. After we’d danced the night away, we caught a $10 taxi down the hill and ended up at The Cheeky Marlin, a beach bar run by Nick from Port Adelaide. Nick’s a great guy and it made a perfect end to a perfect night. Nick is supposed to shut the bar at sunset and he was still trying to do it at 10pm when we arrived. He thought he had finally managed to kick everyone out, but the rain came and we all raced in again for more drinks.
We spend the next day, exploring English Harbour and Falmouth, especially the chanderlies that were quite numerous. Both Falmouth and English Harbour are full of boats…from old classical boats and big new horrible looking motor yachts. The museum at the historic Nelson’s Dockyard was a highlight as was the bakery behind it. Yum!
Then it was off to Maisie for drinks with Martin and Rita, as well as Ken and Jenny from Lady Rebel, who had just arrived. After drinking a few too many red wines, we added the term “Maisied” to our vocabulary.
It made getting up early to pick up the hire car a bit more challenging than usual. Hiring a car in Antigua is a bit more expensive than you expect as you need a temporary local license that sets you back another $20. We managed to see most of Antigua driving around in a day. The beautiful beaches were the highlight – just a real pleasant island to drive around.
Antigua had a couple of really good walks. The first we did was up to Shirley Heights for the obligatory photo down to both harbours. From here we checked out the national park with a few other forts and an impressive interpretive centre, complete with a film presentation. From there, it was a short drop down to Galleon Beach, our original starting point.
The next day, we were on foot again across to the other side of the entrance to English Harbour where there is another fort, before trekking across the range to Pigeon Beach at the entrance to Falmouth Harbour. Then it was a short walk back into Falmouth.
Sitting on Maisie, we decided we needed to organise a bit of a mini B50 reunion at the Yacht Club. As well as the usual suspects from the previous drinking session, Thetis joined us from the Catamaran Marina across the bay in Falmouth and Peter, Jenny and Bill taxied down from Jolly Harbour to join in the festivities. A great night catching up with everyone.
Sitting on La Mischief one afternoon, we saw a commotion out in the entrance channel and out came the binoculars. We quickly worked out that it was a couple of competitors from the Talker Whisky Atlantic Challenges, a rowing race across the Atlantic.The idea of the Atlantic Challenge race came to Sir Chay Blyth whilst he was rowing the Atlantic Ocean in 1966 with John Ridgeway. We met Chay sailing in Turkey in 2015. We took the dinghy out to see them and when we worked out they hadn’t had a beer in 3 months we rushed back to La Mischief to grab a couple for them.
Our last night in Galleon Beach was spent at the Cheeky Marlin eating burgers and watching Captain Ron on an upturned table on the beach with a white table cloth for a screen. The rain was a bit of a problem but a tarp over the projector did the trick. A great last night.
With the cricket fast approaching, it was time to head off to Jolly Harbour on the West Coast to get ourselves a bit closer taxi ride to Sir Viv Richards Stadium to hopefully see the West Indies beat England!
It was a short motor sail of 8nm up the coast from Pigeon Island to Deshaies. We got there at 4pm to find a bay full of boats. We managed to find a spot on the northern side of the bay and started our anchoring process, only to be yelled at by another boat saying we were too close. I reckoned we were all good but the guy insisted that’s where his anchor was. So we moved across 100m closer to the coast, the other side of him and he still was having kittens – now saying his anchor went around a rock and it was there too. A few other boats were having a laugh so we decided we couldn’t be bothered with grumpy neighbors and anchored out in 20m of water – deep for us here in the Caribbean. The holding wasn’t that great but we backed up on the anchor and it held okay, so we got in the dingy and explored the cute little town.
These days, its probably best known due to the fact that the entire village is the setting of the popular British TV series Death in Paradise. There’s a lot of yachties call in here because of that. It’s also the logical place to check in or out of Guadeloupe, being on the NW tip of the Island. Our first task was to find the free diving course that Sameera had done previously, where they not only teach you to free dive but also to kill the problematic lionfish that are an introduced species and kill the local fish. Dee’s own version of Death in Paradise!!!!! Unfortunately we got the town wrong, as the course was at Point Noir, 4nm back along the coast. So we rang the guy to see if you could go back and book on it, but it was fully booked out for the next day and we needed to leave the day after because of the weather. Bummer! So we retreated to one of the really nice beach bars right on the water, chatting with one of the other yachts in the “Grumpy” neighborhood.
