Monthly Archives: December 2019

Two of our favorite Caribbean islands, St Lucia and Martinique.

Brenda and I have visited St Lucia and Martinique a number of times, two of our favorite islands.  While we are home in the US right now, we will soon be returning to Pandora in Antigua to begin our winter season of cruising the SE Caribbean.

As I write this we are about done with our time at home as we are traveling here and there to enjoy time with our family.   So far, it’s been hectic, to say the least and cold, well at least cold compared to Antigua, and I certainly prefer warm.  It’s already snowed twice and I’ll begrudgingly admit that it was pretty to wake up to a bright white world.  Well, at least that somewhat makes up for the persistent grey that is a New England winter.

It’s been crazy during our time at home with both wrapped and unwrapped presents strewn everywhere, as we scramble to get everything done.

Timing is a challenge as we make time to spend with Rob and his family in MD where we are now, celebrating the third birthday of our oldest grandaughter Tori, who turns three this week as well as an early Christmas.  It has been a whirlwind visit as we make time to spend with them before a quick dash home on Monday to head back to CT.

The very next day (Whew!) we fly to San Francisco to see our other son Christopher and his partner Melody for Christmas.  With less than 24 hours home (way less) before we fly out on Tuesday it’s going to be quite a rush, and we won’t be back home until three days before we head back to Antigua.   That’s going to be a crazy busy few days as we put our home in “winter mode” to keep it safe from freezing while we are away.

And, when I say “everything in place” is because we have to blow out all the water pipes and put antifreeze in the toilets and appliances like the dishwasher and washing machine.  We have already delivered our house plants to a greenhouse in New Haven along with some pond fish that they will keep for the winter.   Our little pond will soon freeze solid, already has, and the plants won’t survive the cold temps in the winterized house while we are away.   As we headed here to MD a few days ago, we packed Brenda’s Mini Cooper with all the plants, fish along with birthday and Christmas presents.

On another subject, on proverbial Black Friday, I succumbed to all of the hype about good deals and the drumbeat of “shop now!” and ordered a huge, well huge for us, 65″ TV to replace our  more than a decade old TV.  WOW!, what a difference in the picture quality a decade of innovation has made.

Well, I mention all this as the TV is Internet-ready and we have enjoyed watching YouTube travel videos including some about places we have been and hope to travel to.   I happened upon the two short pieces that follow about Martinique and St Lucia that includes footage of some of the great places we have visited.  It gives a pretty good feel for what it’s like to visit some of our favorite islands.

We enjoy Martinique because it offers everything from cosmopolitan cities like Fort de France, along with rural back roads and beautiful rain forests.  Both islands are also home to wonderful botanical gardens and nature preserves along with some great rum distilleries such as Depaz and Clement, that are both featured in the piece about Martinique.

Clement, unlike most rums you are likely to encounter in the Caribbean, is distributed in the US.  Their website, for the US, is quite interesting, with ample information about the estate itself, a wonderful place to visit on the island.  Visiting these distilleries is a great thing to do when touring the island.  During our last visit to Martinique, two years ago, we visited a number of distilleries.  I wrote about that very enjoyable day in this post.  

So, check out this short video.  It will surely make you want to visit Martinique. Another of our favorite islands is St Lucia and although Rodney Bay gets a bad rap due to some petty crime, it’s a nice spot to visit too.   As with many places in the Caribbean, it’s always a good idea to lock your dink at night and pull it out of the water.   And, always lock it up when ashore, even during the day.

We particularly enjoy Marigot Bay, a spot that we will surely return to this season.  It is home to a wonderful resort, one of our favorite places to spend time and one of the few spots where we rent a mooring instead of dropping the hook.   I wrote about our visit there.  You will recognize some of the spots sin my post when you look at this short video. Another spot in St Lucia, and one of the most photographed places in the Caribbean is the Pitons, two cones of extinct volcanoes.   For the more adventurous, you can hire a guide to hike and climb up to the top.   You can’t anchor there as the bottom drops off sharply, even close to shore.   The mooring we took was in over 100′ of water.  Check out this post about our visit there as well as more about what we enjoyed about Marigot Bay.

There are actually a lot more posts about our visits to St Lucia and Martinique but it is sufficient to say that these islands are worth spending time exploring and I am looking forward to going to both this season.

For now, all we have to do is get through the holidays.  For sure, once we return to Antigua and Pandora we will be ready to chill out for a few weeks before we get underway again.

 

You can get Thai in Antigua.

Thanksgiving has come and gone and Brenda and I have found ourselves in the midst of a crazy, way over-scheduled, holiday season.

We arrived home in the wee hours on Monday morning, Thanksgiving week, and within a few hours we were back in the car headed to see our Son and his family including our three grandchildren in MD.  A short few days later, back to CT and another Thanksgiving dinner with friends.

