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Tuesday, May 7, 2019

March 5 – 12, 2019 Beautiful, Historic Nevis - Finally!

The trip over to Nevis was no fun at all in spite of the anticipation of great winds and a fast downwind sail. The seas were terribly lumpy and confused, knocking the wind out of the sails. We attempted to chase the wind but finally got tired of getting swallowed up in the waves so we turned on the “iron jib”. ZenLattitude was more patient than us and tried tacking back and forth. We watched them switch from our port to our starboard many times, with camera poised in case we got a good shot of them under sail. We were extremely happy to have Charlestown Harbour in our sights at last. We anchored just off the town jetty. It was 3:30 so Frank and Silvain sped to shore to clear us in before Customs closed at 4:00, only to be told to come back tomorrow because they were already shutting down. Disappointed, we stayed aboard that first night and tried to catch some rest  - comfort level 5 with the swell wrapping around the harbor.


Wednesday morning Val and I explored along the waterfront searching for a breakfast venue while the guys cleared us in. We chose funky Café des Arts, located in front of the Alexander Hamilton home.  The guys joined us for a delicious breakfast – we ate, they had beer – before exploring the historic center. Not having yet seen the play that has been sweeping the nation, we got our in-depth history lesson on one of our First Fathers right here at his humble beginnings. As we were touring the center we discovered that literally everyone here knows Suzy Gordon. She and her fiancé Todd are key members of the historical society. We knocked around the little town center for a while and then enlisted a taxi driver to take us to Golden Rock, where literally everyone who has been to Nevis says we must eat the Lobster Sandwich for lunch. Our taxi driver, who proudly exclaimed he is a preacher, gave us a fair price  - $30 each I think, for a (4-hour) driving tour/round trip up to Golden Rock, letting us know he would wait for us to enjoy a leisurely lunch. The lunch was fantastic, dining al fresco, poolside under a lovely gazebo. The venue, a top resort nestled up in the rainforest area of the mountain is a garden oasis covering about 16 hectares. We invited our driver to join us, feeling badly about leaving him to sit in his van. He ordered some hefty priced menu items and kept the waitress flummoxed, getting his food well after we had all finished eating, so Val and I took a stroll through the verdant gardens waiting for him to complete his meal. It was getting late by the time we left Golden Rock, yet he drove us back the long way around the island, pointing out areas of interest. We thought he was just so nice, this kindly preacher-man. The atmosphere and attitude changed quite a bit when he dropped us off at the end of the day, doubling his fee because we used 6 hours instead of 4!!! And to think we bought him a gourmet lunch to boot! What a stinker, telling us all the while to “take our time”. 

