Posted by: catamarantwooceans | July 13, 2008

December 2007- St. Lucia to St. Barts

Dec 1st – Practically a windless day, a rare occurrence here. We filled water and went out motoring to Soufriere to meet Nir”s brother, Ron, and his wife, Nitza who came to St. Lucia for the weekend.

The guests

The guests

We took them to the Piton anchorage (or rather moorings) and then back to moor for the night on one of the moorings near Benny’s place. During the beautiful sunset a cruise ship with five masts and jibs set passed slowly by, making for a magical picture.

Cruise ship

Cruise ship

Tried fishing but what came out is a small Squirrel fish that we released and again two of those fun spoiling, ugly, Moray eels. Stopped fishing and back to the old Schnitzel and mashed potatoes (good) routine.

Dec 2nd  – Nir’s brother Ron and his wife took us with their rented car for a drive. I really wanted to have alook at the eastern part of the island. The doyle’s guide book does not mention any bay or harbour suitable for a yacht to enter but the road map shows some interesting bays. Going north from Soufriere the road climbs and descends the mountains. One can now understand why Water Taxis prosper. Just before Castries the road turns east, climbs a moderate incline and then goes down towards Dennery, a small, poor looking town with a fishermen’s harbour on which you can see the effects of the Atlantic winds and waves. The beach is protected by big boulders and there is an island in the middle of the bay.

Dennery beach

Dennery beach

Dennery bay

Dennery bay

Above the bay a bar is located with an open air grill by it’s side. A skewer of grilled chicken and a sort of round bread, also made on the hot coals, makes a satisfying meal.

Roadside grill

Roadside grill

We go on south along the coast, noting it’s different character, the villages seem poorer that those on the west coast, the vegetation less rich but still the scenery is magnificent, and one can see some projects for holiday villages with golf courses in construction, like the one in Praslin bay which is a fantastic location.

Praslin bay

Praslin bay

Another bay that looks promising is Savannes bay with Scorpion island in it’s midst, I think of maybe sailing there if the light winds hold, the problem being that I do not have a good chart for it and the depths are minimal… Back to Ron and Nitza’s hotel the Ladera resort, where for 400 US a night you can sit on your terrace and watch the sun set between the Pitons and the yachts in the bay including ours…

Dec 3rd – Yael and Nir”s departure is getting near and since they fly out of the airport in Vieux Fort I figured I’ll take them there. I also wanted to try and anchor on the east side of it, near Maria islands, where the charts show some promising reef for snorkeling. For some reason I did not sleep well and a telephone call at 0522 didn’t help at all. As agreed with the young couple the evening before I was allowed to leave before they wake up and that’s what I did, nurturing hope of catching fish on the way. This did not happen and at ten am we anchored near Maria island in 5 meters over sand. The place was a bit of a disappointment, the dark patches we thought to be reefs turned out to be grass and the reef I did find had little life in it, most of the corals dead. I swam to shore and walked along the beach taking care not to step on any of the endemic lizard or snake the place is known for.

On Maria

On Maria

We stayed there for a while and then turned back to Vieux Fort, anchored and took the dinghy to town. Vieux Fort is not a rich town and many of the houses are in a bad shape.

Fort Vieux house

Fort Vieux house

Last May when I visited I felt a bit unsafe. It was a Saturday, everybody was out and perhaps a bit tipsy, but today, Monday, all was peaceful. We strolled the main street and Nir bought some Rastafarian hats for his work colleagues. Talking of Rastafarians – in one of the side streets we saw this shop which at first I thought to be a Rastafarian church. 

Rasta

Rasta

I stepped in (note the writing on the stairs!) and it turns out this is a tailor shop…

Rastairs

Rastairs

We had beers and sampled a chicken Roti in the Old Plantation Yard restaurant and then made our way to the fishing port where we left the dinghy. On the way we met an American cruising couple, Jan and Bill, who told us that the fishermen brought in a whale. I too two pictures before the boat’s skipper said:”No pictures” for surely it is against the law to kill whales. Looking at their boat it was clear that she is equipped for whaling, with harpoons and other stuff and that it was not a chance catch.

Whale

Whale

Back at the boat I suggested an afternoon nap but Nir, having some prehistoric hunter/fisherman instincts awakened during the last week, was determined to catch a fish on his last evening aboard. There he sat, rod in hand, jumping and exclaiming each time a bite was felt but catching nothing. Later, when sunset drew closer, I joined him and put some fish bait on two hooks in the water. I used the “Doron” method, that is – leave the rod in the holder, go away and check if something is caught later. Half an hour passed and as I tested the strain on the line I could feel something there. This is what came out…

Fish head

Fish head

I wonder what kind of predators prowl these waters so close to shore? Later, preparations for dinner in full swing, Nir still unsuccessful, he checks my rod.”There is something on it!” “O.K, it’s yours, reel it in” Nir starts taking in the line but it is slipping, after I adjust the friction knob the rod bend a little (it is a stiff, trolling rod) and it is clear that whatever it is – it is of good size. I take it for a while, feeling the weight of the catch, wondering how come it has not appeared yet and then understanding that it pulled the line back in it’s efforts to free itself. I give the rod back to Nir, who is muttering continuously:”Just not a Moray Eel” like a mantra. It is already dark, and as the fish is seen close to the surface we are amazed by it’s size.

Nir and the big one

Nir and the big one

After the fish is secured in the dinghy, the excitement subsides and as Yael is putting the food on the cockpit table I test the other rod. “Hey! there is also something here!” Out comes a fish that at any other day I would have been happy with and now is dwarfed by the BIG ONE.

Miki and the small one

Miki and the small one

Dec 4th – Yael and Nir left at 4 pm and I, in order to save a day, sailed to Rodney bay. Actually motored, because there was almost no wind at all. This took 5 hours and another half an hour for three (!) anchoring attempts after which I could change the lights from “Steaming” to “Anchor”. I’ll try to check out of the island early in the morning and sail to Martinique. Remember the whale catchers? Today I visited the fish market and found out that the crew who brought it are normally after Swordfish and the harpoon is for that task. I saw them at the dock with normal catch, Wahoo, Spanish Mackerel etc. Incidentally – the whale sold for 6 dollars EC for a pound, less than swordfish which fetched 8.