Next morning we were up early, waiting for one of the boats on the 10 or so free mooring balls there to leave so we could nab it. We did well and got one right off the shore. Score!
We spent the rest of the day hiking up the hill behind the town and walking around to the magnificent beach in the next bay, before checking out of Guadeloupe at the local gift shop, where they had a PC set up for the task.
Then it was off to bed, for an early morning sail to Antigua.
With the Front passed through it was time to get going – around the bottom of the Butterfly Island and half way up the West Coast to Pigeon Island, where the Jacques Cousteau Nature Reserve was waiting anxiously for Dee and myself to submerge ourselves.
For the first time since we hit the Caribbean, we had to spend a large part of the day motor sailing. Yuk.
We finally made it to the anchorage opposite Pigeon Island on Guadeloupe and dropped anchor in 5m of water. It was a bit strange to not be able to see the anchor but with the storms from the day before the water had been stirred up a bit. We saw “Slice of Life” and “Laradae” anchored there as well enjoying a bit of kid playtime/birthday fun.We dinghied in and signed up with one of the local dive operators for 32 euro a dive – tanks and weights included.
The Jacques Cousteau Nature Reserve says it all. He brought Pigeon Island to international attention by declaring it to be one of the world’s top dive areas and so the French declared the waters surrounding the island to be an underwater park and named it after the great man.
Next day it was off diving. The boat trip out is only 10 minutes and the dive boat pulled up to one of the mooring balls that anyone can use.
Our first dive was on the west end of Pigeon Island – Barracuda Point. The fish were very friendly and there was lots of action, and yes there were some barracudas. The highlight was a moray eel that was out and about. With a short break for lunch it was back in for a drift dive along Japanese Garden. I loved this dive – drifting over fan corals and passed walls full of interesting corals. At the end, we came across a turtle who was chomping away at some sea grass under a coral ledge.
Second dive was to the Japanese Gardens – a drift dive. I loved this one with beautiful fan corals and lots of colour. Plus a turtle at the end. Brilliant.
To top off the day we went over to Blue Heeler to introduce ourselves to Wayne and Ally and drink some red wine. Also on board were Mary and Dave from Leucat, who we had introduced ourselves to earlier in the day – me being a big fan of Dave’s Techno tips on his blog site. Was a great evening talking to some very interesting and experienced cruisers.
Carnivale over, it was time to get some boat jobs done.
We’d made a booking with Fred Marine for our engine work, as they were recommended by Chris Doyle and were the Yanmar dealer. Fred turned out to be the French owner and he sent two of his guys, Fabrice and Stephane to work on the engines and they were excellent.
Fixing the leaking sail drive gasket was a big job. The engine needed to be lifted forward and up, to provide access to the top of the saildrive. And the gasket wasn’t cheap here in the Caribbean. In fact, none of the parts were. Now that we are doing a lot of sailing and not that much motoring, we can get the servicing done in the USA and we can buy parts there as well so that if we need to service anything whilst we are in the Caribbean we won’t have to fork out for (more) expensive parts.
The problem with the genset skimmer box going low on sea water was a Steve Tull useless mechanic error – I didn’t manage to retrieve all the bits of impeller from the heat exchanger when I last blew an impeller. Fred also suggested that I put some hose loops in before the skimmer box to help ensure the impeller doesn’t have to work so hard pulling sea water up from so far when it first starts. An easy and cheap fix.
Whilst Fred Marine was good to work with, Waypoint was proving elusive. We wanted them to run a replacement cable up the mast to the spreader for the BadBoy WiFi extender. We tried to find their email address on the web – their website plus google. Their phone number was proving equally elusive. All we could find was a Contact form, which we submitted twice without a reply. So when we rolled up we asked if they could send someone and this got pushed back to 4pm on the last day. They turned up to tell us they needed two workmen and couldn’t do it to the day after. We gave up and left it to another island.
It was a long day for Fabrice and Stephane so we had to delay dinner with Peter and Jenny until after dark. We headed for the Route De Rhum restaurant; sort of appropriate as this is where this famous race finishes.
Next day, we lowered the dinghy and took it over to Fred Marine for a service. I supplied the parts for this as they couldn’t source them – Honda, really??? – and anyway it helped keep the cost down.
