St Martin/Sint Maarten & Anguilla

The sail from Statia to St Martin/Sint Maarten was a beautiful trip in glorious sunshine, the 36 miles taking just under 5 hours with 20 knots on the beam. We were going to anchor in the Great bay at Philipsburg where the cruise ship terminal is, but reports said the waters were very rolly with ferry traffic all day, so we dropped the hook in Simpson bay near the lifting bridge which gives access to the large lagoon and marinas.

Check in was easy with a dinghy dock right next to customs. The Dutch system charges per week in their waters which for us was roughly 50 US dollars, if you stay for 8 days you’re charged for 14! The anchorage is next to the Juliana airport which is certainly the busiest in the Caribbean. Youtube is full of videos showing the Maho beach where people stand and feel like they can touch the planes as they land. The wheels look like they only just clear the perimeter fence and the beach is right next to it. A visit to this beach was promised to Charlotte when we realised she would be with us…and just a little bit of excitement from me too! We took the RiB round and initially had trouble getting ashore as the beach was very steep with heavy swell. In the end we drove in quick and hoped not to get pooped !!!

Watching the planes approaching was great fun and they really were very close, pictures don’t do it justice. When the jets leave, the full force of the engines is felt on the beach, there’s warnings everywhere about possible injury but to be honest no-one takes any notice and quite a business has been set up by local bars! This is our first attempt at adding our own video to the blog…. we’ll get better, promise!

We also took the local bus to Philipsburg and found the front boardwalk to be typical where cruise ships dock. Casinos, jewellery and perfume stores everywhere with bars every few paces. We did see the main Carrefour supermarket whilst on the bus and both Caroline & Charlotte did a big shop whilst I carried out boat maintenance duties. The main dinghy dock from Simpson bay is next to the Buccaneers beach bar, a great place with happy hour from 11am till 7pm….. it was rude not to 🙂

This is a very commercialised area certainly popular with superyachts and their guests/crew. We thought Antigua was popular for them but Simpson bay is in another league. The mega yacht “A” was anchored in the bay along with another “The Big Blue”.

Having stayed for a week, we left the Dutch side and moved round to the north of the island which is part of France. Check in is by computer in the “island Water World chandlers which costs 2 euros regardless how long you stay….. remember now the Dutch side was 50 US dollars a week !!

Most people know about Hurricanes Irma and Maria which struck this area in September 2017. Irma hit St Martin and Anguilla full force with sustained wind speed of 180 mph (285km/h) with gusts reportedly up to 250 mph. The lagoon which both countries share was decimated and boats still today lie sunk at anchor. Some have been damaged badly but remain afloat, some with people living on board. We’re guessing they had no insurance cover, no money to fix and just exist now unable to move, it brings a tear to the eye of the most hardened person. Buildings completely destroyed are everywhere, many with no roofs, it just looks like the remnants of a war zone. Being at anchor with 40-50 knot winds is an unpleasant experience as everything shakes and rattles… these boats and homes had no chance.


Just after Irma went through, Rebecca Bullen who is one of Nick & Carols daughters (our Atlantic crew) visited Anguilla with a film crew who were there to document the resilience of the islanders and how they were going to rebuild. 1 1/2 miles north of Road Bay the capital there is a tiny sand bar called Sandy Island. A bar/restaurant had been on the island for many years and was an idyllic location & very popular. Irma had washed it away leaving absolutely nothing behind. We wanted to visit and see how Anguilla and Sandy island had recovered too.

Once we’d anchored in Road bay in beautifully clear water, I went ashore to find customs which was at the end of the dinghy dock. The last time I walked on such soft sand was back in our home port at Poole and the famous Sandbanks beach….. anyway back to customs, who were extremely officious and the first time since arriving in the Caribbean that I actually felt like we were a nuisance. Check in was free but if we wanted to move away from the anchorage at Road bay and anchor at other beaches we had to have a cruising permit.  These permits run from midnight to midnight so if you want to anchor overnight you have to pay for 2 days at a price of 150 EC dollars a day….. that’s 84 British pounds a day times 2 for overnight. So the British overseas territory of Anguilla wanted the equivalent of 168 pounds to anchor overnight in their bays. When I said we couldn’t/wouldn’t pay that and would stay at anchor in Road Bay for free they demanded to know exactly what time of day we were leaving. Interestingly, the pricing system isn’t size related but weight related too ??

We did visit Sandy Island by using our RiB, (probably should’ve paid) & the bar/restaurant is back running along with newly planted sea grass & palm trees. A beautiful place for sure but it looks so exposed, we wish them well.

In the end we left Anguilla after only 2 nights there and are now back anchored in Marigot bay St Martin having paid 2 euros ! We now start our journey south revisiting islands, we will stop at Rodney bay in St Lucia for a few days as we need to have Silhouette lifted so the rudder bearing and cutless bearing can be resealed and changed. We’ll probably antifoul too so a very busy 2 days ashore to look forward to.

