New Years Eve 2016

New Year’s eve we found ourselves back at Bitter End, anchored near Prickly Pear island. Fellow cruisers, Second Wind (Howard and Hope) and Judith Arlene (Ed and Judy)were near by so we decided on a pot luck dinner and games on Blue Sky while we awaited midnight. Nigel (Judy & Ed’s dog) joined us in his finest attire (bow tie at his neck and cuffs on his paws).

The bay was filled to the brim with boats of all sizes, including many mega yachts. The bars and restaurants were full and music abounded around us. There was no need to set the timer for midnight as ship horns honked and people cheered. We rung in the new year with a glass of champagne brought by Judith Arlene and some Grand Marnier soaked strawberries and a bite of chocolate. Oh what a reward for staying up until midnight. Cheers to everyone for a healthy and happy 2016.

Antigua

We arrived in Antigua at 0700 on January 30th after an easy close reaching night sail. Having been here before we were much more relaxed arriving at Jolly Harbor and clearing in.  Dr Edwards remembered Charlie and was happy to welcome him back to the island. We spent only one night at Jolly Harbor before heading over to Pigeon Beach at Falmouth Harbour for a few days.

Anchored next to us at Pigeon Beach were fellow Salty Dawgs from last year, ‘Want To’(Peggy, John). We had them over to Blue Sky to watch the sunset one evening and heard all about their sailing back up island from Grenada where they left their boat during the last hurricane season. Nice couple who shared some travel information collected while in Guadaloupe after we mentioned this was our next stop.

Beautiful ships outside Falmouth
Beautiful ships outside Falmouth

Falmouth is a place where all the mega Sailing Yachts gather for various regattas including the Caribbean 600. We enjoy Pigeon Beach, but it can be crowded on weekends (P – and a bit rolly, especially for monohulls) and we tired of the noise quickly so we stayed only 2 nights and headed around Antigua to the east to Nonsuch Bay. There are free mooring balls at Nonsuch and lucky for us we got the one nearest the beach of Green Island. Charlie loves that beach and it made it easy to SUP or kayak him ashore a few times each day.

Beautiful yacht among a flotilla of wet bottom sailors at Falmouth, Antigua
Beautiful yacht among a flotilla of wet bottom sailors at Falmouth, Antigua

And a few more:

We spent a full 10 days in Nonsuch Bay simply enjoying the beauty of the place with its barrier reef (which we snorkeled – beautiful coral). You look east across the reef and realize there is only the Atlantic Ocean between you and Africa (P – Mauritania!), amazing. It’s a kite-surfers paradise as the bay is huge and well protected by the reef, but the wind with nothing to stop it, so it always seems to be perfect conditions for that sport. P – This year we tried a hike on Green Island. Ended up being very prickly and challenging so it was not a long hike.

Friends on Rum Runner, Kalunamoo, and Judith Arlene showed up a few days into our time here. We joined them and went to Harmony Hall and had drinks on a Sunday afternoon, while the duo Steel and Keys played steel drum music. Judy and Phil on Rum Runner had us all over for drinks and a game of Farkel, a dice game that is super simple yet highly competitive. Maureen won, but she was also the score keeper so we teased her that she cheated (she totally didn’t, her skill and experience won out).

The following evening we had a musical Jam session with Rum Runner (Judy, Phil), Kalunamoo (Maureen, Bill), Judith Arlene (Judy, Ed) on board Blue Sky. We managed to have 2 guitars, two harmonicas (P – Phil who did Dylan proud), and a roll up keyboard (P – which Bill made sound better than I’ve ever heard). The girls mainly sang or acted as groupies while the guys created the music. I must thank Judy on Judith Arlene for organizing everyone for such a fun and entertaining evening (P – and spouse Ed for bringing along excellent guitar accompaniment and tabs for some fun music. He has motivated P to get back to playing a bit).

Charlie had his first dog guest on board, Nigel of Judith Arlene braved it and came aboard a few times. Charlie was mostly calm about it and Nigel is so laid back he didn’t seem bothered at all by Charlie’s few snarls. We’re working on him when we can to be around other dogs to not be so afraid of them. He’s such a people dog. We broke them in by taking them ashore in the same dinghy (Nigel’s).