We will now be home for about a week when we head back to MD for our oldest grandchild, Tori’s birthday, who turns three.  After that quick trip, we jump on a plane to spend Christmas with our other son and his girlfriend in CA.   A week there and then back to CT for a three day whirlwind to winterize the house and head back to Antigua.   Oh boy, we will need a vacation after all that but it’s going to be great to see everyone.

Yes, we will have been home for nearly 5 weeks but we will put on a lot of miles and had little time to relax.  After the life of “nothing happens before noon on Pandora”, the holidays seem nearly out-of-control hectic.

Of course, that isn’t made any easier by the pile-up of “deferred maintenance” at home for the nearly 6 weeks I was away, for the “migration to Antigua”.  Can you say “wow, that’s a lot of leaves on the yard Bob”?   Yikes, I need a vacation.

And speaking of Pandora, even if I wasn’t, a friend sent this great drone shot of her on her mooring in English Harbor where she’ll be while we are jetting around.  Awesome perspective.  Hint, she’s in the middle of the photo.In my last post I showed this photo of a “long tail” boat from Thailand owned by a friend, Paul, one of the owners of the Admiral’s Inn and promised to tell more about the boat and how it got to Antigua.    So, here goes…

So, this type of boat, known as “long tails” because of their distinctive long propeller shaft, are a common sight in Thailand.  The type is known for their simple engine and prop configurations, utilizing cheap and easy to work on, re-purposed automobile engines.  These boats come in all shapes and sizes but the common theme is that they sport an engine on a gimbal with a long straight prop shaft and no transmission, just direct drive to the prop.    Paul, visited Thailand and had this boat shipped to Antigua where he grew up and still lives.  The boat is certainly a standout, compared to the others in the harbor. Paul had offered to take me out for a spin so we met at the dock at the Admiral’s Inn.  As he approached the dock he picked the prop out of the water to put it in “neutral”, coasting up to the dock. It was very tight maneuvering to clear the dock so he had to dip the prop in and out of the water several times to get us underway.So, off we went.  A great contrast between Paul’s boat and this one in the background, “Home”.  More about that in a bit.

To pilot one of these open boats, you have to stand the entire time while underway. Note the hand crank on the seat behind Paul.  No electric start, you just put the lever into the front of the engine and hope that it doesn’t rev up and take your hand off.  These boats are very simple and the water cooling is drawn from a tube stuck in the water.   No thru-hulls to complicate things.
When at speed, you get a feel for just how dangerous this sort of “outboard” would be with a spinning prop, a boat length behind spinning just below the surface.   No going close to swimmers with this boat. I have always associated this sort of boat with James Bond, who’s Long Tail was a bit more sporty than Paul’s.Anyway, Paul’s boat is more my speed.  And, at a stately un-Bond pace, we headed  out of the entrance of beautiful English Harbor, home to the British Navy during the age of sail.   Just outside are an interesting rock formation called the Pillars of Hercules.  I am told that it is a great spot to dive or snorkel.  In the bow is Astrid, Paul’s sister and partner in the Admiral’s Inn. Paul shut off the engine for a bit and we sat for a while enjoying the view.  We drifted a bit to close to the rocks so Paul “backed” us out by turning the engine perpendicular to the boat and gave us a shove with the engine.  We headed back into the harbor and past “Home” again.   Home is a private yacht launched in 2017.  She’s really impressive, particularly given her 80′ long expanse of windows on both sides and her distinctive plumb bow.

Interestingly, she is the first displacement yacht with full hybrid propulsion, meaning that she has big generators that put power to electric motors to drive the yacht instead of separate diesel engines to drive the boat.  That approach makes sense as it isn’t efficient to drive a boat with diesel engines unless they are running at optimal speed.   Besides, a yacht of this scale has generators running 24/7 so why not run all systems, including propulsion systems from the same power supply?  Yachts like this have multiple generators that are put on line based on the amount of current needed, less at anchor and more underway. Most large yachts have some sort of special feature that makes them particularly unique and fun for their guests.  How about this spot on the bow to enjoy the view when you are underway?  The seats move up and down hydraulically I guess.  “I can fly, I can fly!”.  I guess it’s supposed to be like that scene in the movie Titanic.Makes sense if you are paying $275,000 a week to charter her in high season.  Sorry but that doesn’t include expenses and tips for the crew.   “Wow, honey, I thought that was a lot for a week long charter but this seat makes it totally a deal!”  Want to learn more so you can decide if you want to go for a ride in the seat yourself?  Check her out.

According to the luxury magazine “Hello Monaco“, that ran an article about mega-yacht ownership two years ago, there are some 10,000 mega-yachts in service world-wide and a bit less than 100 new yachts delivered each year, so there are lots of charter options to choose from.  As a point of reference, in 1979 there were only about 1,500 mega-yachts worldwide.  Tells you something about the rise of the .001% crowd.

As it costs about 10% of the build cost of the boat to staff and use a yacht each year, you’d have to charter a yacht like Home for many weeks a year to justify owning one of your own.

