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Lessons from the Frigate birds – Observations on Barbuda

Sailing to Barbuda

This season we’ve made three trips to Barbuda, the lesser-known half of the nation “Antigua & Barbuda” that lies 30 miles north of Antigua. Low-lying Barbuda was absolutely devastated by Hurricane Irma in September 2017, and the entire population of 1700 residents was evacuated to Antigua. It was the first time that Barbuda was uninhabited since it was originally colonized by the Codrington family in 1685. The Codrington Lagoon, which shelters the 2nd largest frigate bird sanctuary in the world, was breached in two places on its western boundary, allowing direct ocean access into the lagoon. When that much sand moves out, it must be deposited somewhere. We didn’t know how much the undersea bathymetry had changed, and didn’t want to explore new shoals with our keel.  After arriving in Antigua in November, I spent 2 weeks trying to make contact with Barbudans and relief organizations, and was finally able to do so via Facebook sites. Our friends on catamaran GEMEAUX sailed up, confirmed some navigation areas, and took extensive drone footage that I was able to share with Barbuda relief agencies and the cruising community.

Local news emphasized the political aspects of the evacuation and repatriation, the “land grab” bill allowing Barbudans to individually purchase the land upon which they lived (Barbudans already own the land communally and don’t want the change) and the legality of expanded development for resorts like the K Club, now leased by Robert DeNiro. Reading the news made us really wonder what we’d find out on the island.

Anchored off Barbuda

Our first visit was on Christmas Day – we sailed from Antigua to Cocoa Point, on the protected south coast of Barbuda. We anchored off the Cocoa Beach Club, an exclusive resort that was in full swing when we visited last year. Now it’s a shambles – palm trees uprooted, roofs ripped off, concrete walls tumbled, pantry supplies scattered cross the grounds. Wild donkeys graze through the mess in search of a meal. Eerily, a few wineglasses and ceramics remain untouched, and someone has artfully arranged them into a macabre setting on the beach. Further west on the beach is the K Club, already in a sad state of disrepair before the hurricane, and now a disaster. Yet behind the grounds we found evidence of bull-dozing for an expanded airport. We spent 2 nights anchored at the once popular Cocoa Point, with only 2 other boats in sight.

Cocoa Point Beach Club in ruins

Still Barbudaful

 

Remants of the K Club – once the playground of the rich and famous

Feral Donkey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our second visit was to Low Bay, on the west side of the island. On previous visits, we anchored off Louis Beach at the Barbuda Outback – Jala’s 2-story beach shack – on the pristine, pinky-white 17 mile beach east of Tucson Rock. It was a short walk across the sand spit to the lagoon, where Jala docked his boats for the frigate bird tours.   Jala’s beach shack is little more than a hole in the ground now, with evidence of electrical conduit, a propane cylinder and a couple of generators peeking from the sand. His cultivated palm trees are bent over at unnatural angles – yet are still producing coconuts. The 17 mile beach is breached in 2 spots, south and north of Outback, at Donna Mouth and Louis Mouth. These are named for the previous hurricanes (1960 and 1995, respectively) that cut swaths through the beach, creating channels into the lagoon, and were gradually filled by natural processes. Nature repeats itself – we learned that the new cuts are already filling. According to a local captain, what was a 12’ deep cut just after Irma is now a 6’ cut, and filling fast. Lighthouse Bay Resort lies just north of Louis Mouth – abandoned a few years ago, it now looks like a Salvador Dali painting, with buildings bent and melting into the surf.

Lighthouse Resort

Palm trees bend with the wind

Lous Mouth (photo courtesy of GEMEAUX)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We dinghied through the breach and into the lagoon – once to explore the beach that once was the Outback, and the second time to motor across the lagoon into Codrington. We wondered about the two large white buildings we saw from the beach, but upon arriving, learned they were large tents set up by relief agencies Samaritan’s Purse and Food for the World/US AID. Each contains stockpiles of relief materials – food, water, tents, tarps, building supplies. Pallets of lumber and roofing material are stacked near the fish processing plant that now serves as headquarters and shelter.

Relief headquarters

Relief supplies

Restoring comms

Tents for those rebuilding their homes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Residents are gradually making their way back to the island to rebuild their homes, businesses and lives. Adjacent to many roofless homes are igloo tents, where the homeowners live while they clear debris and rebuild their homes. Tarps provide shade and shelter – blue tarps carry the Samaritan’s Purse logo, and silver tarps are emblazoned with “US AID”. School has reconvened in the green-stone church with the blue tarp roof.

Nothing left but foundation

School is reopened in the church

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Samaritan’s Purse provides two warm meals a day for residents working on their homes. A generator-powered pump extracts fresh water from an adjacent well; water is routed to a distribution site under “the brown tent”, allowing 8 people to fill their water jugs simultaneously. Generators were strategically located, several power lines restrung, and phone service is gradually being restored. We found horses and donkeys roaming freely in school grounds and homesteads.

While the news reports led us to believe we’d find rebellious, hostile islanders, it just wasn’t the case. As we walked through Codrington, the Barbudans were very friendly. They greeted us warmly, and were upbeat and optimistic about their progress in rebuilding.

