Diary 1st March - 22nd April
1st March 2011
Posn: 14deg35’.97N 61deg04’.12W
Fort de France, Martinique
We have just completed a superb two weeks with Gilli and Sally, who departed this morning for the UK.
We had a couple of days in St Georges, Grenada acclimatising and provisioning. We headed for Carriacou on 17th February. It was a bit slow and with the wind in NE and at 15kts we had a bit of a beat, finally using the engine for the last two hours to make Hillsborough before darkness fell.
The morning was spent clearing out – very friendly Immigration and Customs - and exploring Hillsborough ... OK, heading for a bar overlooking the bay and having a beer. In the afternoon we motored over to Clifton on Union Island, SVG, where we anchored just inside the reef. The wind was now getting up to 15-20kts, but we went ashore and cleared in at the airport. Clifton has a very good atmosphere with a real sense that it’s there for cruisers. It a good place to buy fruit and vegetables as there is much competition.
On 19th February we went across to the resort island, Palm Is. It is supposed to be quite exclusive (translated as expensive) but we just stopped for lunch and then went on to the Tobago Cays (12deg37’.83N 61deg21’.41W). We stayed three nights and had great snorkelling, seeing lots of Green Turtles, Manta Rays, Stingrays, and Spotted Eagle Rays. A walk around Baradal led us to encounter many iguanas, of all hues from bright green through shades of brown and sand colours – they seemed to be on very good terms with Gilli for some inexplicable reason. They have really long tails with a spiky headdress that runs down the centre of the back and is often an orange colour – all very Jurassic Park.
The weather forecast we picked up in Clifton proved correct – wind NE 20-25kts. Yuk. Anyways, we got away from Tobago Cays at 0840 and were under sail with two reefs in the main and two in the genoa. We sailed along close-hauled doing around 6kts, but off course by about 30 degrees. So yet another beat. The 26nm rhomb line took just over 7 hours, but we actually sailed 39nm. We had a quick trip ashore to a bar at the north end of Princess Margaret beach then dinner and in bed before Cruisers’ Midnight.
We stayed two more nights in Bequia and the ladies embarked on some retail therapy while Phil contemplated variations of Hell. However, a walk over to the windward coast and Friendship Bay was compensation. Having coffee at the Gingerbread cafe, we saw Mahi-mahi being landed and got advice from the fisherman about catching fish – we had been trolling lines but with no success – simple really. Forget the Caribbean side of the islands and head out into the Atlantic. Well we just had to have some Mahi-mahi and bought some enormous fillets ate the Fish Market at a knockdown price. We had a good lunch at “L’Auberge” on the north side of Port Elizabeth (a bit of a walk out of town, but worth it).
We were not relishing the trip from Bequia to St Lucia as the wind was still NE 20-25kts and after sailing close-hauled across the Bequia Channel to St Vincent we decided that we needed to motorsail the remainder of the 62nm to Marigot Bay if we were to arrive before darkness. Well we got in at 1740. Now, Gilli had been in Marigot Bay about 18 years ago, and Sally had visited many times. We had called in by road and viewed it from the head of the bay. It must have been wonderful ... 18 years ago ... before the Charter Yacht base was built ... and the apartments ... and the shops ... and all the restaurants and cafes ... and they put in stern-to moorings ... and mooring buoys ... and left no space to anchor in the inner bay ... and space for three boats to anchor in the outer bay ... but with short scope ... on a sloping seabed ... which meant we eventually dragged about 1000 the following morning. Marigot Bay is clearly not what it was. Oh, and the prices in the supermarket were marked up by about 80% compared to the main supermarkets in Rodney Bay. We will not be returning – the water is not that clear either. Yuk. We left that morning for the short (ha, ha) sail to Rodney Bay – so another beat and the 9nm rhomb line was 15.7nm and took 3 hours. Still we were making loads of electricity with the wind generator and keeping the batteries well topped up.
We did some provisioning and checked the e-mails, and cleared in and out. The following morning, 27th February, we took ‘Minnie B’ into the marina and lagoon so that Gilli and Sally could see all the changes. It is very developed, but notwithstanding this we like Rodney Bay and if you want to use a marina it is good value.
The weather – yup NE 20-25kts – but some sunshine. It was Sunday and we traditionally have bacon and eggs for breakfast, but a special request was put in by our guests: “Can we do that tomorrow please, we just want to get this next beat over with”. So Sunday was moved to Monday and off we set for Le Marin on Martinique. Our plan was to go into the marina as we thought it would be easier to get a taxi. The best laid plans etc ...