Dec 5th – Goodbye St. Lucia, hello Martinique! I stayed in St. Lucia for two weeks, the longest I stayed in any island and I feel the need for change of scene. I am not like those cruisers who say:”We’ll go to xxxx for at least a month”. I need to move, restless soul…
Out of Rodney bay the wind cooperates and I can sail straight to Marin in southeast Martinique. I cannot resist hoisting the main sail although I know I am going to have trouble taking it down. One of the project for Marin is to fix the sail’s headboard faulty car, which causes the sail to get stuck in the up position. Anyway, with main in first reef and full jib, sea quite flat and 13-15 knots of wind from 60 degrees to starboard, “Two Oceans” goes nicely at about 6 knots SOG, that’s speed over ground (or rather over the Geography) overtaking a two masted monohull of over 50 feet. As we approach the island I furl the jib and try to take the main down. Pulling the reefing lines and turning the boat to and fro resulted in the sail descending down the mast but only to the third reef position. I still have to much sail set and it will not be a good idea to try and anchor like that. I already made plans for this situation and now is the time to see if they will work. I stabilize the boat at low speed, 30 degrees to the wind, autopilot keeping course, take the end of the third reefing line and climb the mast, using the special folding rungs on it and securing myself with a safety harness, I tie the rope to a batten about 2.5 meters above the 3rd reef point, go down and pull the rope with the winch. The sail is released, goes down and I sigh with relief.
Entering Marin bay you have to be careful and not be distracted by the scenery around Club Med or you’ll end up like those guys!
                                                                 

Wreck 1

Wreck 1

Wreck 2

Wreck 2

Club-med

Club-med

It’s too late to go to customs because they work 0800 -1230, tomorrow is good enough. In the evening I went ashore for dinner French style: Salad with Camambert cheese wrapped with bacon and entrecote with fries, two beers and I was ready for bed.

Dec 6th – At 0800 I am already at the office of ” Carraibe Greement” the rigging specialists. They send me to their workshop (Attelier in French). The foreman, Erwan, comes with me to the boat to take a look at the headboard car. Together we motor to the attelier. Fancor, the system manufacturer, made it with the assumption that it will never fail and will not have to be repaired ever. Otherwise, how can you explain the fact that in order to repair the top car you have to dismantle part of the track on the mast and all the cars? This, of course took two people four hours and cost me 274 euro, that’s 400 dollars. I think I’ll postpone the engine work to St. Martins, where the money costs less. While they were working I went to Leader Price, a big supermarket that is in the bay and has it’s own dinghy dock. The variety of French products was fantastic and I feel that a baguette for lunch will be nice. I have to stop now, becase I am in a cafe with WiFi and all those French guys are smoking! Can’t stand it any longer!
Back at the boat I wait until lunch break is over, Erwan helps me slide out of their dock, a maneuver that requires passing over a mooring buoy, that is letting it pass between the hulls and then back to the anchorage. As I approach it somebody call:”Two Oceans!”. Looking around I recognize Roger on his catamaran. He is naked, but drapes himself in a pareu when I approach his boat for palaver. I met Roger in Rodney bay, St. Lucia when I helped him tie his cat to the fuel dock. He is from Martinique and was waiting for wind to go back. His cat is a 40 foot one, built in his home island and she looks nice and fast, the saloon a bit smallish for my taste. “Did you do the checkout already?” I asked. “No, I didn’t check in, we always do it like this”. Roger recommended a certain mechanic in Marin who is a good and inexpensive one, unlike the Yanmar agent. “We call him ‘The Thief'” he said. We have a little talk about the crazy dollar versus euro situation and then I leave him and anchor not far away.

Roger's boat

Roger's boat

Dec 7th – I started debating with myself where to go next. Marin is a huge marina and the town has nothing of interest for me. A bay near the club Med looked nice on paper and deserted but what I really wanted is to move on. Not to the big, main city of Fort de France but to a place called Trois Ilets, three islands, which, according to the guide is “Charming… Not yet overrun by visitors”. I leave the anchorage, Roger (naked again) waves goodbye. Raise the main and unfurl the jib and I have a pleasant sail towards Diamond rock on the southwest of the island. This rock has an interesting history. During the war between France and England in the beginning of the 19th century, Martinique was held by the French and the British landed a unit armed with canons on this small, steep island, called it H.M.S Diamond rock and proceeded to bombard French shipping from it. One can compare the rock to the boat in front of it and get a notion of it’s size.

HMS

HMS Dimond rock

Just before I reach the rock I look  back and see a big rain cloud approaching. I quickly reef the jib and can see the ripples on the water coming towards us. In seconds the wind jumps up to 32 knots true, luckily from behind and heavy rain is falling. Ten minutes later everything is back to normal, sunshine and good wind. Past the rock the wind gets crazy again, resulting in two unintentional jibes. Coming into the Fort de France bay I can see again a storm cloud ahead, this time the wind hit before I can reef the jib and it is a hell of a lot of work to do it  when the wind is strong. I decide to take the main down and after the repair it is a child’s play. I now understand that I should lower the sail at moderate speed and not let it fall freely as I used to do before. This may have contributed to the failure of the car. The cloud comes nearer, a traditional sailboat passes ahead, they also starting to reduce sail.

Squall coming

Squall coming

These little white wavelets you can see are the harbingers of what hit us next. The wind is again over 30 knots and this time it’s a deluge. Visibility was reduced to not more than 20 meters in my estimation and I couldn’t even see to that distance because the wind whipped the water right into my eyes. I reduced speed to minimum, turned left to distance myself from shore and operated the Radar trying to look out for other boats. The cloud went away quickly and I proceeded to Trois Ilets but then thought that it is open to the wind and if some more clouds like the one that just passed will come, the anchorage might become unpleasant. So, 90 degrees to the right, to Anse Mitan, where a great number of boats were at anchor or moored and which is better protected. Another benefit of the place is that the Bakoua marina here has the facility for custom clearance. Found a place between a Fidji catamaran and a mono, dropped the anchor, dived to check it and then straight to the galley to prepare a French sandwich with ham, cheese and Dijon mustard which I had with a Piton beer. The small pleasures of cruising!

