February 22-25, 2011... Anhinga Hauls Out

The travel lift team was to be waiting for us between 7 and 8 am on Tuesday morning. We only had 1/2 mile to the boatyard from our spot in the anchorage, but we were nervous and pacing at 6 am. The wind was up and driving Anhinga into a concrete slipway is a white knuckle exercise. John manned the helm, Patti had fenders out and lines ready. Off we went. The yard crew was great, patiently awaiting us as we made an extra circle outside the slipway after coming in too short and getting blown to port the first time around. Finally, we are in, and the slings are wrapped around Anhinga. Up she goes and boy, you would not believe the bottom! Crabs scurrying everywhere, beautiful sponges of every color, algae and other assorted life forms, were making their homes on Anhinga's hull. All this after only 3 months since the last scraping.

By 9am our role was finished, the yard crew went to work, scraping the muck off the bottom, pressure washing the rest, and moving Anhinga into the yard, chocking her up, and readying her for the paint crew. We decided to lose the bottom part of our boot stripe and bring up the line of antifoul paint, figuring that part of our problem had been that the original waterline was now below water. As liveaboards, we keep the fuel and water tanks full, weighing down the boat as previous owners had not. We also opted for a barrier coat, as we changed from ablative paint to a copolymer paint. We were staying with basic black for the antifoul, a slimming color for a beautiful boat!

For the next couple of days, while the paint crew worked, we took full advantage of being on land. We stayed in the Catamaran Hotel next to the boatyard, where we took at least a couple of showers every day, luxuriating in that hot running water. We also had internet access -- it was a real pleasure to just turn on the computer to check email, not to have to bundle up the computers and dinghy to an internet cafe. John did some work on the boat, but Patti did... nothing! We even tried our hand at sailing the sunfish off the hotel beach -- with the wind as strong as it was we took off! A little scary actually.
Friday, Anhinga was done. Up in the slings again and the paint crew made the last finishing touches. Now it was our turn again to pull her out of the slipway. This time, Patti was at the helm as the lift crew walked Anhinga back to the end of the slipway and said good bye. Again, the winds were up, but we were successfully out of the yard and motoring to a place in the anchorage. Of course the winds were 20-25 knots for anchoring -- that's what makes it all so fun! And here we wait for a weather window to leave the harbor for Nonsuch Bay.

February 16-28, 2011... Falmouth Harbor, Antigua

Good sail up from Guadeloupe to Antigua, dodging some squalls early on, but making good time and anchoring in the midst of SO MANY BOATS in Falmouth, a big change from being the only boat in Ilet a Fajou. Of course, the first thing we noticed were all the tremendous sailing yachts at the marinas and at anchor. The Maltese Falcon, at 300 feet, is incredible to see (especially from kayak level on the water.) There are so many big 100+ footers that you stop noticing them after a while. Walking the docks at one marina we learned that a real beauty of a boat (though small by Antigua standards at 70+ feet) belonged to Senator Kerry -- who we eventually saw piloting his boat down the channel passing us at anchor.

A walk over to English Harbor and the anchorage crowding is even more intense. Some of the boats had fenders out -- wonder if that was a precaution against possible bumper boats. English Harbor, as well as having a marina and anchoring space, is also an historic site, Nelson's Dockyard, with restored British buildings from the Admiral Lord Nelson era. This was the headquarters of the British fleet in the Caribbean. We walked up to Fort Berkeley at the mouth of the harbor and enjoyed the view of another of the large traditional sailing yachts going out to sea. And, John, our nature photographer, got a few great shots of the bananaquits which flutter everywhere around here.

We took some time to explore the island by bus -- one of our favorite ways of getting around. Often people on the bus want to talk with you, and it is a great way to find out which music is currently popular with the bus drivers. The bus to St. Johns was easy to get (the #17) and we walked through town, finding a terrific bookstore -- an unusual find in these Caribbean islands. Another day we took the bus to Jolly Harbor (#17 to St. Johns; changing to #20 to Jolly Harbor) where we walked the docks and bought a diver zinc for the hull at the Budget Marine store (the chandleries in Falmouth didn't have any...) And we shopped at the incredible supermarket there (why is food shopping suddenly such a sport?)
The weather forecasts for the second half of February were horrible -- high seas and strong winds generated by cold fronts coming off the coast of the US. We decided to use the time that we wouldn't be out sailing to haul Anhinga, fix a few things on board, and repaint the bottom. Hugh Bailey's Boatyard at the north end of Falmouth Harbor offered competitive rates and convenience. And the crew of the Anhinga would have shore leave for a few days too!

Falmouth Harbor, Antigua: 17d00.853'N 61d46.554'W

February 2-15, 2011... Guadeloupe

The weather gods were threatening the entire eastern Caribbean with high winds and huge seas. We figured we needed a bit more protection than we were getting at Marie Galante's anchorage, and, we needed a new plan for moving north. So, we left St. Louis early and headed across the channel to Guadeloupe proper. We would go inside Guadeloupe up the Riviere Salee to the north, instead of heading around the windward side. From the north coast we would eventually head to Antigua when the weather settled down again.

