Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Dominica to Antigua

Caribbean Adventure...... Dominica to Iles des Saintes, Guadeloupe and Antigua

5 Islands Jolly Harbour Antigua
Cruising north in the Leeward Islands, WYUNA is flying along in gale and even light winds.

Leaving Dominica we sailed into our first storm, up to 50kns with wind behind us, what an exhilarating day. WYUNA creaked and our adrenalin was pumping as she handled the windforce with speed and comfort.  In the French West Indies islands we unwound and took in the small fishing tourist village, of Borg des Saintes. Wandering the dry, steep hills to Fort Napoleon got the heart rate going.

Kalinago Carib Village Guadeloupe
A short boat hop to Guadeloupe (also a French department) led us to finding sailmates Steve & Carol at Pigeon Island, a rolly bay. Never before have we seen so many varieties of reef fish during a fantastic snorkel afternoon with Jacque Cousteau. We are a hop away from reefs most days.

If yachties ever drool over boats it's here, our jaws dropped coming into Falmouth & English Harbours, the home of the Antigua Classic and Major Race weeks in April. A must it seems for all dedicated classic yacht masters and million plus wealthy tycoons with tax havens.

Les Saints Guadeloupe
Cruising north we must say we looked forward, after Martinique french creole food and music, going to Ilse Des Saintes group of small islands. A traditional fishing village with links to Brittany after colonisation, it's a small French and African community who lead an idyllic relaxed life, shops open mid week 8-11am&4-8pm, family lunch is a ritual. 

Strolling we saw old cottages and a huge stone fort , Fort Napoleon's, with moat and all (who knows why this tiny place must be guarded from invasion). Walking up hills in 27deg. we met goats, iguana's, got baked skin, and resorted to cold cones of Caribbean ice cream (pastiche, creme de coco, guava, lime ...) and watching the day trippers and fishing boats laze away the day.

Have you ever eaten in a restaurant with banana trees, halaconies growing and a mini waterfall beside the table? Well La  Fringale was our sat night out, to try the rum punches and plate de jour (28 Euro)of salmon mousse, king fish, banana rum flambe.
Only trouble is we then must get steadily into the dingy on the dock, turn on the head torch and outboard to find our bed.  The best way to work it off, a must for all guests, is the nightly 300 turns of the winch (no electric winch on this cat) to raise the dingy on WYUNA's stern. Bruce does the first 150 and l do the 2nd easier load.

What a relief to know we are liked by long term mono hull cruisers. They jibe us about doing it soft with a water maker,ice maker,dining table for 8, 2 motors and yes- must admit a washing machine (a big change from bucket washing or laundries ashore)! We can live a social life boat hopping at sunset!

Our sailmates run a daily Magnet HF check-in at 9am on weather, positions etc to keep in touch with friends and plans to meet along the way- so WYUNA is a new community member. The one unspoken condition is "help out others in ways you like them to give a hand and be aware you may need a rescue one day"!

50 Knots off Guadeloupe
The west coast of Guadeloupe is a better angle for crossing passages to go north so the Leeward Islands Chris Doyle Cruising Guide says! Hmmmmm not sure after leaving Iles des Saintes, 15 mins out around the headland we struck big winds, rising to 50kts storm force.  Looking nervously (Gina was, not Captn Bruce) at each other in astonishment , we waited to see how WYUNA likes running and to work out how best to sail through the increasing pressure til we got past the headland. Bruce on the helm was yelling out the SOG of 14kts while Gina zoomed in on the chartplotter to make sure no shoals were ahead and to spot floating fishing bouys to avoid going over them. Bruce called it an exhilarating day and Gina liked watching WYUNA streamline through the seas compared to the monohulls swaying in big seas. A few lost their dingies.

Arriving in Pigeon Island anchorage our friends warned us it was blowing 40kns on anchor so we made for a safe anchorage and stayed in for the night. Must say The Wire TV series 1 has us hooked on quiet nights.

Gina Steve & Carol with Jack under water
Steve & Carol on Innamorata II enthused us about taking the dingy to anchor off the small island Pigeon, where Jacques Cousteau discovered, on his many Carib marine explorations, a reef of moving Poisson's. If only we had an underwater camera to snap the fishes...angel fish, trumpet, damsel (who fiercely defend their young from prey), rainbow parrot, spiky black sea urchins, sand dwellers who mate for life, butterfly fish with long dangling tentacles, and big puffer fish with bulging eyes.
NO reef or gummy sharks to be seen and sorry to say few dolphins in the Caribbean Sea.

Bus stop St Johns Antigua
One way of seeing the inland life is negotiating with the local mini bus driver a day tour price or taking the local flat rate of $2.50euro , bus to town- once ashore at the Touriste Office a friendly English speaking woman gave us maps to head to the capital Pointe a Pitre - we like to follow our noses and see what we find. Must say this is like driving in Cairns, massive sugar cane fields, harvesters, small fishing /boating villages Sainte Rose we stopped for a cafe & brioche .
The Pt is a bustling city,. huge Cruise berth next to the main street. A place to find out if you can take WYUNA under a bridge, between 2 main islands of Guadeloupe,  to get to the white sand havens of the south east beaches on our return south in May.

Nelsons Dockyard English Harbour Antigua
Bruce got more excited the closer we got to Sailors No 1 Dream Destination harbour. Known to be the oldest working Georgian harbour in the world and full of mirror polished wooden classics alongside private launches & ships - we dinged past these holiday resorts for billionaires.
Falmouth Harbour Antigua
Coming into harbour at 5kns here's our glimpse of Antigua in the famous Falmouth & English Harbours- an amazing sight of, mega yacht, gin palaces. We are on anchor with them and at 4pm the Antigua Yacht Club club weekly laser sailors (juniors & masters) race in between all of us. Somehow turtles swim here too!

Gina & Tony Diving Barbuda
Gina after listening to sailmates "talkup the wonders underwater" took a novice dive to test her ears and made it to 25ft below on a rope. All night she raved about the soft leaf coral life and trumpet fish -  liking how slowly, gently you float amongst darting fish feeding on coral, immersed in water - we all know she was a fish in her past life ( Fiske means Fish in Norway) and half Dolphin, Dauphin (like Delphine) in this one!

We took a heavenly sail to a beautiful secret sand cay (to be named next blog) last weekend for a quiet escape from mega yacht city and to meet up with  atlantic cruisers, Tony an aussie on a cat (Tactical Directions) and Alan & Jean ( Tuatara NZ) mates who are like long lost buddies, with intriguing sail stories and warm hospitality for us new cruisers.

Bruce Tony Alan & Jean on Tuatara
Tony shares a love of cats that stay flat in the water and was brave enough to take Gina diving. We kayaked and spent a warm sat night, all on the deck for a BBQ, laughing about their mediterranian adventures at sea and AFL v's Rugby. Our catchups will be via Magnet as we all have different routes and timelines to get to Grenada, Trinidad, and Florida before the Hurricane season starts in late June.

Kathy and Brian arrived today 22 March morning to holiday and crew for 2 weeks on our next route nth which will give us a break from 2 up, The Wire and to help with some small jobs to keep us safe. Plus keep us in touch with Melbourne's /ST Kilda social 'goings on' and RMYS club antics. Gina's up early to do day 2 of the PADI Openwater Dive certificate, and after a walk around English harbour we will go to the fort hill top for dinner, a real treat to see Antigua by night lit up by tall masts.

We look forward to hearing your news too- so send us a word on garmob47@gmail.com when you get a chance.

Have a fun Easter break
Bruce and Gina