From a solitary boat in a gently rocking anchorage. To the left, lush green cliffs and liana vines tumbling down out of palm trees, mangoes hanging like plums; to the right a small fishing village nestled on the banks of a swift flowing river emanating from the volcanic hills and valley that we can see ahead Unfortunately it's raining - the rainy season has started with a high incidence of early tropical waves (out of which hurricanes are born). "Will it be as bad as last year?" is the common topic of conversation among cruisers.
The last month or so has been a mixture of incessant social functions interspersed with amazing scenery and pleasant surprises. Such is the life we lead
It was great be back in English Harbour... The morning after our arrival was the start of Antigua Classics Week so instead of checking in immediately, we took the RIB around to Falmouth Harbour entrance (about a mile away) to watch the spectacle of the start of the first race There were some stunning boats from the J-class Ranger and Valsheda to Ibis a tiny Whitstable oyster smack (114 yrs old and sailed from the UK by three enterprising youngsters. Although these intrepid three never won a sailing race, they stole the show by winning prizes for entering into the spirit of the regatta and by entertaining one-and-all with their fine Irish music.) We got some lovely photos so check out the web site www.pocoandante.dial.pipex.com
After checking in we renewed or acquaintance with the Tot Club and through them got an invite to help crew on Star Clipper, the only square rigger in the regatta - which was great fun. The major Caribbean sailing regattas are sponsored by various rum companies which put on beach parties (one everyday) and supply free rum punches, etc. These usually start in the afternoon with games on the beach and often spill over to the wee small hours Oh! to be young again - we couldn't keep up the pace.
However, duty called - the Tot Club - which was bad enough. A toast of rum to the Queen at 6 pm every night followed by a social gathering made up for the missed parties. An innocent invitation one evening by Mike Rose, the Chairman, to help him pick up some rum the next day was accepted. Mike and Dennis, a new Tot Club recruit, collected me the next morning and we set off on a tour of the island. Thankfully I was able to make an appointment at a local dentist for the following day (I had lost a filling the previous week). We then went into the wilds of Antigua to the Bolans Village Post Office to collect some rum (it's funny that UK Post Offices don't offer this service!). I purchased two gallons of this fine brew at US$10 a gallon - not bad value however it turned out that we were not allowed to leave until a bottle had been consumed - imbibing of said stuff is mandatory! Now I knew why Mike was seeking volunteers to help him do the pick up - otherwise, he would have had to consume the whole bottle himself! An eventful trip back to base followed - including Dennis, after heated negotiations, buying the whole supply of pineapples from a local vendor. (This lead to my entry into the pineapple trade when I tried to auction them at the Tot Club during the evening )
Our rum visit (and my success in the pineapple business!) sparked a friendship with Dennis and his wife Jean. They had been holidaying in Antigua for a number of years and had finally decided to try for membership to the Tot Club. We were pleased to toast to their success as they both passed the admission test handsomely. Happily I was also able to sponsor their friends Daphne and Howard, who hail from Cowes on the Isle of Wight, during their initial stages as novitiates into the Club. One meets some fine people at the Tot Club, including the First Sea Lord of the Admiralty (UK) who popped in one evening to partake in a Tot and join in the spirit of camaraderie and fun.
Classics Week, with all its fun activities (including a "tea and scones" day messing about on boats at the Admirals Inn) spilled over to Antigua Sailing Week where over 200 modern boats raced by day and partied by night. I was invited to join in with Ocean Phoenix, a Farr 60, but unfortunately my tooth (which turned from a simple filling to major root canal treatment) put this out of court. Festivities over, we left Antigua and headed south
Thirty miles south of Antigua, Guadeloupe, the largest of the French West Indies islands, is a lovely place to visit and explore. We pulled into Deshaies - a delightful place where we enjoyed a visit to the Botanical Gardens and a fresh-water swim in the rocky pools of the river. From here we visited Les Saintes a small group of islands off the south coast - just stunning!
It was a hard decision to leave Guadeloupe - it has so much to offer that we could not do it justice.
The appeal of this island has nothing to do with its beaches or food or idle days spent under a palm tree. Rather, its abundant nature, scenery and wildlife.
