Tuesday 17th January 2007 - English Harbour, Antigua
We have slipped into the Caribbean way of life quite quickly and we are still here after almost three weeks! We have not just been lazin' around though (well maybe just a bit). After resting for a few days and checking out the local bars we have started to get on with a few jobs and doing a bit of exploring. The aft heads is now fixed - a rather unpleasant job and I will not go into the details here. The boat has been cleaned and tidied and we are now back into live aboard/cruising mode rather than offshore passage making mode (when everything is stowed away and we have sails and provisions everywhere).
Now we are anchored in Ordnance Bay which is part of English Harbour - this is an historic part of the island where Nelsons Dockyard is situated - the whole dockyard has been restored and is a popular tourist area. The dockyard and Falmouth Harbour, the bay next door, are a popular port of call for the very large super yachts, both sail and power, that frequent the Caribbean at this time of year. From our anchorage we can easily dinghy ashore and find a spot to moor between the super yachts - then wander down the road past numerous bars and restaurants (popping into a few of course). Our favourites so far are The Mad Mongoose and The Rasta Shack - not forgetting The Galley which is just next our dinghy parking spot and at night is manned by Randy the barman (that is a noun, not an adjective). Randy is a useful guy to know as he works as a tour guide during the day and has given us a lot of information about the island.
One of the first things we did in Antigua was to attend the New Years Eve party at the Galley bar. This was quite a wild evening compared with Christmas Eve which we spent at sea with no alcohol allowed. Our friendly barman had told us that the party would be really good and he was right. An extra bar was setup outside along with a BBQ and a marquee for the obligatory reggae band (which included Richie Richardson and Courtney someone who are also famous cricketers apparently, and was the best band we have seen so far). Managed to dinghy back to the boat in the early hours where Al almost fell in - at one point she had her hands on the boat and feet in the dinghy but everything else in the water! We got aboard safely in the end and spent the next day quietly nursing our hangovers.
We have had a couple of trips out using the local buses which have been really entertaining as much for the bus ride itself as for the scenery and the places we have visited. The buses are usually small Toyota mini buses which carry about fifteen people. They fill up quite quickly and if you want to get out you have to shout out "Bus Stop" - the bus will then stop and if you are at the back, three or four people in front of you have to get out to let you off. As the island is quite small, the bus drivers know a lot of the people along the way and it not uncommon for them to stop for a quick chat or to reverse back down the road to pick someone up. If you get a young bus driver then you will probably be listening to loud reggae music and proceeding very quickly - often on the wrong side of the road!
Our first trip out was to St Johns, the capital where we bought a headset so that we can use Skype on the internet. A couple of the local bars offer free WiFi connection and when you walk past there will always be a few people chatting away into their laptops. This is great for us - it means we can wander down to the bar in the afternoon - have a Red Stripe or two, send a few emails and make a few calls home. Calling other Skype users is free and to call a landline in the UK is just over 2 US cents (about 1p) per minute - using our UK mobile to call the UK costs £1.50 per minute! We also bought a webcam, so that we can make video calls - this may or may not be a benefit depending upon your point of view!
The second trip we did was to Jolly Harbour - this is a more modern marina development and was a bit quiet when we were there - anything but Jolly in fact. It is all expensive modern waterfront condominiums (as the Americans would call them) and not really very interesting so we will not be going back there.
Another significant outing was to the "Jump Up" on Shirley Heights one Sunday evening. Shirley Heights was the look out point in Nelsons day and is now a famous visitor attraction with great views over English Harbour and south over the sea towards Montserrat and Guadeloupe. The "Jump Up" occurs every Sunday at the Look Out bar and there is a steel band on from 4:00pm until 7:00pm and then a reggae band on until about 10:00pm. There is also a BBQ and of course plenty of beer and rum punch. A great night out but it is a bit of a hike up the hill and an interesting trip back down after the festivities!
We have also been away in the boat for a few days - we sailed around the west side of the island and spent a night in Deep Bay before setting off early the next morning to Barbuda. This is the island to the north of Antigua and is much quieter with only 1500 islanders living there and three very exclusive resorts. We anchored first of all at Cocoa Point and had a walk along the beach in front of the villas belonging to the Cocoa Point resort - people spend a fortune to stay in these places but they cannot get away from us Yachties walking past and peering in! The next day we motored around the coast and anchored in Low Bay off a 12 mile long deserted beach - only a few other yachts there - not even any expensive resort dwellers. In the afternoon we dragged the dinghy across a narrow isthmus into an inland lagoon and motored across it to the capital - Codrington - it was quite small and very quiet so after wandering about for half an hour we went back to the boat. The water was really clear and warm so we spent the remainder of the afternoon swimming around the boat. Well, Al did - I was scraping barnacles off the propeller - no rest for me!
We've now been back in English Harbour for a few nights and had planned to leave today and sail over to Nevis and St Kitts. However, we discovered that we could get our gas bottles filled on Thursday, so we decided to wait. This is actually causing a longer delay than you might think. When we collect the gas bottles on Thursday it will be too late to leave. If we leave on Friday, the customs and immigration office on Nevis will not be open when we arrive and apparently you have to get a taxi to go and find an immigration official and then pay overtime charges to get cleared in. The same applies if we leave on Saturday, so we are now planning to leave on Sunday. It means we'll have to stay another few nights here - I'm sure we'll find something to keep us busy.
Sunday 28th January 2007 - Gustavia, St Barthelemy
On Sunday 21st January we finally managed to drag ourselves away from Antigua and venture out to sea once more. After clearing customs and stopping at the fuel dock to fill up with water we anchored for the afternoon in Freemans Bay - the outer bay of English Harbour. Just as the sun was setting we pulled up the anchor (with our new electric windlass that we fitted in Tenerife - much easier!) and set off for a downwind sail to Nevis. We wanted to sail slowly so that we did not arrive before dawn but this proved quite difficult with the fairly strong easterly wind. In the end we were sailing with a really small jib and still doing about 4 knots, so we arrived off the south coast of the island in the dark. The dawn arrived fairly soon afterwards so we followed the coast around the west of the island and anchored off Charlestown.
The first job when arriving in any new island is to clear customs and immigration. This can be quite a long job and is taken quite seriously by the officials - flippant remarks are not recommended. In Nevis the first visit was to the customs office - once I found it above a restaurant near the harbour - fill in a couple of forms, get them stamped and signed and hand over some cash for the customs tax. Next comes a five minute walk into the small town to the Police station to complete the immigration formalities - this involves filling in another form (similar to the customs form) and getting our passports stamped and signed - no cash this time. Next visit is back down near the harbour to check in with the port authority - fill in another form (which seems vaguely familiar!) and hand over some more cash for port fees. That is it - we are finished! It is difficult to complain about all the red tape as we are in a former British colony - we introduced all these formalities, so we only have ourselves to blame.
After clearing in we moved about a mile along the coast and anchored off a long sandy beach - loads of space with only a few other boats anchored there. Further along the beach is the Four Seasons Resort (posh and expensive apparently) so there were a few water skiers around but apart from that the beach was deserted. The resort dwellers seem to spend most of their time in the resort itself, so the rest of the island and the town seemed quite sleepy.