That evening, Frank and I took a stroll over to gorgeous Pinney’s beach where there are several very good beach cafés. Sunshine’s is known for their Killer Bee rum drink, and Frank was all bout getting stung – ha ha! The Rasta owner, Sunshine came over to welcome us with his big beautiful smile. We could really get used to this place and decided to move Destiny over here where the water was much prettier and we could grab one of the complimentary mooring balls. 
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 We spent one night at Pinney’s before moving up to Tamarind Bay, where Suzy’s home sits invitingly up on the cliff. Todd happened to be aboard their sailboat Mowgli when we arrived, so we invited him aboard for refreshment. Later that evening he returned to drive us up their rollercoaster driveway to their beautiful home overlooking Tamarind Bay at Cliff Dweller’s. Wow! I resisted taking photos of the home because I didn’t want to be tacky. It is a slice of paradise, west facing full of windows complete with an infinity pool built right on the cliff’s edge just below the living room where every night they can enjoy one of the most stunning views of sunset on the island. Suzy has worked for years building this into a paradise no one would ever want to leave. All 6 of us immediately bonded. Suzy is an established and well-known realtor on the island, and both she and Todd are enmeshed into the social and historical scene here. They know all the best places to eat, drink and be merry, and we spent the next three days with them doing just that. Suzy drove us around Nevis giving us a really special tour. This island hosts a number of lovely historic celebrity holiday venues; quiet, secluded places to where the elite can escape in their desire to get away to paradise without a lot of cheesy tourists running around. Thanks to Suzy we got to have an inside look at The Hermitage and the Montpelier Plantation. We drove to the Four Seasons on the other end of Nevis, where to our complete surprise the golf course was over-run by wild donkeys!  For lunch we dined at the gorgeous Chrishi Beach Club, and wrapped up the day at Cliff Dwellers. The next day we moved our boats over to the pretty white sugar sand beach in front of Yachtsman Grill just a couple of bays down where we had use of the lounge chairs and the facilities. That night we joined Suzy and Todd for dinner and live music at Yachtsman Grill where several of her distinguished friends with various musical talents have joined together to form a casual band. These two pretty much adopted us and included us in their very busy social life during our visit. We would have done quite a lot more had we been able to find a good local place convenient to their house to leave the dinghy at night. It was a little bit of a pain to get dressed up and then drag that sucker up on shore. Perhaps in the future, they can convince the Nevis port authorities to put in some dinghy docks to make the island more accessible to yachts, on the other hand being a draw for sailors might ruin the magic for the celebs and it wouldn’t have the same allure if being here on a yacht was that easy. Nonetheless, we had so much fun with these guys we never wanted to leave. Cathy and Scott, my former classmates mates back home are so fortunate to have Suzy and Todd in their lives (and vice versa!).When we eventually did leave, we made a vow to sail back here again to stay much longer. Even better, Frank and I are considering making it a holiday destination without Destiny.

Alas the clock was ticking on us and on Val and Silvain. We had finally secured a popular upholstery vendor in St. Martin to make our cushions and needed to get going to make that appointment while they needed to make tracks southward.  Tuesday, February 12, we said our farewells to everyone and set our sights on St. Martin/Sint Maarten.

Friday, May 3, 2019

February 19 – March 4, 2019 - Antigua – New Friends, great hikes, Mega Yachts and Oh No!

Our sail from Guadeloupe to Antigua’s Falmouth Harbour was a windy bash. The high winds and seas between the two islands really strained our autopilot and us. It would have made most people very seasick. We fared well but were very ready to have this 7-hour ride over and done with. Tacking was horribly uncomfortable so we stayed the course as much as possible as the strong current kept pushing us westward. If we had made for Jolly Harbour, we might’ve done better but we really wanted to see this side of the island first. Eventually we arrived in to the bay, fording Destiny into 30-knot headwinds. What is wrong with us? We are crazy.  As if to give us a message of encouragement, a massive scarred up old dolphin suddenly joined me up front, swimming directly underneath the bow escorting us the rest of the way in.  The dolphin then vanished as suddenly as it had appeared.

Safely anchored in the bay, we took in our surroundings. Falmouth and English Harbours are separated by a little strip of land making it easy to walk back and forth between the two. Both bays can accommodate a great number of vessels from Super/Mega yachts on down. The Caribbean 600 is just now winding down as is the Atlantic Challenge rowing race. There are loads of yacht services and amenities that we tried to utilize but soon found out that the big boys get priority here. Frank had recently tried to switch our fridge and freezer but the units weren’t working properly, so that was a big item on our list. Next we tried again to get new cockpit cushions made. We also hoped to source a new pump for the watermaker.  We quickly found a great refrigeration guy in Marlon Hunte, A.Zero Degrees Marine. He assessed our set up and ordered a new element for the freezer. Check! The watermaker pump got taken into Watermaker Services for assessment. Try as we might, we could not source any upholstery or canvas services to make our cushions. Everyone here is booked up and backlogged. After such a busy morning of walking back and forth in the heat trying to source services we decided to seek out Island Fusion Cafe, highly recommended to us by our friends Joanne and Ken (Allicat). Fortunately it was just a few steps away from Watermaker Services. The owner Sandra is a very good friend of Joanne and Ken, and in the spirit of mutual friendship she whipped up a delectable fresh lobster lunch for us. We waddled out of there resisting the urge to go find a comfortable place for a nap. We still had a little work to do sourcing parts which required walking all over the place and often backtracking the dusty road in the building heat. Nothing in the area is far enough away to justify renting a car and we truly needed the exercise.
With Sandra - Island Fusion Cafe