Whilst this was all happening, we took a 20 minute walk into Pointe a Pitre, Pointe a Pitre main town. We ended up at the main square, famous for its guillotining during the French Revolution. There were some interesting fruit and vege markets as well as local fisherman selling their catch in the adjoining small harbour. After grabbing a bite to eat, we headed off to the new Slave Museum, a magnificent building right on the waterfront. It was just reopening after lunch, as everything does in France, and the lines were long so we gave it a miss and headed back to the Marina.
We got back just in time to greet the unusual Westerlies that were forecast. They were creating a bit of carnage around the marina and in the adjoining anchorage (which is fine mud with poor holding). There was a James Bond 70m power tri that was being blown all over the place and theyt scrambled all hands to get it off the dock and into safety. We were not immune either as the wind was pushing us back onto our pontoon and we needed to get the Marina guys to attach another line to the mooring buoys out the front so we could pull ourselves off the pontoon. Elsewhere around the islands people were being washed ashore as a lot of yachties were basically ignorant of the big change from the regular Easterlies to the unusual Westerlies.
With all our work done, it was time to once again head North for some diving at Pigeon Island on the West Coast.
Sunday came around and it was time to head for the marina at Bas Du Fort, for another engine service. We also needed to attend to a leaking sail drive gasket and a genset that was losing sea water in the skimmer box.
But first we needed to check out the Carnivale in Baie-Mahault. We’d organised to go with Peter and Jenny from Modjadji on Sunday afternoon, and as luck would have it they had a hire car. Bonus as the bus situation on a Sunday was a bit dodgy/non-existent.
Carnivale in Guadeloupe was 100 times better that Dominica and Dee and I walked the length of the parade several times as Pete and Jen opted to stay in one spot and watch it as the parade went past. Dee being Dee, loves to be in the centre of things and we revelled in wandering up and down and sometimes through the middle of the parade. It started off slow and got better as the afternoon went on, with the crowd continually building. It continued into the early evening and some of the costumes even lit up. There were dances from all over the Caribbean and South America. It was so much fun. As night fell Pete and Jen decided to head back to the marina, but Dee wanted to suck every last morsel out of the night and we saw some great stuff right up to the end when we finally found a local policemen who kindly called us a cab.
We found Peter and Jenny at the Burger Bar at the marina and enjoyed a beer and a burger with them to finish off an excellent night.
We got back to St Francois and enquired about our friend Jean-Roch, who had been hit by a local fishing boat whilst snorkeling on their boat Teiva’s anchor. He had a deep gash on his arm from where he had lifted it to protect himself from one of the two propellers, plus bruising on his torso. He is probably a little lucky to be alive, it could have been far worse.
Gilbert and Isabelle had done a sterling job helping out, dinghying him and Marie-Claire to and from shore for their hospital visits; and looking after their young son, Theo.
We invited them all over for drinks on La Mischief and Jean-Roch was in fine form, getting stuck into Marie-Claire for her dinghy driving skills. They had worked out a system where Jean-Roch started the dinghy with his good arm so that Marie-Claire could drive. Lets hope it works okay as they will be staying put for quite a while. Gilbert and Isabelle came also and we did a fine job of sampling the rum we picked up from Marie Galante. Yet another fun night with our Gallic friends.
And it’s a good wake up call for the rest of us to make sure boats see us and we see them first.
We left Sainte François at 7am heading offshore to Iles de la Petite-Terre, some 14nm away. We needed a few tacks to get there and we noticed all the day catamarans motored up the coast and then cut across to the Islands under sail, a sensible and scenic way to get there.
We got there around 10.30am and we were confronted with a series of breaking waves over the 2m bar that guarded the only entrance into the lagoon. It looked reasonably scary, even with Chris Doyle’s waypoints and mud map (which turned out to be excellent).
As luck more than good planning would have it, one of the day catamarans arrived shortly after us and we decided we would follow him in. But not too closely as we didn’t want to surf up his bum. Even with a guide boat it was still exciting, as at one stage Dee goes “go, go, go” as the breaking swell threatened to catch us. With the two 75HP engines foing at full tilt we were able to run with the wave as it slipped under us. Then we were in.
The lagoon is absolutely stunning – a picture perfect setting with crystal clear water, white sandy beaches, shaded with palm trees. My idea of heaven.