On our third visit, we were able to tour the frigate bird rookery/sanctuary, based in the lagoon’s mangroves. Frigate birds feed primarily on flying fish, but the birds cannot dive or land on water – they must catch the fish while they are above the surface. Frigates are also known as “Man o’ War” birds, since they often chase down diving seabirds with captured fish in their talons. We frequently have frigate birds flying along as we sail – the boat’s bow wave flushes out the flying fish, and the frigate birds pounce.

John Levy has a taxi service, a boat, and a popular beach restaurant (covered with a Samaritan’s Purse tarp, but operating nonetheless)  John can serve you lobster, or deliver a sack of live lobsters for your crew.  He is also the only operating taxi driver with a VHF radio, which makes him the “go to” guy for cruisers wishing to get to town from Cocoa Point, or tour the frigate bird sanctuary. (Note: Digicel and FLOW worked in Codrington, but there was no FLOW service at Cocoa Point in Dec/Jan)  John met us on the beach at Cocoa Point, and arranged for one of his sons to drive us to the dock at Codrington, where Captain Patrick ran the frigate tour.

Pat is an Antiguan who’s spent most of his life on Barbuda. He maintains Barbuda’s power plant, but is also a waterman. Pat’s sons were born on Barbuda, but they are not considered Barbudan. That’s important from a land perspective, as only Barbudans can own land in Barbuda. Pat clarified the communal ownership status, and indicated that Barbudans were “Tenants of the Crown” (as Mr Codrington was 4 centuries ago), not owners. Apparently, that’s an entirely different legal status from the practice of “land held in common by Barbudans.” He also offered another perspective on the proposed legislation allowing Barbudans to purchase their homestead for 1 ECD (about 38 cents US). While the fee is minimal, the transaction is key – the purchase would allow the Barbudan to acquire freehold title to a property, which would allow them to get a bank loan for improvements. It’s more than a way to motivate Barbudans to rebuild – it’s designed to facilitate rebuilding with funds.

Captain Pat offers some perspective

Hopeful male, female & chick

New chick

Mangrove stumps

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to the frigate birds….. having seen the sanctuary twice before, I was eager to see what may have changed. Thankfully, the frigate birds are in fine form, and fully engaged in the mating season. Males beat their puffed out red bladders to attract a female mate. Several fuzzy white chicks have already been born, and sit comically in the nest while their parents watch over. There are far fewer frigate birds this year, but those remaining look very healthy. Visually, the most dramatic change was the mangroves in which the birds nest. Normally lush and green, the mangroves suffered greatly from the hurricane, and were little more than brown clumps. Pat showed us “Man ‘o War” island, where the frigate colony used to live before Hurricane Donna struck in 1960. Afterward, the frigate colony moved to it’s current mangrove site, a mile or so north. Will they move again, or will the mangroves regenerate? Nobody was able to tell us how the frigate birds survived the hurricane, which occurred just as the males were returning for the mating season. Presumably they flew away (perhaps staying airborne) and returned to their mangroves after the storm passed.

Perhaps we can draw some lessons from the frigate birds. They don’t let politics, privilege, land rights or lawsuits get in their way. They survived the storm, returned to their decimated homes, rebuilt their nests, and went about the business of living and repopulating.   It seems that’s what many Barbudans are doing, as well.   Please go visit, lend support, and help Barbudans recover their homes and livelihoods.

Fishing again

Life goes on in Barbuda

John has reopened his Pink Beach Restaurant

Getting the roof on

Making it work

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Holidays – Antigua 2017

We sailed north from Guadeloupe to Antigua for the holidays, combining a unique blend of English and Caribbean traditions we first discovered when cruising here on our former boat ZINGARO in 2008.

Christmas Crew: Andy, Lisa, Michael, Celeste.

Our friends Michael and Celeste joined us on Christmas Eve for a week aboard KINETIC. They hadn’t sailed in a few years, but were looking forward to boat ownership and were eager to embrace the cruising lifestyle. We spent Christmas Eve in Deep Bay, and enjoyed a “boisterous” sail north to Barbuda on Christmas day. Cocoa Point, normally well attended by cruising and charter boats, was like a ghost town – only one other cruising boat, and the devastating wreckage left by Hurricane Irma. It was difficult to resolve the natural beauty of Barbuda with the wreckage of the Cocoa Point Beach Resort, active and thriving just last season, and now an eerie shambles.

Anchored at Cocoa Point, Barbuda

Celestial Christmas

 

Hurricane Devastation

Christmas Dinner aboard

 

 

Back aboard that evening, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner of smoked turkey, sweet potatoes and vegetables, along with Buche de Noel and a marzipan Galette (we provisioned well in French Guadeloupe)!  Christmas lights in the cockpit (solar LED, of course) and carols, sharing holiday memories and dreams.

Boxing Day (Dec 26th) was a lazy day at Cocoa Point – swimming, sunning, and exploring the remnants of the K Club, now owned/leased by Robert DeNiro. Sea turtles made frequent appearances, keeping us entertained. Time for Christmas Pudding!

 

Ocean Sailors

Our next leg was around the windward side of Antigua, to Green Island and Nonsuch Bay. A long day of strong winds and big seas, lots of practice hand-steering; we were grateful to have a stable ocean-going boat!  Once moored behind the reef at Green Island, we went ashore to watch the kitesurfers launch off “40 Knot Point”.