Time for some fun. Spending time on the boat was a challenge in this bay where the wind never stops blowing…HARD…and the chop-n-roll doesn’t seem to settle down until late. We got accustomed to being wet every time we took the dinghy into shore. We spent several days exploring the area around the UNESCO Heritage Site of Nelson’s Dockyard. We walked the docks to drool over the luxury yachts and the racing yachts. We enjoyed some fabulous lunches at both harbors and at the beaches. We browsed chandleries and shops. Provisions here are world class because Antigua draws so many wealthy clients, but at the same time you pay dearly for those provisions. 
Our delicious green beans
A medium bag of Lays potato chips was $7, and a small bag of green beans cost me $15! 
Zoom in on that price. Frank only bought Antigua rum 
Eventually, our OCC burgee drew the attention of Mike and Robin Stout, “s/v Mermaid”, who invited us to happy hour at the Antigua Yacht Club where we met several other members including Val and Silvain Bettez, a couple of French Canadians on their Beneteau, “ZenLatitude”,who would soon become very good friends. 
Just one of the many big guys at Antigua Yacht Club

view of  some of the big yachts from one of our hikes. Perspective - those racing dinghies are 15 ft long

Catherine's, one of many top rated beach Cafe's with live music and loungers. Outstanding food!

View from another hike showing Falmouth Harbour in the forefront, and English Harbour in the background.

Silvain, Barbara, Val, Frank 

We spent nearly every day or evening with them taking in hikes or walks and of course meals. We are quite amazed at the number of massive homes dotting the cliffs overlooking the ocean and the number of huge yachts that take up the waterfront of both bays. I would “google” them as we passed by. Seriously mind-blowing. We also met some fellow IPY owners over at The Dockyard, Phil Giddings and Krista Slack, “Harmonium Cays”, also Canadian. Our social network is alive again. Eventually, we got the freezer element installed – now we can make ice in half the time. The watermaker pump parts have to be ordered from America, and will cost too much time and $$$ so we brought it back and decided to just continue filling up Destiny as we go along. Although we loved it here, our bank account is hyperventilating, trying to keep up with the price of food and drink, and in order to fill up with water we will have to move over to Jolly Harbour, so on March 1, we talked ZenLatitude into following us over for a few days.