The only thing we hadn’t done was have a game of Mexican Train (dominoes), so we arranged to do so again on Blue Sky since we have the largest table. We had 10 on board that night as we were joined by Folie a Deux (Ann, John). Another fun evening.

We spent a few evenings with Ann and John after the other Dawgs left (P – and enjoyed a snorkel on Bird Island reef with them – good coral, okay fish).  This is how 10 days can pass in one place and you feel like you’ve been so busy. I had to get creative with my appetizers as I was running low of fresh produce. It’s standard to take an appetizer and your own drinks along to these events. We really didn’t need dinner most nights with the variety of appetizers that were available each night.

Full moon peeking out of the cloud after sunset at Nonsuch Bay
Full moon peeking out of the cloud after sunset at Nonsuch Bay

So we are now in Jolly Harbor again after a lovely sail from Nonsuch Bay on February 14th. When we arrived our aft stanchion broke at the base where the bolt had rusted and snapped. After taking it apart we discovered we need to go to the welding shop to get the old bolt remains removed and a new bolt welded on (thanks to Dr. Carl in Jolly Harbor). Meanwhile, we are busy re-provisioning and planning for our next destination, Guadeloupe (P – not to mention trying to brush up on a little French).

Sunrise over Green Island in Nonsuch Bay, Antigua
Sunrise over Green Island in Nonsuch Bay, Antigua

Sint Maarten

Sint Maarten

The wind is usually on the nose when going from BVI to St Maarten, so while we were waiting for a wind free night we sailed over to North Sound on Virgin Gorda and anchored off the beach of Prickly Pear island. Charlie enjoyed his usual romps on the beach and we enjoyed swimming off the boat. We joined friends Dan and Jackie onboard ‘Chill’ one evening to watch the movie 27 Dresses and made our usual visit to Saba Rock for happy hour. The perfect weather window was only a few days away.

We scheduled Charlie in to the vet for his export papers on January 19th. I took him in the taxi while Paul got the propane tank filled and picked up a few provisions. We all went over to clear customs and then we went for lunch at a restaurant to celebrate my birthday, since we’d be sailing overnight.

We headed out about 1430h to begin our motor to the Dutch side of the island of St Maarten. The seas were perfectly calm as we watched the islands of BVI slowly disappear behind us as night fell. It was a simple motor and no fussing with sails. What I found most fascinating about the trip was the traffic. Yes, traffic – boats going in both directions. We must have seen at least 30 other boats pass us through the night, not to mention the ones that filed in behind us upon arrival. We anchored on the Dutch side of the island by 0700h. Paul went ashore to clear us in. He mentioned the customs and immigration officers on this island to be the nicest he’s met so far.

Once we were cleared in we enjoyed mimosas to celebrate our arrival to a new island and my birthday. P gave me a nice surprise gift of the first 4 seasons of Downton Abbey (at the time of this writing we are starting Season 3).

In St Maarten we ran into fellow Salty Dawg boats: Kalani, Kalunamoo , Judith Arlene and Chasseur. After our first explore of the island and a walk for Charlie, we joined everyone at Lagoonies in the lagoon for happy hour. It was fun to reminisce and hear everyone’s adventures so far.

We recovered our sleep over the next few days, discovered a few good pastry places, and spent lots of money at the Budget Marine (the biggest in the Caribbean). Since we were anchored in Simpson bay, we had a good snorkel over to the reef (swimming distance) discovering only so-so coral and fish – but surprise, an old auto graveyard with pieces scattered about. Curious about what boat sunk there and when.

We also had a few more events at Lagoonies with our friends while we waited for a Fed Ex package to arrive. Oddly enough the package ended up being sent via UPS so the Fed Ex office wouldn’t accept it. Lucky for us we happened to be having a pastry at the café next to the Fed Ex office when the UPS guy called. So P went out to the street and was able to get the package directly from the UPS driver.

We were happy to finally get the package so we could plan to continue down island on the BVI export permit for Charlie before it expired. We left Sint Maarten on January 29th and sailed directly to Antigua.

A little rain over St Kitts on the way to Antigua
A little rain over St Kitts on the way to Antigua

Sun setting over St Kitts and Nevis on the way to Antigua
Sun setting over St Kitts and Nevis on the way to Antigua