We spent two nights anchored off Nevis, did a bit of swimming and sun bathing, wandered into the small town to get some bread and had a couple of beers in a beach bar one afternoon. Unfortunately there was no jetty nearby so we had to land the dinghy on the beach. This is fine when the sea is calm, but a bit tricky when the waves start to build up. Al found this out to her cost when a wave swamped the dinghy just as she got in - much swearing by Al and some barely suppressed chuckling by Nige!
On Wednesday 24th we motored 10 miles across to the next Island - St Christopher or St Kitts as it is known. St Kitts and Nevis are one country but we still needed a "boat pass" to move from one island to the other. Fortunately we got this when we first cleared in to Nevis so that saved a bit of hassle. We anchored off the town of Basseterre which is the capital and checked in with customs - just a quick visit this time - no forms or cash needed! Basseterre was larger and busier than Charlestown with a few nice bars and restaurants around the central square. There is also a small marina where we parked the dinghy and Wayne the boat boy looked after it for us and took away our rubbish bags - just had to bung him EC$5 each time (about £1). Both Nevis and St Kitts are quite quiet with only a few yachts visiting at any time. Most tourists seem to stay in the few posh resorts by the beaches and at night the towns are very quiet - the bar we went to in Basseterre closed at 10:00pm!
After two nights in St Kitts we set off at daybreak on Friday 26th and sailed north to St Barthelemy - commonly known as St Barts. We are now anchored just outside the main town of Gustavia and this is a completely different place. It is a French island and very popular with the rich and famous - there is a harbour which is full of very large superyachts and huge power boats and it is surrounded by numerous expensive bars and restaurants.
The island is also popular with the not so rich and famous yachties, like ourselves, which means the anchorage is quite crowded. There is however a supermarket selling all the usual French stuff so we can replenish the stores, and we found the cheap bar where all the poor yachties go. This bar also stays open until 11:00pm which is an improvement. We will probably stay here for two or three nights before moving on again.
Sunday 4th March 2007 - English Harbour, Antigua
We are really getting into the Caribbean way of life now - consequently it is some time since we wrote our last update as we are really busy lying around in the sun all day!
Anyway, our next stop after St Barts was the island of Sint Maarten/St Martin. This island is half Dutch and half French, hence the two ways of spelling the name. They also have two different currencies - old Dutch Florins in the Dutch half of the island- except everybody uses US$ and Euros in the French half. You can walk or take a bus from one side to the other without going through customs or immigration - it is just the money and the language that changes. We arrived in the main town on the Dutch side of the Island - Philipsburg and completed the usual customs and immigration paperwork - not too bad this time but a long walk from the anchorage. Philipsburg is a popular port of call for the cruise ships - most days there are four or five massive cruise ships in the port and all their passengers flock into the town to spend money in the shops. Consequently the town is really busy during the day and very quiet at night when all the cruise ships leave. There is one bar - The Greenhouse which does remain quite lively so we ended up in there until about 2:00 in the morning. After a couple of days in Philipsburg we motored along the coast to Simpsons Bay and through the lifting bridge into the Lagoon. This is a huge inland sea with the French/Dutch border passing through the middle. There are lifting road bridges on both the Dutch and the French side so that you can enter one side and leave through the other. The lagoon is home to a number of Mega-Yacht marinas and a popular anchorage for smaller yachts aswell. The area around the lagoon is quite busy - lots of traffic, shops and other businesses and numerous bars and restaurants. Although this is Dutch Sint Maarten it seems very American - everyone uses US$, most of the cars and trucks are American and so are most of the tourists. We found ourselves a reasonable spot to anchor just near the end of the islands airport - it was OK most of the time but a bit noisy when the Boeing 747's passed a few hundred feet overhead. Fortunately this only happened a couple of time a day. From our anchoring spot we had a short dingy ride ashore to a Shrimpy's. Shrimpy and his wife were from South Africa and they had arrived in Sint Maarten in their boat a few years earlier and decided to run a bar with a laundry at the back. This may sound rather odd, but with so many cruising yachts anchored in the lagoon they were doing a roaring trade. The laundry ladies were working from early morning until about midnight every day - the bar was quite busy aswell.
After a few days in the lagoon, we decided to move on to the French side. You can walk from one side to the other or go by bus or car without any customs/immigration controls at all - but not if you take your boat. We are getting used to this now, but the form filling is a bit of a pain. Having cleared out of the Dutch side and paid a few dollars in fees we motored across the lagoon along a shallow channel and through the lifting bridge that took us out into Marigot bay. We anchored again and cleared in with the French authorities - this time paying a few Euros in fees The French side of the island was not as hectic and was much more relaxing place to be. We spent a couple of days in Marigot which is quite a pleasant town before heading a few miles along the coast to Grand Case Bay. Grand Case is well known for the numerous French restaurants that stretch for about a mile along the sea front, so we decided to go out for a posh meal. This turned out to be a bit of a disappointment as the food was rather average - the bottle of Chablis was great though. We have decided not to do posh meals out anymore - it seems to be a way to spend loads of money in a short space of time. From now on we will be looking for cheap and cheerful places only! The next day we headed back to Marigot so that we could clear customs and then sail further north west to the British Virgin Islands. We missed out Anguilla as they have a lot of regulations governing where and when you can anchor which appear to make it illegal to anchor anywhere overnight. It must be possible to moor somewhere, but we decided to go straight up to the BVI's.
We had a pleasant downwind night passage arriving at Spanish town on the island of Virgin Gorda early in the morning. Worst experience ever at customs and immigration - really busy and five forms to complete! It took about two and a half hours to complete the process - Al wondered where I had got to. We had been sailing in the BVI's about eight years previously when we chartered a boat with our friends Mark and Ali, so we were looking forward to revisiting some of the places we had been before. The last time we were here was right at the end of the season with hurricanes imminent, so it was really quiet. This time it was high season and very busy with charter boats and flotillas. We also found that many of the more popular anchorages were now full of mooring balls for which there was a US$25 per night charge - obviously we were not going to be using those! We spent the first couple of nights in Gorda Sound - a large bay in the north of Virgin Gorda and just south of Necker Island which is owned by Richard Branson. You can stay on Necker Island if you have $42,000 per night to spend - that is for up to 26 people and is fully inclusive, so its not bad I suppose!! Anyway, we anchored for free and went ashore to the Bitter End Yacht Club for a beer - US$4.60 for a bottle of Carib - the most expensive so far - it is nearly as expensive as the UK.
Next stop was in Marina Cay - one of my favourite anchorages behind a small island and reef. There are now loads of mooring balls but we managed to find a spot just to one side where we could drop anchor and we stayed a couple of nights. On the island is a bar and restaurant, a fuel dock and some washing machines - and they provide free WiFi - everything we need really. The first night we had a few beers and ate in the restaurant which was much better than our last eating out experience. The next day I sat in the bar at the top of the island and looked out over the blue caribbean sea and the adjacent islands while I used the free WiFi and Skype to chat with Mark and Ali who now live in Florida. Al was also relaxing and making use of the washing machines.