We had a super sail to Martinique, making our landfall at Diamond Rock and the beating down towards Le Marin. We anchored of Sainte Anne and put up the ‘Q’ flag. It was G&T and as a special treat for Sally, Ti’Punch (Sirop de Cannes, Rum, lime and ice) – it has anaesthetic qualities.
So our Monday Sunday meant bacon and eggs ... and a visit by the Duanes who checked our papers and passports, and spent 30 minutes having a search down below, poking around and opening things. This was a “light” search. Apparently a full search involves a dog and a diver and can take two days. Good job they didn’t suspect us then. We then headed round to Le Marin in 20+kts for a space in the pontoons – “Sorry, we’re full”. Ah, yes, the wind had sent people scurrying for shelter. We tried to anchor but the space was very tight, the chain scope short and the idea of being on a pontoon so Gilli and Sally didn’t get wet going ashore with their bags the next morning, was defeated. So we went round to Fort de France, where the wind eased and we met up again with Richard and Clare (‘Phalarope’) and Anthony (‘Wild Fox’). We checked in and out, did more retail therapy for Gilli and Sally, and then had an excellent meal ashore at La Croisiere.
So, to-day we said goodbye to Gilli and Sally, and we were sad to see them go. We had an excellent time ... of course there was one last glitch and the outboard decided not to start so with time running out to get them ashore to the taxi it was a quick change to the spare engine. Doh. All was well and we hope they have a good trip home.
Then it has been do some sorting and some provisioning at Le Carrefour supermarche – wine, cheese, pate etc.
Tomorrow we head north and plan to call at Dominica for an overnight, Les Saintes, Deshaies on Guadeloupe and then Antigua.
15th March 2011
Posn: 17deg00’.22N 61deg45’.68W
English Harbour, Antigua
Well it’s all a bit different temporarily for the two of us. Norma’s mother is not well (not life-threatening) and is in hospital for a short period, so Norma flew back to the UK for a quick visit, leaving Phil holed up in English Harbour with a “to do” list about a mile long (only a slight exaggeration). Norma returns on Monday 21st.
This meant that we had a fairly rapid sail north from Fort de France, Martinique, stopping at Prince Rupert Bay in Dominica on 2nd March, where we just raised the ‘Q’ flag and did not go ashore – it is such a lush island we are sorry not to have been able to explore.
3rd March we went on the 23nm to Bourg des Saintes in the Iles des Saintes, arriving at lunchtime after the worst weather since leaving NI – shock horror, we actually had the full Musto Ocean yellow oilies out. Yes, salopettes and jackets. We definitely wanted our money back then. However, we cleared in and out at the Mairie and had a stroll round the small town, and climbed the path to Fort napoleon which has a magnificent view over the islands and to Guadeloupe. We were entertained by a small children’s carnival procession too. It’s very much metropolitan France in the tropics. Les Saintes are also famous for the battle on 12th/13th April 1783 when Admiral Rodney smashed the French fleet and established British maritime supremacy. Shame we won’t be there to celebrate!
Then on 4th March we motored/motor-sailed to Deshaies in the north of Guadeloupe – no sailing as we were in the wind shadow of the island. It is heavily populated with some 330,000 inhabitants. We had a very happy surprise as we encountered Annette and Jean-Mi from “Dame Oui”, and their daughter and grand-daughter in the anchorage. We had a trip to the magnificent botanical gardens with them – just phone the gardens and they will send a mini-bus to collect you and then take you back to the dinghy dock. The gardens are really quite stunning with trees and plants from tropical regions throughout the world, and they are probably even better later in spring and summer when more of the flowers appear. The orchids growing from some of the trees are particularly beautiful.
We decided to treat ourselves and after aperos on “Dame Oui” we went ashore for dinner at a restaurant beside the shore – very relaxing and decent food at Le Mouillage.
Having had some of the worst weather two days previously, 5th March gave us the quintessential Caribbean sailing – yes, shock horror, it was 12-15kt, easterly and a reach with FULL MAIN and FULL GENOA. We could not remember the last time we had sailed without reefs in the sails. It was superb and we had a good 4 hours of this, before arriving at the oh, so crowded English Harbour. We cruised around looking for a spot and found one, but after about an hour it was clear that we would swing into a neighbouring boat, so we upped anchor and just then a spot near the reef at the south-west end of Freeman Bay opened up and that was us. It is very pleasant and each evening at around 1700 a green turtle pops up and has a look around.