With a reasonable strong current running through the mooring field, we had trouble picking up one of the National Park moorings until one of the tour boat guys came over in his dinghy and helped us tie on. Then we went for a swim to explore the island. Whilst on the beach we saw a small sand shark swim by and numerous turtles. Back at the boat, we saw a single-handed Polish two ended ketch come in and proceed to the shallows where he got stuck aground. We dinghied over to offer assistance and went off to find the ranger to help pull him off. He claimed his guide-book showed an anchorage there. By the time we got back to him, he had managed to reverse out of his predicament and was busying his anchor. There’s no anchoring in the lagoon as the National Park has provided ample numbers of moorings so we told him no and helped him on a mooring. Next minute we hear shouting from the day catamaran as he has got his spear gun out to catch himself lunch. I’ve got to say that his Polish Guide book is a little out of date perhaps.
Dramas over, we got our snorkels and fins on and went exploring. Before we could even jump in we saw a barracuda, a couple of large jacks and a box fish off the back of our boat. This continued for the rest of the snorkel with another barracuda, a large sting ray and lots of reef fish and coral to look at.
Later in the day, we took the dinghy in and went for a nice sign-posted hike around the lighthouse and out to the western point. Got some nice photos of the view, and the ten million iguanas that sun themselves on the path.
As darkness fell, the fish came out to play. There was a bit of a current running through the mooring field and a school of large fish camped themselves beside the boat and gently swam against the current, occasionally snaffling smaller fish that floated past. Fascinating. We tried dropping a camera over the side on a selfie stick but it was just too dark to pick up anything.
Then at about 8pm we saw a small catamaran come over the bar and into the lagoon. Pretty gutsy (or possibly stupid) effort.
Next morning, we woke to a calm sea with not much action on the bar. This had a huge calming effect on the skipper who quickly ordered stumps to be drawn and off we went across the bar with minimal excitement, heading back to St Francois, via the scenic route along the coast.
You feel like you are in the tropics when you motor through a gap in the coral reef and drop anchor in the sheltered lagoon in 2m of crystal clear water with nothing but sand everywhere. Tropical Paradise. St Annes on the south coast of Guadeloupe. The anchorage to the West, which is the place to be is small, but with a cat we could get quite far in and we managed to get a great spot, right next to the blow up water park.
After a quick swim to check the anchor, we dinghied a short way West to the town fishing harbour, which was a bit rundown and smelly, but otherwise a good place to leave the dinghy. Then we walked back East on the beachside broadwalk, past our anchorage and into town. We checked out all the street vendors, selling knick-knacks and deliciously smelling street food, stopping off at a beach side bar with some great music.
Next day, we hopped into the water for a much longer snorkel, and walk along the beaches. We loved all the full restaurants and bars that spilled out onto the beach front. It’s a very popular beach resort town and the various beaches were all packed.
Exercise over, it was back in the dinghy and into town for some internet and mojitos at one of the bars. Loading photos is always a good excuse for a mojito!
In the afternoon, we walked around to Club Med, which is in the next bay East. They have the whole bay with a beautiful beach, quite spectacular. There’s a small anchorage out the front, but we agreed we liked being closer to the colour and movement of the St Anne’s township.
Next morning we decided to change genders and head to St François, a very, very popular anchorage, 8nm further west. We followed the instructions in the guide-book and made our way through the marked channel, right into one of the most beautiful anchorages I have seen. But it’s no secret and there were lots of boats in there as well. After a bit of a motor around we found a spot and dropped anchor in sand in 2m of crystal clear water.
We were right behind a small sandbar, with a few doughnut BBQ/Drinking boats floating around in front. The occasional windsurfer or kite surfer made their ways around us. Also in the anchorage was Gilbert and Isabelle; and Jean-Roch and Marie-Claire. It was good to say hello again, although it was Valentines Day so we were all doing our separate things, being the romantics that we are (Well they are French and some of it surely must have rubbed off on me!).
Dee and I headed off to check out all the restaurants for V Day and settled on a beachside restaurant where we had a nice view out a window to a guy filleting loads of lionfish. Dee was there in a flash checking out how to deal with this invasive species.
After a few days of snorkeling, paddle boarding and checking out the cute little town, we decided to push on and head for Iles de la Petite-Terre.