We have strong southeasterly winds here so can’t leave until the winds swing round to the east, which should be in 5 days time. A deep clean of Silhouette is in order !

 

Farewells

Our arrival at the anchorage in Nevis was important as this was the last time we were likely to see Steve & Helen on Allegrini for at least 18 months. They are moving on to the USA whereas we’re going south. We have been cruising in company a lot since we both left the UK & it’ll be strange not to meet up for beers and wine. We had an impromptu BBQ on Allegrini and the following morning said farewell to great friends.

We sailed up to Basse Terre the capital of St Kitts and found the anchorage absolutely open to the wind and swell. Customs is where the cruise ship terminal is & 2 ships were in. The area was packed with passengers looking in the many shops for “bargain jewellery” and perfume. We quickly moved 3 miles south to South Friars bay and had a beautiful quiet night at anchor. A decision was made to crack straight on towards St Martin as this was very much a must visit island (aren’t they all!). We sailed up to Statia and dropped anchor keeping the yellow Q flag flying as we weren’t stopping, and found yet again a very uncomfortable night rolling all over the place. Back in the 1700’s this island was the centre of the caribbean islands for trade and shipping stopped here all the time, today what stands out is the huge commercial port with tankers at anchor waiting to drop off petrochemicals… not very attractive at all which could be why there were only 6 other yachts in the anchorage.

We left at first light and headed straight to the famous St Martin and “that airport runway” !!!

Antigua

Approaching Antigua, we were met by the sight of huge racing yachts gliding effortlessly with crew sat on the sides. One cut across us way too close making us alter course even though we had the right of way. They actually waved as they passed so I gave them a universal salute in return! As it turned out we’d arrived during the build up to the RORC Caribbean 600 yacht race, this is a world class race attracting multi million pound yachts to race 600 miles around the Caribbean islands. We saw the Maserati trimaran too which we last saw in La Rochelle France.

We anchored in Falmouth harbour which is where we ended up staying for nearly 3 weeks. Check in was done at Nelsons Dockyard in English harbour, a 10 minute walk from the dinghy dock. The dock was part of the Antigua yacht club who were the organisers of the race, we even managed to gate crash their pre race party by sneaking in by dinghy avoiding security (who weren’t very good) and had a great evening pretending to be crew !!!

We had to change the name of the ships master in the customs office too as I needed to fly home and Silhouette must have a master onboard. Sadly I had a call from my brother Steve to say that our father had died on Sunday 17th February. That evening along with Jeremy from Right Turn we went to the jump up party at Shirley Heights where we watched the sun go down over the hills and toasted my dad. 2 days later I said goodbye to Caroline & Charlotte leaving them at anchor as I flew back for 7 days.

Silhouette was well behaved and stayed in the same place, why doesn’t everyone have a Rocna anchor? despite some very strong winds. During my absence the girls hired a jeep together with Jeremy and visited some other bays around the island including the huge supermarket for a full re stock. Dickinson bay was the favourite with this beautiful scene…

The day after I got back we went to the yacht club for a drink and unbeknown to me a surprise was in store as 2 friends Alan & Julie appeared. They were on holiday and searched for us on vesselfinder, realising we were on the same island, a reunion was in order including another visit to Shirley Heights and a sail round to English Harbour anchoring off a beautiful beach.

Our petrol generator has been very temperamental, so together with Jeremy from Right Turn we set about a permanent fix. We quickly realised there was a fuel blockage so stripped all the fuel line out. Perhaps you needed to be there, but we made it like a surgical procedure with clamps to stem the fuel/blood, 2 pairs of hands buried deep in the bowels of the generator/patient and way too many medical terms we didn’t understand plus beer …. but fix it we did! After saying our goodbyes to Jeremy, who we hope to see in a couple of months as we both head south, and checking out of Antigua, it was time to move on, with Nevis being our next anchorage, a 52 mile downwind sail just as it was when we crossed the Atlantic…… very rolly !

As we looked behind us watching Antigua slowly disappear we all agreed this was a special island and yet again realised just how lucky we are to be here. Continue reading “Antigua”

Racing north

After Caroline’s sister flew home we sailed back to Martinique and based ourselves in Ste Anne at anchor as Caroline and Charlotte needed to fly back to the U.K. for 10 days. We looked at every option to get them to the airport, the main problem being they had to leave Silhouette at 5am! In the end a private hire taxi took them for 90 euros… ouch!

This left me on board with a list of jobs which would certainly keep me busy, including stripping back the teak decks and resealing. This alone took nearly 3 days, mainly because it was so hot under the Caribbean sun I kept diving for shade! The end result though was great and Silhouette once again has beautiful decks. Other jobs included oil change, saloon covers washed, waterline cleaning (never ending task) & lots of small jobs I can’t remember.

Steve on Allegrini needed to reseal his bottom rudder bearing, so as I’d done ours 2 years ago I said I would show him how to do it. This meant me sailing Silhouette back to Rodney bay solo (first time).