The following day we sailed down to The Bight in Norman Island - this is a huge bay that has a bar on the beach - it was called Billy Bones last time we were here, but now it is The Pirates Bight. There is also a floating bar/restaurant in an old schooner called The William Thornton - better known as Willy T's. The bay is now full of mooring balls, but if you are carefull there are still a few spots where you can anchor close to the shore. We managed to anchor right next to Willy T's! The first evening we went over to Willy T's for a couple of Sundowners then back to the boat for some food before returning to continue the evening in the bar. Willy T's is a bit of a party boat and very popular with all the charter boat crews that use the mooring balls in the bay - consequently we were in for a lively evening that ended with people diving off the top deck (minus clothes!) and other things happening on the bar (involving cream and cherries) that I cannot go into here as families with children may read this! It was a great night that went on until about 3:00am and so we decided to take it easy the next day. The next night we stayed in and listened to the loud music and laughter emanating from Willy T's but resisted the temptation to go over - fortunately it was rather a tame night and everything wound down about 1:00am so we were able to get some sleep.
Our next destination was the Island of Jost van Dyke - a short sail away. We arrived around lunchtime and looked for a reasonable place to anchor in three different bays. It seemed all the good sheltered spots were taken up with mooring balls or other boats already anchored. We decided we had had enough of these crowded bays so we sailed further north to Guana Island which is private (you cannot go ashore but you can anchor) and we spent the night anchored in the bay - the only boat there.
The only other place we wanted to visit in the BVI's was Peter Island, so the next morning we sailed down there. We stopped on the way to look in Trellis Bay but decided it was too crowded. On Peter Island there is a rather expensive resort complex and a small marina with a few mooring balls. You can tell it is expensive because their mooring balls cost $60 per night whilst everywhere else they are only $25. This did not bother us because there is a good anchorage just off the beach and surprisingly there was plenty of space. We went ashore in the afternoon and wandered around looking at the rich people. We also checked the menu on the beach bar/restaurant - we had eaten here eight years ago and at the time it seemed quite reasonable. Now it looked expensive with too many posh sauces for our simple tastes, so we decided, in line with our new policy of not spending money on posh meals, that we would stay in that night.
By now we felt we had seen enough of the BVI's - it was nice to go back, but it was very busy and so we decided to head back to Spanish Town so that we could clear out and head back to Antigua the following day. Back in Spanish Town we did some provisioning and went ashore in the evening for a few beers. I finally managed to have a beer in De Goose bar - I had wanted to visit this establishment eight years ago but everyone else thought it looked dodgy. They were right.
Since leaving Tenerife in December all our sailing had been down wind. Now we were facing a passage of about 190 miles to windward so we knew it would not be so easy. In the end it was not too bad - it took us two and a half days to reach Antigua after some fairly long tacks and I did get soaked by large waves a couple of times. We arrived off the west coast just after dark, so we could either remain out at sea all night or try to find somewhere to anchor in the dark. There was almost a full moon and we could see reasonably well, so with careful use of the chart plotter we made our way slowly into Morris Bay and dropped anchor for the night. Next day we motored around the coast and back into English Harbour.
Shortly after arriving back here we met up with Dave and Emma on "Five Flip Flops" - we first met them two years ago in Almerimar - what a small world.
That is about it for now. We will be staying here for a couple of weeks before moving on to Guadeloupe and the islands further south.-
Saturday 24th March 2007 - Pointe a Pitre, Guadeloupe
We had a great couple of weeks back in Antigua and spent some time cleaning the boat and generally sorting things out. Of course we managed to visit our favourite bars a few times and had a few eventful nights out with Dave and Emma (Five Flip Flops). Our first trip out with them was to the Sunday night "Jump Up" on Shirley Heights. We had a great time listening to the band, drinking Carib and eating burgers from the barbecue. All too soon it was time to make our way back down the rough and rather steep path down the hill to the dinghies that we had left on the small jetty in Freemans Bay. Progress was quite slow because Al does not like walking down steep hills, particularly in the dark, and also because Dave has bad feet. We were almost at the bottom when Al slipped and fell on her bum - it didn't seem too serious at the time but the next morning she had a huge bruise and could not get out of bed. Eventually the pain and stiffness eased but Al could not get off the boat for three days!
It wasn't just Al who had a slight mishap - after a night out at the Mad Mongoose with Dave and Emma we arrived back at the boat in the dinghy, Al climbed aboard and I fell in! I do not remember slipping - the first thing I knew I was under water and swimming back up towards the surface. It is only the second time this has happened, so that is not too bad after nearly three years living on the boat. I was not the only either - the same inexplicable occurrence happened to Dave two nights later!
We decided eventually that it was time to move on, but we should be meeting up with Dave and Emma again in St. Lucia at the end of May as we both have visitors coming out to meet us there. We set off early on 14th March and sailed about 40 miles south to Deshaies - a large bay on the north west coast of Guadeloupe. The anchorage there is well sheltered from the wind but is quite rolly as the swell seems to work its way in. We spent a couple of nights in Deshaies, checked in with customs and immigration, and went shopping for Brie and French bread for lunch. Not much else to report about Deshaies - quite a nice small town but only one cashpoint that would not give us any money for some reason.
Our next destination was the Isles Des Saintes - a group of small islands off the south west coast of Guadeloupe. After some exciting sailing and getting soaked in a squall we dropped anchor in The Anse Des Bourg just off the small town of Bourg Des Saintes. This small island is one of the nicest places we have visited in the Caribbean. It has a number of good anchorages and small bays. There are very few cars on the island (but numerous scooters whizzing around) and in a couple of days we walked everywhere. The town has a few restaurants and one bar that everyone seems to go to. There is one cashpoint on the island and it was out of order. We managed to conserve our remaining Euros by paying with a credit card in the Supermarket - we then spent the cash in bar later.
After three nights in The Isles Des Saintes we sailed 20 miles north to Pointe a Pitre - the largest town on Guadeloupe. We are now anchored in the Anse de Pointe a Pitre between the town and the large marina of Bas du Fort. This is by far the largest town we have visited in the Caribbean - 100,000 people, lots of shops, industry and big ship docks - it makes quite a change after all those pleasant little bays. We have been here a few days now - except for one night when we motored about 3 miles along the coast and anchored off the small island of Gosier. Been doing the normal things - walked around the town, did some shopping, found a couple of decent bars one of which had a band on - expensive though (6 Euros for a small bottle of Carib!) fortunately we have now managed to find a cash point that works. Today we are going to do some washing and cleaning (it is not all fun and games living on a boat!) and go for a walk along the coast road. Might go out for something to eat tonight and then tomorrow or Monday we'll be sailing further south to Dominica - possibly stopping for a night in the Isles Des Saintes as we liked it so much last time.