In the past cruisers had avoided Dominica, due to the aggressive nature of the boat boys and high crime rate. This is now a thing of the past due to the formation of a cooperative and education - dealing with these guys was a pleasure.
We anchored in Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth harbour in a picturesque location. To the south of us was a large black square rigger The Black Pearl from the movie "Pirates in the Caribbean". Unbeknownst, we had just sailed into a movie set! They were shooting "Pirates 2" on the island. The island is nearly all virgin rainforest and the views and walks are magnificent. A guided trip up the Indian River at 7 am in the morning was magical. Seeing a humming bird sitting on her nest was amazing. There were also some sets perched on the banks which had been built ready for filming the next week.
The following day we took a taxi tour to the centre of the island to visit the Emerald Falls. In the middle of a coconut grove further evidence of filming was present with waterwheels and other bits and pieces lying around. We'll be interested in seeing the movie when it is released!
The Purple Turtle on the beach was a great haunt and we met some new cruiser friends there and spent a lovely couple of evenings in their company.
It was getting close to Christine's birthday and I had promised her a meal in a French restaurant - so off to Martinique it was.
Back to France! This affluent modern island is just like being in the South of France; the people, culture, currency and prices. The chic and cuisine is a welcome break after the other Caribbean islands. We stopped in St Pierre on the north side - Little Pompei as it's called. An eruption in 1902 devastated the 250-year old town, along with its 30,000 inhabitants in a mere 90 seconds. The remains of the once-opulent buildings lay throughout the town.
Grande Anse d'Arlet was chosen as the place for the birthday treat. A sleepy town in a wonderful palm fringed bay. We had dinner on the beach with the waves lapping around the table legs. Very romantic! The cooking was wonderful and the setting superb. The snorkelling around the bay was also excellent - all-in-all a lovely spot.
Time was pressing! We were meeting Kim and Cal who would be honeymooning in Palm Island in the Grenadines in two weeks and there was still lots to see on the way.
The sail from Grande Anse to Rodney Bay (about 30 miles) was close hauled but in a fresh wind we made good time.
Sorry St Lucia. We were not impressed The Customs officials gave me a hard time, the anchorage at Rodney Bay was noisy with all night reggae playing, boat boys a pain Although we did manage to buy an extra refrigeration unit and other bits and pieces from the chandlery there. We moved anchorage to Pigeon Island and spent a pleasant enough evening there with a lovely Aussie couple from Matira.
Marigot was our next stop; a lovely anchorage in a mangrove lagoon. Spoilt with incessant and sometimes rude boat boys.
Next day, a "must-see" place is the Pitons across the bay in Soufrière (spectacular half-mile high peaks which feature in lots of films). We had planned to anchor off the beach tied to palm trees; again, abusive boat boys put us off staying. So we continued going south to St Vincent, the next island!
St Vincent a pleasant surprise - breathtaking scenery, lovely friendly people and friendly(-ish) boat boys .well, not as bad as St Lucia.
The anchorage at Chateaubelair was stunning. Huge cliffs dressed in a tangle of greenery and palm trees, fire flys dancing at night in the foliage, the bay alight with glinting phosphorescence. We sat on deck for hours soaking up the atmosphere. And this was only an overnight stop on our way to Wallilabou or "Port Royal" as you may know it.
Another picturesque bay there are so many in St Vincent. Wallilabou was taken over by Disney to shoot "Pirates of the Caribbean 1" in 2003. The sets are still in tact; it was fascinating to see the plastic walls and fascias with just scaffolding behind. For fun we even watched the DVD on board and then explored - noticing the various bits we recognised. We had a lovely meal at the restaurant inside one of the sets. It was a little crowded and we were looking for some quiet time.
We are now at anchor in Buccament Bay around the corner waiting for the rain to stop, which will be soon. Then off to explore the rain forest and buy some fresh produce from the local farm. There is a quiet affluence on St Vincent; many islanders have returned home from the UK (High Wycombe and Reading) bringing their property wealth. This, coupled with the tourists visiting the Grenadines, has helped the economy.
Bequia (pronounced beck-way) is our next stop where
we'll update the website before meeting up with Kim and Cal in a week