           

Bakoua marina

Bakoua marina

After a bit of a rest I went ashore in search of Yannick, who is supposed to exercise the power of customs in this location, hoping to check out for a departure tomorrow morning. A man with a ponytail, wearing a chain with a big shark tooth around his neck is there, busy filling fuel and helping yachties with their various requests. “Yannick?” No, he is not. Yannick is a woman and… Here he goes on to explain her whereabouts, but when I say I need custom clearance, he says :”No problem” and give me the form to fill. A bit strange, this French system, delegating custom functions to civilian businesses… In St. Pierre customs are at an Internet Cafe! Anyway, the man is doing his job seriously, checking the papers and my passport carefully.

Dec 8th – At 0630 I motor out and start sailing along the coast towards Roseau, the capital of Dominica. At first the wind is 15 knots and we make good progress but at a certain point, passing a small headland, it disappears completely and I have to motor. Since the leg today is 47 miles long it may mean arriving a bit late so I am beginning to think of the possibility of stopping in St. Pierre for the night. Two miles to go – and the wind comes, it is not so strong but I expect better wind when we pass the northern tip of the island. On to Dominica then! And what a sail it was! Wind topping at 27 apparent, necessitating second reef, rain that drenched me twice, sun again, wind back at 15 so I had to take the reef out. But I enjoy all this and as we came close to Scotts Head, the southwestern tip of Dominica and with four miles to go – a complete calm greeted us, no wind and flat sea…

Scotts head

Scotts head

Back to motoring using one engine and as I reach the recommended anchorage, the one near Anchorage Hotel, a small craft with two guys in it approach. “Hello Skip! My name is Pancho, do you want a mooring?” Pancho is mentioned in the guide as a reliable character, so I answer in the affirmative and Pancho leads me to one of his moorings and helps me tie to it.

Rouseau mooring

Rouseau mooring

Time to go to customs. I dinghy to town expecting to find them in the Cruise ship terminal but nobody, except a security guard, is there. “Come tomorrow at ten, there is a ship coming so they will be here”. On the way back to “Two Oceans” I see a menacing cloud coming down from the mountain. I open the throttle wide hoping to get to the boat before the rain but no chance! It catches me mid way and I am soaked again… I am changing clothes and shoes in a rate befitting a fashion model! Forgot that I was in the rain-land for a moment. Time for my Fruit Juice (with a wee bit of rum added) and just watch that Dominican sunset!

Dominica sunset

Dominica sunset

Dec 9th – Early in the morning a cruise ship docks in town. Cruise ship equals custom people, so I dinghy there and sure enough a custom officer is coming down the ship’s gangway. I introduce myself and together we walk to his office. The procedures were completed quickly and costly, as it was a Sunday, which also meant that the town was closed and my plans about the market with it’s profusion of fruit and vegetables would have to be shelved. So where to? I did not fancy staying another day in Roseau and looking at the guide book I saw a wide bay, practically in the middle of the island and with a hotel named Castaways on it’s shore. It is supposed to be in the “Drier areas of the island” which probably means it rains every 45 minutes instead of every 30. The book says that the hotel has a beach barbecue on Sundays with a steel band. Sound interesting. Motored to the place delaying my arrival so as to let a rain shower go on to the west and anchored. Right now I can name it “Bay of Tranquillity”, there is no wind, no rain for the moment, I can see the hotel and the beach bar and apart of the water lapping the hulls gently, it is so quiet!

Castaway

Castaway

After having written the lines above I went to dive on the anchor to make sure it was well dug in. I wanted to move it to a sandy spot and while doing it saw a wooden log on the bottom and from under it two protrusions, spiny lobster antennae! The hotel barbecue suddenly seemed less inviting, I swam back to the boat to bring working gloves. I had an experience with lobster in the Red Sea, when during an evening dive I tried to grab one with my bare hand. A flick of the tail and he was gone, scaring Gili as he escaped right under her nose. Back to the lobster who has not moved I tried to take him out of his hole but he just drew in deeper. Back to the boat again, I took the hook I use to lift big fish on board and with that, after three additional dives, succeeded in catching it. Not a very big specimen but clearly the legal size!

Lobster

Lobster

Dec 10th – Woke up in the morning and saw something strange – not one cloud in the sky! Pretty soon it became a beautiful, windless day and I motored towards Portsmouth, in the north of the island intending to depart for Guadeloupe the day after. Midway some wind was felt so I started sailing slowly and pleasantly, no rush to go anywhere. At a certain point the wind turned to be Southwesterly, very rare for the region, I think. Entered the bay and was surprised by the amount of new mooring buoys the locals put there. Absolutely unnecessary from the yachties point of view, since the holding there is good and not is not deep at all. The purpose, of course, is to make some money, but it spoils the place somewhat and none of the yacht in the bay took any of them.
After anchoring I took the dinghy ashore but did not land because the chop was such that even the dinghy docks were, in my opinion, dangerous. Back on the boat, i looked at my watch and it was 1150. Why not go to Les Saints? With this wind it will be fun and I’ll get there early afternoon.
So this is where I am now, in an Internet Cafe in Grand Bourg, Les Saints. Time to practice my French.

Dec 11th – Before I started out to Pointe A Pitre, Guadeloupe there was the important matter of going ashore to buy a baguette. This is France, after all. I went out with a first reef in the main, mindful of the forecast I read yesterday. All the days ahead are going to have winds of 20-25 knots and the waves could reach 4 meters. It so happens that every time my friend Itzik comes aboard we have difficult weather! Last time we were stuck in the Dominican Republic for a few days before proceeding to Puerto Rico. So out we go and in a very short time the forecast becomes a reality. That’s not too bad, though, Two Oceans tracks nicely at around 7.5 knots (SOG) with the wind from abeam and I am enjoying myself. Looking east I can see that the monohull I was overtaking disappeared behind a curtain of rain. “Oh, not again!” but yes, the rain is coming and with it a strong gust of wind. I bore away, putting the wind behind us and releasing the mainsail to reduce pressure on the rigging and the boat. The rain was so strong I had to wipe my eyes time and again in order to be able to see. The squall passed and after we were back on course I looked at the wind speed indicator to see the maximum it recorded. I only saw 33 so did not reduce sail further.