Kitesurfing at Green Island, Nonsuch Bay

 

Next stop, Falmouth! An easy downwind sail along the south coast of Antigua, admiring Eric Clapton’s Cliffside estate and the forts guarding English Harbour. Luckily we reserved a mooring, as English/Falmouth is extremely popular with cruising boats and megayachts for the Christmas holidays. Once secured, we headed ashore for a walking tour of Nelson’s Dockyard at English Harbour. Mike and Celeste also taxied up to Shirley Heights, boasting a commanding view of both English and Falmouth Harbours. Dinner at the Antigua Yacht Club was a terrific finale to the day.

 

Falmouth by Night

Dinner at AYC, Falmouth

 

On to Dickenson Bay – downwind to Cades Reef, and a reach up the lee side to the NW corner of Antigua. We anchored behind the cliffs, and dinghied ashore for a long walk on the beach and some island souvenirs.

Holiday Spirit

After returning to Jolly Harbour, Mike and Celeste flew home to arctic Virginia, and we celebrated New Years Eve with dinner ashore and a terrific fireworks display seen from the cockpit.   Here’s to fabulous 2018!

 

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Les Saintes

Iles des Saintes (Islands of the Saints) is a small group of islands about 15 miles south of the Guadeloupe’s SW corner. Still part of French Guadeloupe, Les Saintes is closely linked to Brittany in the north of France, and still retains an active Breton fishing community. I’m writing this blog entry long after leaving Guadeloupe, because it’s hard to know where to begin. Les Saintes is overwhelmingly beautiful; we paid several visits to the island group and it’s multiple harbors, and took taking hundreds of photos. So rather than describe chronologically, I’ll describe by mouillage (anchorage).

Pain de Sucre

Sailing to Les Saintes

We sailed to Les Saintes from Pigeon on Dec 4th (2017), and came directly to the island of Terre-de-Haute. We have a favored anchorage at the western end of the island, called Pain de Sucre (Sugar Bread) for the prominent 200’ mini-piton at its head. On the waterway into Pain de Sucre we encountered a minefield of fishing floats, many comprised of clear 2 liter soda bottles. Fishing has its pros and cons! There is little space to anchor in this deep mouillage, as it has about 20 mooring balls installed now. We took a mooring, which is quite as easy as it sounds…. these mooring balls have no pendants, so one must “joust” to thrust a mooring line through the metal ring atop the float, picking it up on the opposite side before the bow blows down over the mooring ball, scraping off the bottom paint. In many cases, friendly neighbors come to the aid of newcomers, as happened this time.

Fishing net discovered on our prop

Once secured, Andy jumped in for a swim and discovered that we had entangled a large mass of polypropylene fishing net in our prop. Luckily, we could pull it off with a boathook. Les Saintes Multiservices (LSM) maintains the moorings and provides services like laundry, customs and Immigration, wifi, and arranges technical services for yachts. They come out to the anchorage twice daily to collect mooring fees (an easy 13 Euro per night). If only they delivered baguettes!

 

We dinghied ashore to the dock of Hotel Bois Joli, and saw the extensive damage caused by Hurricane Irma. Several workers were restoring roofs, with expectation to be open for the New Year. Our goal in coming ashore was to hike to La Croix – a cross that stands prominently atop, facing out over the anchorage.  A trail through the hotel grounds leads to another trail through a grassy meadow frequented by chickens and goats. Midway up, we found a statue of the Virgin Mary, overlooking the fleet below. We continued onwards to a steep dirt and stone path, discovering that the Stations of the Cross were displayed along the way. Each was a bronze bas-relief plaque on concrete base. Electrical wiring for lighting was in disarray, but the Stations were unmistakable. At the top of the trail was a plateau featuring La Croix – a white and blue shaded cross with a commanding view of Les Saintes and Guadeloupe. Last year we saw a covered area for services, but this was blown off the hillside by the hurricane, and lies near on the southern beach. Tucked away in the trees we found a small chapel to the Sacred Heart, with the 10 Commandments painted outside (in French), and votive candles and murals of the Virgin Mary (Light of the World, Salt of the Earth) inside.

La Croix

Stations of the Cross

 

 

 

 

View from La Croix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snorkeling in Les Saintes

Snorkeling at Pain de Sucre is generally good, and this visit was no exception. It’s easy to snorkel right from the boat to the rocky eastern wall; fish and coral are abundant. This year, the fish were joined by sheets of corregated metal – roofs blown from their buildings during the hurricane.

Anse Crawen

During a later visit to Pain de Sucre, we walked up and over to Anse Crawen, a secluded south-facing beach behind Pointe Bois Joli. We were the only beachgoers for hours, except for the goats and chickens. Andy practiced flying his drone up and down the beach (scaring a few goats along the way) and ventured the drone over water.

 

 

 

 

Anse du Bourg

After the relative seclusion of Pain de Sucre, we motored a mile east to the only town in Les Saintes, appropriately named Bourg des Saintes. This is the primary entry for Les Saintes, by air, ferry, or yacht. We chose the anchorage (moulliage) to the east of the ferry dock, generally more protected from wind waves and boat traffic. One successful joust of the mooring ball, and we were secure in Anse du Bourg, under the shadow of Fort Napoleon.

The town maintains a nice dinghy dock, supplies trash and recycling (wow) receptacles, and is very cruiser-friendly. We took care of business, then browsed some favorite shops – Maogany specializes in blue tie-dyed garments, scarves, hats – the color scheme draws us in every time. The French Isles are famous for traditional madras fabric, and Andy was in search of a replacement madras bucket hat. He also found a matching shirt and shorts!   The town is centered on the Catholic Church, which now featured a fishing-themed nativity crèche – very creative. On the sidewalk next to the church, the chicken man has a wood-fired oven and serves the best chicken in the country. The town has boulangeries, patisseries, gelaterias, paperies, boutiques, groceries, and a great fruit and veg market. After purchasing and writing postcards/holiday cards (posted 18 Dec, arrived 2 Feb), we loaded up and enjoyed a feast of French delicacies onboard.

Bringing home the bread

Waterfront in Les Saintes

Andy in camoflage, Maogany boutique

L’Eglise Notre Dame de l’Assumption

Nativity creche with a fisherman’s theme

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning we went ashore to hike to Fort Napoleon – a national museum housed in a fort built in 1867, with a spectacular 360 degree view of Les Saintes. The fort is only open from 9-12, which works fine for us in the tropical heat. It’s a good climb, but absolutely worth it for the view. From the top, we could see our anchorage and surrounding islands, and also look into Baie Marigot and the fantastic beach at Baie Pompierre (we visited last year). The fort’s museum was a delightful surprise blend of history, art, botany and culture.

View from Fort Napoleon

Fort Napoleon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Well into walking mode, we struck out for more walking tour that afternoon. From the anchorage I could see a crucifix above the town, and enquired about it at the tourist office. Directions in hand, we climbed up the crucifix (Calvarie) and min-chapel, then walked west on Rue de Grande Anse to visit the cemetery. Above-ground crypts as we saw in Deshaies, with a monument to those killed in battle.

Terre de Haut, from the Calvarie chapel

Cemetery in Terre de Haut

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, onwards to Grand Anse! This is a no-swimming beach on the windward side, clearly signposted with “no swimming, no watersports” because of the dangerous surf. The “pedestrians take caution” signs were because the airstrip ended at the beach! We walked south along Grand Anse where the more skilled kitesurfers were operating (watersport?), then along a road to the sheltered Anse Rodrigue. We walked back along the airfield and “suburban” homes, then through the south part of town to the dinghy dock and back to the boat. We got a 1-day “HotSpot” to do some internet admin onboard (loving Kinetic’s wifi signal booster). Tomorrow we’ll move and will move along to find better shelter, as the winds crept up to 20 knots and brought rolly conditions into the anchorage.

Pedestrians take caution!

Airport to Beach

Kitesurfers on Grand Anse

 

Isle Cabrit – Anse sous la vent

Wed, Dec 7th. The tradewinds have crept up to 20 knots for a few days, bringing gusts and rolly conditions to the anchorage, so we escaped Anse du Bourg for Ilet a Cabrit, a mile west. Also known as “Anse sous la vent” (bay under the wind), we still had some swirly gusts, but flat water for more comfortable conditions. The only thing missing was internet and baguettes – both easily obtained by a 1 mile dinghy ride across to the Bourg. We snorkeled the east and west sections of the beach, but visibility was limited by the wave action.

Andy took his machete and hiked up to Fort Josephine, widening the trail for others. Back on the beach, he was nearly “attacked” by an island cat – barely more than a kitten in size, but with quite an attitude. Not sure if the cat wanted food, or to warn off intruders – acted like a watch dog. Oddly enough, a band of beach chickens wandered by, and the cat took no notice. Weird. Next day, Andy offered the cat some fresh water, and it seemed that’s all she really wanted.

On Wed evening, we hosted happy hour onboard KINETIC for our friends on OYSTER and ALLADIN – cruisers we’d met in Deshaies and Les Saintes. On Friday, OYSTER hosted a pot-luck pasta dinner, and we were joined by Ward, whom we first met upon arrival in Antigua. Lots of sea stories swapped, and a great exchange of information on cruising ports. We made 100 gallons of water that day – the Rainman works well, once we can get it working. Happily supplied OYSTER with several gallons to supplement their supply.

A half-sunken houseboat/cottage was tied off at the beach – possibly towed there for more sheltered conditions during Hurricane Maria. While we were moored, we watched a team of divers attach inflatables to the structure and slowly bring it to the surface. The houseboat was attached to a towing tug, but we departed before the salvage was complete. It seemed the crew was living aboard the tug, saving the commute.

Houseboat beached

Salvaging the houseboat

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We love visiting Les Saintes, and look forward to stopping through again for a bit of French charm as we traverse the island chain.

Les Saintes founders

Fishermen’s tools at Petite Anse

Terre de Haut

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Malendure and le Reservé Cousteau

About 8 miles south of Deshaies is the anchorage known to cruisers as “Pigeon”, or more formally – Islets Pigeon off the beach of Malendure, in the Bouillante region of Guadeloupe. The big draw at Pigeon is the Jacques Cousteau Reserve, a protected natural marine park featuring an exceptional variety of seabed corals and marine life.  You can enjoy the underwater scenes by snorkeling, SCUBA, or taking a ride in the glass-bottomed boat.

Malendure beach

We dropped anchor near our friends Bob & Ann on BALOO, and I (Lisa) went ashore to book a Sunday morning dive with Archipel Plongeé, one of the three dive operators based on Malendure beach.  Winds were SE, and the swells from the south created a rolly anchorage – we had to wedge ourselves into the bunks that night, as if underway!

Malendure dive operators

 

Saturday’s goal was to do a major provisioning run to the Carrefour and Leader Price stores located just south of Malendure, easily accessed by dinghy through a stone seawall. That is, if the outboard is working properly… Our Yamaha suddenly decided to cut out at idle rpm – definitely a problem when changing gears inside a seawall! So instead of provisioning, we spent the day working on the outboard. Bob of BALOO provided expert technical assistance in helping Andy tear apart, clean and rebuild the carburetor, and we were back in business. Bob and Ann joined us for happy hours onboard – we still had some treats procured in Deshaies.

Andy made the provisioning run on Sunday morning (stores open till noon) while I went on the dive at the Cousteau Reserve. I was the only English speaker in the group (most were French, some Germans), but was able to manage with SCUBA’s universal hand signals and a patient divemaster named Delphine. We had a fantastic 54 minute dive to about 20 meters depth. Jacques Cousteau has been a hero of mine since I was a kid, and to touch his underwater statue and dive in his vivid marine reserve was a dream come true.   Afterwards, Andy and I snorkeled the perimeter of the anchorage, which is abundant with fish, coral and sea turtles.  We’ll be back to “Pigeon” again!

Jacques Coustea statue at the Reserve

Happy Lisa after her dive

Sea turtle in the anchorage

Lion fish along the anchorage wall

Malendure’s dock at sunset

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Delighted in Deshaies, Guadeloupe

 

Reaching for Guadeloupe

Squalls near landfall

We set sail for Guadeloupe on Wednesday morning, Nov 29 – fabulous winds that were forecast to die out over the next few days. A beautiful beam reach south, a few squally bits as we approached the coast, and into the welcoming harbour of Deshaies (Dey-hey). It’s a deep anchorage, and requires some tricky maneuvering to have sufficient scope for holding, yet enough space around the other boats – especially since the swirling winds funnel into the harbour from the surrounding mountains. We anchored near our friends on BALOO, and were followed in by another Outbound TOODLE-OO, also arriving from Antigua.

Reward at L’Amer Bar

Safely set, we lowered the dinghy and headed into town to clear customs & immigration into Guadeloupe. In contrast to the formal, uniformed agents at the Antigua offices, the French islands typically subcontract this service, and in Deshaies you check into the country at Le Pelican Boutique – after the shopkeeper moves the piles of sundresses and bikinis from the self-serve customs & immigration computer. You simply fill in the information about vessel and crew, she prints the form, stamps it, and collects 4 Euro – easy! Afterwards, we have our “traditional” celebration at L’Amer Bar – Ti (short for “Petite”) punch and the amazing fish sampler at a waterfront table overlooking Kinetic and the setting sun.  

The following morning we set off with Laurie and Bill of TOODLE-OO to explore the Jardin Botanique. The botanical garden is about a mile’s uphill walk from the dinghy dock, and definitely worth the climb. It’s one of the best botanical gardens we’ve ever seen, in a beautifully landscaped cliffside setting overlooking the Caribbean Sea. In addition to the wide variety of Caribbean trees, flowers and herbs, we enjoyed the aviary, flamingos, and goat pen!

 

 

 

After a morning in the Jardin, we spent the afternoon provisioning the boat with French delicacies, snorkeling along the harbour’s cliff walls, and enjoying happy hours with our cruising friends.

View from the Jardin – Deshaies anchorage

Deshaies town and cemetary

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Errands and Troubleshooting

Haircut in the Tree House

Falmouth is planned as our departure point from Antigua to Guadeloupe – we can clear customs and immigration here, and it gives a nice sailing angle to Guadeloupe. Before jumping south, a few things to take care of – laundry, haircut, and the watermaker. The first two were easy – call Maude’s laundry and arrange a pickup at the dinghy dock! For about $13 US, a full sack of laundry is washed, dried, folded, and returned the next morning. Most of our clothing can be washed in a bucket and dried on the lifelines, but it’s sure nice to have laundered sheets and towels. I had been recommended to a couple of places for a haircut, and checked out the Tree House Spa, about a block from the dinghy dock, and across the street from the megayacht marina. What a place! A Creole cottage tucked into the tropical foliage, with the hairstyling portion conducted in a giant bird cage. Aussie stylist Doug had an opening, so I took the opportunity – got a terrific cut at a very reasonable price, and Doug’s story as well. The spa offered a number of other services, so I’ll be back!

The watermaker testing was a little more tricky. We tested our new Rainman watermaker at our home before departure, but since we couldn’t test it in Chesapeake Bay water, we didn’t try it on the boat.  We had already topped up with freshwater at Jolly Harbour, but wanted to ensure the Rainman worked “in situ” before heading down island. First attempt was Saturday morning at Green Island, while awaiting our kitesurfing lesson. The Rainman requires 110V AC power, so we fired up the generator, energized the outlets, and turned on the switch – only to find that it tripped the outlet or circuit breaker each time. We tried this on 2 different outlets/circuits with the same result. Reread the instructions, checked all the fittings… to no avail.   Emails to the Rainman rep and the Outbound rep for ideas, as we didn’t know if the problem was with the Rainman, the boat, or the generator!   Fast responses from each, so on Monday we packed the Rainman into the dinghy and took it ashore to test on a 110V outlet at the marina office – where it worked like a charm. OK, it’s not a Rainman issue. An electrician at the marina suggested we had the wrong type GCFI outlet, and needed a heavier duty one. He recommended the shop in St Johns, so Andy made plans to take the bus to St Johns. Back at the boat, Andy removed the outlet to match the size, and discovered that we DID already have the heavy duty type. One more thing to try…. the outlets on the port side, which run on a different circuit. Voila! With an extension cord to the galley outlet, the Rainman worked as advertised. We filled the tanks, washed down the boat, and advised Outbound – we still need to resolve the electrical issue, since the Rainman only fits in its starboard side compartment. Getting it reinstalled is another story… but it’s done. Luckily, we have big water tanks and are very conservative with freshwater.

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Once around Antigua – November 2017

Visiting VC Bird in St Johns

After our passage, we spent 4 days in Jolly Harbour Marina, getting KINETIC (and ourselves) cleaned up and converted from passagemaking to cruising mode. Laundry done, the cold weather clothing and gear was packaged up and stowed away until our return passage. Our crew flew home to winter climes, but with the reassuring knowledge that they’d be back in January to sail with the Sail Solomons Antigua flotilla. Before moving out to the anchorage, we enjoyed a few happy hours and dinners with fellow passagemakers from GEMEAUX, PRATIQUE and WYNOT. Naturally, we took the local bus into St Johns to visit VC Bird’s memorial, the produce and fish markets, and Roti King.

While at JH, we spent many hours trying to get information on Barbuda, and how we might participate in relief efforts. While I got a few phone numbers of Barbudans, I was not able to connect with anyone, or find any substantive info on how we (or cruisers in general) could help. We found some very discouraging information that Barbudans were sheltered in the cricket stadium, and had little or no motivation to return and rebuild. We also were unable to determine how the seabed around Barbuda had changed – if Hurricane Irma breached the lagoon, it surely caused shoaling in other areas, and possibly moved some coral heads. We’re not quite ready to risk the keel in uncharted reef areas, so we’ll delay the Barbuda trip for now.

Deep Bay

From Jolly’s anchorage, we had a sweet downwind sail on the genoa to Deep Bay, a few miles north of Jolly on the west coast, at Antigua’s 10 o’clock position of Antigua (given Jolly Harbour at 9 o’clock). Deep Bay is one of our favorites – well sheltered, plenty of good anchorage space, sea turtles, an excellent beach, a fort to hike, and a wreck to snorkel. What more could you ask? We relaxed for 2 days here, enjoying our favorites and watching the Mystic Cruises catamarans take the day-charters to the beach.

Sailing the leeward coast of Antigua

Set for the night, Deep Bay

Anchored in Deep Bay

North Sound

Blowhole on Great Bird Island

From Deep Bay, we sailed up the coast to the North Sound – a beautiful stretch of water between Antigua’s mainland and the outer reef. We sailed past the resort once known as Sunsail’s Club Colonna, where we ran a catamaran in 2008 for the American Sailing Association. The club closed for renovation later in 2008, and never re-opened; it’s now owned by an Italian company. Continuing on around Prickly Pear Island, we had a look at Jumby Bay on Long Island – an exclusive resort area where yachts can anchor, but are only welcome at the restaurant. Deciding this wasn’t for us, we continued onward to Great Bird Island (Antigua’s 3 o’clock position ) and dropped the anchor behind a few moored sailboats. What a find!   A beautiful island with beaches on north and south sides, a ridge to hike (complete with blowholes), and a fantastic reef. We arrived on Sunday afternoon to find 3 small boats with local families on the North Beach – clearly this is a favored spot. Next day, several day-charter companies arrived to bring snorkelers out, and we had more insight on the best snorkeling sites – arrived at by dinghy. Andy brought his new drone ashore, and had a successful practice session launching, landing, and taking photos.

On Great Bird Island

Andy’s drone “CRICKET” on her maiden flight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Green Island, Nonsuch Bay

Visitor at Green Island

On Tuesday we  motorsailed out through the reef at Horse Shoe Channel, and had a superb sail around to Green Island and Nonsuch Bay. Ricketts Harbour (locally known as Turtle Bay) has 2 mooring balls, and we were very happy to take one of them. Over the years, we’ve spent a fair bit of time in this omega-shaped cove, with snorkeling reefs bordering the sides, beach in the middle, and sea turtles in the seagrass below.   Another favorite of day-charters with herds of snorkelers, but except for 1 other moored boat, we had a private cove by evening.   We wanted to do something a little different for Thanksgiving, so we booked day passes at the Nonsuch Bay Resort, about 1.5 miles west on the bay. We spent a lovely day there, sailing the water toys all morning, having an excellent lunch on the Cliffside veranda, swimming in the infinity pools, and relaxing on the beach. The resort had good wifi, so I was able to call home and talk with family members who were all celebrating Thanksgiving in different ways.

The dinghy sets you free!

Friday was a new adventure – Kitesurfing lessons! 40Knot operates a kitesurfing school at Green Island; last year we watched some fantastic foiling demos on the beach, and were inspired to learn. Andy and I booked the Beginner’s Camp half-day lesson. Our instructor Tyvon picked us up at KINETIC and took us to the beach, where we learned to launch, fly, land and maneuver the training kite. Easy, and lots of fun! Next step was to inflate the big kite, and head out to the water. We tied the dinghy onto a mooring ball and practiced while perched on the side of the dinghy, then Tyvon lowered us into the water to try the skills there. Unfortunately, the wind dropped so much that the kite wouldn’t fly, so the rest of our lesson was postponed until next day. Saturday dawned with heavy rains followed by light winds, but the wind filled in and we resumed our lesson. A bigger kite today, inflated at the beach and back again to the mooring ball. Everything was so much easier with sufficient wind – we practiced launching, landing and flying the kite at different positions – again while seated on the dinghy. I was first for the in-water practice, which was a blast. First was keeping the kite at the 12 o’clock neutral position, then moving it between 11 and 1 o’clock, the 12 and 2 o’clock. At some point, Tyvon untethered me from the dinghy, and I was drifting and “body dragging” downwind. As I steered the kite and applied various amounts of power, I was literally pulled out of the water to knee level, and unceremoniously dunked back in. Andy posted a video of this dunking performance, and my nephew commented that I looked like a teabag! Anyway, it was quite an experience… and we haven’t even got onto the board!   That will be next lesson… ??

Andy practices with the training kite

Lisa practices the “body drag”

Maybe next lesson?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Falmouth & English Harbour

Falmouth by night

We arrived in Falmouth Harbour on Sunday afternoon, anchored off Pigeon Beach just in time to attend the Suzie Too beach BBQ, attended primarily by Salty Dawgs and OCC members. Great to meet hosts Suzie and David, whose boat was hauled out at Zahniser’s (our homeport marina in Solomons) for 6 months last summer.   We caught up with a few cruising friends, and met several new ones. It was good to share cruising plans and local information, and we’ll no doubt meet up again with many of them down-island. Pigeon Beach is a local favorite – lots of families having BBQs, birthday parties, impromptu soccer matches, and swimming. We spent last Easter Sunday with the grandkids here, playing beach cricket after the onboard Easter hunt.

No visit is complete without a stroll through English Harbour, and the famous Nelson’s Dockyard. Classic yachts and Admiral Nelson’s history rule the day.

Classic yacht ELEANOR at the Dockyard, Clarence House on the hill

Georgian Pillars at Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour

 

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Passage: Solomons to Antigua

 

Passage crew on a cold October start: Andy, Pitt, Lisa, David

Exiting the Chesapeake Bay at midnight

While our passage to Antigua was planned for a November 1st departure, we found a much more favorable weather window behind a cold front combined with the remnants of Hurricane Philippe, and thus KINETIC departed on Oct 30th – 2 days early. Four of us comprised the crew – Captains Andy and Lisa, and crew members David and Pitt.

This timing gave us great winds all the way from Solomons down the Chesapeake to Norfolk, where we exited the Bay at midnight on Halloween…   Fair to light winds down the VA/NC coast to Cape Hatteras, where we turned east to motor across the Gulf Stream. A benign Gulf Stream crossing is a good thing!  Working southeast, we caught a favorable current from a cold-core eddy that gave us a boost, and made for some very confused seas with wind against current.

Company. A few days into the Atlantic, we heard a couple of other boats on VHF, and then picked them up on AIS and eventually, visually. From then on we sailed in loose company with Baloo and Gemeaux, and more distantly with Katlo.   We were close enough to Gemeaux to take photos, and they reciprocated by flying their drone over KINETIC for some great aerial pix. We were all corresponding by SSB radio or sat phone with our weather router Chris Parker, who was also advising the Salty Dawg Rally, a fleet of about 55 boats that departed Hampton VA on Nov 2nd for Antigua (several via Bermuda for fuel). Lots of radio traffic and position reports swapped, and weather observations shared. And a few jokes and fish tales, as well.

Kinetic, now in site of Gemeaux

Kinetic, as seen by Gemeaux’s drone

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fish Tales.  Andy, who claims to be the world’s worst fisherman, proved to be a good “catcherman” this trip. He landed two gorgeous mahi-mahi, which were greatly enjoyed by the crew for dinner!  Otherwise, we were entertained by flying fish that landed on deck.

Andy’s mahi-mahi – #1 of 2!

Lisa is skeptical about having flying fish for lunch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Course. Rather than sail a rhumb line directly to Antigua, we set a course to N25 W62, to get our “easting” before the anticipated NE tradewinds set in. Naturally, the tradewinds did not oblige, but turned SE and E – so we were very happy to have made it to our desired longitude of W62, and we had a fairly easy glide down “I-62” to Antigua. (We were even happier that we weren’t a few days behind, when the winds came from the south). Before reaching our target longitude, we went through two troughs of low pressure, resulting in squally conditions, where our radar got a workout for storm cell avoidance! Amazingly, we never had wind abaft the beam, and sailed to windward the entire trip. KINETIC loves 15+ knots of wind, but she sails well to windward in light winds, too. We averaged 5.8 kt over the 1695 nm passage.

This sunrise won the “most spectacular” award!

Using radar to dodge squalls. The cells are seem to be shaped like Guadeloupe!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fuel and Water. Before departing, we conducted some boat speed vs rpm vs fuel burn tests, and opted to maintain KINETIC’s 80 hp Yanmar at an efficient 1600 rpm on the occasions that we needed to motor. This saved us lots of diesel and peace of mind – even though we carry over 180 gallons of diesel. Over the 12 day, 1695 nautical mile trip, we motored for 91 hours, ran the diesel generator for 11 hours, burned just 44 gallons of diesel, and used less than half of our 200 gallon onboard fresh water supply. As you might imagine, arrival showers were much appreciated!

Night watch

Watchkeeping. We’ve been asked “what do you do at night…anchor?”  There is no possibility of that in the ocean, so we have a 24/7 watchbill, with all crew standing 6 hours on / 6 hours off. Andy and Lisa rotated at 6 & 12 (am and pm), and David and Pitt rotated at 3 & 6. That puts two people on watch at any time, with a fresh person coming on every 3 hours. Most of the crew are up for lunch and dinner, and whenever a fish is on the hook! When off watch, getting some sleep was a priority. David and Pitt are pursuing their Ocean Passagemaking certifications, so both were diligently working on new skills, including celestial navigation.

David stands watch at the helm.

Pitt takes celestial shots for determining KINETIC’s position

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Land ho! On the morning of 11 November, we sighted Barbuda, the low-lying island 26 miles north of Antigua. Actually, we were overflown by three frigate birds the day prior while 150 miles north of Barbuda, so we knew we were close! (Barbuda hosts the 2nd largest colony of frigate birds in the world) Once abeam Barbuda, we caught site of the mountains of Antigua, and before you know it, we were sailing along the Antigua coast, and into the port of Jolly Harbour. After clearing Customs & Immigration, Pitt and David hoisted the Antigua courtesy flag as we headed out to the anchorage to enjoy a swim and a “Hollywood” shower. The crew celebrated our safe passage with dinner ashore, and a full night’s sleep. At last!

Passage crew in Antigua – tired but happy!

Hoisting the Antigua courtesy flag

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next day, we met the crews of both Gemeaux and Baloo at Jolly Harbour, and shared stories and photos while we began the process of converting from passagemaking to cruising.  A big thanks to Jeff from Sail Solomons, who held our float plan and kept people updated with our progress, and to all those who followed us and send good wishes!

S/V KINETIC’s track from Solomons MD to Antigua, via Iridium Sat Phone and OCENS Snap.

 

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Where to this Season?

Our cruising plan for 2017-2018 had been to set sail for St Martin, and cruise the Caribbean island chain from there. St Martin is known for fabulous marine services, duty free parts, easy logistics, and fine French provisioning; it’s worked very well for us on previous passages.

In the wake of disasters left by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, two Category 5 hurricanes that ravaged the Leewards, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico in September 2017, we had real concerns about setting sail for a season in the Caribbean. What would be left of the islands? Was it safe – from navigation, health or security standpoints? Could we render assistance, or would we be in the way of relief efforts? Would we be using up the islands’ limited resources? As a charter broker, I was very aware of the damage to yachts and marine facilities in many of the islands (not to mention public services, utilities, and homes), and was busy helping my clients to cancel, postpone or move their Caribbean charters to less-affected locations.

Andy and I followed a number of news and disaster relief sites, cruisers and charter forums, and decided that making landfall in the Virgin Islands or St Martin was just not feasible. However, we could reasonably head for Antigua, and cruise most of the island chain from Antigua to Grenada. Except for Dominica, most of these islands fared well through the disastrous hurricane season. We had already planned to install a generator, and decided to add a watermaker to our cruising inventory, to be more self-sufficient. Perhaps we could lend assistance, and the sooner we could pump money into the local economies, the better.

We adjusted our passage plans, and our crewmembers were onboard with the change in destination. Hopefully we’ll be able to visit St Martin and the Virgin Islands later in the season on our way back to the Chesapeake. But meanwhile – we’ll set sail for Antigua.

 

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Video Tours of S/V Kinetic

Many of you may have seen S/V Kinetic as the Outbound Yachts “show boat” for the 2016 Spring and Fall Annapolis Sailboat Shows.   We were proud to have our beautiful new boat in the show, and let thousands of visitors see the boat we chose for our cruising and offshore passage-making instruction.

During last Fall’s show, Outbound Yachts’ owner Phil Lambert narrated interior and exterior video tours of Kinetic. These professional videos have recently been released to YouTube to reach an even wider audience. We’re delighted with the results – if a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million!

Take the video tours at:

Exterior Tour: https://youtu.be/4Li0RkIjv20

Interior Tour: https://youtu.be/yGQuQb76n2c

Then, give us a call to see how you can sail on S/V Kinetic – for a day sail, a week of cruising, or an ocean passage!

Kinetic

 

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