On Sunday afternoon/evening we dinghied over to the beach and climbed the Lookout Trail to Shirley Heights. Now, this is something of an institution as SH was a lookout and defence post for English Harbour in the 18th and 19th centuries, and has magnificent views of English and Falmouth Harbours as well as to the east and west, and indeed towards Montserrat and Guadeloupe. On Sundays there is a pan band, BBQ and bars ... and about 2 million tourists. It’s such an institution that it seems to have inmates. Anyways, there were loads of people from cruise ships and resorts who seemed uninterested in the pan band, the bar or the food – hm, probably cos they would be eating dinner as part of an all-in package back at wherever. But the atmosphere was, well ... underwhelming. Even the pan band were pandering to American/European tastes and playing versions of ‘elevator music’. We had two drinks and left – in part because the “footpath” is actually a mountain trail and involves scrambling over boulders and tree roots, and avoiding low-hanging branches. Not to be attempted in the dark even with torches. Shirley Heights on Sunday seems to be another example where we are 10-15 years too late. However, climbing up there is an absolute ‘must-do’ – just avoid Sunday.
On Monday we took the bus into St Johns and had a brief look around, bought fruit and vegetables and saw a little bit of the island, then Norma left for UK that evening, to see Julia, Anna and the NI family and friends ... and to bring back a few essentials for Minnie B.
Phil had aperos on Thursday with Annette and Jean-Mi, and said the sad farewells as they now head south for the rest of the season and eventually Trinidad and we go north. We have promised to meet up in the Caribbean or Mediterranean at some point in the future.
So, for Phil it has been boat maintenance and watching cricket (woeful English bowling against Bangladesh) and the Six Nations Rugby. Also a serendipitous meeting and lunch with Frank and Martha (“African Seawing”) as Martha returns to Belgium on 16th March.
A year ago we were on the Amazon, planning the St Patrick’s Day celebration at Porto do Moz – how time flies. Carpe Diem – Fish of the Day.
NEWSFLASH ----------------------NEWSFLASH --------------------NEWSFLASH ---------------------NEWSFLASH
MINNIE B WINS PRESTIGIOUS INTERNATIONAL PRIZE – STORMS TO VICTORY IN LOG COMPETITION
Dateline 16th March 2011
News came in over a week ago, but has been under embargo due to laziness of crew, that Minnie B has fought off challenges from widely experienced and talented seafarers and writers in the highly prestigious and globally recognised Royal North of Ireland Yacht Club 2011 Log competition.
A formidable array of cruisers had entered Logs for judging but RNIYC stalwart and cruising guru, Frank Sadlier selected Minnie B’s Log as the winner of Best Overall Log and awarded the Workman Cup.
At the RNIYC Cruising Class Dinner on Friday 5t March in a packed Dining Room, cruisers of note listened intently to Frank’s fascinating description of the Logs and the challenge of making the judgement. Fortunately, he omitted to mention the large case of champagne that had been delivered to his house, courtesy of Minnie B.
Frank said that the Minnie B Log was the best log that he had ever seen of a cruise from Salvador da Bahia to Soure in Brazil in 2010 – in fact it was the only log of a cruise from Salvador da Bahia to Soure that he had ever seen. He also pointed out that photographs of scantily clad female Carnival dancers had in no way influenced his decision, but that he was checking out flights to Brazil.
Other winners were:
The Kirk Bradley Cup : Robert Hume, Katrilli of Dover: An F and 3R’s cruise to St Kilda 2010
The M.D.Architects Platter : John Clementson, Faustina II: Clyde Cruising Club Centenary Cruise
The Motor Cruiser Trophy : Peter Lyons, Chloe: The Cruise of the Chloe.
Also entered and highly commended were:
Alison Lyons, Ocean Dove: First voyage to Rathlin Island
Carol McConnell, Clodagh: Clyde Cruise.
Accepting the Workman Cup on behalf of Phil and Norma, Brian Nelson said: “It’s a great honour for Phil and Norma, but all I get is a load of work maintaining their website and I even had to pay for my own dinner to-night.”
As Phil and Norma are away on Minnie B, the Workman Cup will be on display at RNIYC and anyone wishing to see it should contact the Secretary of the club who will take a booking and credit card details. Fees on application.