We took the passage outside the barrier reef over to Jolly Harbour thinking we could sail it. We soon realized this was not a great idea as massive waves threatened to boil us up and have us for a snack. This time I actually had to swallow a Stugeron tablet because my insides were no longer keeping up with my outsides. Frank – the machine – was fine! Fortunately it worked quickly but we were not having a good time of it at all. A few hours later we spotted the powder blue waters of Jolly Harbour. What a beautiful bay! By now the winds had built to their typical raging strength and we were told to wait a while on a mooring ball before we could enter the marina because staff were heading to lunch and we would need several hands to help us in. Uh Oh! That doesn’t sound very good at all.  The winds were still gusting up to 30 kts. when we got called up by the Harbour Master to enter the marina. When we saw the tight spot they directed us to, our guts turned inside out. Why, oh why do marinas assign us to slips much too small for Destiny? Every other boat around us was well under 50-feet, more in the 35 - 40-foot category, and yet we get charged for our full 52-foot length. We had to maneuver around large pylons with not much room between the piers. A man did approach us in his dinghy, which gave us some relief, but then there was only a young boy on the dock to help me with fenders and lines. Normally, there would have been a staff member standing on the adjacent yacht to take a line & to help fend us off as we turn into the slip. As Frank attempted to turn into the slip, a massive gust caught Destiny and turned her abeam of the pylon. Frank was steering hard to port, reversing and using the bow thruster with all his might while I had all three of them yelling different orders to me. “Be on the bow ready to throw the line! No! Be on starboard midship with line and fender! No! Hold a fender next to the pylon!” I can’t believe the calm that came over me instead of panic. I tuned them all out and headed for the bow, which looked as though it would surely ram the boat to our starboard. I sent up a quick prayer as the anchor barely missed plowing into the other boat, rather it nestled itself between the upper and lower lifelines but not before the bowsprit popped a stanchion on the other yacht as though it were not attached at all. At this same time, I heard a sickening crunch to Destiny’s port side as the wind pushed us at an ungodly angle along the pylon. Everything seemed to stop for a few seconds as Frank manipulated us back and gently guided our bow away from the other boat. I then grabbed a fender to head to the other side of Destiny. The pylon had grazed our rub rail, pulling out some of the setscrews but no real harm done. This is what those rub rails are for, right? It’s not pretty but we will get it fixed another time. While all this is happening, the man in the dinghy did little good for us, he seemed to enjoy his role of yelling at Frank and me. The kid on the dock was virtually useless and looked at me with huge helpless eyes. After getting settled in, we had a look at the other boat. It turns out to be from Seabrook, Texas! The damage was fortunately minimal. The stanchion screws had popped out and just needed to be reset and sealed. We found out later, however, that little incident cost us $300.  Checking into the office they asked us how long we were staying. When Frank said “One night”, I gasped and said, “Oh no, after what it took to get us in here we aren’t leaving that soon!” We stayed 3 in the marina and then 1 out in the anchorage with Val and Silvain.  On a side note, it turns out that the owners of the boat next to us are also members of our Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook. We will meet them in person when we return home, although this is certainly not the way we want to meet people, the irony is quite amazing.

Jolly Harbour is a wonderful little place with yet another gourmet supermarket, a golf course, and some good, although quite pricey restaurants. There is also a very strange tree around the golf course here that produces massive foot-long gourd-looking things that hang down on long vines. No one seemed to be able to identify them. We played a rough 18 holes, my second ever, with pathetic rental clubs. The course is pitted all over with huge holes and teeming with small furry creatures running all about. We figured they were ground squirrels and that this must surely be the place that gave inspiration to the movie, Caddy Shack.  After our game we found that those furry creatures are mongooses! The holes all over the course are from land crabs. Well isn’t that something? We ended our second day in Jolly Harbour with the most stunning sunset either of us has seen since our days in Fiji. 
 
Jolly H. Marina water - These filters started out stark white

Beautiful golf course!

The fairway!

What is this?

Val and Silvain arrived a couple of days later but chose to anchor in the bay. Good choice, and one that we would have made except that we needed to fill our water tanks. The water from this marina is so dirty our primary filter turned a dark coffee color – bleh! We had no choice. We explained to them what happened on our arrival and all agreed that Silvain is going to help me onboard Destiny when we pull out of the marina and that we would do it very early Sunday morning before the winds build to monumental strength. Success! Out of the marina, we enjoyed a day and night in the beautiful bay with Val and Silvain. We had dinner together and strategized. We desperately wanted them to come with us to Nevis because we aren’t ready to say goodbye, but they are heading south to Grenada and we are planning to hit St. Martin before heading to the ABC islands for hurricane season. We prevailed, convincing them that one more week and a few more miles is no harm at all.
Just Wow

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Guadeloupe – Feb 12 – 19, 2019 Iles de Saintes and Deshaies

Sailing between Dominica and The Saintes Islands was a rough but fast ride, with big winds and great big waves, smashing us on the beam.  We hit speeds of nearly 9 knots. Allicat had departed about 30 minutes ahead of us and arrived early enough to snag a mooring ball and were able to secure their kayak to one for us. We fought 30-knot headwinds coming into the mooring field, and were very grateful that Ken jumped into his dinghy to assist me in tying up.

