Welcome to Dominica. Welcome to Paradise.

Well, we finally made it to one of the “islands that touch the clouds”, Dominica, pronounced “Domineeca”.  Most of the admittedly limited number of islands that we have visited on this trip have not been very tall and, as a result, are fairly dry with plenty of cactus and other drought tolerant plants.    However, there are other islands, especially as you get further south, that are 4,000 to 5,000 feet tall so that the winds, as they blow over the mountains, form clouds that drop their moisture on the island.

Dominica is such an island and it’s beautiful.  It was a short 4 hour sail on a terrific beam reach for us to make our way here from Les Saintes a few days ago. This is one of the most undeveloped island in the Eastern Caribbean so there aren’t many services.  I guess that crime has been a problem in the past so a number of locals got together and formed an informal security group, PAYS, to patrol the harbor, provide moorings and give tours of the island.  They are a group of independant operators, entrepreneurs, who are able and willing to help with whatever you might need.   As we approached the anchorage on the lee side of the island, Alexis roared up in his skiff to welcome us.  It seems that who ever connects with a yacht first as they enter the anchorage “owns” them for the duration.  Alexis was the first to reach us as we rounded the point and gave us his business card.   “Welcome to Dominca, Welcome to paradise.   Let me know what you need.  I’ll get it for you.”Alexis is a very charming guy and is happy to do whatever.  His specialty is tours of the island as he has a taxi as well as a nicely appointed skiff.   There were other cruisers in the harbor that we knew so once we anchored we began to make plans, of course, with the help of Alexis.

The anchorage is a busy, if bumpy, place with fisherman coming and going all the time.  This guy was very popular with the frigate birds. Before we could go ashore I had to clear in at customs.  It was a 2 mile dink run down the beach on a really nasty commercial shipping dock.  Unlike some of the other islands we have visited, there are no natural harbors in Dominica, just the “leeward” side of the island.  When storms hit there is no protection at all.

This was the “customs office”.  Pretty basic. The island is very mountainous with mountains that truly “touch the cl0uds” And, speaking of “touching the clouds” the view of the mountains from Pandora is spectacular.   And, you can clearly see the cloud forest at the top of the mountain. The next morning I decided to go for a hike with some of our cruising friends. Brenda stayed aboard to do the laundry and relax as we were told that the “hike” was going to involve a LOT of up and down.  We took at bus, a sort of minivan jammed with locals, up and over the mountain pass to the windward side of the mountain as that’s where the forest is more lush.    The bus dropped us off at the beginning of a well marked trail.  The national park service has laid out many trails on the island.

We passed this cow as we entered the forest.The view that greeted us as we entered the trailhead was amazing. And we spent the next four hours winding our way up and down through spectacular ravines.We would climb up impossibly steep hills and then go down again.   The switchback trails were muddy but passable.   These photos don’t begin to do justice to how amazing the views were. Everywhere we went there were beautiful flowers.   This vine was draped for hundreds of feet from tree to tree. I particularly loved these red flowers.  They were everywhere. I am always on the lookout for orchids and wasn’t disappointed.  However, I only say one in flower,  a “Lady of the night” Brassovola Nodosa.    They are very common and flower high up in the canopy.   They bloom more than once a year unlike most of the others that only bloom in the spring at the beginning of the rainy season in late spring.  They are very fragrant at night.   I saw plenty of other orchids but they weren’t in flower.   These are likely a member of the Cattleya or Laelia families.  All these plants look about the same when they are not blooming but their flowers are spectacular.  I wish they were in flower while I was there.   Here’s a sample of some Dominica stamps, including Brassavola Nodosa in the lower right. Orchids grow in the very top of trees, attached to branches so they can get lots of light.  However, fungus grow down low and don’t need so much light.   These tiny mushrooms were on a log.  Each one is only the size of a pea.Everywhere I turned there were beautiful leaves and flowers.  These were about 3′ across.   Impressive with the afternoon light streaming through the canopy. As we took the bus over the mountain pass to reach the windward side of the island the air was much cooler, the part of the island near the clouds.  Tree ferns, sometimes 15′ tall, were everywhere.   Hard to imagine a fern that large. Everything competes for light.  This bamboo stand was perhaps 60′ tall, perhaps taller.  When in active growth, this member of the grass family can grow several feet per day.   The “stalks”, actually individual “blades” of grass, were about 5-6″ wide.   Bamboo is known to be quite invasive and I can only imagine trying to control something like this in a home garden.   “Bob, the bamboo broke through the cement patio again last night. Would you get out the chainsaw and cut down that new growth.”  I know of such things from personal experience as we had bamboo in our garden for years but ours was only 1″ wide and perhaps 15″ tall.  Still a handful to control.
Every tree seemed to be bigger than the last.
As we came over each ridge the view was spectacular.
In some areas local farmers had cleared the woods to grow bananas or other crops.  After a few years, they let the forest reclaim the land.  It opens up the canopy and lets new plants take hold in a sort of sustainable agriculture approach.
As things grow back, begonias and other delicate plants take hold.
I am not used to seeing such flowers growing “wild”.  We saw plenty of birds like this hummingbird out for a morning snack.  There are many native varieties here with all the native flowers.
There are no poisonous snakes on the island but this lizard, about 3′ long looked plenty fearsome.  It doesn’t show but he had a decidedly blue hue.
The locals “farm” in the forest and pick the fruit when it is ready for market.  This is cocoa.   Interestingly, the “fruit”, about 6-8″ long grow right out of the trunk of the tree.
At the bottom of one of the ravines there was a beautiful babbling brook.   I was dying for a swim but everyone else seemed intent on pressing on.  Perhaps they were afraid that if they stopped they wouldn’t be able to get up again without a nap.  So, on we walked, up and down, and up and down again, through hill and dale, mostly hill for several hours.  After that, out on the road we stopped for a cold beer before we caught a bus back to town and “home”.
All and all, a wonderful “walk in the woods”.  Amazing.

This morning we went ashore early to the Saturday farmer’s market.  Unlike many of the more arid islands, agriculture is big here with a wonderful selection of fruits and vegetables.   Coconuts grow everywhere and MANY coconuts are opened up to fill bottles with “water”.   A big pile of “nuts”. We bought flowers from this lady.  I loved her outfit.  She was well put together to encourage sales. We probably bought more produce than we can eat but it all looked so inviting. So, back to Alexis.  Remember him, the guy who greeted us as we sailed into the anchorage a few days ago?  We, along with several other cruisers, hired him to give us a tour of the nearby Indian River.  As he rowed up the river, no motors allowed, he entertained us with a very enjoyable patter of local historic lore.  I expect that at least some of it was actually true. He sat up in the bow pulling the skiff against the gentle river current.    During the rainy season, think hurricanes, the water level is about 8′ higher and the river, impassable.
There was plenty of wildlife to take in.  This heron was busy looking for lunch, which he found.We passed another tour boat returning from their visit.  Cute kids. One of the “attractions” was an abandoned “set” from one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies.   I can’t imagine where Johnny Depp stayed while they filmed the scene on the river as the roads are rough and I didn’t see any hotels nearby.It looked pretty convincing that a sorcerer would live here.  This is a scene from the movie filmed here.   I’d say that “you had to be there” and we were. The trees on the side of the river left plenty to the imagination. It would be easy for an overactive imagination to see these roots come to life at the stroke of midnight during a full moon. At the “head” of the river we visited a charming bar.  One of the “bar keeps” was cooking up some sort of fruit concoction that would be fortified with rum, what else?Bob and Carol, our fellow explorers.  They too are from the NYC area and have spent the winter cruising the same islands as me and Brenda. I can’t help it.  A picture of me and Brenda too.  We enjoyed meeting these two young couples who had sailed over from Europe, with their young children.  Both in their own boats.    Adventurous, for sure. River tour access is carefully controlled, which is good.  It’s a busy place but done in a way that ensures that it will remain a popular attraction for many more years.