10th April 2011
Posn: 17deg00’.238N 61deg45.69W
English Harbour, Antigua
So we’ve been a bit quiet on the log lately cos a lot has been going on aboard Minnie B. Norma returned from UK on 21st March, then we went round to Jolly Harbour to prepare for the arrival of Clive and Liz for two weeks – they left yesterday and we had a great time.
Boat maintenance has been an issue – first the masthead tri-white light stopped working on the red and green and forward white. A check identified a failure of the unit but Lopolight have been great and sent a replacement under warranty immediately we contacted them. Then the pivot bearings on the wind generator (Norma had brought out replacements) collapsed completely – ouch, too late and we need a new unit. LVM responded immediately and it’s on its way. We have had to repair the sacrificial UV protection strip on the genoa as the stitching broke down – oh yes, and we haul out on Tuesday to fix our leaking rudder seal.
However, over the last two weeks we have hung out in Jolly Harbour with Robin and Cheryl (‘Just Imagine …’) and Frank (‘African Seawing’) and spent a few days up in Barbuda with them all, including Judy visiting ‘JI …’ and Mark on ‘AS’. We anchored at Cocoa Point and Low Bay in turquoise waters with pink beaches. The local resort/hotels didn’t want to serve us drinks as we were not staying there but this was a relief as the price of a beer was twice the normal bar price – it keeps out the riff-raff, dontcha know?
Frank organised a trip with King Goldilocks to see the Frigate birds nesting in the mangroves of Codrington Lagoon. This exceeded expectations as we saw the males inflating the red pouch below their beak to attract females, as well as many chicks on the nests: there are some 5000 Frigate birds on 1700 nests. A walk around Codrington included lunch of Jerk Chicken, sitting at the roadside – terrific taste.
We met Christopher and Geraldine Hancock on ‘Scorch of Wessex’ at Cocoa Point – they had been on the Rallye Iles du Soleil the year before us, and being known by Sally, we had been in e-mail contact and they had provided much useful advice – this was truly serendipitously amazing to meet up at last. However they told us the snorkelling was poor, so we returned to Jolly Harbour anchorage for some provisions and then went round to Great Bird Island in the north-east of Antigua, along with ‘JI …’ and we did find some OK snorkelling and walked on the island looking for Racer snakes but they must have been asleep.
We had been told that Parham was a nice place to visit for lunch so a short motor round there took us to a windy anchorage. We seemed to dig in the anchor quite well but no sooner had we left the boat in the dinghy than Minnie B was dragging. After trying four different spots and letting out 50m of chain in 3m water, we still couldn’t get the anchor to set, so we all went round to Jumby Bay on Long Island – a very flash private island with houses and a resort. We were not that sorry as the view was prettier than Parham (somewhat industrial).
Then on Wednesday 6th April we sailed the 24nm round to English Harbour, so Clive and Liz could do some more snorkelling, visit Nelson’s Dockyard, climb to Shirley Heights and take a bus trip to St John’s.
We had a farewell dinner with Robin, Cheryl and Judy on ‘Just Imagine …’ on Thursday evening as they turned south on Friday. We have been hanging out with them at various places since November and they are great company – Phil will miss his old mate, his old mucker Robin and Norma will not be able to make cheese and cucumber crackers without thinking about him. We will miss Cheryl too for her humour and her happiness. We wish them well, and hope to see them again in the not-too-distant future. They are brilliant.
Minnie B is quiet again after the fun of being with Clive and Liz, but as ever there is always someone turning up , and we are back in company with Anthony (‘Wild Fox’).
After we get our (current) jobs done on Minnie B we will probably head for St Barts and on to St Martin, which we intend to be our starting point for the trip to Bermuda. We are aiming to leave by the end of April and be in New York by mid-May. It will be a change but we are really looking forward to it.
22nd April 2011
Posn: 18deg04’.78N 63deg05’.72W
Marigot, St Martin
Well, if all goes to plan this is our last island of the Lesser Antilles for some time. We are preparing Minnie B for the trip to Bermuda and waiting for some wind. There is none at present but our latest forecast looks OK for Monday 25th and Tuesday 26th. The distance from here to Bermuda is nearly 900nm and it will take us 6-7 days all being well. Hm ... This includes crossing part of the Sargasso Sea which is notorious for lack of wind. We have bought additional diesel cans and now have a total capacity of over 450 litres, which is enough for over five days of motoring. ‘Suzie Too’ recently did the trip and motored for two out of the six days. Oh well ...