Max wind

Max wind

Not long after that excitement, the wind started playing tricks in the other direction, lowering it’s velocity, trying to tempt me to put on more sail area. Now the minimum true wind was this:

Minimum wind

Minimum wind

This is nature’s sense of humour, if anybody wanted proof that such a thing exists!
Pointe A Pitre (PP from now on) is entered through a well mark channel that I reached during another rain squall, so I took the sails down and motored in. Found a place to anchor right by Chantiere Navale (boat yard) Lemaire, the place I plan to meet Itzik tomorrow. Now I need to go to customs but look at the sky on the east! I’ll postpone until the rain passes.

Le-maire boatyard

Le-maire boatyard

The rain went away, the customs clearance done, I now had a big decision to make concerning a grave matter – the owner’s head. Before your eyebrows hit the ceiling, I will explain. On a boat a “head” is the toilet. “Two Oceans” has two heads, where conversion kits from manual (pumping by handle) to electric (rotary switch operation) were installed. The one in the port hull, the owner’s hull, started to make troubles. Without going into details, clearly it was necessary to service the head! At home the “head” is a simple contraption that you can almost always fix yourself or call the plumber, pay an exorbitant price and the thing is done. But who do you call when the head that needs fixing is on a boat? The guide is full of technical services information: Riggers, Sailmakers, Mechanics, Refrigeration technicians etc, but nowhere can you find “Head Repairs”. I thought of doing it myself (I have a service kit with all the parts on board) and attempted studying the servicing instructions in the factory’s brochur, more than a full page long, containing sentences like:”Press the new U cup seal (key 4a) into the waste pump body (key 5) with the open side of the seal facing into the impeller chamber…” My head, the real one, started spinning. I am at anchor right in front of a boat yard, why not have them do the work? There is, of course, a reason – we are in Euro country! It would feel terrible paying a big sum for stuff like that. On the other hand, if I try to do it and after dismantling and putting it back together I have some parts remaining and the thing doesn’t work… Mr. Lemaire speaks better English than my French. “Bring the thing here I will take a look at it”. He cannot give me a price estimate, only his hourly rate – 40 euros. He seems to be a fine technician and gentleman so this is what I do.

Dec 12th – Itzik calls in the morning and we arrange a meeting near the marina’s office, the Capitanerie, at 1200. I do some work on the boat and then go to Mr. Lemaire for the toilet system mechanism. He gives it to me, showing me the parts he replaced, like the tired impellers and says it will now be all right. The bill is a reasonable 60 euro, representing 1.5 hours. Back to the boat, I put it back in place, try it once and it works. Some minutes later I use it again and the old symptoms return, it does not pump the water out. Back to Mr. Lemaire for consultation, he thinks there may be a blockage in the outlet pipe… I’ll stop this right now. Who wants to read about toilet problems? I’ll fix it sometime soon, I must!
Itzik appears at the office a bit early, just as I am studying the weather. The next few days will have strong, 20-25 knots wind with seas to match. At any rate we plan to rent a car and tour the island. Fish dinner on board and an early night, Itzik with Jetlag and I – am simply tired.

Dec 13th – Got a Renault Clio from Jumbo rent a car for 36 euros and started towards Basse Terre, the mountainous, western half of Guadeloupe. We are going to Carbet Falls, the road to which leads you through a rain forest. At the reception area we look at the sign that is giving time estimates to the second – lowest fall and to the first, the highest. It is 30 minutes and one hour 45 minutes respectively. We are not sure we want to do a three and a half hour trek, so decide to start with the second (closer) fall and decide after seeing it. The path is made of paved stones and in some places wooden planks, nothing like Gili and me had in Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent.

Stairs to Fall

Stairs to Fall

We get to the first falls (they are called “second” remember?) and there is a disappointment. The path is blocked and a sign explains something about rock slide that makes it dangerous to proceed further. We get a glimpse of the fall but it is only an appetiser, we are not feeling satisfied, also the walk was too easy.

                                    

Second, closer Fall

Second, closer Fall

We look at each other, understanding the obvious: We are going to the first fall and may it take as long as it takes. Now the trail becomes wilder, although still well tended to, with ropes at difficult points and planks preventing earth slide and keeping the path negotiable.  The vegetation is lush,  strangely no bamboos are seen. I forgot to take my bamboo walking cane from the boat and am feeling it’s absence. It is physically a difficult climb and both of us feel our leg muscles protesting, knees straining as we climb higher and higher. We meet a couple coming down and ask them for information, how long do we still have to go before reaching the falls. The woman tells us that they did not get there because at a certain point a sign indicated that they still had 1:10 hours to go “And the trail became horror”. They gave up. Funny,according to our calculations we had about 35-40 minutes to go. When we got to the sign we understood their mistake. This was a sign for those going down, indicating that the second, i.e lower falls are 1:10 away. We continue. There are steep climbs and descents but finally, after one hour and 25 minutes from the lower fall we reach the point and sign validating it at the bottom of the 115 meters fall. The camera, even at wide angle fails to take all of it into the picture.

Big Fall

Big Fall

The combination of the scene and the effort needed to get to see it make it a very fulfilling experience. Now it is time to go back…Going down, another set of muscle is at work. I find it easier than climbing. Now we are the ones giving encouraging information to those coming up. “It’s not far, you have about 30 minutes to go” and in one case to a couple with a small child, 7 or 8 years old, climbing holding his father’s hand and the mother with a yet smaller boy, almost a baby, in a carrying arrangement on her back we said we thought it was too difficult, even dangerous, to go on. The trip down was quicker, all the trek took us three and a half hours. At a certain point I told Itzik :” I am thinking of something but will tell you only when we reach the end” and when we did I told him:”Just imagine going all the way down in continuous rain as Gili and I had in Soufriere, St. Vincent. If I compare the two treks I come to a conclusion that the St. Vincent one was more difficult, especially with the uncertainty we had at times as to being on the right track and the rain going down. But still, this one was a close, creditable number 2!
We stopped on the way in one of the villages for a well deserved Ham and Cheese Sandwich and drove on to the west coast, marvelling how the sea, in the lee of the land was so placid. Continued through rain forest on the “Route de Traversee”, bisecting this part of the island and got back to the marina, where we left the dinghy. Forecast for tomorrow – more of the same, strong winds 20-25 knots and gusts up to 35 in squalls, waves up to 3.5 meters. We think of sailing to Les saints. We’ll see tomorrow.