Saturday 7th April 2007 - Anse Mitan, Martinique
On the 26th March we left Pointe a Pitre and sailed south towards Dominica. En route we stopped for the night in the Isles des Saintes and continued the next day to Portsmouth – a small town in the north west of Dominica. As we approached the anchorage a couple of “boat boys” sped out in their fast boats to meet us and offer us their services – anything from helping us to clear customs to arranging tours of the island and doing the shopping! This is the first time we have encountered boat boys, but Dominica is one of the least developed islands in the Caribbean. Many of the people are quite poor, so they are keen to make money from the visiting Yachties. After we anchored we saw other boat boys paddling between the anchored yachts on surf boards with baskets of fruit and vegetables for sale – very entrepreneurial, but not an easy way to earn a living. Also of interest in the bay were the rusting hulks of merchant ships that had been washed up on the shore. Our pilot book said that they had been driven ashore during a hurricane – we definitely will not be around here in the hurricane season!
The town itself was quite small, fairly shabby and did not seem have a lot going for it (not at all like Portsmouth in the UK, although many would not agree!), so after another night in the anchorage we sailed down the coast to Roseau – the capital of Dominica.
As we sailed into Roseau bay we were met by Pancho, who offered us a mooring for US$10 per night. The anchorage here is not ideal so we decided to take up the offer as we knew we would be leaving the boat and spending quite a lot of time ashore. Strange as it may seem, we know someone who lives in Roseau and we had arranged to contact him when we arrived. Richard Stanton is a good friend of our mates Mark and Ali (Florida), and we had met Richard a couple of times back in the UK. Richard had worked with Mark in the mobile phone industry for many years and is now Country Manager for Digicel (Expect More, Get More) – the absolute best service provider in the Caribbean!
Anyway, we sent Richard a text to let him know we had arrived. We did not hear anything back so we decided to have dinner with a bottle of wine and call Richard the next day. We were playing cards and drinking beer/vodka and coke when Richard phoned to see if we wanted to go to “Thirsty Thursdays” to see a band. It was about 10:00pm and we were already quite merry but we decided to go anyway. Richard met us at the dinghy dock of the nearby Anchorage Hotel and drove us along the coast to the bar where Thirsty Thursdays is held. The band was really good – Michelle Henderson was the singer and she regularly works on cruise ships and has toured in Europe. So we had a great night and after drinking before we went out, proceeded to get rather drunk.
The next day, when we eventually awoke, Richard picked us up with all our laundry and took us to his house in the hills above the town. We left the laundry there (Richard washed and dried it for us over the next couple of days – what a great guy!) and were then dropped off at the supermarket before getting driven back to the dinghy. We were supposed to meet up again that evening, but Richard crashed out after getting home from work and did not wake up until after midnight – a quiet night in was probably a good idea anyway.
The next night (Saturday) we went to Richards local, O’Byrnes Irish Pub, and met up with Nadezca who works at the Venezuelan embassy and Jessica who owns the pub. After a few beers and some food we walked down to the Garraway Hotel where a local band was playing and it seemed like most of the town was there. Richard managed to get some tickets for us from Sheila (Jessica’s sister, whose boyfriend Kendall was playing in the band). The band was playing booyong (not sure about the spelling) music, which was interesting but goes on for hours without a break! After watching the band and drinking a few more beers we all headed off to Spiders – a small and rather seedy bar (just my type of place) in a small village on the coast where we rounded off the evening with a few more beers. Eventually got back to the boat at about 04:30am – after waking the night porter at the Anchorage Hotel to let us through to the dinghy dock.
On Sunday night we all went round to Nadezca’s for Paella and Monday night it was a couple of DVD’s and Chinese takeaway at Richards as O’Byrnes is closed on Mondays. Tuesday night was our last night in Dominica so naturally we went to O’Byrnes for some great food and a few beers with Richard, Nadezca and Jessica to round off our visit.
In between all the social activity in Roseau we did manage to go for a couple of walks out of the town. Dominica is a beautiful island with high mountains and lush green vegetation and volcanic lakes. It is quite different from the islands we have visited so far with fewer tourists (except when a cruise ship is in town). We probably should have done more sight seeing but the time had come to move on, so on Wednesday we sailed overnight to Fort de France – the capital of Martinique.
Fort de France is probably the largest city we have visited in the Caribbean with expensive shops and proper streets with pavements. We spent a couple of nights anchored between the ferry docks and the Fort and had an afternoon wandering around the town which is quite pleasant - a good place for shopping but with prices similar to Paris. The anchorage here was quite rolly due to the wash from the ferries and as this is Easter weekend the whole town seems to shut down, so we are now anchored in Anse Mitan which is about 2.5 miles away across the bay. This is more of a tourist resort with lots of restaurants and bars. It looks like it will be quite lively so we are planning on going ashore tonight for a look around and maybe the odd biere!
Monday 23rd April 2007 - Tyrrel Bay, Carriacou, The Grenadines
After spending a couple of nights in Anse Mitan in Martinique, we sailed round to the south coast of the island. We anchored off the small town of Sainte Anne for a night before motoring a couple of miles further to anchor in the large sheltered bay called Cul-de-Sac du Marin. There is a large marina here and quite a few yachting type facilities including fuel/water dock and customs/immigration. We decided to wait here for good weather to sail further south and east to Barbados. The trip down to Barbados is a tough one as it is against the prevailing wind and also against the west flowing NE Equatorial current. Fortunately after only a couple of days we had a forecast for fairly light winds from the NE and for fairly calm seas, so on Thursday 12th April we cleared customs and then anchored off Sainte Anne again so that we could set off early the next morning - Friday 13th - Good job we are not superstitious!
The wind was against us when we set off but after a few hours backed to the NE and we then made good progress all afternoon and through the night arriving off the coast of Barbados the following lunchtime. As we were approaching Bridgetown the wind became very light, so we decided to drop the sails and motor in. When we turned the key to start the engine nothing happened - not even a click! Seems like the engine start battery is completely flat. This was odd as it had worked fine the previous day. Don't panic! Fortunately we also have domestic batteries for lights, fridge etc. and it was simply a matter of switching over and the engine then started first time - phew! We motored on into Carlisle Bay and moored up at the customs dock in The Carenage (dock in the centre of Bridgetown). Customs and immigration here are very strict and they will often board the boat to check that everything is in order. In our case they decided they would not come aboard but I had to visit Environmental Health, Immigration, Customs and The Port Authority and fill in numerous forms before we were cleared to anchor out in Carlisle Bay.
The anchorage itself proved to be quite uncomfortable. A large south easterly swell coming in from the Atlantic meant that he boat was continually rolling. Apparently it is not always like this so it seems we were just there at the wrong time. The swell also made it difficult to land in the dinghy without motoring about a mile into The Carenage. This was fine during the day, but is a long way to go in a small dinghy at night. Despite the problems with the anchorage we really liked Bridgetown. It turned out to be a really nice place - very much like a small English town with proper streets, churches, shops and policemen/women! We spent a couple of days ashore wandering around and found the tourist information office where the friendly assistants insisted that we had cold drinks and snacks while they answered any questions we might have. Unlike the usual tourists and the numerous cricket fans in town for the world cup cricket matches, we wanted to know where the best supermarket was, and where we could get a new engine battery. Apparently, if you need a battery in Barbados, the best place is The Tropical Battery Company just around the corner from the tourist office and right next to the cricket ground. So the following day we walked over there, bought the battery and took it back to the dinghy in a taxi. So now we have our new battery installed and the old one waiting for a suitable place to be disposed of. It really is knackered - when I checked it there appeared to be no water in any of the cells and most of the plates were buckled - a catastrophic meltdown!