After Clive and Liz returned to UK we had a few more days in English Harbour and even managed to get an invitation to the Royal Navy Tot Club. Lethal. We were invited by Jim Massey who hails from Carrickfergus, and he had been told about us by Anthony on ‘Wild Fox’. The Tot Club was founded in Antigua after the Royal Navy gave up with the daily rum allowance, and they gather at 1800 local time at different venues, stand in a circle with a glass of water and a glass of rum (there are male measures and female measures, but what they don’t tell you is the % alcohol content!!!), read out stories of naval derring-do that occurred on the date, say a toast that always includes “The Queen, God Bless her”, clean the palate with water, knock back the rum, fall over ... that last bit actually comes later when you have had a second helping, and gone on to drink some more thinking you haven’t actually drunk very much. Lethal.
Anyways it was a bit quiet on Minnie B the next day.
However, we had a very nice evening with Anthony (what bits can be remembered) and then we went round to Jolly Harbour where we hauled out to change the seals on the rudder hydraulics – soooo expensive to lift in Antigua and it’s all the fault of the super- and mega-yachts as they just pay what they are asked. Anyways, we enlisted help from Carl’s A-1 Marine and he sent along Alan who was patient and very professional – we needed him as inevitably the heads came off screws and it required their workshop kit to get the old ram out of the hydraulic housing.
We also replaced the masthead tri/white light (thank you Lopolight for excellent service) and the wind generator (thank you LVM for excellent service too).
We had a very pleasant time at anchor in Jolly Harbour as we met up with John and Liz on ‘Jalan Jalan’ (an Island Packet) and did Happy Hour and aperos with them. Alain and Marie-Laurence on ‘Ti’Ouane’ arrived to say hello-goodbye as they were heading back south – just not enough time.
However, we just had to see something of the Antigua Classic Regatta and so took the bus to Falmouth Harbour and walked out to the Middle Ground where we were overlooking the start/finish line. We arrive in time for all the starts and spent the morning in company with Jim and Debbie, watching the racing. It was quite a sight with 30ft Classics on the same course as the 135ft J Boats, ‘Velsheda’ and ‘Ranger’, as well as the even bigger ‘Marie’. Anthony was out there in his junk-rigged ‘Wild Fox’ but light airs and upwind legs meant the J Boats had the better of him. We had much needed cold beers at Antigua Yacht Club marina and a superb lunch at “Cloggy’s”, the Club’s restaurant. The good news from Anthony though, was that he won the Concours d’Elegance for his class – that’s best painted, varnished, polished, and spickest and spanest boat.
Then it was time to get going, so on Sunday 17th April we set off at the crack of dawn (that’s 0540) for the 74nm to St Barth’s. It was a motor-sail as the wind was NNE and around 8-10kts. We had heard mixed reports and were in two minds about clearing in, but having arrived at Gustavia by 1620 we decided to stay for a couple of days. Well, we went ashore the following morning and felt right at home – the Pilot book describes St Barth’s as “a world famous chic destination; the favoured hot spot for the good-looking, well-to-do ‘in’ crowd, seasoned with a sprinkling of acting, singing and sports stars”. So that’ll be us then. Well the place is littered with designer clothes shops (they have “collections”) and jewellery shops selling high-end watches et al. A standard hamburger at a harbour-front cafe would set you back £18.
Oh yes, there was ‘Skat’, owned by Charles Simonyi of Microsoft and funder of Richard Dawkins’ chair at Oxford, and ‘Mariella V’ looking ... a zillion bucks.
So we went to the best place on the island for two nights – Anse de Colombier (17deg55’.54N 61deg52’.25W) – and picked up a mooring buoy and snorkelled. It was very good. The moorings are free and are to stop damage to the grass on the seabed, and preserve it for the turtles. We spent time just watching and following one and then all the reef fish along the cliff edge. Delightful and very restful for us.
Then on 20th April no wind and we motored round to Marigot on the French side of St Martin. It is ...well ... very ... French. Nice. Well, not Nice as in the city, although some shades of that, but nice as in pleasant ... and ... French. There’s a great supermarket at the best prices since Trinidad (US Market) and a good wine shop (Krishna’s) – we should load up but we are not sure about entry to the USA with a boatload of booze. We could call it lubricants or salad dressing ... or pretend we are re-enacting a trip from the Prohibition era ... maybe not.
So, Minnie B is getting back in ocean-sailing mode with windvane steering fitted and the towed generator back in place. We are very much looking forward to arriving in Bermuda and then going on to New York. We are just waiting for the right amount of wind now.
Once underway we will do updates via the SSB.