Checking in here was easy, same as in Martinique, at a designated PC terminal in the port and just as in Martinique, I handled the check-in for both us and Allicat while Frank enjoyed a beer and Ken waited gratefully. We paid in advance for 4 nights on the mooring and then we set off with Ken and Joann for a stroll through the small village and lunch. Pick anywhere that serves food, coffee or pastry here. You will not be disappointed. This place knocks the socks off Martinique when it comes to food. Our favorites were Ti Kaz ‘la and Toumbana which both require reservations. We strolled the lovely streets every day, taking in the beauty of this charming harbor village. The buildings here are just as pretty as a picture, painted in pastels and colors of rainbow sherbet. We rented a golf cart with Ken and Joann to explore the Fort and the windward side of the island, enjoying lunch at a pretty seaside café. 








We shopped and strolled and ate. I bought Frank a beautiful blue shirt to compliment his eyes for Valentine’s Day. We were so much in Heaven we extended our stay, but soon we had to get moving north and Allicat sadly had to head south. They are putting their boat in St. Lucia for hurricane season. On February 17th, 



Frank and I sadly turned north to Deshaies at the top of Guadeloupe, arriving late afternoon.


Deshaies is the location of a show called Murder in Paradise (I think). Again, the food was outstanding no matter where we chose to dine and the hiking/trekking was fun and challenging. We walked up to the Botanical Gardens but were pretty much saturated by now so we turn around and wandered down to the now defunct Hemmingway’s restaurant and event venue that sits right on the water’s edge overlooking the anchorage. We don’t know what happened to it but it was a fantastic location for an upscale restaurant/bar/music venue.


Ever since arriving in the Caribbean We have wanted to visit Nevis, birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, vacation spot to the rich and famous and home to Suzy Gordon the sister of one of my former Cy-Fair high school classmates, Scott Gordon and his wife, Cathy also my friend and former classmate. We have been in touch with Suzy for several islands (ha ha, weeks). Our plan was to go to Nevis from Guadeloupe but the winds were not giving us that option, so I let Suzy know we were heading to Antigua and would see her in about a week. Next stop Antigua!

Friday, April 12, 2019

February 5 - 12, 2019 - Portsmouth, Dominica - Paradise Survives

Dominica-nica-nica what a beautiful and resilient island! As news reports stated, Dominica was “Knocked to its knees” by hurricane Maria’s direct hit, claimed as her first victim in a rampage that tore through the Caribbean in late 2017. This island was an agricultural giant, supplying & supporting much of the Caribbean. The canopy of the island was sheered off by the storm leaving the perfect environment for an abundance of Morning Glory to grow over the island claiming a large portion of the trees and vegetation. There are still areas that resemble a war zone but for the most part, the people of Dominica who have trickled back to the island are rebuilding with the help of foreign and domestic aid. We were happy to see widespread evidence of American relief. I’m so proud of our citizens who, in the face of our own disasters, continue to generously support others in need. What nature destroyed of her own will take much more time to regenerate. 

We enjoyed a fairly decent sail from St. Pierre up to the bottom of Dominica but then lost our wind in the lee of the mountains and ended up motoring to Prince Rupert Bay at Portsmouth. We called ahead to the P.A.Y.S. office and were assigned to Eddison a founding member, a soft spoken, gentle giant of a man who took good care of us during our weeklong stay. Locals who were former “boat boys”-cum-certified guides and business owners have joined together to establish P.A.Y.S., Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services. They help yachts onto a mooring on arrival, provide 24/7 security, guided tours, arrange transportation, fuel, propane, water, laundry services, etc. They make it real easy for visitors to want to stay for a while. Prices here are very decent and amenities are close at hand. We immediately booked a tour of the whole island for the following day.
Self explanatory mural at Portsmouth

crystal clear waters (view from one of our hikes)