The sail across the channel was magnificent. The seas were already starting to get high, but the wind was steady and we made good time, anchoring at Petit Havre on the southeast coast. We figured we still had a couple of days before the horrible weather was approaching -- for that we would hide inside at Pointe-a-Pitre (PP). So for two nights we sat behind the reef at Petit Havre -- the only boat in the anchorage. Can't say enough how nice it feels to sail well, put down the hook, and breathe. Staring out at the ocean, watching the pelicans, swimming the reef.

But the weather did turn nasty and we headed into PP, welcomed by at least 8 dolphins at the entrance buoys. We anchored about halfway between the city basin and the Marina Bas-du-Fort. Turns out we were incredibly lucky with our anchoring; or maybe it was the Rocna! But when the squalls came through the anchorage on several of the days we were there, boats on either side of us dragged -- some were never able to set their anchors initially. One day French Customs was out in their boat helping people reset as well as rescuing boats that didn't have anyone on board.

However, we were getting a little tired of being in PP. Not that it was crowded -- maybe 20-30 boats anchored there -- but the dinghy dock at the marina was always a madhouse and the gymnastics we would have to go through to tie up and get to land got old. Once on land though, all was good. In town, the bakeries had pomme cannelle for our breakfast and made for interesting walks. In the marina we could get internet at one of the cafes and the supermarket was decent (even had smoked fish and wasabi -- woo hoo!)

Our bright spot was running into Annette and Ric, a Dutch couple, on Koolau again. We met them at Sandy Island, Carriacou some months ago. And here they were, anchored next to us in PP. They had guests on board and we got together on Anhinga as the guests had never seen a monohull before. (Koolau is a catamaran.) Lots of fun -- you never know where or when you will see people again.
We watched the weather looking for that break and finally found it. We picked a day to go to Antigua and then backed off a couple of days to make the trip up the Riviere Salee to the north. This river (really a mangrove channel) is only a couple of miles long but has two bridges with low clearance over it. So, like the ICW, you have to plan your arrival at the bridge for an opening. Unlike the ICW, the southernmost bridge only opens once a day, at 5am!!!! (And not at all on Sundays...) So, we had to stage by anchoring near the bridge the night before, and then do this trip in the dark. Sounds like fun, right? Then we had to do the second bridge in the dark as well. Finally around 6am there was some light and we were able to finish the trip seeing some of what there was around us. Hundreds of egrets flying by. Nice. And bugs!! Not so nice. Yikes - we had to get the repellent out and spray ourselves while we were still in the channel.

Once out of the mangroves, the water opened up in front of us. And we saw our next anchorage in the distance, the small mangrove islet, Ilet a Fajou. This is behind a barrier reef and the waters are a calm, crystal clear turquoise. Puttering into the anchorage we saw starfish all along the sand bottom. We were so happy to drop the hook after the white knuckle exercise of the Riviere Salee. Our original plan was to stop here for the night, then push on to Antigua, but we figured it was so beautiful, we would stay an extra day. So tomorrow, Wednesday, we are off again, 40 miles to Falmouth Harbor, Antigua.

Petit Havre: 16d12.260'N 61d26.329'W
Pointe-a-Pitre: 16d13.708'N 61d32.098'W
Pont de la Gabarre: 16d14.981'N 61d33.065'W
Ilet a Fajou: 16d20.883'N 61d36.139'W

January 29 - February 1, 2011... La Grande Galette

Saturday morning up early waiting for morning light to leave the anchorage without hitting the reef (good safety tip.) Lots of wind, seas kinda high; but Anhinga was up to the task. For the 80+ mile sail to Marie Galante, an island off the south coast of Guadeloupe, we had some of our best speeds ever, surpassing 9 knots for a few seconds here and there, but good, steady 7s. Unfortunately we still weren't able to make the whole trip in daylight and had to anchor in the dark, choosing Anse Ballet -- a broad empty area. Next morning we moved up the coast to anchor off St. Louis, a nice little town. From this anchorage we had a terrific view of the sunset over Les Saintes, another set of islands further west.

Marie Galante (called La Grande Galette because of its round, flat shape) is a very quiet place; one of the major sugar cane growing regions in Guadeloupe. One day we rented a scooter to tour the island which is easily crossed in a day. Of course we saw lots of sugar cane fields. We also found the Moulin de Bezard, one of the last intact windmills on the island (there were hundreds when cane was processed this way.)

Another highlight was Capesterre, a town built up the hills in the southeast of the island. The church is in the center of town flanked by the town hall and the market. The fishermen had just brought in some dolphin fish and tuna when we walked on the coast road by the fish market.

We took the scooter along the south coast road past beautiful beaches to Grand-Bourg, the big town on the island, where we stopped for lunch at an open air restaurant by the port. Then back up to the north to Anse Canot, yet another beautiful beach with turquoise water. There is a LOT of gorgeous scenery in Marie Galante.

Anse Ballet, Marie Galante: 15d54.159'N 61d20.154'W
St. Louis, Marie Galante: 15d57.446'N 61d19.324'W