When Alexis came out to welcome us to his country as we rounded the point the other day, he exclaimed “Welcome to paradise, welcome to Dominica”.  I agree.

We plan to spend a few more days here before we head back to Antigua later next week so there’s still plenty to do before we go.

Well, time for a swim so I’d better sign off for now.

Oh yeah, speaking of swimming.  Last evening just before sunset I took this photo of someone going for a swim, tarzan style.  I guess if you take enough photos, and I take plenty, you get lucky.   I guess that’s really it for now.  Stay tuned.

Pandora in Guadeloupe. Really?

When I think about Brenda and me aboard our first boat, a 20′ Cape Cod Catboat, way back in 1979, making weekend voyages measured in a few days and runs of a dozen miles at most, I can’t believe that I am writing this post from near Guadalupe of all places.

I can tell you that I NEVER imagined I’d be here much less sailing around tropical waters together for months at a time each winter.  I am indeed a very lucky guy.   And speaking of Brenda, here she is from yesterday at Fort Napoleon with Guadaloupe in the distance.  And, to do this with Brenda, the very same woman who has a photo of me from our senior prom wearing a light blue powder blue tux with dark blue piping, all the while sporting a particularly dashing Dutch-boy haircut.    I guess she wasn’t thinking “power blue tux” or sailing thousands of miles with me for that matter, when she said “yes” over forty years ago.   WHAT WAS SHE THINKING?  Oops!

I guess Ill leave it at that for now.  Don’t want to jinx it.

Anyway, yesterday we rented a golf cart to tour the island with our new cruiser friends on Hi Flight.    Unlike the one we rented a few years ago in Rum Cay Bahamas with our friends Dick and Anne of Nati, this one even had brakes.  Good thing as the hills were very, very steep.  Steep hills make for spectacular views.  Is there possibly any more spectacular view anywhere?  Here’s Dominica in the distance.  Actually, it’s looking good for us to visit there for a few days beginning tomorrow before we head back to Antigua. Each beach was more beautiful than the next.
With views from the fort like this, it would have been tough for anyone to sneak up on the French unless they were busy eating croissants and drinking local rum.
The fort had all the comforts of home for those Napoleonic soldiers, if in a severe masonry sort of way.  I doubt that they played cricket in this courtyard.  “Sacrebleu!  Banish the thought you English sympathizer you… To the guillotine!”  It seems that there were regular cruise line routes from France to Guadeloupe in the days before transatlantic air travel was common.  This cruise line poster was on display in the museum for the Ile de France, a steamship liner that my mother Shirley traveled to Europe aboard after graduating from college in the early 50s. She was in good company as Christopher Columbus also sailed the ocean blue although a few years before, aboard the Santa Maria.  Yes, I realize that was an awkward segue.  Anyway, here’s a nice model of his ship in the museum.  I’ll bet that this fort kitchen got plenty hot.  “Napoleon! Napoleon! your baguettes will be out of the oven soon.  It’s so frigging hot in here so hurry up!”I mentioned in a recent post that Brenda and I used to grow orchids so we are always attracted to them in our travels.   This one was in spike but not yet flowering.  I expect that the flowers are small and green, not terribly showy.  The plant is huge with “bulbs” over 1′ long.  The flower spikes are nearly 5′ long. The fort was in active use for only about 10 years.  Unfortunately, the museum descriptions were all in French and there wasn’t much about the history of the fort itself and what it might have looked like prior to restoration.  However, it’s obvous that a lot of time has been spent restoring it over the years.  Impressive attention to detail.
Perhaps I’ll close with the view from where we had lunch yesterday.  Not to shabby.  Even better, the food was French.  So, here we are in the Caribbean with plans to come back next winter.  Me and Brenda, and I for one, never imagined that this would happen so many years ago as I dressed for the prom in my powder blue tux.  Hey wait, it was almost the color of the water here.  Perhaps it was an omen?

So here we are in Guadeloupe.  And all I can say is “Really?”

Tomorrow, on to Dominica.

“It’s the prettiest place I have ever been.”

The title of today’s post.  “It’s the prettiest place I have ever been.” was uttered by Brenda after our first day here in Le Saintes, near Guadeloupe .  That description is in keeping with the sorts of comments we have heard this winter when we asked “what’s your favorite island?”.

I have to agree and should add that it comes with some of the best food we have EVER eaten.  How about foie gras with seared tuna, a sort of “surf and turf” for the refined palate and you get a good feel for what this place is like.

This is the view that greeted me today from Pandora’s cockpit.  Actually, I had been up for an hour or more but work with me on this.  What a view.    Perhaps rainbows are the new sunsets… A short while later a three masted schooner entered the bay under billowing clouds. Today we are renting a golf cart, electric of course, to tour the island with some new cruising friends.   One of our first stops will be at Fort Napoleon overlooking the harbor.  Of course, this area of the Caribbean saw some pretty intense action between the British and French and just about every harbor seems to have it’s own fort.

As you’d imagine, forts tend to be up on hills and getting there can be challenging in mid day heat.   However, in order to justify my daily ice cream fix, I just had to walk up there.  I made it.  “How about an ice cream Bob?”   Yes, indeed.

Pandora is in that mess boats, trust me on that.  And, to prove it, a sort of up close shot. The town looked so picturesque from up on the hill.  All those little fishing boats.  I guess that’s why seafood is such a large part of menu selections. Some mid size cruise ships frequent this island, places that the ships with 4,000 passengers can’t frequent.  This was one of the larger ones. I was particularly smitten by this one, the MS Serenissima, a boutique ship that’s limited to only 100 passengers.  She’s 50 years old and was recently refitted.  I tried to get a tour but alas, no luck.  I did get a lovely brochure at least.  They do cruises in Europe all summer.  That would be so much fun.  They are part of the Noble Caledonia line of smallish cruise ships.
Anyway, I hiked up to the fort only to learn that it was closed on Sunday afternoons.  No logic, at least that I have been able to detect, to when the French close up shop.   So, we will head up there today via golf cart to make the climb easier.

I’ll have more to say about our visit soon but for now how about some “outside the gate” photos.   The fort sports some very impressive walls and even a mote.  I could almost hear Monty Python actors spraying insults from the top of the wall in a heavy French accent. I ignored a No Trespassing sign (heck they were closed) and walked all around the perimeter.  I don’t speak French but the sign I ignored didn’t look particularly inviting.    That tree looked like the perfect shady spot for a lioness and her cubs to lounge around in the heat of the day.   Alas, only goats, always goats. Under the category of “life always finds a way”, I was impressed with the Ficus trees that were growing out of tiny cracks in the walls.   This tree really wants to live.  Not the easiest spot to grow. The water here is very clear and blue, blue.  Not as clear as the Bahamas but beautiful, never the less.
Well, I guess that’s about it for now.  We are meeting for coffee with our friends before heading out for the day.

I agree Brenda, this is a really beautiful spot.  Can I have another baguette?  I guess that will just have to wait until after my first croissant of the day.

Le Saintes, weathered into a French gem

It’s Sunday morning and we are sitting on a mooring here in Le Saintes, a small archipelago of French owned islands off of the coast of Guadaloupe.  These islands, as are much of the eastern Caribbean island chain, are remnants of ancient volcanoes, a few, that are still somewhat active.

However, Le Saintes are much older, in geologic time, so have worn down to a fraction of their original elevation.  You can still see clearly, in some of the rock outcroppings, their volcanic origins.  This shot, of nearby Pain de Sucre surely looks like the remnants of something thrust up from deep in the earth. The town we are visiting, the largest in Le Saintes is called Bourg de Saintes. This collection of islands is actually a part of Guadaloupe so we didn’t have to check in after leaving Guadaloupe.   The waterfront is lined with quaint little shops and restaurants.  It’s very popular with tourists who come over from the mainland by the ferry full all day long to enjoy the beaches and village.

Doesn’t it just look so Mediterranean?
The water in the harbor is really too deep, at about 45′,  for anchoring so they have put in moorings nearly everywhere.  That’s probably the best thing and they don’t cost much, less than $15/day for a boat the size of Pandora, less if you stay a week. There are more boats than moorings though, so it’s a race to see who can get to an open mooring when one opens up.  The other day we raced to try and get the only open one only to have a local launch roar up in front of us to snag it for someone else.  “Saved seat!”.   They reminded me that there was plenty of space to anchor about a mile from town.   Thanks a lot as it’s a wet run to town.  The moorings are much better.

Main Street is very charming. Every building painted bright happy colors. I liked this shabby chic building with a local vendor selling her hand made jewelry parked out in front. Much of the island that is just too rough and steep to build on.  However, where they are homes, they adhere tightly to a particular style, red roof and all.   I expect that there are strict codes to be sure that nothing is built that will threaten the local flavor, or “Frenchness”. On main street there is a very nice church.  Yesterday afternoon the choir was singing and it wafted out onto the street.  Many tourists, including me, were milling around enjoying the sounds. The view from the steps of the church was very soothing.   Love the lamp. Not sure that this rooster was too focused on the music, or me, for that matter.
Before we left Deshais Guadeloupe to sail down here a few days ago we were visited by a swarm of honey bees that tried to set up shop under our bimini.  It was really alarming to see how many there were, thousands.  In only a few moments the “clump” grew in size.  For more than an hour I tried everything to discourage them.   I sprayed water, poked at them with a boat hook but nothing would deter them with more and more arriving every moment.  No amount of harassing kept the swarm from growing to what looked like “pounds” of bees.  Finally, when the mass doubled in size yet again I gave up and broke out a can of bug spray that I had put on board in anticipation of a possible roach problem in Cuba.  I hated to do it but they were clearly settling in for a long visit.  I didn’t see evidence of the queen but was really worried what might happen if she showed up.

At first the spray just riled them up and then they would just settle into another spot on the bimini.  Then they started to coat the solar panels.  More spraying and a LOT of VERY pissed-off bees.  Finally, after a few hours they were gone.  Amazingly, I didn’t get stung.

The next day we moved on and sailed down the leeward side of Guadaloupe.  It’s interesting to make passage down the lee side of a large island like Guadaloupe, with mountains that are thousands of feet high, as the winds can be quite variable as they tumble over the highlands.   Deshais harbor, in particular, is known for funneling the winds so that anything more than 15kts on the windward side of the island blasts through the harbor at twice that speed.

It was plenty windy as we pulled up the anchor in Deshais, gusting to the mid 20s, but by the time we were a few miles out the wind settled down nicely and we had a terrific sail down island, hitting more than 9kts through the water a few times.  And, all of that on perfectly smooth water.

We had been told that as you approach either end of a large island, the wind funnels past the headlands boosting the wind speed to about 10kts more than the actual or gradient wind.  This only lasts for a few miles, either side of the headlands, and then settles down again.  The wind direction is also “bent” or diverted so that while we were on a beam reach for much of our trip, we suddenly found ourself hard on the wind with 25kts+ as we rounded the point.

Fortunately, things settled down again a few miles out so we were able to find our way here with a minimum of fuss.

Sailing between islands that are so mountainous is a very different experience for us, especially when compared with the low lying Bahamas where the land has no effect on the wind.   It’s also a lot less stressful with thousands of feet of water under the boat when compared to mere feet in the Bahamas.

So, here we are visiting yet another charming and oh-so-French island.  Brenda has declared that it’s the prettiest place that we have ever visited.  That’s good as we will likely be here for about a week as some weather is developing north of the Bahamas that will likely bring adverse winds to this part of the eastern Caribbean.  With that in mind, we will just stay put till things settle down later in the week and not probably not venture any further south on this trip.

After that, we will head back to Antigua in anticipation of Brenda’s flight home.

Perhaps I’ll close with a shot of town from the bow of Pandora.  Yes, a really charming spot and  a good one to be “weathered” into.   Such are the compromises of the disadvantaged cruiser.   Somehow we will just have to cope.   Wish us luck.

The many colors of Guadaloupe.

Yesterday Brenda and I decided to visit a local botanical garden in Deshaies that was highly recommended by a number of cruisers that we have met, the Jardin Botanique de Deshaies gardens.   Brenda and I have been to quite a few botanical gardens over the years but never a “real” tropical one.  It was wonderful.  I took plenty of photos and frankly don’t know which are the best.  Having said that, here you go.

As you enter the gardens this is the view that greets you, a beautiful reflecting pool. The pond is teeming with koi, all looking for a hand out.   “Feed me, feed me”.They have a lovely cafe on top of a waterfall.   We had lunch there with another cruising couple, Dale and Cori of Hi Flite, who we met when Cori offered to take our photo. They have lived aboard for 14 years.  We enjoyed getting to know them a little bit.
This is the shot that got us together.   We thought that a photo of us in front of a poinsetta would prove that we haven’t forgotten that it’s winter somewhere. I have absolutely no idea what this flower is but it’s the size of a grapefruit and grew on a very tall stalk that looked a lot like bamboo, but wasn’t.Of course, we have seen these before but never in such profusion.   Actually, I have always seen them as part of an arrangement in a hotel lobby.  They are about 3′ tall.  The plant itself, 20′.Bananna flower stalk.  You can see the baby banannas lower down the stalk.
Everywhere you looked there was a riot of colors and textures.  Very well laid out to be viewed as grand spaces…As well as intimate corners.   A lovely “fallen” tree, repleat with bromiliads overhanging a pond. With all the lush vegitation, birds of all kinds.
Brenda and I used to have a greenhouse and have a soft spot in our hearts for orchids, especially phalanopsis.  Stag horn ferns are also a favorite of ours. There was an aviary we could walk inside of.  Many parrots flying all around. This arbor, a sort of rainforest tunnel, sprayed a fine mist every few minutes.  It was covered by a tangle of vines.
Crazy flowers hanging inside and the very oddest color.  They looked like they were dyed this odd color of blue.  Very fleshy and each cluster was about 18″ long.  Here and there, cozy sitting areas to sit and enjoy the scenery. Of course, what botanical garden is complete without flamingos?  Unfortunately, these were not the bright pink one associates with these as that color comes from a diet heavy with brine shrimp.  The birds are healthy but not that impossibly pink color that they are in nature as they don’t get live shrimp all the time. Plenty of bring colors though, to make up for the rather drab flamingos including this Macaw parrott. Or this impossibly red passion flower, named after the stations of the cross. Of course, what post is complete without a shot of me standing in front of a tree? Earlier in the day I watched as a local fishing boat slowly motored around the harbor while one of the crew tossed bits of grass onto the water.  I can only imagine that the “flotsum” was put out with the hope of enticing schools of small fish to rise to the surface.   After a while the crew became very animated and began putting a long net over the side, encircling a school of fish. They drew the ends of the net together and began to pull it into a smaller and smaller circle. Eventually, they drew the net completely closed and pulled it aboard, a teeming mass of silvery little fish.  I don’t know what kind of fish they are but they appear on menus at the local restraunts.  Sardines perhaps?  I guess we will find out tonight when we eat out. This is such an interesting place and to see fisherman practicing an age old process of catching fish for the market was wonderful to watch.  In it’s own way, it was as colorful as the flowers and birds of The Jardin Botanique de Deshaies.

We expect to stay here for perhaps another day and then may head a bit further south before we turn north again to head back to Antigua.

Guadaloupe, finally! Baguette anyone?

Well, we did it.  We left Antigua after nearly a month.  Don’t get me wrong, it is a very nice island but the bread?  Well, let’s just say that it’s not French.

Our son Christopher left two days ago to head back to San Francisco after an all too short visit.    It’s the first time in a few years that we have actually seen him relaxed and not thinking about work every waking moment.   He was quite disiplined about email and I don’t think he even looked once.  Amazing.

However, he did spend time reading up on quantum computing.  That’s what he does.  Don’t know what that is?  Ask him, I guess.

He explained that the papers he was reading were hard to understand (no kidding) but after the second reading he, sort of, got it.

Notice his “lobster” complexion?  That’s what happens when you visit the tropics after spending 18 hours a day in a lab for months… Oops!We visited Shirley Heights on Sunday evening with about 1000 of our closest friends.  It was a lot different from when Christopher and I hiked up there a few days earlier.  However, what a beautiful place to watch the sunset.   And, it seemed that just about every tourist in Antigua thought the same thing.

Here’s Critter and his mom.  That’s what his older brother called him when he was too little to pronounce Christopher.
Our friends Bill and Maureen of Kalunamoo went with us.    They are our closest cruising friends and they too spent a long time in Antigua, mostly with us. Ok, ok, how about a nice shot of Critter and his proud parents? Now that all the portraits are out of the way let’s move on to sunsets.  And, you know how much I like sunsets.    As Shirley Heights is considered the perfect spot to view such things, let’s have a few more shots of a remarkable display. “Bob, don’t stop… More sunsets, please.”  Ok, just one more, if you insist.Before Christopher left us to fly back home, we decided to move from English Harbor to Falmouth for a change of scenery.  It was amazing how lumpy it was outside of the harbor from all the strong winds.  Fortunately, it’s calmed down now so we could make the run to Guadaloupe.

Remember when I mentioned that we had snagged someone else’s anchor in English Harbor when we dropped it to back down to med moor?  Well we did, so we knew that we would have to hire a diver to untangle things.  They followed our anchor chain all the way out to the “tangle” and attached a lift bag to our anchor and filled it up with air.  Up came the anchor.   I reeled in the chain, anchor, diver and all.   Brenda kept Pandora in forward gear, still tied to the seawall to keep the boat us from hitting the dock. When the diver and anchor were near the bow he untied everything and we were on our way.  It was quite simple.  All it takes is $60U.S.  Tangles are so common in English harbor that there are divers on call all day long so they can come to the rescue, for a price, at a moment’s notice.  They are very busy divers.
So, after taking Christopher to the airport and drying off the tears, Brenda and I headed off for a bit of sightseeing.

We visited a, sort of, restored, sugarcane plantation called Betty’s Hope.   One of the windmills used to crush the cane is still operational and does demonstrations on certain days.  There were no “sails” on when we were there as they were not open.  However, the native goat community was in full swing. They kept careful tabs on my every move.  Some stood on a wall seemingly to say “You’re obviously not from around these parts.  You can go now.”There were some “kids”, so young that their umbillical cords hadn’t yet dropped off.
Fast forward to yesterday when we headed out to make the 50 mile run to Guadaloupe.   The forecast was for gradiant wind of about 10-15 kts.   When going between islands the wind is strongly effected by the high peaks of the islands.  As you leave the lee of an island you often see much stronger winds as they are funneled around the end of the island making the wind near the islands about 10kts stronger than the speed of the actual wind.   This meant that we had winds of over 20kts as well as a passing squall to contend with as we left Antigua.

After we were about 5 miles out things settled down nicely.   As we approached Guadaloupe things picked up again but backed a bit so the stronger winds were from behind the beam, giving us a pleasant run.  Once we were in the lee of the island we lost much of the wind and had to turn on the motor.

That’s the drill, we have been told, when you go from island to island.   Along the way we let out a fishing line.   Happily, we caught a small tuna.    Brenda prepared a ceviche tuna salad but without a recipe and little experience with such things, she wasn’t very happy with the results.  Oh well, better luck next time. So, here we are, anchored in Deshaies harbor Guadaloupe.  A picturesque fishing village.  It’s beautiful and oh, so French.  What a sight, a tiny village tucked into the base of the moutains.
Interestingly, clearing into a French island is so simple, unlike Antigua which involved three offices and multiple forms as well as a meaningful fee.  In the French islands you can clear using a computer, in this case, at a “T” shirt shop and all for 4 Euros.   I guess they know you are really more interested in a good meal so they don’t want you to waste any more time on paperwork than is absolutely required.