We did manage a few beers ashore one evening when we were able to land on the dinghy dock at The Boatyard in Carlisle Bay (it is really a beach club with a bar rather than a proper boatyard). We could only do this at low tide as at high tide, due to the swell in the anchorage, the small dock was under water most of the time. We would have liked to have stayed longer in Barbados, but the forecast was for continuing SE winds which meant the anchorage was unlikely to improve, so after three days we decided to head further south and west to Grenada. We got up early on 17th April, cleared customs and immigration (and paid US$50 in port fees - special extra charges due to the world cup cricket! - seems a bit steep as we were not there for the cricket) and set off with a fair wind heading for the south coast of Grenada.
My estimate was that we should arrive at Prickly Bay in Grenada sometime during the following afternoon with plenty of time to get into the anchorage in daylight. Unfortunately I had underestimated the effect of the current which was running at 2 knots against us for much of the time. The following morning it was looking touch and go whether we would get there in daylight. As it is not really safe to enter Prickly Bay in the dark we altered course for the smaller island of Carriacou - a dependancy of Grenada where we could check in and there are good anchorages. We now had the current helping us and we made good time, arriving in Hillsborough Bay about lunchtime.
Carriacou is one of the chain of islands collectively known as The Grenadines. They are all quite small and this island is not particularly touristy - no cruise ships and most of the visitors are yachties and backpackers. We spent the first night in Hillsborough Bay - only a couple of other boats there and very calm after the rolly anchorage in Barbados. Next day we got a few provisions in the town and then headed a couple of miles around the island to the more popular anchorage in Tyrrel Bay. Here we are in a large and very well sheltered bay with maybe 80 - 100 other yachts but still with plenty of room. There is not a great deal here, but is very yacht friendly - there are a few shops and bar/restaurants, there is a sailmaker and some French guys working on a big catamarran who do boat maintenance of various types. There is a small boatyard and there are a few good places to get ashore in the dinghy. In addition, the boatyard provides free WiFi which is great for us - we can go online whenever we want and have been catching up with our emails and talking to loads of people on Skype. I had quite a surprise when we received emails from a couple of friends from school that I had not been in touch with for about 15 years. Daryl had tracked me down on Skype and had told Bryn about our website. I had not even read the emails when Daryl called on Skype and we had a chat for about half an hour - really fantastic when we are in the Caribbean, she is in Hong Kong and it costs nothing!
We have had a couple of interesting nights out since we have been here. On Thursday, shortly after we arrived, we took a trip around the bay in the dinghy and stopped off at the "Angels Rest" for a couple of sundowners. The "Angels Rest" is a small floating (at the moment) bar but is a bit ricketty. The aft platform, which they refer to as the dinghy dock, is starting to fall off. The evening we were aboard, the barman put his foot through the floor! The "Angels Rest" is now closed and awaiting a slot in the boatyard for much needed repairs.
Whilst on the "Angels Rest" we got chatting to a few of the longer term residents of the bay and they told us that on Friday there would be a band on at "The Lambi Queen" restaurant and that is where everyone would be. Consequently we went along the next night and enjoyed a few beers while listing to "Big Drum" music with a load of other yachties and locals. On Saturday we went for pizza at the "Purple Turtle" cafe - really good pizza but rather large. We finished our pizza for lunch on Sunday. Sunday night we stayed in for a rest and tonight we are going to a party at the "Rum Shack" where one of the other yachties is celebrating his birthday.
Our plan is to move on tomorrow to Petit Martinique ( a small island just next door), however, this does depend on how things go at the "Rum Shack" tonight!
Friday 11th May 2007 - Britannia Bay, Mustique, The Grenadines
Not too much to report this time - since our last update we've been cruising around the Grenadines and generally taking it easy! Lots of palm fringed beaches and lovely bays with clear blue water.
After leaving Tyrrel bay we motored around to Petit Martinique. The anchorage here was not very well sheltered so we went across to Petit St Vincent which is a small island about half a mile away. This was a bit naughty really as we really should have cleared out of the Grenada Grenadines and into the St Vincent Grenadines - anyway, we only spent one night there and got away with it. The next morning we left early and sailed down the windward coast of Grenada to Prickly bay on Grenada's south coast - the current was with us all the way so we had a very fast passage. After three nights in Prickly Bay we sailed around to St Georges where we anchored in the lagoon. This is a really sheltered anchorage close to the town. There is a good supermarket and a chandlery each with their own dinghy docks and also a fuel dock and various bars and restaurants - everything we need really. The lagoon has been bought recently and construction of a new superyacht marina and village complex will be starting soon. We were probably one of the last boats that will be able to anchor in here for free.
We spent three nights in St Georges and then sailed back up to Tyrrel bay in Carriacou. This is probably one of our favourite anchorages in The Grenadines. It is not the most picturesque, but it well sheltered, we can get free WiFi access on the boat and Simon, one of the boat boys, comes around every evening selling wine at very reasonable prices. After a couple more nights in Tyrell Bay we motored around to Hillsborough to clear out of the Grenada Grenadines and then sailed over to Clifton on Union Island where we cleared into the St Vincent Grenadines. We spent four nights in Clifton and had one memorable night out which started in the Anchorage Yacht Club bar. The bar was very quiet, so after a couple of beers we walked across the road to the "Stress Out Bar and Hideaway". The place was lively with loud reggae music, full of locals and heavy with the aroma of marijuana. I do not think they get many tourists in the bar but they seemed quite happy to see us. We ended up chatting with "Stress" and his wife who own the bar and they insisted on buying us beer - great!
Our next stop was the Tobago Cays - a group of small uninhabited islands and marine nature reserve, protected from the Altlantic by a large reef. We stayed here one night anchored in the relatively calm water inside the reef with the Altlantic rollers crashing on the outside only a few hundred meters away. The next night we spent in Salt Whistle Bay on the small island of Mayreau - a very picturesque bay and popular with the numerous charter boats that cruise around The Grenadines. Ashore here there is a restaurant and bar belonging to the Salt Whistle Bay Club - a good place for a couple of sundowners but unfortunately also very popular with the mosquitoes - Al had about 20 bites while we were there and I had none - she was not very happy!
The next day we sailed further north to Canouan where we anchored in Charlestown bay. We had a quiet night here before leaving early the next morning to sail to Mustique.