Paul, our tour guide was a native resident of the island, a veritable "herbologist" and had the most incredibly positive attitude. As he drove us about, pointing out areas that had once provided abundant cultivated crops and wild-grown fruits and vegetables, he also pointed out the path of destruction of Maria and noted areas of natural re-growth already beginning. We were heartsick hearing the stories and seeing the devastation. Even living for nearly 40 years in a hurricane zone, I couldn’t get my head around this virtual Garden of Eden that was nearly wiped from the face of the Earth. Just as a river will re-route itself however, the people of Dominica have returned and are rebuilding with the resources they have at hand. We saw a lot of homes that had once been glorious, patched together with anything at hand just to provide a shelter for the time being. Many have managed to replant gardens and what they don’t consume goes to a roadside stand to aid their subsistence. Faith is very strong around the island. Some of the Churches that were taken by Maria have been restored in the form of a lean-to with an awning and folding chairs or hand-hewn bench seating. They greeted us with a smile and a blessing, wherever we went. We never heard a complaint or witnessed any form of self-pity or begging. They don’t beg. They just look forward with pride, courage and optimism.


Our tour took us to the island’s chocolate factory where we not only toured; we tasted and bought a large variety of chocolates with exotic ingredients. From time to time, Paul would stop on the roadside to point out wild fruits and berries, and herbs such lemongrass, and would pick some for all of us. He loaded us up with Bay leaves, cinnamon and so on. Just about every exotic fruit is /was grown here. We drove to the Atlantic side where the hurricane first hit, seeing how the beach was moved back several hundreds of yards. We also visited the original Caribe Indian village site where descendants still make handcrafts. We stopped for lunch at a lovely little mountainside café that featured great homemade local dishes. Of course we stopped at a waterfall for a swim. The tour was amazing.
Vernie (SeaBreeze)


Frank's Island drink

plantain chips with curry aioli dip - yum!






Our second day on Dominica we were visited by a couple rushing by in their dinghy on their way to take some local people to Guadeloupe for the day, but who stopped long enough to introduce themselves as Joanne and Ken Reed aboard a catamaran called Allicat, from Oriental, N. Carolina. Again, we instantly bonded and spent most of the rest of our time on Dominica with them. Meanwhile, while they were away, we hiked the trails up around Fort Shirley – fantastic “get your heart rate up” hike with panoramic views of several bays from atop the heads – highly recommended! In the afternoon, we took the boat tour up the river into the most amazing natural habitat that, although not far from the main town feels as though we were deep into the jungle. This river is where several scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean II were filmed. We passed by the old swamp witch’s cabin that was built by the film company. Unfortunately, the cabin was torn up during the storm but you can still see remnants of the pier and shack. Truly this is the most amazing and tranquil river trip we have ever been on.
on the river






swamp witch"s shack


OOPS!

The beach at our anchorage

Ken and Joanne returned and swept us up like old friends, introducing us to several locals and transplants from the US, Canada and the UK, who own and run businesses in Dominica. We lunched with them at a lovely little seaside Café called Keeping It Real, where we stuffed ourselves on massive grilled local lobsters while enjoying live jazz performed by yet another friend of theirs. Another day, we taxied over to SeaBreeze (one of the stops on our tour by the way), where Vernie had rebuilt her little beach café/country store. She cooked up the most delicious Caribbean chicken curry. She also makes and sells flavored rums. Her specialty is peanut rum. It apparently sells like hotcakes!


Eating and touring…we finished up our week with another hike with Ken and Joanne, followed by dinner (for the 2ndor 3rdtime), at Seadog’s restaurant in the bay. The morning of February 13th, we sailed with Allicat up to I the Island of Terre-de-Haut in the Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe.