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Thar she blows! And we were there…

One of the things that most sailors long for is a photo of their boat under sail. However, unless you are willing to launch a dink with someone carrying a camera that is willing to sit there while you sail back and forth, you have to be satisfied with a photo from on board of the bow crashing through the waves.

However, once in a while someone that you know happens to be nearby and snaps a shot of your boat blasting along with a “bone in her teeth”.

So, imagine what might be the most unlikely shot and I doubt that you would ever imagine a photo of a whale AND your boat in the same frame. Well, I suppose that nowadays that’s possible with AI but the photo below is real and taken by a fellow cruiser the other day as we moved along the lee of Dominica.

It is hard to imagine what it would be like to snorkel with an animal like this. And now that I think about it, I doubt that it is a good idea for boats to approach the whales at all. However, it does bring important recognition to these amazing creatures and hard currency to an island that badly needs it. Interestingly, the harbor that they leave from is Portsmouth, the very same harbor that we visit when we go to the island.

This video shows some remarkable footage of such an encounter. Seeing them from afar was amazing, but up close, I can only imagine.

When 60 minutes decides to do a segment on something, it’s a big deal. A very interesting piece on what is called the “Dominica Sperm Whale Project.”

Brenda and I were in awe being even close to such a remarkable animal, what is probably the largest animal ever to roam the earth.  

And we were there…

And we have a photo to prove it!  Thanks to our friends Francis and Laura aboard WNBAB (Why not buy another boat).  Ok, why not?

Happy 51st Valentine’s day, Brenda.

It’s valentines day here in Les Saintes, where Brenda and I have been on a mooring for more than a week. We have had all sorts of variety in the weather since arriving, from near calm and sunny to windy, rainy and more than a bit of swell to keep things “interesting”. However, in honor of this special day, it’s sunny and calm with a light wind.

While we are often apart on the anniversary of our very first date, October 28th, 1972, not to put too a fine point on it, as I am generally running Pandora somewhere, we have never been apart, as best as we can remember anyway, on Valentine’s day, as long as we have been together. Not to torture dates too much, while this is our 51st V day, we are into our 52nd year together. Who’d have guessed?

We also learned that our high school class will be having a 50th anniversary reunion in October. I think we will go. Besides, we believe that we are the only couple from our class that is still together.

Fortunately, on this V Day, after what seems like a particularly rolly season so far, the weather is nearly perfect. The humidity is reasonable, the harbor calm and the sun is out. Tonight we head out to dinner together to toast the beginning of our second half century together. Holly S#*% that makes me feel old…

Brenda likes to remind her friends who are jealous of our time in the tropics, away from the snowy Northeast, that we are “not floating around with umbrella drinks”. Well not all the time, I’ll admit but perhaps tonight’s dinner date will be sort of an “umbrella moment”. We did enjoy lounging floating around in the water behind Pandora last evening before heading out for sundowners with friends.

And, speaking of those sundowners, we enjoyed our time ashore with Muna and Fred at one of our favorite spots overlooking the water. The view was pretty amazing. And no, this photo was not touched up in any way. It just looked like that. And tonight, dinner for two in the same place.

It is amazing how different the sunset can look. This was yesterday’s from aboard Pandora. Different but beautiful.

While not a sunset, this photo, taken the same day by Melody in Central Park of our grand-dog Mila is a bit different. It’s hard to imagine a place where a snow covering is quite as beautiful as The Park.

Brenda has been working hard on her tapestry most days and yesterday was all set up for her twice monthly weaving class. She is doing this as a volunteer with a number of her students from prior classes. Between Starlink, Zoom and two cameras, one for her and the other to show her work, it’s seems to be going well.

To overhear her as the more than two hour class progressed, there seems to be a good amount of “girl talk” too, whatever that means. For sure, they are enjoying their time together.

Note that her phone is on a flexible holder which allows her to share a feed of what she is weaving. It took a few hours of practice for us to figure out how to toggle, sort of smoothly, between the phone and laptop cameras as she shares techniques. Alas, we did finally figure it out and, the result, being able to teach from aboard Pandora is quite amazing, actually.

While Brenda was teaching, I headed out for a walk up to Fort Napoleon, high up on a hill overlooking the harbor. This photo from Pandora doesn’t do justice to the height of the walk. There is a huge French flag on the peak, at the fort. It’s hard to see.

A few hearty folks walk up the road but most take golf carts or scooters for the climb. The view of the harbor is pretty amazing.

And a close up of Pandora on her mooring. As great as a smart phone is for taking photos, nothing matches an SLR.

Sadly, the museum in the fort was closed so I had to satisfy myself with a walk on the perimeter. I can only imagine how tough it was to build this place when the only heavy equipment was the stones…

As the French characters taunted the English in the Monty Python movie, “Quest for the Holy Grail”, “your mother smells like elderberries.” After a day lugging stones to build this place, I expect that the French smelled a whole lot worse.

So, I will be clearing out today at the customs office/laundry, Tomorrow we head south to Saint Pierre in Martinique, one of favorite places, when it’s not rolly. We hope to stay a few days and then head down to Fort de France, to enjoy the post-carnival city, after the craziness is over, mostly.

With some luck the anchorage will be settled. For sure, the view will be spectacular. It always is.

Perhaps I can pick some flowers for Brenda too. Sadly, here not to much to pick.

Happy Valentine’s Day. Definitely an “umbrella in a drink sort of day.”

Climate or weather? A rare west wind.

We are here in Les Saintes where we headed to prepare for challenging weather and while it is a bit choppy, the conditions are so much nicer than we had experienced in Dominica where we rolled terribly for days.

Having said that, between winds that were out of the north, followed by southerly winds, both strong, followed by no wind, the weather has been a bit crazy this season. However, after a week of rolly conditions in Dominca we decided that we’d backtrack to Les Saintes with the hope of calmer conditions.

We were not disapointed.

Shortly after our arrival, we enjoyed a lovely dinner out with friends at a wonderful French restaurant. What an idyllic spot with the water gently lapping up on the beach.

I really do not understand the fascination with posting photos of meals. However, of wine? What’s not to like?

For several days Chris Parker had been warning boats that an unusual weather event was in the forecast. A front moving through the area with winds expected to come out of the west. A forecast like that was an unusual occurrence in an area where winds are generally very predictable and almost always out of the east. Perhaps a bit north or south of east, but from the east. His advice was that boats should prepare to find shelter from what were likely to be strong west winds. This sort of issue is common in the Bahamas where cold fronts come crashing down from the north, often more than once a week. These fronts bring strong winds that clock from east to south, through the west and back to the east, all within a 24 hour period.

During the four seasons that Brenda and I spent in the Bahamas we tired of the weekly need to run for cover in an area with precious few options for safety. This is one of the reasons we decided to spend our winters in the Caribbean.

The issue in the Bahamas, as well as the Caribbean, is that many popular anchorages are not protected from the west and what is normally a secure place to anchor can become a dangerous lee shore, pummeled by big waves bringing a risk that you will be pushed onto the beach and pounded in the surf.

Chris is always careful to provide a “worse case” scenario in his forecasts so that his clients can be fairly confident that conditions will not be worse than he is forecasting. Better to overstate it as opposed to having clients later remarking “Chris, it was a lot worse than you said it would be!”. It is certainly better for his business for them to say “Thank goodness that you warned us. It wasn’t all that bad and we were prepared.”

Because of his abundant caution, some feel that Chris overplays risk and feel that he can be an alarmist. As a result, they don’t always take his warnings seriously and the other night was a good example.

The problem was that the GRIBS seemed to show that while winds would be clocking from the south through the west, but it would be very rapid, giving the impression that seas would not have an opportunity to build much as the wind shifted. Chris did not see things the same way and urged caution.

His forecast was that overnight there would be west component winds as strong as 25kts with gusts to 40 in squalls. And, along with that there was a risk of 10′ waves driven by those strong squalls, something that the GRIBS really did not capture. He strong recommendation was to find shelter from west winds and that anyone with exposure to the west could find themselves on a nasty lee shore.

Oddly, in spite of that forecast a lot of our boats did not move into an area offering good protection and found themselves in difficult conditions, fighting to stay off of a lee shore.

Fortunately, none of the Salty Dawg boats were lost but in a number of harbors boats broke loose and ended up on the beach or rocks. Here are a few photos of boats that met their fates as posted by Salty Dawg members.

In Dominica, we had faced some really nasty swells the prior week, and even when there was no wind, conditions were very rough. This boat is about the same size as Pandora was driven up on the beach. I have no idea how they are going to find someone to pull her off as there aren’t a lot of commercial boats in the area.

When a boat ends up on the rocks, there are often holes in the hull and the boat fills with water and sand stirred up by the surf. Not good for this boat in St Pierre. This area is one where we have anchored many times. It’s an open roadstead and even under perfect conditions, it can be rolly.

You can imagine, even if the hull isn’t breached, the force of the waves breaking over the boat can down-flood into the interior quickly. The power of water an not be overestimated. More than once we have pulled our dink up on a beach only to have her swamped by a single wave filling her quickly with water and a load of sand. Imagine the mess after hours of crashing waves. It doesn’t take long until the boat is trashed beyond repair.

There really can’t be much hope in removing a boat intact under those conditions, especially in a location where sophisticated salvage services are not available.

Here is a shot of Deshaies that I took recently, when things were settled. A lovely spot. It’s worth noting that the town dock is designed in a way that allows them to pull off the entire deck so that the waves can break over and through it and not do any damage as all that is exposed is a metal framework.

It doesn’t take long for things to go from bad to worse as witnessed by this short video from a fellow Salty Dawg of the waterfront in Deshaies taken the “morning after”.

I had written about the work that Mark and I did on a dock in Dominica last week. We were pretty proud of our work.

The same dock less than a week later. It must be depressing to work hard to keep things in shape only to have them trashed a short time later.

There is no doubt that many cruisers were surprised by how quickly things went south and fortunately nobody in our fleet lost their boat. There was some damage including overturned dinks and I am sure other issues given how bad conditions quickly became.

The following morning I called Chris back to get his thoughts on why conditions had deteriorated so much and so quickly. His answer was that this had been the worse cold front that he had seen in this part of the Caribbean in 20 years.

After more than a few seasons here in the Caribbean the weather seems to be weirder than ever and it makes me wonder. What about easterlies? Southerlies, Northerlies, wind from the west? What gives?

You do have to ask yourself if this is weather or climate? Strong winds from the north, south and west, all in a week. All I can say is that it’s wierd…

Well, at least there are croissants, and baguettes, and cheese, wine… Well, you get the idea.

From gale to calm to rolling and for now, really calm.

They often say that if you don’t like the weather, wait a few hours. In the case of the Caribbean, one thing you can sadly count on is that most of the anchorages can not be counted on to be calm. Sure, there are places that are predictably calm, but they are not the norm. More often than not, it’s uncertain as to whether you will be sitting pretty or perhaps holding on to your wine, hoping for the best.

After a week of really strong winds in Deshaies, we were pleased to head to Dominica for the Salty Dawg Rendezvous, a harbor, more of a roadstead, that is generally pretty calm.

However, not this time and while it was very calm when we arrived, within a few days there was a long swell coming into the harbor, something that we have not seen there very often. And, to complicate things, there was almost no wind so we rocked back and forth in a very unpleasant way, hour after hour. Our friend Bill on Kalunamoo has a “roll-scale” that rates the severity of rolling at anchor on a scale of 1-7 with 1 being the most benign and 7, well not so great. At the worse, we definitely had a 7, making it difficult to sleep or move around the cabin. And, with no wind, uncommon for the Caribbean, it was hot and sticky too.

And for our week long visit there was nearly always a swell, tossing Pandora back and forth uncomfortably and on a few days, right up there with the worse we have ever encountered. Dishes were crashing back and forth in cabinets and anything that was not tied down and well secured, was tossed to the floor. It was exhausting and as you can imagine, Brenda was not amused.

On Monday, following the big final dinner in Dominica, we headed, no escaped, to Les Saintes, about 25 miles north, and one of our favorite places.

As a rule, this place can be rolly as well because it is somewhat exposed to the north so any sort of northerly swell, wraps right around into the harbor. When we were experiencing the very strong winds in Guadeloupe, this place was apparently totally untenable, with swells coming into the anchorage that were terrible.

When we headed up here yesterday we really didn’t know what to expect and to our happy surprise, we were able to get a mooring close in and it is as calm as we have ever seen it. What a relief.

It is a really beautiful bit of France in the Caribbean.

Les Saintes are a small archipelago of islands just south of Guadeloupe. Just to put this in context, here’s a chart that shows the islands from Antigua, upper right, do Dominica, to the south. Pandora is the red mark.

For a closer look… Again, Pandora is where the red mark is. That is the primary island and while there are a few cars, most of the island transport is via golf cart and scooter. The streets are buzzing, literally, with every form of small transport. Every day hundreds of tourists stream in via ferry to the island.

The island is very French and there is a good variety of food in the shops and a bakery that sells all matter of baked goods. Nothing like a warm baguette or croissant in the morning.

We have been here many times over the years, but this earlier post gives a good feel for what the French islands have to offer and Les Saintes in particular.

This shot is of a local fishing boat coming back. There was a good crowd working to put the nets out to dry.

I didn’t see any evidence of the catch as I expect it had been hauled away by the time I was on the scene. However, that didn’t stop the locals from hanging out with the hope of snagging castoffs.

As we sat in Dominica and were tossed aside in the swell, we were anxious to get underway to Le Saintes with the hope of finding a more settled spot to spend a few days before heading south again, this time to Martinique, one of our favorite islands.

After a week in Deshaies, with crazy winds, down to Dominica for a nice visit that began with calm conditions but ended up crazy rolly and now back here in Les Saintes, with some of the calmest conditions we’ve seen here, ever, we are reminded once again that things change. But for now, it’s beautiful and we are enjoying the peace and quiet.

It seems that more than a few Salty Dawg boats had the same idea of escaping to Les Saintes and the swell of Dominica. Now, with a number of Dawgs in the harbor, I thought it would be fun to organize a cocktail visit at one of the local eateries on shore for tonight.

Brenda has a zoom fiber event but will be done around 6:00 so that’s when we will head ashore.

Yes, I’m glad to be back in France again. I’ll take another baguette, croissant, some wine and… Well, the lists just goes on and on. But first cocktails with the Dawgs

But, best of all, it’s great to be in the calm again. Well, at least for now. Fingers crossed…

Heck, being in France makes me want to head to the Med, but that’s another story so stay tuned for more on that score.

From gales to calm. Calm is good…

We have been in Dominica for a few days participating in the Dominica Salty Dawg rendezvous, hosted by a local Dominican group PAYS, Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security. This group does a lot to organize tours, dive trips and parties to keep the cruisers coming back. It’s a great group and makes visiting what was once a fairly dangerous island, a lot of fun and very safe. With upwards of 20-25 Salty Dawg boats here for at least a week, it’s nice to see the group come together again and to make new friends. We arrived a few days early as the winds were forecast to drop to near nothing for nearly a week after blowing upwards of 30kts, with gusts to 40kts, while we were in Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Dominica, often referred to as the “nature island” is very different than Guadeloupe with it’s shabby European vibe. It’s very rural, poor and has very few hotels. For those who enjoy the rainforests, it’s just about a perfect place to visit.

We’ve been here for a few days and it’s been a mix of rain and sun, with a generous dash of rolling swell which for the first few days made things a bit unpleasant. But, even with a nasty swell the beauty of a post-shower rainbow is amazing.

The weather has changed a lot from day to day since we arrived. That sunny day was followed by a full day of rain, unusual for the Caribbean where short squalls followed by rainbows is more typical.

During the rainy day, it was beautiful but very humid as we had to keep Pandora all buttoned up. This schooner, one of a number that spend time here with paying guests, anchored nearby. It was hard to even see the horizon. It looked like a vision that might have been seen here 200 years ago.

Prior to heading to Dominica we visited Deshaies Guadeloupe, our first stop heading south from Antigua, is impossibly quaint village that is best described as shabby chic. There are some very nice restaurants to choose from, French, of course. The 50 mile run from Antigua was particularly sporty with strong winds and big seas. I was sorry that it had to be that way as it was the first run of the season for Brenda.

While we were in Deshaies we met a very nice German couple on Grey Hound, an aluminum boat about the same size as Pandora. They came aboard to talk about cruising the Med and Brenda was intrigued. Well, intrigued with visiting Spain at least. I’d like that. Fingers crossed. Perhaps we can head to the Azores in the spring of 25. Something to look forward to. (note: Brenda hasn’t agreed yet… Ever hopeful)

There is a small river running down to the harbor through a cut in the mountains. It was a short walk into the woods, complete with a wonderful swimming hole. Nothing like a fresh water swim after a short hike. And into water that is considerably colder than the harbor.

Another place we always make time to visit is the local botanical garden, Jardin Botanique de Deshaies, a short drive from the harbor via their own van.

It’s hard to decide what the best things to highlight from our visit to the gardens but here goes.

As you enter the gardens there is a wonderful reflecting pool…

Complete with a large family of koi. Each between 12″ and 18.”

And now, a wonderful mix of textures among the many amazing tropical plants.

It must be a big pump that powers this 6′ high water tower.

These charming little parrots are fun. They live in a large aviary that you can enter and interact with them. They eat nectar out of a cup that you can purchase.

Of course, there is also a number of wise old McCaws happy to check you out.

This little guy scampered away when I got too close.

I loved the way that the light shown through these fronds.

Looks delicate and soft but is large and spiny.

These grasses are actually is as soft as they look.

This succulent looks delicate and velvety but is anything but at about 5′ from side to side.

Everything is supersized. Each of these leaves is more than 2′ long.

The giant papyrus, with the fluffy tops, is one of my favorite water plants. We grow a clump in a caldron each summer at home.

Not so fluffy, the trunk of a massive tree. Looks like the folds of elephant skin.

These flowers grow just about everywhere. I understand that the locals here in Dominica make their intricate baskets with fibers in the stems. Brenda purchased some baskets yesterday as gifts when we rented a car yesterday but that will have to wait until the next post.

And, closely related to the one above another “wild flower” that is every where. The frond is about 18″ long.

Of course, many of us in the freezing north grow these as house plants. Here the leaves get more than 2′ long and carpet the ground in huge areas.

Flowers like this make me wish that I could grow topicals at home.

The gardens are high on a hill overlooking the harbor where we had moored Pandora. Brenda and Maureen surveying the harbor.

After days of near gale force winds in Deshaies, making Pandora strain on her mooring, the wind dropped to near dead calm once we arrived here in Dominica. When the wind is very light, and it rarely is, it is quite hot down below.

Fortunately, there is a breeze today but still with calm conditions. With that in mind, I took time to scrub the slime off of the bottom of Pandora. I use a small compressor with a long hose. An abrasive pad with a handle and air from the compressor, I am able to stay below for the 45 minutes that it takes for me to completely scrub the bottom. I try to do it every two weeks during the season so it doesn’t get too nasty.

Oh yeah, almost forgot. When the surge was at it’s worse, we visited our friends on Kalunamoo for cocktails and while their boat rolled from side to side, our dink was caught under their boarding ladder, puncturing a hole. Flat dink.

I actually found two holes, by spraying Windex all over the pontoons, after pulling it out on the beach. It took two days with careful prep and a day for the bond to cure. I used a special two part rubber adhesive that I borrowed from my friend Mark. The dink looked pretty sad deflated and covered with sand.

She’s back in the water, holding air… I hope.

I also took some time with a friend to fix up the local town dock where the cruisers go to get ashore. The dock has been in very rough condition for years and after I suggested an upgrade, with free labor, the PAYS guys agreed to supply materials, boards, screws etc. Fortunately Mark had some power tools aboard to speed the job along. We both worked for a half day, with a few of the PAYS guys, to add some refinements to the dock.

First, an extra 4′ of dock on one end. That’s Mark. Notice the step to make it easier for those of us that are older, get up on the big dock.

We also added a wood strip on the edge to tie dinks to. It doesn’t look like much but to those of us trying to get ashore when there is a surge running up on the nearby beach, having an easy way to tie up is important. That board, mid dock, is a handy way to grasp and climb ashore. There is also a board below the dock to keep dinks from being stuck under the dock at low tide. We’ve seen plenty of dinks get damaged when they grind against concrete. It is always advisable to put out a stern anchor to keep the boat away from harm.

Mark and I were assisted by three of the local PAYS guys. An enthusiastic group. Notice the guy on the right with a “joint” in his mouth. A number of them are half stoned much of the time. It was a fun project.

Later that night there was a barbecue with all the rum punch you could drink. And there were a lot on hand to have that punch. The next morning it was clear that I had a bit too much.

So, here we are for a few more days of fun before we head on to another island. As the wind is expected to be from the south for much of the week, which almost never happens, we may backtrack north a bit to Le Saintes, just below Guadeloupe, one of our favorite destinations to wait for the wind to shift back to a normal easterly direction.

After that, on to Martinique. We were going to attend Carnival but I don’t think that we will this time as we won’t be able to get there soon enough to secure a spot to anchor in what will surely be a very crowded harbor.

After weeks of strong winds it’s nice to be enjoying calm conditions after a very windy week in Deshaies,

Calm is good…

Anxious to move on… for croissants…

It’s been three weeks since we arrived in Antigua and I will admit that I am becoming a bit restless to begin heading south. In past years, the “Christmas winds” tend to be a bit lighter toward the second half of January but this year the winds were quite reasonable earlier in the season and not so much recently.

For the last few nights we have had strong squalls where it went from sort of windy to quite windy with heavy rain only to lighten up ten minutes later. The good news is that it washes off the decks. The down side is that we have to jump up to close all the hatches with no warning except drops hitting us in bed.

Nighttime is beautiful in Falmouth with all the yachts brightly lit. I can only imagine with that costs as a KWH is about $.75. I have been told that some of the yachts run up electric bills of thousands a week. I guess if you have to ask, you can’t afford it.

The view of the yachts in the marina at night is pretty impressive. For the purposes of scale, note that a mast that is over 100′ tall has to have a red light. Lots of red lights…

The one with three masts on the right is the Maltese Falcon, that I wrote about recently.

She left the harbor a few days ago. It was impressive to see her unfurl her sails. Amazingly, a few hours later she was back in the marina. Imagine taking a 300′ sailboat out for a day sail? “Ok, let’s head back to the dock. Enough of that for today. I don’t like the whole wavy thing at all.”

Every day I look at the GRIBS (computer generated wind models) along with Chris Parker’s forecast with the hope that lighter winds are on the horizon. It is possible that we can head south to Guadeloupe on Monday but that is a very narrow one day window and the winds will quickly become strong again. The good news is that we may be entering a period of lighter winds in about a week but that’s a long way off so I guess we will just have to see how that goes.

With that in mind, we headed to Jolly Harbor today, a short 15 mile downwind run. There is a nice grocery in Jolly as well as a place to check out with customs. Tonight we will have dinner with our old friends Bill and Maureen on Kalunamoo. You may recall that they were our mentors on the very first trip south in 2012. We are all a bit older now and somewhat worse for wear.

Here’s the view from Pandora when we arrived in Jolly. A beautiful day with lovely clouds.

Hopefully Monday will not be too windy but the waves are expected to be between 7-10′ on the beam. Windy yes, and a contrast to the view of our home in CT, here with a dusting of snow. Thanks to Mike and Heidi for sending this shot and for keeping an eye on our home this winter.

Yesterday was laundry day and with the strong winds everything dried PDQ with the first load ready to fold and put away as the second one came out of the washer.

I have tried to do what I can to help Brenda feel productive aboard Pandora this winter. It is no secret that she misses “her people” when she is here in the tropics. To ease all that, this winter she is doing a bit of teaching for some of her more advanced tapestry students. Here she is during her first two hour session. We have things set up with a second camera so that she can demonstrate techniques as well as share photos from her computer along with commentary. It seems to be working very well and she’s enjoying the time .

Fortunately, many of her groups are using zoom, even when they are being held in person. This is good as many members can’t get to live events as easily for various reasons like age, weather or, in Brenda’s case, thousands of miles of ocean between her and the meeting. Perhaps not as good as “being there” but she is smiling as I write this, participating in a bobbin lace meeting.

Yesterday I had a meeting at one of the big marinas and took advantage of the moment to take some photos of some awesome sailboats visiting to participate in the upcoming Caribbean 600 race, one of the top ocean races in the world.

These three trimarans seem to be of identical design.

One of them is Argo. At 70′ she is a beast, capable of upwards of 40kts. She’s a handful and I can only imagine what sailing one of these boats must be like. Read this first hand account of what the experience is from Sailing World.

Better yet, watch this short video of her under sail. Hard to imagine sailing one. Perhaps easier to imagine crashing or flipping one if you don’t know what you are doing.

The cockpit on Argo is all business. And, they are tiller steered with three rudders.

The rudders and foils look like they would snap under the massive loads. I guess that they do on occasion.

Imagine the loads on the dagger boards that require blocks to move them up and down.

What is on the “water end” looks impossibly fragile.

One thing for sure is that this sort of boat needs someone with deep pockets.

And, speaking of deep pockets. I would love to get aboard Nahlin, owned by Dyson of the vacuum family.

And, of course, Nord, fresh from the builder’s shed. I have written about this boat recently but it’s worth noting that in past years, the owner’s last boat, Scat, held an end-of-season cookout on the dock for all comers. The day I took this photo, the office staff of the marina had been invited aboard for lunch. I suspect that most owners aren’t quite as open.

And, for bespoke yachts, bespoke tenders. And, usually more than one. Not a bad ride.

And speaking of “rides”, how about rowing across the Atlantic in an open boat? The first arrivals of boats in the Talisker’s Whisky Challenge have begun arriving in English Harbor. You can see where all the boat are on that page too. They come in with great fanfare.

Seeing them step on shore for the first time in over a month of rowing is quite a sight.

A lot of hugging.

And tears…

Family comes from all over to welcome them. It’s quite a moment.

It’s been nice to be here in Antigua for the last few weeks but I am anxious to move on. Off to Guadeloupe on Monday, I hope.

Love those French islands! Croissants, baguettes and oh yeah, wine in our future.

These guys are one in three million.

We are still in Antigua and hope to head to Guadeloupe next weekend. The problem is that the winds are quite sporty and to head out on a 50 mile run, my first of the season with Brenda in what Chris Parker, our weather router, calls “salty” would not be a great way to set the tone for the coming months.

The sunrise was beautiful yesterday, like nearly every day.

And when the sun peaked above the hills a few moments later…

So, for now we are hanging out and enjoying the sights. And those sights include some of our neighbors, some of which I have written about in the past.

This yacht Moonrise, is owned by Jan Koum, a co-founder of WhatsApp. He was born in 1976 so has plenty of years left to enjoy the fruits of his labors. Moonrise is over 300′ long and a real stunner. With a crew of 32 it is no surprise that it costs upwards of $20m to run her every year.

Of course, these days, even the biggest yachts don’t have enough room to store all their toys so they have a support yacht. This one, Nebula, shadows Moonrise. If Moonrise was big enough to support all the toys aboard the “mother ship” it would be too large to fit in most any harbor. This is quite a yacht in it’s own right and the “hanger” is big enough to accommodate a helicopter without folding the rotor along with all the other toys. This link shows just how elaborate this “tender” is.

I have written about Maltase Falcon in the past. She was commissioned by Tom Perkins, an early venture capital founder behind some of today’s biggest tech companies. Tom passed away and she is now active on the charter circuit. When she was built, she was the most sophisticated sailing yacht ever launched.

It’s worth watching this video about this remarkable vessel. To date, there are only two yachts in the world using this unique rig design.

In spite of being one of the largest sailing yachts in the world, she looks tiny next to some of the other yachts in the marina.

And speaking of unique, this boat, Norn, is owned by Charles Simoni, one of the developers of Microsoft Office. Norn is brand new and bigger than his prior yacht, Scat with many of the same characteristics. Check out this link to the builder’s site for Norn to get a feel for what such a yacht looks like down below. They both have a military look to them. The owner also has the distinction of being the only civilian to go up to the International Space Station twice, as a tourist.

While there are plenty of massive motor yachts to choose from here, I should note this huge sloop, Sarissa, owned by Lachan Murdoch, who runs News Corp. Launched in 2023, she is a luxury racer/cruiser, designed to take him and his family just about anywhere. Check out these photos of her?

This morning has been a very busy day for arrivals of the biggest yachts here in Falmouth harbor. This yacht is called Dreamboat. She is owned by the founder of Home Depot, Arthur Bank. Launched in 2019 she cost a staggering $180M. He also owns two sports teams. Of course he does…

I doubt that many of the materials were purchased from Home Depot but the money surely came from there. Check out this link for photos and a description of this amazing yacht.

Dreamboat has a nice spot suited to sundowners, I’d say.

Of course, you have to have a proper tender on such a yacht. When they get this fancy, they are called limos.

A favorite of mine is Naulin, launched in 1930 and carried King Edward for a tour of the Med before he abdicated the throne. After decades of neglect, she was fully refurbished by James Dyson, the vacuum guy. She was steam powered and now is converted to twin diesels. This link will take you to an interesting brief history. She is over 300′ long and only 35′ wide, a much smaller yacht than a yacht of similar length today. A classy lady, to be sure.

Ok, one more although, not with a particularly creative name. Here comes the Sun, she was once owned by a Russian but no longer. Interestingly, she recently went through a refit and had about 40′ added to her length. Sounds complicated.

Wonder what the “down below” looks like? It’s hard to pick which of these massive yachts to include as there are so many to choose from. However, Here Comes the Sun has a great video tour.

So, enough about the .oo1% gang that seems to be everywhere. How about “a day in the life of the little retired cruisers?”

With that in mind, the other day we rented a car with some friends to do a bit of exploring.

Here’s something that you don’t see everyday, especially aboard mega-yachts. Along the way we had to stop to wait for a herd of goats to get out of the way. It was hilarious to see them trot down the road, parting to get around our car and reforming behind us.

Once the goats cleared, our first stop was the Saturday farmer’s market in St John. It was a crazy experience with vendors set up on every street corner.

I wonder if some of those goats were headed for this meat market? It was alarming to see how fast the guy moved the meat through the band saw blade and how close his fingers came to the blade.

Or, better yet. I wonder what this machete sharpener guy was preparing for?

We are certainly not slumming it aboard Pandora but it’s a bit hard to reconcile how different the lives of those mega yacht owners and the typical Antiguan.

However, even the most extravagant wealth isn’t much use if you can’t enjoy your toys. Back when Putin invaded Ukraine all the Russian owned mega yachts took off with moments to spare lest their boats be impounded. Most of them are now in Turkey or the Middle East where they are safe from sanctions. However, one that didn’t get away, supposedly because they did not have enough fuel aboard, was Alfa Nero.

She is still here two years later, now under the control of the Antigua government and it’s unclear as to what will happen next. Some think that the Antiguan government has bitten off more than they can chew as they are now required to keep the boat in perfect condition, an expensive proposition for a yacht that costs thousands a day just sitting there.

These big kids come and go all the time so you get the feel that being a part of such a club is common. However and to get a feel for how rare the billionaire set is, there is one billionaire on the planet for every three million people, about 2,500 of them. And to say that a billionaire is “one in a million” understates it by a factor of three.

But to be a Russian billionaire right now isn’t what it used to be. While most of the Oligarchs got out of town when Putin invaded Ukraine, feel sorry for the owner of Alfa Nero that wasn’t fast enough on the trigger to leave Antigua and can no longer enjoy his toy. Well, that assumes that he hasn’t got another one stashed somewhere.

Good morning! Good morning!

One of the things that we enjoy about being in Antigua is how friendly the locals are. Being a part of a nation of only 90,000, it’s not hard to imagine that you have to be nice to fit in. We used to tell our boys “watch out what you do in public. Someone we know might see you”. That was true in the small town in NJ where they grew up and is surely true in Antigua.

Here it is just considered good manners to greet someone with a simple “good morning” and if you spend time on one of the many island busses, greetings are shared as each passenger gets on and off the bus. More often than not, the response isn’t a simple “good morning” but “morning, morning” or “good morning, good morning”. I find the “duplicate” greeting to be quite charming.

In NYC, where one of our sons lives, these sort of casual greetings are rare and to look into the eyes of a stranger on a subway may very well be met with suspicion, anxiety or even hostility, wondering what you want or worse, them wondering if you “might not be all there.”

Sadly, over the last decade or so, it seems that we have become accepting of increasingly antisocial or even violent behavior. After walking into town today with so many friendly greetings, I am reminded that today is the third anniversary of the 6th riots in DC. Hopefully, this particularly unpleasant phase in our country will pass over time. I can tell you that our image in the world has suffered.

Unfortunately, we seem to have become a nation of people with the attitude of “I will do what I want, when I want and I dare you to stop me.”

Having spent my life in the general NYC area it seems normal to live in a neighborhood where you know few of those that live close by. Even though I am only on-island for perhaps two months a year, it is hard for me to walk down the street without someone recognizing me. The contrast between home and Antigua is sharp where just about everyone seems to know each other. I am sure it’s not all that simple, but I do enjoy being in a place where nice is the norm.

Most of the Salty Dawg boats have left the island and are roaming about in the Caribbean so we are now flanked by the “big girls”. I have to say that having the “pros” pull in beside us is a lot less anxiety producing than those that are not very familiar with Med Mooring. The Cat beside us is 75′ long and it’s one of the smallest boats around.

Just around the corner are some very impressive yachts, all lined up like sardines. More like cans of fine caviar.

This one in particular, Nadan, about 150′ long, is quite a boat. You can sort of see from the stern that she has a real classic yacht feel.

Here is a photo of her underway. She looks like a true art deco classic but was built in 2019.

I wonder if they will be neighborly and invite us over for dinner? Pretty nice digs.

Or, perhaps for a dip in the hot tub? Not holding my breath.

I think that the closest I will get getting to a tour is this 2 minute video promoting her as a charter. She was built in 2009 and recently changed owners. However, she is still available for charter at $125,000 to $145,000 per week.

Well, I won’t be loosing any sleep if we don’t get invited. However, as they say, timing is everything and we have both docked on the private island in the Bahamas, Over Yonder Cay. Albeit, not at the same time, as you can imagine.

We were there way back in 2016. How we came to be invited to a private island in the Bahamas, and it was our second visit, is a long story. Click here for a post about that visit. Note that Pandora was dark green at the time. No longer.

Here’s our neighbor on the dock there. Well, I think it’s the same place.

Wondering how we were invited to visit a private island? I had written a blog post about the owner, his yacht Marie and this island. I actually wrote the post for my dad, who died ten years ago last week. He loved WWII airplanes and the owner, Ed, owns a bunch. This post earned us two visits to his island and three days of sailing on Marie.

While Ed has since sold Marie, she is currently tied up in nearby Falmouth. It is indeed a small world and one that I like.

And, I particularly enjoy walking in the morning and being able to say “Good morning” to every local I see and to have them return the greeting, “good morning, good morning” and they mean it.

So, before I break, the view of the entrance to English Harbor from Pandora this morning.

And sunrise over the hill.

Not bad and our view is just as good as the view from Nadan. However, I have to make my own coffee to greet the new day.

And when Brenda gets up, “good morning, good morning” and a hug…

Antigua welcomes 2024.

We are now solidly into the new year and I have to say that I am more than a bit shocked to realize that I find myself yet one more year beyond “upper middle age”. The bad news is that while I enjoy being on Medicare, I am not all that crazy about being precariously perched on the road to “elderly”. Well, that’s if “just south of 70” falls short of elderly.

New Year’s Eve here in Nelson’s Dockyard, and it now seems like ancient history, was great fun with hoards of locals jamming the place. There was raucous music and plenty of partying. Quite a crowd.

At midnight the fireworks show began. It was not a NYC style event but really wonderful. Nothing like sitting on the bow of Pandora on a beautiful evening.

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The display clearly classified as “short and sweet” but the enthusiasm from the crowd saw it as much more.

Earlier in the evening Brenda and I had a wonderful dinner at a local French place, Colibri, with some friends. It was a 5 course dinner and seemingly endless glasses of prosecco. In spite of all the fun, I felt pretty good the next morning. Amazingly, I was able to stay awake until after 1:00. Not to shabby for a guy just south of old age.

The holidays are officially past us and the Salty Dawg events that began here in Antigua in mid November are winding down. Sadly there were only three events planned for this week including last evening’s Cocktail party at Colibri, tonight’s Tot Club event in the Dockyard where I have invited some fellow Dawgs and a New Year’s Day progressive cocktail party here in English Harbor.

Now that we have crossed the threshold to 2024, most of the Salty Dawg boats have moved along and are now scattered from Grenada to the south to the Virgin Islands to the north. It’s hard to keep those Dawgs from roaming.

Brenda and I are planning to stay here in Antigua for a few weeks and then will begin running south to Guadeloupe, Dominica and hope to land in Martinique in time for Carnival in early March. Since we arrived we have had a parade of workers on the boat, cleaning, tracking down an electrical issue (unsuccessfully) and sails being reinstalled. As of this afternoon, Friday, we are by ourselves, finally.

Oh yeah, yesterday I was on a zoom Salty Dawg Board meeting when the boat started to shudder. I jumped up on deck to see the boat that had been moored beside us pulling out. As he passed our bow he realized that he was tangled in our anchor chain. Instead of standing by for help, he continued to pull up his chain and my anchor, along with it. Without my anchor to hold us off the dock, and him pinned to our bow, we both turned sideways to the dock with no fenders to cushion the blow on Pandora. In spite of perhaps a dozen passers by trying to fend Pandora off of the dock, we still ground away.

The dockmaster in the Dockyard came to our rescue along with some divers to reset my anchor. The process took over 30 minutes and meanwhile the “offender” took off and is nowhere to be found.

It’s still a bit unclear if there is any real damage but I will have to explore more carefully. We have the offender’s contact info but I don’t know what I will do about it as the scratch doesn’t look that bad.

Hopefully the excitement is now behind us and we can relax.

Unlike up in CT and our home town, it’s warm and sunny here on Antigua.

So, for now… Just hanging out in Antigua and recovering from way too much holiday crazy and dock excitement…

Setting aside dings, scratches and endless workermen aboard, I am happy to say that Brenda and I are settling in and enjoyed welcoming in the New Year with Antigua.

Don’t take things that aren’t yours in Antigua.

It is New Year’s Eve and we are moored at Nelson’s Dockyard for the next week.

We arrived in Antigua on Friday night and moved all our stuff aboard Pandora, where she had been on a mooring for the last six weeks. The bottom was pretty nasty so I hired divers to clean her up. (more on why I didn’t do it myself in a moment)

The view when we woke up on Saturday morning. The weather: Mid 80s and sunny with puffy clouds. I do love clouds. A big departure from the grey weather in CT this time of year.

Pandora was on one of the Antigua Yacht Club Marina moorings. Back in October a lightning strike sparked a fire at the marina. The flames consumed every business on the marina pier but luckily, nothing on shore. Fortunately, the wind blew the cinders into the water. Had the wind been from a different direction, the loss would have been far worse. The pier was completely destroyed down to the cement slab.

When I was here in November evidence of the fire was cleared away and there was nothing but a concrete slab. Now, they have put a number of very nice tents covering seating areas and lots of potted palms. I am told that in a few days there will be food served daily. Brenda and I had a few drinks our first night after arrival. (and that is why I was not up to spending an hour under Pandora scraping away)

Of course, a bar would be the first business to open.

When the taxi left us off at the marina I took the luggage out to Pandora, leaving Brenda on the pier with a glass of wine, of course. This gave me an opportunity to air Pandora out and move all our luggage aboard.

When we arrived from the airport we also had some groceries that we had picked up along the way as our driver, Eric, was nice enough to stop at the market. Between all of our luggage and groceries, probably about 200 lbs of stuff, we stacked everything on the dock for me to take out to Pandora. Unfortunately, we left a bag of fresh food, meat, cheese, all expensive stuff, probably about $75 worth, on the dock. It wasn’t until after a few glasses of wine, of course, that I realized that the bag was missing.

I went ashore but nobody had seen the bag. Or so it seemed… Somebody was lucky and got a bag of very nice food, complements of Pandora.

I reported the loss to the marina office and checked back the next morning, just in case.

Amazingly, the bag was there and cool from a night in the fridge. It seems that the marina staff, when they heard of the loss, reviewed security camera footage, recognized the person that had picked up the bag and retrieved it. Mystery solved…

As you can imagine, we were thrilled and more than a little bit amazed to get the bag back and with everything intact.

I often get questions about safety in the islands and tell everyone that it is very safe here in Antigua. Well, it’s actually safer than I thought as I can not imagine another place where a bag of groceries left on a street corner (or marina dock) would ever be returned. I understand that this wasn’t the first time that a security camera saved the day.

I have been told by Carlo, the owner of the marina, that the pier would be fully rebuilt by next season. In the meantime, it’s looking pretty nice already.

Their fleet of Dragons was untouched.

The marina office is now in an adjacent area, spared from the fire.

We moved the Pandora the short distance to English Harbor the next day and are now in the Dockyard where there will be a huge New Year’s Eve bash beginning today at 10:00 and running through 02:00. The loud crowd will be huge as thousands show up every year. We will be hosting BYOB cocktails on Pandora and a few other Salty Dawg boats at 10:00. Midnight fireworks never disappoint. Pandora, second in, on the dock with a number of other Dawg boats that moved here to enjoy the festivities.

They do a nice job of holiday lighting in the Dockyard.

Well, it’s time to get going on preparing some food to share tonight before the fireworks.

Oh yeah, we are meeting our friends Barbara and Ted of Raven for a very fancy dinner at one of our favorite spots, Collibri, a French style spot in Falmouth. I think it’s 7 courses. Hope I can keep up.

Happy new year from Antigua where you only take home what is yours, or else…