Anchoring is prohibited in Mustique, so we are now attached to a mooring ball in Britannia Bay. The island seems very nice with some very exclusive looking villas and hotels - as you would expect in the playground of the rich and famous. Last night we went ashore to Basil's bar for a couple of sundowners. We did not see any celebrities, but we did pay celebrity prices! They have WiFi internet access in the bar, the first we have seen for some time, so this afternoon we will see if we can scrape together enough money to buy a coke each and try to make it last while we call/email people from this exclusive island paradise!
Sunday 17th June 2007 - Chaguaramas, Trinidad
After two nights in Mustique we made the short trip across to Bequia - another island that is very popular with Yachties. There is a large anchorage here in Admiralty Bay and we dropped the hook just outside Jack's Bar and Restaurant - very convenient! We spent five nights anchored here wandered around the island and did some provisioning at the local fruit and veg market and the famous (amongst yachties anyway) Doris supermarket - Al managed to find some ground coriander here which, as you can imagine, she was very excited about. We had a couple of nights out - Pizza at Mac's Pizzeria which was very good and Nige's birthday night out (a little late) at Jack's which was excellent. We also had our first Roti's at the Green Boley one lunch time. A Roti consists of curry (chicken, beef, lamb, goat, veg....) wrapped in something like a large chapati and is really indian in origin - very tasty.
On the 16th May we left Bequia and sailed overnight past the larger island of St Vincent (not many decent anchorages according to our pilot book) to the town of Soufriere in St Lucia. We spent a night in here on a mooring ball and then the following night on a mooring ball in a bay between the Two Pitons - these are two sharp conical mountains that are really quite dramatic (see photos). The following day we motored a few miles up the coast to Marigot Bay where we picked up another mooring ball - EC$40 for the night after haggling with Jean Jaques who started at EC$60. This was not too bad as we had somehow avoided paying for the moorings in Soufriere and the Two Pitons. Marigot is supposedly one of the most beautiful bays in the Caribbean - this may have been true at one time, but it has been heavily developed around the shore with a number of resorts and restaurants.
The following morning we continued up the coast to Rodney Bay where we anchored in the lagoon just off the marina. As expected, our friends Dave and Emma on "Five Flip Flops" were already berthed in the marina waiting for their visitors (Emma's Mum and Auntie) to arrive from England. We were also in Rodney bay to meet friends from the UK, so after a couple of nights at anchor we checked into the marina - our first night in a marina since Tenerife almost six months ago. First to arrive were Fiona (Al's sister) and her husband Simon who were staying at the Coco Palm hotel - a short dinghy or taxi ride away from the marina. A few days later our friends Ashley and Melissa from Nottingham arrived to stay a few days in a villa just outside Rodney Bay. Consequently this was quite a busy time with lots of eating and drinking - we must have visited most of the bars and restaurants in Rodney Bay, including a street stall that we called "The Shed" for some very spicy jerk chicken panini's. We spent many relaxing happy hours in the Coco Palm with Fiona and Simon and had a couple of more adventurous days out with Ashley and Melissa. Our first trip out was to the rain forest where, once kitted out with climbing harnesses and helmets we ascended the mountain in an open cable car. Then, high up in the rain forest we "zipped" between platforms attached to the trees some 130 ft above the ground. "Zipping" entails attaching a pulley on the climbing harness to a couple of wires that stretch between the platforms, jumping off and speeding along the wires to the next platform - very exhilarating!
Ashley and Melissa were keen to go out sailing, so the day after our rain forest excursion we sailed down to Marigot Bay with a light tail wind. We picked up a mooring ball and had a short dinghy trip around the bay, just making it into a restaurant called "The Shack" before a torrential downpour. After a relaxing lunch we then had a more lively sail back to Rodney Bay in 25 knot head winds - this pleased Ashley as he managed to get the boat speed up to 7.2 knots.
On the 5th June Ashley and Melissa headed off to the south of the island before flying back to the UK and we had a last night out with Fiona and Simon before they too headed back home. We had planned on staying in Rodney Bay for a few more days before making our way south once more. Unfortunately my (Nige's) Dad is not well and is in hospital back in the UK, so we decided to amended our plans a little. The following day we left St Lucia and sailed direct to Trinidad. This was quite a slow passage with light winds and strong adverse currents, but we made it into Chaguaramas after three days. We checked into Crews Inn marina and the next day arranged to have the boat lifted ashore and sorted out some flights back to the UK. We are now ashore in Power Boats boatyard and Strummer will hopefully be safe here during the imminent hurricane season. We fly back to Gatwick tomorrow and expect to be back in the UK for a couple of months at least.
When we do get back out to Trinidad, we will have a few weeks of work to do ashore before going back in the water and we will post our next update then.
Saturday 27th October 2007 - Chaguaramas, Trinidad
We are back! My Dad has made a full recovery and is now back at home so we are now back in Trinidad and getting ready to continue our travels.
After about three months in the UK we left on the 16th September and flew to Florida where we spent a week with our friends Mark and Ali and their son Joshua. They live in a rather large house with a swimming pool just outside West Palm Beach - very nice! We spent a very pleasant week lounging around the pool, shopping for shorts in the mall and drinking Marks beer. While we were there, Richard Stanton, who we had spent some time with in Dominica, stopped by for a few days on his way back from the UK, so it was great to catch up with him again.
On 24th September we flew down from Miami to Port of Spain (capital of Trinidad) and arrived back at the boat in Chaguaramas about 8:00 in the evening. Everything seemed to be OK except for a thin film of mould over all the wooden surfaces (there are quite a lot of these on the boat) and particularly on leather items such as shoes and belts that we had left behind. This is caused by the hot and humid atmosphere and lack of ventilation when the boat is locked up. As it was dark we decided the best course of action was to retire to the bar and leave all the cleaning until the morning. The following day we got everything sorted out and started getting the boat ready to go back in the water. The next couple of weeks were quite busy - cleaning and checking everything, replacing the propeller, re-fitting the sails and doing the anti-fouling (actually we had a couple of local guys do this for us - very lazy!). We also went on a shopping trip and met a number of other yachties from the UK, most of whom we continued to meet regularly in Sails - the boatyard bar and restaurant. We made a couple of trips into Port of Spain and visited a local Doctor to get vaccinations for Yellow Fever, Tetanus, Typhoid and Hepatitis A along with a prescription for malaria tablets - should be safe to visit most places now.
After all this feverish activity we were lifted back into the water on Friday 12th October. This was our first chance to check the gearbox that had been overhauled while we were back in the UK. Before untying the ropes and leaving the crane dock, I engaged forward gear and ..... the boat started to move slowly backwards!!! Obviously something was wrong. A quick phone call and an hour and a half later Desi, the gearbox guy, was sitting with us on the boat looking into the engine compartment. Fortunately it was fairly simple to fix - the actuator arm had been replaced the wrong way round. After a few minutes tinkering we tested again - forward gear goes forwards - reverse gear goes astern - problem solved!