Everything is neat and tidy in town with a beautiful montain backdrop. I saw a lady selling ice cream out of two old fashioned hand churns. There was quite a line of folks waiting for their turn.   I hadn’t yet found a way to get Euros so I couldn’t have one myself.  Well, perhaps today. Guadeloupee is the first of the “islands that brush the clouds” that we have visited so we hope to spend time in the rainforest on the windward side of the island in the next day or so.     So, for the next few days, we are anchored in this beautiful spot.    Well, I guess I had better sign off for now as it’s time to head ashore so we can eat a croissant.  Oh yeah, we had a baguette last evening with some nice cheese and a bottle of French rose.  So glad to be with the French again.

I so needed a baguette.  All better now.

Christopher is here! And the SSB…still DOA.

It’s Saturday and we are tied up in Nelson’s Dockyard and still in Antigua.   We have some pretty impressive big boat neighbors.  Interestingly, when we dropped our anchor to back up to the bulkhead, our anchor snagged the chain on one of the other boats.  Great.  We will now have the pleasure of hiring a diver to untangle things when we leave. What a racket with divers standing by “just in case”.   I’ll bet it’s nearly always the case given the number of snags and anchors running every which way. Our son Christopher arrived a few days ago from San Francisco for a visit.   We were concerned that he’d get tied up in all the winter weather related flight delays due to the snow in the NE but happily, that didn’t happen.  Is it really winter?  Funny, we haven’t noticed.

Between the scramble to get everything done at work and the long flight, a red-eye, he arrived pretty worn out but has rallied to spend time with his very excited parents.

Anyway, he’s here and we are really enjoying his time with us.  Here he is catching up on his reading.  Nice view.  We’ve taken it easy and not tried to pack too much into his short visit of less than a week but yesterday Christopher and I walked up to Shirley Heights, a historic spot way up on the top of one of the local mountains overlooking English and Falmouth Harbors. What a sight.  If you look really really closely, there’s Panodra…Now wait, I’ll zoom in.  That’s better.  She’s on the right with her stern too the bulkhead. Christopher tollerated his dad.  “Chris, pose for a photo op”.  It was a pretty long walk from the Dockyard and along the way we saw a number of goats keeping the grass, such as it is on this dry island, clipped short.  Not a lot to eat. A mother and her kid, that’s what they are called, did their best to keep ahead of us.  The “kid” complained a lot.  Not sure if it was because of us or if his mother was walking too fast.  “Maaam, I’m hot. You are walking too fast.  Who are those people and why are they following us?”  “Just keep quiet and eat your cud.”Along the way, a century plant.  The flower stalk is impossibly large.  I believe that the plant dies after it flowers but don’t think that it actually takes a century to get that big.  If it does.  Guess what Horatio?  That seedling you saw when you ran your dockyard here.  Well, it finally flowered.   Nice place, by the way. Shirley Heights is named after some guy.  Not my mother Shirley though.  It’s named after Sir Shirley, or whatever his name was, that lived there back in Lord Nelson’s time.  It’s now eautifully preserved and dinner is served a few nights a week.  It’s very popular as a spot to watch the sunset.  We are going to go there on Sunday with Christopher.   Very charming spot.  However, one walk up the hill is enough.  On Sunday… taxi.On our way back, Christopher and I opted for the cross country route down to the water.  It was a dramatic walk with some pretty steep scrambles.  Antigua is a fairly dry island and this part, in the lee of the prevailing winds, is particularly dry.  The vegetation works hard to stay alive.On our way to pick Christopher up at the airport Brenda and I took the scenic route through a part of the island that is more lush. It’s not exactly rainforest but much less dry.  It’s on the eastern part of the island which is more mountainous and much steeper.  As the trade winds blow off of the ocean they tend to drop their moisture in that area.   Much more lush than where Pandora is tied up.We stopped at a farm stand for some banannas.  We passed some beautiful beaches.  This “pirate ship” was moored off of the beach.  I couldn’t figure out how there could be so many on board a boat that looked, well, so “piratie”
and why it was so oddly moored by many lines off of the beach.   I realized this morning when looking more closely at the photo that it was a photo shoot.  Note the boom microphone in this closeup.  “Ahoy matie, brace the yardarm or I’ll keelhaul ya!”Oh, and speaking of being “keel hauled” or “raked over the coals” as it were. I should also update you on the status of my SSB radio quandry.  Well, we FINALLY got to the bottom of it yesterday when the electronics guy was on board  yet AGAIN.  I have been repeatedly saying that the tuner, the ONLY part of the unit that hasn’t been replaced, might not be working correctly and he, repeatedly insisted that it was.  Well, both he and I contacted the manufacturer and, what do you know, it’s not working correctly.    Surprise!

So a new tuner on the way finally but now without a LOT of hours wasted trying to figure things out and finally learning that a relatively simple solution is at hand.  Well, we will have to see how it turns out when the tuner comes in.  What a pain.  This “mole” has been a real bear to kill.

Never mind on that for now.  Christopher is here and we are happy.   Really happy.

As Christopher is so busy at work he NEVER reads our blogs.  Perhaps we will have a marathon reading to him today so we can catch him up.   Perhaps not.

Snorkling is probably a better idea.

With that, I’ll sign off for now.  Time to make coffee.

 

The colors of Antigua.

Yes, we are still in Antigua and will be here for at least another week.  And, that’s because our son Christopher will be arriving here tomorrow.  After months of anticipating the POSSIBILITY that he would be able to take some time off and that he’d be able to visit us in the Caribbean, it’s actually happening.

So, here we are, in our third week in Antigua a country that I actually never imagined visiting until a year or so ago.  Such is life.  I guess you never know until you know.

Yesterday we had a big “first” when we successfully, well mostly successfully, completed a Mediterranean Moor with Pandora.  A Med Moor, as it’s generally known, is not commonly practiced in the U.S., where marinas have individual slips that you tie up in, involves approaching a bulkhead, dropping an anchor about three boat lengths away and then backing down until the stern is a foot of so from the bulkhead.  And here’s where it really gets interesting, this is all done between boats that are also moored in the same way on either side.

Brenda and I had never done this before so we really didn’t know what to expect. My plan was to put the tender, Pandora’s dinghy, off of the bow so when we backed down it would be out of the way and not likely to be sandwiched between us and the two boats that we were going to tie up between.    Normally, when we anchor, Brenda handles the helm and I deal with the anchor but in this case we opted to have her manage the anchor, deploying it as I backed toward the bulkhead.

Our friend Bill, from Kalunamoo, came along to help in case we ran into trouble. Fortunately, there were also a number of hands on the dock to help guide us in. And, to make things even more interesting, we would be backing into the wind.

When everything and everyone seemed to be ready we approached.  Brenda dropped the anchor on my “command” and we began backing toward the bulkhead.   Looking good, well at least until a few moments later when the anchor chain began dropping into the dink, that was now trailing off of the bow, instead of into the water.  Oops.  I had not anticipated that problem and the moment the chain began to get tight, compliments of chain piling up in the dink, I lost control of the boat.  In spite of the thrust from my bow thruster, we were dropping down toward one of the boats , also moored on either side of our intended path.

I increased the reverse power and was able to continue making progress as the chain was pulled out of the dink, really, really slowly.  By this time we were up against another boat but the “hands” were able to fend off, mostly.