The trip was an easy reach in 15 knots of wind in lovely sunshine, made extra special by a pod of dolphins arriving, our first pod on this side of the Atlantic.

Rodney bay seems like our home port, we’ve been back so many times now, there are certainly worse places to anchor off though. We met up with 3 other arc+ yachts, Crean, La Boheme & Passat II making a 5 boat reunion. Even Ithaka anchored behind me for one night, so the arc+ legacy continues.

Partying over, it was time for me to head back to Martinique to pick up the girls. I picked them up from Fort de France as it was the easiest as its quite close to the airport, a quick restock from the very busy but well stocked Leader Price supermarket and we were  off Dominica.

The 3 of us made a decision to head north to Antigua quite quickly as it was looking like I would need to return to the UK soon as my father was extremely ill. This meant the islands of Dominica and Guadeloupe would only be overnight or 2 night stops. We would explore in depth on our way south in April. It would be unfair to comment on these islands as we literally anchored and moved on, in fact we never lowered the Q flag in Dominica. We did spend 5 nights in Guadeloupe 2 in Deshaies where the tv show Death in Paradise was filmed. this area is a wind magnet and we can confirm it blows there all the time. The wind bowls through the mountains causing huge gusts and choppy waters, even in the bay.


We did manage to stop at the Jacques Cousteau marine national park to snorkel. This protected park is full of aquatic life, on our way back south we will spend more time in this beautiful area.

We found a window in the weather (or so we thought) and left  Deshaies at 7a.m. This wind remained on the beam but kept building up to 32kts with a confused sea. Silhouette absolutely loved it and we reached 9.2kts at one stage, and averaged just over 7kts for the 43 miles.

As we approached Antigua, we started to see very large racing yachts practicing, but for what………

Guest on board!

Caroline’s sister Lynn arrived on new years day to spend 2 weeks with us on board, this being her first experience of sailing AND she doesn’t like the water…… what could possibly go wrong? In fact nothing at all and she had a whale of a time as did we.

 

We took her out to anchor for a night to see how the rocking made her feel then sailed down to the Pitons for  nights giving her an easy sail and great views. Whilst there the girls visited the Diamond botanical gardens and the drive in volcano where the sulphur bath & springs are. I stayed on board to do some “small” jobs including checking the spark plug, oil & air filter on the genny and ended up taking the generator apart when I dropped the spark plug socket into the bottom of the casing…. so pleased there weren’t any ladies present!

A short trip back to Marigot bay to find there was space in the lagoon. The ever present boat boy took us to a mooring and then said his brother would be a long to take the money! We then realised he’d put us on a private mooring so moved off and took the last official mooring which we’d asked him for initially. They are only trying to earn a living but it pays to be polite and firm at the same time! By being in the lagoon we get free use of the hotel facilities which is great with 2 swimming pools (1 with a swim up bar) towels & loungers.

 

 

 

 

 

You may remember we won a prize for catching the largest fish on our atlantic crossing. The prize was lunch for 6 in the Hurricane hole bar & restaurant. There were 4 of us and we had a stunning lunch which would’ve cost us over $150 USD and the staff were lovely too.

Lynn got on well on board so we checked out of St Lucia and took her up to Martinique for a few days. She got a feeling of open water sailing as we left the protection of the islands….. and loved it too.

Her last Friday meant we had to get back to Rodney bay as the “Jump up” at Gros Islet just had to be witnessed. The food as always was great, the music loud, Rum punch was strong and it rained hard as everyone was dancing in the street!

We also anchored by Pigeon Island, so paid to walk around the grounds and fort with great views. Whilst there Lynn took us to Jambe de bois restaurant just by the landing dock for a meal, live jazz music included.

And then it was all over, Lynn is now back in the chilly U.K. and we look forward to seeing new islands in the coming months……

Happy new year!

Christmas Day began with the 3 of us jumping off the back of the boat into the warm Caribbean Sea as we’d promised each other we would, so different from last year in the U.K.

We entertained Angela & Christoph from Ithaka & Bert & Tina from Festina Lente, both German couples who had never had Christmas turkey roast… how surreal eating a full roast dinner in 30 degrees!!! We found a Leader Price supermarket which was well stocked and cheap, getting to it was fun as we read the route was by taking the dinghy down a mangrove river. This was followed by a 10 minute walk…. to find the supermarket had its own dinghy dock and we didn’t need to walk !! Still, we gave our guests a christmas day to remember 🙂

We had arranged to spend New Years eve with Steve & Helen from Allegrini back in Rodney Bay which was a win win as Caroline’s sister was flying in also for a 2 week holiday with us, her first time sailing!

Pontoon party ensued with a couple of gatecrashers and 4 ARC+ yachts still in the marina. After pre loading with alcohol, we all headed off to the boardwalk bar expecting live music and a party atmosphere, sadly it was all a bit subdued. Apparently the party atmosphere was on the beach where we weren’t…. note to self to check first next year for the lively place to be🤷🏻‍♂️