Dec 14th – In the morning the winds are calm and no big rain clouds are seen but I am aware that outside may present a different picture. In any case, even if the forecast turns to be exact, we can sail reefed and it is only 21 miles to go. So, after filling water at the marina”s fuel dock, we go out. In the beginning the wind is 13-15 knots and slightly from behind. Mainsail up to first reef and jib opened to second reef. The waves are not more than 2 meters high and we sail along happily enough waiting for more depth before releasing the fishing lure into the water. With the passage of time the conditions intensify, suddenly it does not seem practical to fish as the boat sails at 7.5 knots SOG and the waves are getting bigger. The wind is now 20 – 25 knots. After reeling the line in I decide, or rather – conditions dictate, that I reef the main sail some more. We are still going quite fast and now see some 3.5 meters waves, as promised. We have to dodge fishing traps all the time, which is not fun because you can see them only when you are really close and then have to wrestle the wheel in order not to hit them and get their ropes entangled in the keel, prop or rudder. At about 5 miles to the entrance to Les Saints the wind becomes even stronger with gusts up to 30 kts true. The sea is now flowing into the gap between the islands and Guadeloupe and the waves change direction slightly so that we are catching and surfing down their backs achieving higher and higher speeds. Two Oceans is doing it with no apparent stress, auto pilot is holding the heading within 7 degrees of the required one but cannot anticipate the effects of the rising seas. I take the helm for a while and in one occasion can feel the boat surging forward, a quick look at the speed indicator shows something over 14 knots. I did not see the GPS display at that time but bursts of  speed between 11 and 12 knots were commonplace. We left the fuel dock in the marina at 0835 and reach destination at 1130.  After we dropped anchor in the bay I checked the maximum speed on the instrument. Here it is:

Max speed

Max speed

While I think the indicator over reads a bit, it is still a new record for Two Oceans and remember – second reef…
In the evening two sailing cruise ships enter the bay. One of them, “Sea Cloud” retains the classic lines of a clipper ship and is wonderful to look at.

Seacloud and friend

Seacloud and friend

Dec 15th – The original plan was to go from Les Saints to Marie Galante, the island to the east, but the weather was against it. We will have wind 20 – 25 knots right on the nose with waves up to 3.5 meters. The alternative: go to the west of Guadeloupe and find a bay in the calm waters in the lee of the land. On the plus side – it is a change of location and neither of us is the type to stay in one place too long. The minus of this plan is that the following day, with practically the same forecast will have us going against the wind for a longer distance, so a decision is taken – we’ll stay put for the day. The boat stays put, we are going for a walk all the way to the bay near the Pain a Sucre. Nice anchorage, with a nice beach, pelicans diving for fish and a few tourists snorkeling.

Sugar bay

Sugar bay

Dec 16th – The forecast promised some respite from the difficult conditions of the 15th but nobody told Aeolos, the Wind God, about it. All night long the wind howled and drops of rain played drums on the cabin top. We discussed the possibility the evening before and came to the conclusion that even if the winds will still be strong we will be able to motor the 16.3 miles to Marie Galante and from there it will be easy to continue, with the wind on our beam, to Sainte Anne, on the main island and close to Pointe a Pitre. Out of the anchorage and the wind is blowing at about 20 knots, there is also a current against us, so the speed over ground is a bit over 4 knots. Heavy rain clouds approach, pouring water on Two Oceans, bringing strong gusts, up to 38 knots and slowing us to 1.7 knots for a while. But the squalls pass quickly and we make steady progress, not forgetting to let the fishing lure out. After half an hour it makes a short buzz. Is it a fish? I don’t think so but reel the lure in to investigate. It is a Kingfish and some predator relieved it from it’s tail as it was struggling with our lure. This beautiful fish yielded 4 potential meals plus some pieces that I ate immediately as Sashimi with sweet chilly sauce. After the filleted fish was in the freezer, Itzik started reading in the various books dealing with fishing about Ciguaterra, the toxic property of some fish in this region. “Some people will chance a Barracuda or a Kingfish of less than 4 pounds…”. So, are we or aren’t we going to chance it? Itzik says he will have chicken, I think I’ll ask the locals. But what is the name of this fish in French? Anyway, getting closer to MG the wind abates somewhat and the seas are much smaller. At 1200 we are at anchor near Saint Louis, the main anchorage for this island. Had an afternoon nap and then we went to town. I found a fisherman on the beach and tried to describe the fish I am worried about. He thinks it is “Tasar” if I heard it right and that it is OK to eat. We’ll see tomorrow.

What fish?

What fish?

Dec 17th – Peaceful night for a change, no rocking and rolling as in Les Saints. As we wake up the wind is less than 10 knots and there are no big rain clouds to be seen. Our plan was to go to Ste. Anne anchorage but a couple of small islands – Iles de La Petite Terre –  uninhabited and declared a marine park, are tempting us to come and visit. “Protected by reef… Clear water of turquoise, azure and aquamarine…Snorkeling is excellent…Hundreds of Iguanas…” So says the guide book. Sounds like our dream destination! They are 16.3 miles to the north east of MG and we can stay there until 2 pm and go on to Ste. Anne! So, all sails up and unfurled and we slalom between fish traps, in water about 10 meters deep, until we exit the area covered by the island. Conditions change immediately, wind is stronger, necessitating first reef and probably the second. When the true wind hits 25, we remember another thing the guide mentioned:” Iles de la Petite Terre should only be considered when the trades are moderate (less than 20 knot)”. The entrance is very shallow and dangerous in these conditions. With disappointment we turn towards Ste. Anne, the wind and seas now from our starboard quarter, rushing at good speed and eventually having to go to second reef when the true wind reached 28 knots.
We covered the 12 miles to Ste. Anne in 90 minutes and when we were 1 mile to the entrance we lowered the sails and prepared to go in. I was ready to see waves breaking on both sides of it but what we saw is waves  all over the place and the two lonely yachts in the anchorage looked stuck, unable to move out! We absolutely did not like the look of the bay and decided to go on to the next anchorage, behind Isle Gossier. As we approached it, the water turned to a sickly greenish colour, it was obvios the place was protected against waves but not against the wind.

Gosier

Gosier

Itzik and I look at each other. “Pointe a Pitre?” “Yes!” and we go the extra 3 miles and tie to a mooring near Bas du Fort marina. This was good from all aspects: calm location, good supermarket and Internet! We bought steaks for dinner, even though the guys in the chandlery, to whom I showed a picture of the suspected fish, recognized it as “Tazard”, a type of wahoo or spanish mackerel and good to eat.

Dec 18th – Itzik’s last day on the boat. He has to show up at the airport at 1900. We decided to rent a car and tour the eastern part of Guadeloupe, Grand Terre. We drove along the southern coast and visited those places we couldn’t go into the day before, like Ste. Anne, Saint Francois and Gosier. All very touristic, the second has a nice marina (and golf course, and a small airport) and a picturesque fishing harbour with Frigate birds hovering above and Pelicans paddling between the boats in hope of sharing the catch.

Frigates

Frigates

Pelicans

Pelicans

We continued all the way to the eastern point of the island, Pointe de Cateaux, a place battered by the wind and waves of the Atlantic. Back on the boat at 2 pm, we had time to work on the “Head project” (the toilet – for the uninitiated). I thought that replacing the pipes will cure it and with the help of Itzik, put in a lot of effort and time – but still it does not work properly!

Dec 19th – Itzik flew away and Danny is coming tomorrow. I felt that after the frustration of yesterday (project failure) I deserved some compensation. Iles de la Petite Terre, those two small, marine park islands, that were unattainable two days ago, were beckoning and with the new forecast – 15 knots wind – possible. I will have to motorsail or even motor the 21.3 miles but surely it’s worth it. I went out a little after seven am, mainsail up to start with but down after about an hour, maintaining a little over 5 knots SOG and straining my eyes to discover the multitude of fish traps and avoid snagging them. At a certain point I let out the fishing lure and before I even reached the length I wanted to let out, I felt a strike of a big one and started reeling him in. It turned out to be a BIG thrashing Barracuda, just the fish I did NOT want to catch (ciguaterra, remember?). My ambition now was to release it unharmed. I brought it closer to the “Dentist Chair”, the aft steps, succeeded in inserting the sharp metal tip of the gaff through the gills without injuring the fish, pulled it closer to me and with the pliers proceeded to extract the hook that was firmly lodged in it’s toothfull mouth. Was the Cuda in shock or perhaps understood that something positive is going on? The fact is that during the operation it did not move at all. Once the hook was out I jerked the gaff away, the fish lay on the steps, still motionless, I nudged it back and it slid into the water. For another second it stayed put but sensing freedom it flicked it’s tail and was gone. At midday we arrived at the entrance to the anchorage and even with the reduced wind it was intimidating. Swell was rolling across it, breaking as it reached the shallows. This is what showed me the way in – go were the waters are calm. Inside, between the two islands, there are moorings to which one has to tie up. Being single on the boat, I have to maneuver Two Oceans so that she stops with the front beam over the mooring buoy and slightly ahead, to account for the current, rush forward with the boat-hook, catch the buoy’s loop with it, insert my mooring line into it and tie it to the cleat. Sounds complicated? You bet it is! On the first try the current pulled the boat back fiercely, I tried to take the boat-hook out of the loop but it stuck there, slipped out  of my hand and as I turned to come for another approach it drifted away out of reach. I had to find something to catch the mooring loop with and the first choice was the broom. This magical item did the job and soon I was secured to the mooring with two ropes. Looking at the instrument panel I could see the power of the current – it spun the speed instrument impeller to show 1.2 knots with the boat stationary.

Petit Terre

Petit Terre

Current

Current

As you can see, I was not alone in the place, a few catamarans shared it with me, some, like the one on the right,leaving later on, as evening came.
I thought of swimming out to the reef to snorkel but the current was too strong, so I took the dinghy to a calm spot near the southern island, on which a big lighthouse perched, anchored it and went on to explore. The reef itself was not very colourful and the variety of fish not so great. What became apparent was that the fish did not fear the humans in the water and I could get very close to some of the biggest mullets (barbounies – they call them in Greece) I’ve ever seen and some nice needle or trumpet fish. After the swim I went ashore and looked around.
The eastern shore receives the onslaught of the Atlantic and the waves explode on the rocks, sending spray flying high in the air.

Breakig wave

Breakig wave

These islands have a large population of Iguanas, a sign says 9500. I saw only three that rushed quickly away as they noticed me. The smaller, northern island, has the majority of them but it is not allowed to land there.
It is 1915, rain has just started falling down and I should begin making dinner. Frankly, I not so hungry… (I did bake a mackerel that waited in the freezer for it’s turn in white wine and Italian herbs, don’t worry, Gili, I’m eating…)
After the rain came the wind. It blew at 20 knots all night and made me anxious about the situation of the exit from the bay.

Dec 20th – I decided to wait until 0900 for a better sun angle that will help me see the reefs in the exit. Observing it, standing on the saloon roof, the waves seemed quite big. 0830 – Lost my patience and decided to go. I had to find the right way to untie Two Oceans from the mooring without her drifting back with the current and hitting the mooring buoy 5 meters aft of us. I put the engines slow forward and adjusted the power until the mooring ropes were slack, ran forward to release them, back to the helm and we were off. I confess that going out was stressful, it is very difficult to read the bottom and the minimum depth was 2.4 meters. Now you understand why this is catamaran only territory. Now to Pointe a Pitre, with the wind directly from behind. This is a condition the catamaran does not like, so I tacked downwind, lengthening the distance but making better speed and sail handling. Another benefit was that most of the way I did not encounter the dreaded fish traps!
1245 I was on a mooring near the Bas du fort marina. Danny is supposed to get here in the evening. We agreed to meet in the Pizzeria at 1830. Danny, don’t be late! Danny was on time, we had a pizza and an early night.

Dec 21st – In the morning we did some shopping at the Champion supermarket and a greengrocer lady who sold from a truck and told us she was from Dominica. We then went to look for the customs man but he was not in the office. It turned out the marina office have the forms, you fill them and they fax them for you, They come back stamped in 15 minutes. In that time we went back to the boat, took her to the fueling dock, filled up diesel fuel and water, Danny went with the dinghy to the marina’s office, got the custom clearance and off we sailed. Our intention was to sail around the west side of the island to Deshaies, on the northwest corner of it, stay the night and leave in the morning to Antigua. It was a fabulous sail, we had good winds almost all the way. Even on the western side, in the lee of the land, a westerly sprang up, later turning into back into the regular easterly. We got to Deshaies at 1715, anchored and followed the ritual of happy hour.
                                                  

Rum punch for Danny

Rum punch for Danny

Dec 22nd – Early to bed, early to rise, at 0705 we went out of Deshaies bay and aimed for English Harbour, Antigua. Another fantastic sailing day! Wind from abeam at 15 true and speeds of over 7 knots SOG all the time. Got into Freeman’s bay and anchored at 1300. Just ahead of us, a monohull with an Austrian flag, a young man with long curly blond hair and his bikini clad girl circled the anchorage looking for the right spot. We are sitting down for lunch and they are still circling! We get dressed to go to customs and they are still… No, no, they just dropped their anchor finally, thank god! Freeman bay is a large, calm anchorage, a sandy beach adorned by coconut palms and trees paint the surrounding hills green.
Entry procedures finished, we strolled through Nelson’s yard, a place full of historical meaning and then on to Falmouth harbour where an astounding array of famous yachts was moored. A Wally, the tall ship “Tenacious” and most impressive – the “Maltese Falcon”.
 

English harbour, Antigua

English harbour, Antigua

Nelson shipyard

Nelson shipyard

The Maltese Falcon

The Maltese Falcon

Dec 23rd – This is a day of rest for us, not sailing anywhere, just getting to know the place we are in. We climbed the trail to Shirley Heights through shrubs and cacti and the view was great.

View from Shirly Heights

View from Shirly Heights

Far away, with Montserrat in the background we saw the “Maltese Falcon” under sail. A magnificent sight!

Maltese Falcon under full sail

Maltese Falcon under full sail

Dec 24th – It was time to see another part of Antigua so we went out to the southeast corner, into Nonesuch bay, first anchoring near the reef protecting it from the east for snorkeling and lunch and then into Clover Leaf bay for the night. A lot of building activity goes on here, probably another resort in the make. When the water ski boats leave we will have the bay for ourselves, peace and quiet will hopefully reign. There are mangroves around the bay and I have hopes regarding fishing.

Dec 25th – We passed a quiet, moonlit night in the Clover Leaf bay and in the morning motored around the Nonesuch bay, marvelling at the many impressive buildings on it’s shore. The one in the picture has a private dock and a beautiful beach.

Nonesuch bay

Nonesuch bay

Once out of the bay we sailed with the wind to the west, past English and Falmouth harbours to the southwestern corner of Antigua, where there is a narrow passage between the shore and the big Cades reef . The channel is half a mile wide, that’s 900 meters, but when you look at the colour of the water and try to gauge the depth it doesn’t look too wide. Luckily the GPS plotter is accurate and gives a good picture of the situation. After turning north we continue in shallow water towards the Five Islands anchorage just north of Jolly Harbour. As we get near we can see that it is far from a nice place and not so protected from the wind so we turn back to Jolly, entering it through the well marked channel.
                                                          

5 Islands

5 Islands

Jolly harbour is a big marina with a lot of houses with adjacent docks, shopping center and a few restaurants. Once inside we found a mooring and started looking for Internet connection. This has become an addiction… As it is Christmas today, everything is closed. We will go ashore in the evening to investigate the place. Oh, we did find Internet and how nice it is to speak to the family using Skype!
Went ashore and walked around a bit, the place was sleepy due to the holiday, although two restaurants, one a Swiss style steakhouse and the other Italian were open for business. We, however, ate “at home”. The reason being that when Danny went shopping in English harbour he came back with a Turkey breast all packed up for Christmas dinner… I decided to try and bake it in mustard, honey and soy sauce. The results were very satisfying, even if it is the cook’s word.

Dec 26th – In the morning we went ashore again and did some shopping at the excellent supermarket near the marina. Then, filled water and went out. Our destination for the day was Parham, a town on the north shore of Antigua. This area is protected from the north by reefs and small islands and the channel going in is not very deep in some places. One has to be very careful, use the plotter and “eyeball” his way between the reefs. The guide book gives a GPS waypoint to start the approach and we motored in hoping to find the quiet, peaceful town the guide painted it to be. The problem was that the bay itself was simply unattractive. On the way in we spotted another anchorage, near Great Bird island, to the northwest, where we saw some boats at anchor. Helm fully to port (that’s left…) and in 30 minutes we were anchored in calm water, 2.2 meters deep, right by this small interesting island. It is part of a marine park, has many birds nesting on it and also a rare type of endemic snake that we hope not to see. We took the dinghy ashore and were surprised to see a big picnic of local people who came on a barge pushed by a special motor boat.

Barge

Barge

On top of the 100 foot hill there are two blow holes going down to the sea below.

Blow hole

Blow hole

Great Bird anchorage

Great Bird anchorage

No doubt, this anchorage is so much better! There is a passage to the open sea that if we could pass through, our angle to Barbuda, our next  destination, will be better and the distance shorter. We’ll see about that tomorrow.

Dec 27th – Looking at the charts it became obvious that there is no a big advantage to exiting through the previously mentioned pass, we decided therefore to forgo the excitement and stress of it, spend the night in Deep Bay, close to the entrance to the island’s capital – St. John’s and leave for Barbuda on the 28th. We stopped for a while in Jumby bay on the west side of the resort of Long Island where the pale blue water turned to be far from clear, really bad visibility. The sandy bottom had a lot of starfish on it but otherwise nothing special.

Jumby bay

Jumby bay

Danny had an important business conference call and then we raised the anchor and sailed, yes – sailed with furled jib through the Boon channel turning left past Great and Little Sister rocks to deep Bay. Shipstern point guards the entrance to the bay, the sunken remains of a ship are visible in it’s middle, Deep bay has a good sandy beach with palms and a big hotel tucked between the trees on it’s side.

Deep-bay

Deep-bay

We went there in search of WI FI, found the reception and Danny started working on his computer. After a while, when I saw that this was going to take a bit more, I went back to the boat promising Danny to come for him in an hour and prepared dinner. This was the last of the “Tazard”, or whatever his name is, that I caught off Guadeloupe and I did it steamed with ginger, soy sauce, garlic and scallions. I am not bragging – this was a dish you will only get in really good Chinese restaurants.

Dec 28th – Morning came and we went out to go to Barbuda. We did not have the up to date forecast and debated whether we should go to the hotel and check it on the web. After a short deliberation we decided to go out and if worse comes to worst and the wind and sea will be bad – we will simply turn back. This, of course is what happened. Wind reaching 28 knots true, short lumpy seas and rain clouds all around, this did not look like something that will pass quickly. We were already in second reef and the decision was taken. Back to Deep bay! On that point of sail we had the wind on our quarter and flew at speeds reaching 10 knots SOG with the reduced sails. Getting close to Deep bay we decided to go 3 miles more to Jolly Bay, were we’ll be able to do some shopping, get the forecast, surf the web and wait for the right conditions to go to Barbuda.
Sitting here, tied to the mooring, I have to fight the feeling of failure, of not achieving my plan. I know that what we did was using common sense and taking the right decision but still it is what an American will call :”A bummer”.

Dec 29th – This morning we downloaded the forecast. NE – E wind 15 – 20 knots and waves 7-9 feet. We did the checkout formalities out of Antigua with the thought of going out and trying to sail to Barbuda, about 30 miles to the north. Out of the bay the weather conditions are harsher than predicted. The wind reaches 25 knots and has more north in it than east and the waves are steep and short making Two Oceans pound and slow down. There is an English yachting saying:”Gentlemen do not go to windward”, well – why should they? Why suffer for hours? Instead we decide to go back, again, to Jolly bay and sail early in morning to our next destination – St. Barts, which is a little over 70 miles away but in a favourable direction.  We are not the only ones taking the same decision, all around us we see yachts turning back, it is simply too rough! Just a few moment ago I saw the new forecast and it is somewhat better. We’ll see tomorrow.

Dec 30th – We got up at 0420, had a cup of coffee and carefully motored out of the Jolly harbour marina, passing between the thankfully lighted red and green markers. Memories of the exit from Virgin Gorda haunted me, I touched the bottom then with the unlighted buoys, but this time was easy. We reached the last red light, turned into the wind and raised the main to the second reef. Let’s see how the wind blows. At the beginning the main issue was passing keeping the distance from Pelican shoal, but pretty soon we had to deal with the wind becoming stronger, reaching 35 knots true at one point. We promptly lowered the mainsail and continued with the jib at second reef. The seas were short and bouncy but not very big. Slowly, the conditions stabilized, the wind 20 – 24 knots, the waves more regular. The light of day made it easier to evaluate the situation. We raised the main to 3rd reef and the boat was sailing at over 7 knots SOG all the time. At times it seemed that we could put up more sail area but every time the thought crossed my mind a gust of wind made the boat accelerate and remind us who the real boss on the water is. St. Barts is a small island. The guide book says that it has become a “chic place” and that on New Year’s day a multitude of mega yachts, perhaps hundred of them congregate in and around the harbour. This seems to be interesting. We go on sailing, the autopilot is holding the course with no difficulty, while we look around us at the wild scene of the sea, the flying fish scattering in all directions as Two Oceans nears them, the Frigate bird chasing another unfortunate sea bird who relinquishes it’s catch to the aggressive thief and always the waves rolling from the starboard quarter, taking our boat up and lowering her down on their flanks. With 30 miles to go St. Barts is seen on the far horizon. As we get closer and closer the number of yachts, especially the huge ones, becomes evident. Rich men of the world – unite! They are all here, with their multi-million toys at anchor or inside the harbour.

Toys

Toys

We maneuver our boat between them, trying to find a place for our 38 foot cat. When I look at a trip of 75 miles I plan on at least 12 hours. It took us 10 and a half hours. Again, “Two Oceans” showed what she is capable of and this was all done in “Cruising Mode” not racing at the edge of the envelope. Once anchored, we went ashore to the Capitanery, who deals with Customs and Immigrations functions. After staying in Martinique and Guadeloupe with no problem, the young man at the office looks at the forms I filled and asks:”Do you have a visa?”. I give him a surprised look.”An Israeli needs a visa in France?”. He answers in the affirmative and declares that I have to stay on board and not come ashore. All around me other yacht people are grinning and winking, nobody is taking this seriously so perhaps I’ll adopt the same attitude myself.
Tomorrow is the last day of the year. A big celebration is planned in the harbour. Formally, I will stay on the boat. As I sit down to write this, I look around and see the lights of the big ships around us, motor yachts with bright lights and sailing mega- yachts with the tallest masts imaginable. An awesome sight!

Dec 31st – Everybody is waiting for the evening, more big and small boats are coming. The place is CROWDED!

Crowded

Crowded

Very crowded

Very crowded

After dinner Danny convinces me to go ashore and see the sights. All the big motor yachts in the harbour have parties on them and the lucky ones are invited, the women dressed beautifully and the men tagging along. In a corner of the port a band on a stage starts playing. The lead singer doesn’t know the words and keeps looking at a booklet he has in front of him. The loudspeakers are bombing our ears. We retreat, entering a conversation with two officers of a Mammoth called “Indian Princess”. They smile and admit that they have no idea why St. Barts is the chosen place for the New Year’s celebration. Are there going to be any fireworks? And if so, can we see them from our boat? We go back and await Midnight. A few minutes to it all the big yachts start sounding their horns. A lot of noise.
A minute or so pass and the firework start. We can see and feel them because they are being shot from the hill opposite our anchorage in our direction. Embers are falling very close to us and I had to brush away one that fell on the bimini. All in all a very extravagant and impressive display.

                                        

Fireworks

Fireworks

                                              O.K, it’s 2008, Happy New Year to everybody!

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