We are now on a mooring ball just off the boatyard (short dinghy ride to Sails Bar) and are continuing to get ready to go. We have had the rigging checked and I've got to tighten up the backstay and the aft lower shrouds - a bit slack apparently, so I'm reading up on rig tuning. Also had to replace the Navtex as the original one stopped working - tried to get it repaired but it seems the best way to fix it is with a new one. So that was another nice day spent threading the aerial (antenna in Trinidad - they do not know what an aerial is here) wire half way around the boat. Anyway, that is done now so we have a new toy to play with.
We are thinking of moving on sometime next week - probably to Isla Margarita which is a Venezuelan island about 130 miles west of Trinidad. It depends a lot on the weather forecast - it is the wet season at the moment so there are regular squalls and thunderstorms and there is still a possibility of hurricanes so we need to be careful.
Tonight we are off to the Wheelhouse Pub (also a short dinghy ride away) for Bake and Shark - not sure what this involves, but it is a local speciality which I initially thought was Bacon Shark. Will report back on that soon.
Wednesday 21st November 2007 - Isla Margarita, Venezuela
Following our last report we did go for Bake and Shark at the Wheelhouse Pub - the shark is deep fried in batter and the bake is a bit like a bready doughnut that is also fried - very nice with a few bottles of Carib.
Before leaving Trinidad we hired a car for a couple of days with David and Michelle (Yacht Alhambra) - we had met them in the boatyard shortly after returning from the UK and spent many happy evenings with them in the bar. The first day (after an interesting journey due to lack of road signs) we visited the Asa Wright centre. This is an old plantation house in the jungle that is now a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. It proved to be an interesting place with humming birds and many other colourful birds feeding all around the large verandah of the house (see photos - most of the good ones were taken by Michelle). We also went on a guided walk into the jungle where I tried a tasty snack - live Termites straight from the nest! They taste a bit like carrots and they are a bit crunchy, but I think I'll stick to peanuts in future. On the second day we had a drive around the coast to the north of Chaguaramas and stopped at Maracas beach for lunch - more Bake and Shark - this was really good - much better than the Wheelhouse pub, but David and I did overdo the chilli sauce. Later in the afternoon we went on a boat trip into the Caroni swamp where we watched thousands of Scarlet Ibis flying back from Venezuela to land in the trees on one particular island where they spend the night.
We finally left Trinidad on 5th November and set off about 1700 to sail overnight to Los Testigos - a small group of islands off the coast of Venezuela. All went well for the first couple of hours and we were sailing along quite happily until about 10 miles offshore we passed some sort of marker bouy with a fixed red light and a flashing white strobe light. We were trying to figure out what this might be when we heard the boat run over something - a quick check over the stern confirmed that we were caught in a fishing net! It was dark with about 15 knots of wind blowing but the sea was not too rough. We were in no immediate danger but it was rather annoying! The first thing we did was to get the sails down - not easy with the wind blowing from behind but we managed after a while. We shone the searchlight over the stern and that stopped working after about 30 seconds. (Made a mental note that the searchlight needs a longer cable!). The net appeared to be caught in either the rudder or the propeller so I tried to push it down with our two piece boathook - this promptly broke in two and the end with the hook on sank into the depths. (Made a mental note to get a new boat hook - we already have a spare but it is nice to have two). It was too dangerous to dive under the boat but I decided it would be OK to lower the bathing ladder and climb down to see if I could release the net by pushing down with my foot. I was wearing a head torch so that I could see what I was doing and was securely fixed to the boat with my safety line so I proceeded down the ladder until I was up to my waist in water. No matter what I tried the net seemed well and truly stuck. Then a wave hit the back of the boat and washed right over me - my head torch disappeared into the depths and my lifejacket inflated! Comforting to know that they do work. (Made a mental note to get new head torch and recharge lifejacket). We decided that there was no way we would free ourselves in the dark and we were considering waiting until daylight when we saw a fishing boat that appeared to be working its way towards us - we had seen it earlier probably a couple of miles away but it was definitely getting closer. This could be good or bad - there are lots of stories about Venezuelan pirates and fishermen who would try to charge thousands of dollars to help another boat or for damage to their fishing net. The fishing boat got closer and we could see that they were hauling in the net. They eventually got so close that we could shout to each other - they were "no spikin Ingles", so they were definitely Venezuelan and not Trinidadians. We can speak "un poco Espagnol" but not enough to deal with this situation, so with lots of pointing and hand waving we tried to let the fishermen know which would be the best direction to pull to try to free the net. Finally, after much pulling in different directions and revving of their engine, the net pulled clear and we were free! The fishermen all cheered and so did we! We were still concerned that they might ask us for money but they just kept hauling their net as we slowly drifted away. So our first encounter with the Venezuelans was a good one - obviously they are not all nasty banditos. We tidied the boat up and hoisted the sails and continued, rather relieved, on our way - it could have been much worse. We arrived in Los Testigos the next morning, anchored and checked in with the coast guard before falling asleep until lunchtime.
Los Testigos are a small group of islands with about 160 residents, most of whom are fishermen. There were only a few other yachts there so the anchorages were peaceful - it made quite a change from Trinidad to have a cooling breeze blowing through the boat and to be able swim in the clear blue water. We went ashore and climbed over the sand dunes to watch the waves crashing against the beach on the other side of the island. As we had not officially checked into Venezuela yet we could only stay a couple of nights, so early on Thursday morning (8th November) we set off for Porlamar on Isla Margarita.
We anchored in Porlamar on Thursday afternoon and the following morning dinghyed over to Marina Juan (quite a grand description for a long dinghy dock with an office and a small shop) to arrange clearance into Venezuela. The procedures here are quite complex and most people use an agent to organise everything. We spoke to Juan and he was really helpful - explained everything and took our passports, boat papers and clearance papers from Trinidad and told us to return at 1530. When we returned in the afternoon we were driven around the corner to the customs building so that I could sign the papers and have a fingerprint taken (never had to do that before). Then we sat around Marina Juan drinking beer (Happy hour - beer 1000 Bolivares a bottle =10p!!!) and getting a few tips from some of the long term liveaboards from the anchorage until our passports and papers arrived at about 1730. We were now cleared into Venezuela.
We were told not to use our credit/debit cards in the ATMs here - for two reasons. Firstly it is quite common to get your card cloned - which has happened to us once and we do not want it to happen again. Secondly, there is an official exchange rate - 2100 Bs to $1, and a black market exchange rate which at the time was 5300 Bs to $1. Venezuela is cheap to us anyway, but changing money on the black market makes it ridiculously cheap. Obviously we would never do anything on the black market because we are fine upstanding citizens, but there is a guy on the beach that will change money at very good rates and we can point him out should anyone wish to do so.
There are many differences here from the previous caribbean islands we have visited - the music is now South American rather than reggae, the people look South American and speak Spanish, and there are really good supermarkets and shops with all the goods you would expect to find in Europe or the US - and it is really cheap. Beer is about 10p a bottle, decent wine is about £1.20 and a bottle of rum is the same price. There is a free bus trip from Marina Juan every Monday, Wednesday and Friday to a large supermarket and shopping complex - we have been twice already and will probably go again before we leave.