Decided that chartering is for you but can’t decide which boat to go for?  Not to worry, at the peak of the season last year there were around 80 of these behemoths in residence between Falmouth and English Harbors, so there’s plenty to choose from.

And, the time is right to check them out.  Starting today, December 4th, the charter yacht show opens in Antigua where you can go aboard and decide which is the perfect yacht for you.   And, as it’s so much more affordable to rent than own, you can hardly afford to wait.   And, as if that’s not enough, Home will be open for viewing.    Perhaps they will give you a ride in that cool chair.

Anyway, Home is a bit more complex than Paul’s long-tail.  And it does have a totally cool seat on the bow.  Which boat to choose?  Hmm… tough to choose.

So, there you have it, there are lots of options to enjoy your time on the water, especially in Antigua.

And, it seems, you can even get some Thai, if that’s your taste. I did and it was great.

Antigua just loves the Dawgs!

When the Salty Dawg Rally departed Hampton Virginia in early November, the majority of the fleet pointed their bows to the beautiful Caribbean island of Antigua, the “Sailing Capital of the Caribbean”, where, for the third year, the island rolled out the red carpet to celebrate our arrival.

As Port Officer in Antigua for the rally, my “job” was to organize a week of events to celebrate the arrival of the fleet.  Fortunately, everyone that I was working with on the island was thrilled to have us visit so lining up a full venue of events was pretty easy, actually.

Part of the appeal of having our group come to Antigua as we arrive several weeks before the season really gets going so our presence is really appreciated.  I was talking recently with Angie, who runs the Antigua Yacht Club restaurant, “The Clubhouse” in Falmouth and she told me that there was quite a buzz from other businesses in the area that were thrilled with how busy they were so early in the season, thanks to our rally.

We packed the docks at Nelson’s Dockyard, perhaps the most beautiful harbor in the Caribbean.  Before we arrived in mid November, the docks were pretty much empty. One of our first events, and one of our most popular with over 120 skippers and crew attending was an authentic Caribbean barbecue, compliments of Nelson’s Dockyard.  Ann-Marie Martin, the Director of the National Parks, and the Dockyard really went out of their way to make us feel welcome.  The event included a rum punch cocktails followed by a full dinner, complete with poured at the table during dinner.  The event was totally over the top.  They even had a DJ and a professional photographer, Ted, who’s photos of the event follow.  Thanks Ted!

Ann-Marie was welcoming to us, as always.  I have enjoyed working with her over the last few years and the enthusiasm that she showed for us is emblematic of the reception that the Dawgs have received in Antigua. The Chairman of the National Parks joined us and delivered a heartfelt welcome to us all.  It turned out to be a capacity crowd, double what I had estimated which caused a bit of last minute scrambling for Ann-Marie but her staff pulled it off in great style.

The evening got off to a great start with liberal amounts of rum punch all around,.No event is complete without awards and we recognized the crew of Hector, home port Germany.  They had a medical emergency while 0n passage and was visited by a USCG C130 Hercules, that dropped vital medications by parachute.  Their determination in completing the trip to Antigua was an inspiration to us all.  That orange canister was one of two that the USCG dropped to them.  All and all, a really wonderful evening. And that was just one of the week long calendar of events that the fleet enjoyed.

As in past years, we had our “Safe Arrival” dinner and cocktail parties at the Admiral’s Inn.  Inn owners, brother and sister, Paul and Astrid, went out of their way to make us feel at home.  Of course, who doesn’t want a rally flag? Poolside, the perfect spot to hold our dinner.The Inn is a spectacular venue in the heart of Nelson’s Dockyard, the only operating Georgian Dockyard in the world, once home to the British Navy during the age of sail.  Of course, we needed a “class photo”.  The Navy fought hard to retain control of English Harbor and nearby Falmouth Harbor, as the island is perfectly located as the eastern most in the Caribbean.  It is quite simply the perfect place to “cruise” to anywhere else in the Caribbean. For that reason, it remains an ideal spot to begin and end a season of cruising.

Max Fernandez, the Minister of Tourism, addressed us at a complimentary cocktail reception courtesy of The Antigua Yacht Cub.  AYC also hosted a special member/guest Thanksgiving feast to make us feel welcome.  Owner and artist Nancy Nicholson invited us to her gallery, Rhythm of Blue, for a free rum and reggae party to kick off the season. North Sails Antigua hosted what was probably the most original event, Hermit Crab Racing, to the delight of the Dawgs, complete with plenty of Carib beer and snacks.The week of events, many free, were capped off by a special toast from the Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda.    As a card carrying member, I was thrilled to introduce the Dawgs to this wonderful tradition once again. Plans are well underway for the arrival of the fleet next November and it promises to be even better so stay tuned for more info.  Better yet, follow this link to the Salty Dawg site and sign up for the free newsletter so you will “in the loop” on what’s planned.

Yes indeed, Antigua just loves the Dawgs and the Dawgs love Antigua.

We’ll be back!