One thing lead to another and we were finally able to get close to the bulkhead and were tied up.  No loss of life, or paint.  Success, if not an elegant approach.

Now we know.  Don’t let the dink trail off of the bow.  Problem solved. Well until the next time we have to do a Med Moor, which will be today when we move over to English Harbor and Nelson’s dockyard.   Wish us luck.

Here’s Pandora all snug in her berth.   You can see that pesky anchor line trailing off of the bow to keep her off of the bulkhead. The reason we decided to come into the marina was to have the electrician finish up the SSB installation.  It’s about done with a bit of “mopping up” this morning. It’s hard to believe that a DC-DC converter this big is needed to power the SSB. It’s the size of a shoe box and costs as much as a the designer shoes that would fit in that box.Our neat and tidy Pandora was trashed for the day. And from the “gift that keeps on giving department” the electrician now tells me that the AIS that was damaged in the power surge of the “roasting” SSB can’t be fixed so he has ordered from Europe.  Oh great.   This SSB had better work as it’s costing a bundle to get in place and operational.  “Can you hear me now?”

Anyway, enough of that for now.   How about I get to the title of this post, “The Colors of Antigua”.

I decided to go for a short walk this morning to take some photos around the marina.  The other day I posted a photo of a remarkable caterpillar that I had spied nearby.  These beautiful yellow flowered bushes are a favorite food for the Pseudosphinx tetrio moth.  When it’s done being a caterpillar, it’s a big moth although I can’t vouch for that from first hand experience. So, as you’d expect, it comes from a very large caterpillar, some 6″-8″ long.  Very colorful.  I generally think that a lowly caterpillar becomes a much more beautiful butterfly.  Not in this case, from my perspective at least, the moth is a step down from it’s predecessor.  I have always loved turtles and a lady in the marina office has a number of young red footed tortoises in a basin with her at work.  She says that she breeds them in captivity and that these are about 8 weeks old.   These babies are small , about 4″ now but can grow to nearly 16″ long when adult.  I do wonder about the “breeding” part as it is reported that over collecting has made this species nearly extinct.  It is wide ranging in northern South America and I guess the islands too. This one didn’t seem to be very upset being held by me for his/her beauty shot. Remarkably, they have red feet.   I am partial to these, palms?  Paradise plants? Whatever they are called.  They look so exotic.
Hibiscus have always been one of my favorite flowers and this one, with it’s delicate fringes, is really stunning.  We generally have at least one variety on our porch for the summer at home. Mahi-Mahi are common in these waters and on restaurant menus.   A charter fishing boat came in mid day yesterday with a large catch.  The biggest one was over 4′ long.  Their colors are brilliant while they are alive but still pretty dramatic when they “aren’t”. There’s a boat in the marina that has had workers swarming all over it for weeks now.  They refinished the dink that’s stored on the bow.  What a stunner, the “mother ship” is too, like a piece of fine furniture, but it’s covered with masking tape and brown paper while it’s paint is touched up so sorry, no picture.   The amount of attention given to the larger boats, all of which have full time crew, is impressive.  Look at this beautiful awning to keep the sun off of all the expensive varnish.  It must take hours to put it up and remove it when they want to go sailing.  This surely suggests that this boat spends a lot of time tied up.

Note the kayak nearby on the dock, complete with it’s own custom cover.  That’s attention to detail.  It just wouldn’t do to have a garishly colored kayak on deck would it?Antiguans, if that’s what they call themselves, love to paint their homes bright colors.   Even the most humble homes are painted in fun colors. A few nights ago Brenda and I had a drink at Pillars, in Nelson’s Dockyard.  It’s a lovely spot with curtains blowing in the breeze, completing the ethereal moment as the sun set behind the hills. Tied up to the dock in front of the restaurant were two ocean rowing boats.   These were participants in an annual race, the Atlantic Challenge, from the Canary Islands off Africa, I think, and 3,000 miles from Antigua where they finish.   Billed as the toughest rowing race in the world, some 30 competitors SLOWLY make their way over a period of months, they left in December and it’s now March, to complete the course.  Win or loose, you win if you can make it all the way, I would think.   Talisker Whiskey is the sponsor and that’s a good thing as the competitors will surely need a stiff drink after completing their journey.

The boats are only about 20′ long and seem impossibly small to cross an ocean.  Tiny though they are, they are plenty high tech, complete with all manner of electronics and solar power.  However, you still have to just row and row and row.   And this one had photos of children plastered all over, probably as a reminder to keep rowing and not let them down. IT TAKES A VERY LONG TIME to row across the Atlantic and there were goose barnacles hanging off of the bow to prove it.  I’ll bet that there are plenty below the waterline too.  I’ll bet that really helps the boat go faster.  Not.So, there you have it, some of the colors of Antigua.  However, the continuing saga of Pandora’s SSB suggests that the “color” that she’s inspiring is more “green” with the hours piling up on this job.

Oh well, as my dad used to say “It’s only money.”  Yes, and the color green.

“What do you do aboard Pandora all day? Really!”

It’s Sunday morning and we have been here in Antigua for nearly three weeks, with no end in sight.   Our plan, when we arrived here, was to stay for a week and then move south to Guadeloupe and explore some of the other islands near there and then return to Antigua and meet up with our son Christopher for a week.

However, as is so often the case, boat repairs and more recently, weather, has conspired to keep us here.  So here we are so I thought that take a moment and share what a typical day aboard Pandora is like as we sit here.  Did I mention that we have been in Antigua for nearly three weeks?  Thought so.  It’s been a long time but it’s better than Cleveland in March for sure.

In my last life, when I was working,  my day got off to a rousing start really early, usually in the dark, immediately breaking out in a cold sweat, wondering what trauma I’d be dealing with when I got to the office.  That would be quickly followed by a quick cup of coffee before I headed to the office where I would “run” non-stop for something like 12 hours and then return home exhausted, eat dinner, sleep and begin the whole process all over again.  That went on for more than a few years but not nearly as long as it might have so I feel lucky, very lucky.

Our new life?  Well, it’s different.   “Like no kidding Bob”.   There are similarities but it’s a lot LOT less structured, and much SLOWER.   Actually, not much of note really happens before late morning, even though I get up quite early, usually before it’s even light out, a cold sweat isn’t a regular occurrence.   And, the work nightmares, they stopped, mostly, after about 5 years.

One question we get a lot from “land based” folks is what we do all day and “don’t you get bored” on the boat.  Well, I suppose that we do get bored, sometimes, but more often than not, living aboard has a nice rhythm to it and there is always something that needs attention on the boat like today when the little Honda generator was acting up while we were trying to do laundry.  Dosn’t that sound fulfilling?  A awkwardly running generator?  Yes, Pandora has a washer/dryer but we have to run the Honda in order to do laundry.  Well, the generator kept dying but after I changed the spark plug, checked the spark arrestor and changed the oil (it really needed it, oops) it seems to be running better.  I think that there is a problem with the fuel filter but that doesn’t seem to be serviceable unless I take it to a dealer.   And, while we are doing laundry, we also have to run the watermaker full blast to make up for the water that we use doing a load of wash.    A load uses 8 gallons for a load according to the manual.

Anyway, the day begins when I wake up.  No alarm except when I have to get up to listen to Chris Parker’s weather briefing and am afraid that I will oversleep.  However, more often than not, I am awake anyway.   Not to be indelicate, but my bladder works very well as an alarm and other guys of a “certain age”, and you know who you are, will understand.

When I get up it’s generally still dark and the first thing I do is put on the coffee.  Sound familiar?   And just so you don’t think that we live a fully deprived life, we have capuccino most mornings thanks to the miracle of a stove-top espresso maker, a low tech and wonderful device.  We also have a milk frother that runs on 110v and is powered by the inverter.  In goes the milk, push the button and, voila, in a few moments, perfect warm foamed milk.  We use “box milk”, the sort that can sit unrefrigerated on a shelf for months, when we are aboard. The brand sold in the U.S. Parmalat, tastes odd to us so we were very pleased to find a number of brands here in the islands, from France mostly, that actually  taste like real milk.  Fresh refrigerated milk is also available here but it is terribly expensive.  Think $10 a half gallon.   Anyway, the boxed, stabilized, keeps for a year unopened on the shelf.  It isn’t cheap but it’s actually less than in the U.S. and a lot better tasting.

So, back to the beginning of my day.  I generally wake up while it’s pretty dark, more like twilight (Is that what not-quite-light in the morning is called?)  and turn on the coffee, which I put on the stove the night before so all I have to do it turn on the gas and go.   It’s also a good idea for me to be quiet because if I wake Brenda up that early, well, it would be a CLM,  a Career Limiting Move.   Better to be quiet.

While waiting for coffee I turn on the “hotspot” on our phone, which lets us get e-mail and the NY Times on our iPad so I can hear yet again, now crazy things are in Washington.  And, to make it even more fun, I get my news through the NY Times, a bastion of balanced if completely and unapologetically liberal thinking.

Getting the news and our e-mail on board consistently is a treat and something that we haven’t enjoyed until this year, well not reliably anyway.  When we were in Cuba, well forget Internet except in Government hotels and during our years in the Bahamas, it was very tough to find wifi on shore, was always terribly slow and usually only available for a fee.  We had a phone hotspot while we were in the Bahamas but it never worked very well.  So, this year with connectivity much easier, it is a nice change of pace.

Anyway, I get up pretty early in spite of the fact that there isn’t anything at all that’s pressing.  I guess that old habits die hard or perhaps it’s simply the bladder thing, probably the bladder.

Tonight there is a full moon.  At least I think it’s tonight and the view of the moon for the last few nights has been positively amazing.  This is what the moon setting over the mountains behind Pandora looked like this morning.   I woke up just in time to catch it dropping behind the hills.  What a view. Perhaps even more remarkable is that my camera, with image stabilization, could actually take that photo.  Not perfectly crisp but a nice shot.

And, to continue on that vein, how about last evening’s sunset.  You know how I like sunsets. Ok, while I am at it, I’ll toss in today’s sunrise.  Yes, I know, it looks a LOT like one I put up a few days ago.    But it’s nice. Ok, one more thing.  How about a double rainbow?   While every day is a sunny day, it often rains several times for a few minutes.  The sun goes away as a dark cloud passes overhead , we run to close all the deck hatches, it rains, it stops raining, a spectacular rainbow appears, we say “Oooo…Ahh..” and we open up the hatches again until the next shower.

So, not a lot happens in the morning worth noting but we somehow manage to keep busy, at least sort of, until around noon when we gain enough momentum to head ashore.   This generally includes a quest for faster wifi as what we have on the boat isn’t fast enough to pull up websites or anything faster than email.

I bring my camera with me everywhere, always on the lookout for something to write about.  How about a donkey? And a very calm one that seems to be saying to say “Don’t worry, be happy.  I’m on island time Mon”.  You are probably wondering “Bob, now can you possibly know what he’s thinking?  Actually, he’s probably just waiting until you step behind him so he can give you a swift kick.”.   I don’t know how I know but I just do.  He’s a very calm donkey.  I am completely confident on that point.  The last time I put up an equine shot was in ST Martin and that was a horse walking past a bakery.  No doubt, I had a mouth full of baguette at the time.   Oh, how I do miss the food of the French islands.  Antigua food?  Ok, at best compared with the French islands.

One thing that occupies my time endlessly, is to watch the comings and goings of massive mega-yachts.  One appeared on the horizon today.  Nice view all around and you can see it in the distance.  Big boat.As she came into the harbor she just dwarfed the boats owned by “mere mortals” like us.   I do wonder what these guys do to make enough money to own and operate one of these giants.  Given the secrecy surrounding who owns what, I expect that they would rather we not know. Really, really big. He probably burned more fuel just entering the harbor than I burn in a whole year of cruising.   Watching one of these behemoths approach a dock is like watching ballet. they make it look easy but I’ll bet that it isn’t.  This one came in around 07:00 and had to leave and head back out as the marina they were approaching wasn’t open until 08:00.  I guess that even those guys have to wait sometimes.   Not often, but sometimes.

And, of course, part of each day is devoted to making sure that, Louis, Pandora’s mascot, enjoys his time aboard.  Louis joined us in St Martin.
His long range plan is to sail with us for several years, see the world and then go to live with our granddaughter Tori when she is old enough so that she won’t just pull his ears, arms and tail clean off.  He’s very concerned about that but we have assured him that we will make it clear to Tori when he goes to live with her, that pulling his arms, ears and tail off isn’t  what nice girls do to mice, especially such a well traveled and refined French mouse as Louis.

And Tori is already thinking about what sort of image that might appeal to Louis, such a cultured and oh-so-French  mouse.   She knows that high fashion is very French. In spite of my best efforts, I am not confident that I have done a very good job of describing what a day aboard is really like.  I should add that I spend a lot of time writing too.  There is always some sort of deadline coming up for an article that is due as I write for a number of newsletters and magazines and don’t forget these scintillating blog posts that just come pouring out of my tangled head, like this one.

And while I’d like to avoid thinking about it, there’s always those pesky whack-a-mole issues to keep up with although things don’t seem to break quite as much when we are just sitting at anchor.   I probably shouldn’t say anything as I might jinx it.  Besides, the SSB still isn’t fully operational as it’s just been too windy to get to a dock so the electronics guy can easily work on the final touches that need to be done.  Happily, the wind seems to be settling down so perhaps tomorrow we can get into the marina and he can finally finish up the job.   I’d like that as it will good to know that all is settled for me to get my daily weather briefing form Chris Parker when I head home in May.

And, speaking of heading home,  it’s been challenging  to find decent flights that will get Brenda to CT in April from Antigua but I think we have finally settled on a plan.  She will fly to JFK in NY, as that’s a non-stop flight, and then she will rent a car for the two hour drive home.  It’s complicated and will be a very long day but at least it’s only one long day.  The alternative from the “you can’t get theah from heah” Antigua to Hartford, in less than 30 hours, quandary had to be NYC and a car rental.  That’s actually pretty good since it avoids a hotel room for her along the way.

There is a gap of several weeks from when Brenda leaves, my friend Craig comes to Antigua to help me run Pandora to the BVI and my crew arrives for the return trip in mid-May so I plan to head home as well for about two weeks to help Brenda get the house and gardens ready for summer.  After that, I’ll head back to the BVI to meet up with crew and bring Pandora to CT.

For sure, the time I am away from Pandora will be a lot more action packed than our typical days aboard Pandora.  However, I am looking forward to being back in CT as the summer will soon be here and it will be lovely.  And, we can go for a ride in our little red car.
Oh yea, as an added bonus, I will even be home for Mother’s day for the first time in several years.  Brenda and my mom will like that.

Mom, are you listening?  I know you are as Karla tells me that she’s reading my posts to you.  Thanks Karla.

Well, there you have it.   A blow by blow description of what happens aboard Pandora while we are in port.  Not much but it’s not boring.  Well, at least not to us.

I had better break off now as there’s got to be something that I have to attend to. Hope so because I  don’t want to get bored.

I’m not bored, really.   It’s a beautiful day.  Is that a rain cloud coming over the mountain?  Quick close the hatches.

See? Plenty to do.

The yachts of Antigua. Bring your check book.

It’s Thursday morning and we have been in Antigua for… Actually, I don’t want to think about how long we have been here as there are so many other islands to visit and we don’t have a lot of time left before I have to head back to the BVIs. However, it’s been really windy so we can’t leave.  And that’s that, for now, I guess.

Our son Christopher arrives here in less than a week and after that, on April 10th, Brenda flies home to attend a conference.  We are finding that booking a flight from Antigua to Hartford CT is tougher than we had thought.  When I did some preliminary checking on flights several  months ago before committing to have her leave from here, I looked at schedules and saw that an early morning flight from here would arrive in Hartford late in the evening.  That sounded pretty good to us.

What I didn’t realize is that a flight that left first thing in the morning arrived in Hartford late in the evening, the NEXT DAY.  These flights were not in the range of 13 hours that I thought, but more like 26 hours.  Oops.  Minor detail.  Brenda’s thrilled.  Not.

Anyway, I haven’t booked anything quite yet but it’s looking like she’s going to have to fly to Miami,  Dominica or pehaps Puerto Rico and then stay in a hotel there for a night and then fly out the next day.  There are some flights that can get here there the same day but they are in the $1,000 range, one way.   Not really practical.

It would be easy if she could fly into Newark or perhaps one of the NY airports. Hartford?  It seems that nobody wants to go to Hartford from Antigua.  Makes sense, actually.   Better than Cleveland I’d expect.

I have also been trying to come to grips with my own trip home.  The problem is that after Brenda leaves and I spend a week with my friend Craig who’s coming here to Antigua.  After he leaves I will still have about a month until my return crew arrives to bring Pandora back to CT.  I really don’t want to be on my own without Brenda for that long as nice as it is in the BVIs.

So, the plan, I think, is for me to fly home for a few weeks and the return to the BVIs to prepare to bring Pandora north.   Besides, I can fly into Baltimore and see Tori, our grandaughter.  Remember?  The cutest granddaughter EVER!

She’s excited to see her grampy.  Oh yeah, I’ll see her parents too.

That’s all fine but the logistics of our collective travel plans is a bit overwhelming.  I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise after several decades of moving boats around.  Such is the life of land and sea.   I have to remind me that this is a lot more appealing than having the boat on the hard in New England for the winter.

Repeat after me, it’s hard but the tropics are better.  It’s hard but the tropics are better.  It’s hard but…

So, her we are in Antigua STILL.  The good news is that there are plenty of other cruisers that are stuck here with us because of the continuing strong winds.

And, with the classic yacht regatta, and the place being a very popular place to base sailing charter yachts, so there is plenty to look at and admire.

When we sat overlooking Nelson’s Dock Yard at lunch the other day, the view included some magnificant yachts, each swarming with workers painting and varnishing. There’s two huge schooners from the UK that are right next to each other, a sort of “his and hers” deal.  Workers with brushes all over each of them getting them ready for the upcoming classic yacht races. Some of the yachts are hard to actually see as they are covered with so much canvas to protect the decks and all that paint and varnish from the tropical sun. I think I used a shot of this beauty in a previous post.  However, as the “belle of the harbor” I just have to show her again.  I wonder how many crew it takes to keep her looking like this?Not all of the yachts are not classics but many are.   This one, complete with a serious looking flat black hull sported it’s own chopper. I thought that this was an interesting boat.  The companionway is unique.  I expect that the dodger wasn’t part of the original design.   And, not even a tiny bit of varnish to look after. No varnish on this racer either.   I’ll bet she screams on a reach and is really noisy with a tooth jarring ride. This yacht looks like it can go just about anywhere with it’s wave piercing bow.Nice dink.  No getting wet when crossing a choppy harbor in that. Not your usual bow profile.  Surely she can go into most anything without slowing down. And, speaking of bows.   Many of the classics sport enormous overhangs. Especially the classic America’s Cup Js from the 30s.  This is Ranbow.  She’s actually not original but was launched just a few years ago from the original plans.  And, she, like all the Js sailing today, sports carbon spars.  Beautiful. Not a lot of cabin varnish to keep up on a 90′ yacht.   It’s perfect though. There’s something like less than a dozen of these classic J yachts in the world today.  However, there are more now than in the 30s, when they raced for The Cup.  Several have been recently constructed to original plans drawn and never built.  Of course, they raced during the Great Depression.  It’s interesting that several more were also built during the recent Great Recession.   Says something about the rich getting richer.

Not certain which one this is.  I think Lionheart.  It’s just so hard to keep them straight.   So many Js to choose from and most of them are here in Antigua right now.   Imagine the spinnaker that uses that pole?Amazing overhangs. Not all of the big sailing yachts are Js but they all sport those lovely lines. Nice butt too.Interesting bimini.  Perhaps not all weather but hey, the owner isn’t going to be slogging to weather in a gale.  That’s the job of the crew.
This beauty spends her summers in Vinyard Haven.  I’ve seen here there.  She was built by Gannon and Benjamin a few years ago, right in that harbor.  She’s also down for the regatta.
Another nice if more modest classic.   I’ll bet her decks don’t leak a drop. Well, I guess that’s enough “eye candy” for now.  It’s time to make the coffee.  After looking at all of these magnificant yachts, perhaps I’ll have a cappuccino.  I do so wish that I had a steward to fetch it for me.   James, James!  Is that you?  “No, you idiot, it’s the wind.  Make your own d%$# coffee.”

Oh well.  No steward.  However, I will have the electonics guy on board today or soon to finish up on the SSB install.  Let’s hope that it works as my trip north is coming up fast and for the moment, it’s the ONLY thing that’s not working properly.  However, I don’t want to jinx it…

Heck, it’s only money and pennies, no make that fractions of pennies on the dollar compared to the rest of the yachts in the neighborhood.

Yes, Antigua.   Beautiful sailing yachts and plenty of them.   Bring your check book.