Before we arrived here we knew that our friends Dave and Emma from Five Flip Flops would be staying in a villa here and we had arranged to go and stay with them for a couple of nights. They had left their boat in Trinidad and been backpacking around South America for a few months and this was their last stop before returning to Trinidad. The plan was to go on Thursday morning (15th), however that morning we had a problem. I discovered that the engine wiring loom had chafed against a sharp corner on the engine and was shorting out - I spotted this because of the sparks and the small flame that appeared when I moved the wires! I quickly put out the flame with my thumb and turned the batteries off at the main switch. We decided that we should not leave the boat until this was fixed so we postponed our visit until the next day. I then spent most of the day at the bottom of the cockpit locker working on the wiring loom. The problem was not too bad - I had to replace sections in five of the wires where the insulation had melted and all seems OK again with the loom now held well away from any sharp edges.
The following morning we got a lift with Richard (an English guy who has lived here for 13 years and works at Marina Juan) to Casa Mari in Aricagua where Dave and Emma were staying. Aricagua is about a mile from Playa el Agua - the most popular beach on the island, and on the website the villa looked very nice with pool and air conditioning etc. In reality it was not as nice as some of the hostels that Dave and Emma had stayed in - the pool was fine but there was a gas leak, the place was not very clean and all the info provided about local taxis and restaurants was well out of date. So the villa itself was a bit disappointing but we still had a great time. We spent the first afternoon by the pool drinking beer and chatting about our experiences since had last met. In the evening we eventually managed to get a taxi down to Playa el Agua and found a restaurant overlooking the beach where we had dinner and a few more drinks. The next day we walked from Aricagua down to the beach - about a mile and had lunch in another beach front restaurant before getting a taxi back to the villa for a relaxing afternoon followed by a barbeque by the pool in the evening. The next morning Richard picked us up and drove us back to Marina Juan and we left Dave and Emma packing and getting ready to return to Trinidad.
We are now back on the boat in Porlamar (also known as Rollymar as the anchorage is not the most sheltered we have been in). We were planning to leave tomorrow and head west through the Venezuelan islands to Bonaire in the Dutch Antilles. That plan has now changed as there is a forecast for a strong swell from the north over the weekend which would make the anchorages further west uncomfortable. We will probably stay here a couple more days and give the swell time to settle down again. If all goes to plan our next update should be from Bonaire.
Friday 7th December 2007 - Kralendijk, Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles
After a couple more enjoyable evenings in the Sunset bar in Porlamar we finally cleared customs to leave Venezuela on 26th November. This process takes a whole day so we stayed in the anchorage overnight then left the following afternoon. We sailed overnight to the Island of Tortuga and a quiet anchorage off the even smaller island of Herradura. Although we had cleared customs and immigration it is accepted that yachts can anchor in the offshore islands on the way to the Netherlands Antilles. We also stopped overnight in Los Roques and Los Aves which are both large areas of reef with small islands and numerous anchorages. The anchorages are all beautiful with golden sandy beaches, palm trees and bright blue seas to swim in. Even in the most popular anchorages there were only ever a couple of other boats and maybe a few Venezuelan fishermen.
We finally arrived in Kralendijk on the Netherlands Antilles island of Bonaire on Sunday 2nd December and picked up a mooring off the small town. Bonaire is a popular tourist destination and attracts divers from all over the world. It is very environmentally friendly so anchoring is prohibited everywhere. The town itself is very neat with most of the buildings painted in pastel colours and a surprising number of restaurants and bars for a relatively small place - we probably will not be able to sample them all but we are going to try a couple.
The following morning we took the dinghy along the coast to the Harbour Village marina to pay for our mooring. As we were leaving we met Stan who has a large sports fishing boat called Inner Wisdom. We had met Stan and his wife Maggie earlier in the year in St Lucia and again in Trinidad - it is a small world out here. After a quick chat we agreed to meet up later in the week.
We have had a fairly quiet time here in Bonaire. We have strolled around the town a couple of times and been for sundowners at Karel's bar where there is a good dinghy dock. We had a walk out into the countryside - mostly scrubland with loads of large cactii and we've been swimming a lot. Just swimming around the boat we can see coral and a multitude of colourful tropical fish. I am going to have to stop swimming for a while as I seem to have got some sort of ear infection - got some drops from the chemist today, so hopefully it won't last too long.
On Wednesday night we met up with Stan and Maggie and had dinner at a restaurant called "It Rains Fishes". Al had a fresh Tuna steak and I had Wahoo in mustard sauce (very nice!) and we spent the evening chatting about our experiences and the differences between the US and the UK. (Stan and Maggie are American - do not think I mentioned that earlier).
We are planning to head off to Curacao early on Sunday so we are going out again tonight. We'll probably start in Karel's bar with a couple of beers and then go to a Brazilian restaurant that we have seen. If we are still feeling awake we'll end up back in Karel's as there is a band on and apparenly it is quite lively on Friday nights.
Friday 14th December 2007 - Spanish Water, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
We did not go to the Brazilian restaurant in the end as it was too quiet and we ended up having burgers instead. A bit disappointing but we did manage a few beers in Karel's bar.
As planned we sailed across to Curacao on Sunday - well we motored as there was very little wind most of the time. We just passing the end of Curacao when a squall started to approach from astern. Usually there are strong gusts of wind as the squall passes but as we were only motoring with the mainsail up we did not expect any problems. All was fine to start with and the gusts were only about 25 knots. The mainsail was flapping a little as the wind switched from one side of the boat to the other and then suddenly the sail ripped from the leech (the back of the sail) right to the luff (the front of the sail). This was a bit of a blow - a) it is going to cost money to get it fixed and b) it might take some time to fix it and delay our departure for Cartagena.
We got the sail down and packed away and motored into Spanish Water to anchor with no further problems. The anchorage here is in a lagoon so it is very sheltered and calm. There is a handy bar and restaurant called Sarifundy's where they provide information to the visiting boats and there is a bus from there to the supermarket six days a week. Handy for replenishing up the stores.
On Monday morning we phoned the local sailmaker and arranged to meet him during happy hour at Sarifundy's. Next we took the bus into town to clear in with customs, immigration and the harbour authority. This is quite time consuming here as the offices are some distance apart and much walking is involved. The town itself is very pleasant - just like a small Dutch town with bridges across the river, typical Dutch style building and plenty small cafes and bars in the shady streets and squares. We had a pleasant lunch in one of the cafes and got the bus back to the anchorage in time for happy hour where we met Rob the sailmaker and he took the sail away for repair.
We made a couple of trips to the supermarket for provisioning - nice to have a wide variety of produce available here after some of the caribbean islands where the choice is quite limited. We also had another trip into town to do a bit of sight seeing and then met up with Rob on Thursday to get our sail back (Happy hour again!). The sail had just ripped along a seam so the damage was not too bad but we are US$120 poorer as a result.
It is now Friday and the sail is back on. We have cleared customs and immigration and tomorrow morning we are setting off for Cartagena in Columbia. It should take about four days sailing along the coast of South America to get there. Everyone we have met who has been there says it is a really nice city so we plan to stay there over Christmas and New Year.