Blog 15th May 2011

Brian & Loretto Linehan
Sun 15 May 2011 16:15
We are at present sitting in the boat in Falmouth, Antigua, listening to
the pounding rain as it bounces off the sea. The grey skies promise more
to come. “Good” I hear the more cynical of you saying “bout time”!

But I am ahead of myself.

Since I wrote last we have been in Guadeloupe, Iles des Saintes, Antigua,
St Martin and then finally back to Antigua.

Jack’s birthday was spent at Iles des Saintes, a group of islands at the
bottom of Guadaloupe. They are absolutely wonderful. These are a group
of small islands and have been French since colonization. The islands
have never been agricultural and so no slaves were imported. So the
islanders are mainly of French descent. The main town of Bourg des
Saintes is just like being in a small village/town in the south of France.
The narrow streets with no cars - most of the population travel on
scooters with taxis the only cars and these seem to be used mainly by the
tourists for island tours. Boutique shops, boulangeries with the usual
French sight of people walking around in the morning and evening with
baguettes under their arms, lovely cafes - these all add to the charm of
the place. We enjoyed sitting outside watching the “tourists” go by and
eating the most wonderful crepes.

The anchorage at Bourg des Saintes is lovely, slightly busy, but calm and
a really nice place to stay for a while. Ashore there are two
supermarkets, you can get wifi on the boat and not far away are some
lovely beaches where we spent a lovely Sunday afternoon.

We did leave the islands and went to Point a Pitre, the main city of
Guadaloupe (about 22 miles - 3hours or so) for two nights. We were not
overly impressed - the anchorage is just okay and there is a good large
supermarket within walking distance but with no wifi and, from our
experience, not really a lot to see, particularly for children, it would
not be on our return list. I think if we visit Isles des Saintes again
and need to do a really big shop I would get the ferry from the islands,
do the shopping and then back to the islands which were much, much nicer.
That said, the marina and surrounding areas where we anchored at Point a
Pitre were very quiet so it might be a nicer place earlier in the season
when it would be a bit busier.

So back to Les Saintes for a day and then off up along the western side of
Guadaloupe to Deshaies (pronounced Day-ay) which is at the top of the
island. This is a good well protected bay surrounded by hills with a
lovely small fishing village . The only downside was the wind. Honestly
you would think there was a gale blowing outside but on venturing out you
realise that it is just the effect of the wind funneling down between the
hills. This is a lovely place to stop for a couple of days. The village
has a beautiful catholic church (so also does Les Saintes which I did not
mention - the French counties were the only places where we could easily
find the catholic church and then only in the smaller places) . There is
a supermarket and some lovely restaurants. The anchorage itself, despite
the wind noise, is beautiful and peaceful. The water is so clear. The
girls decided to have a swim off the boat and really enjoyed themselves.
This was despite the fact that Jack (encouraged by his father) decided
that he would do a “widdle” on top of the girls as they swam - I just got
to him in time but he would have done so as he had a wicked grin on his

We left Guadaloupe on 2nd April and headed north once more to Antigua. A
lovely sail brought us to English Harbour on the south coast and we were
accompanied for some of the way by a pod of bottle nosed dolphins. There
were at least ten who seemed to be playing a game of going as near to the
bow of the boat as possible as she ploughed through the water. An
absolutely wonderful, uplifting sight. We have not seen a lot of dolphins
(we expected much more) so any sighting is greeted with delight.

We tentatively checked out English Harbour but decided that there was not
enough room for us and went around the corner to Falmouth. Here we
anchored and gazed in wonder at the yachts anchored and at the marina - we
thought we had a good size yacht until we came here. The “Maltese
Falcon”, the super yacht J boat “Ranger” (replica of the 1937 defender of
the America’s Cup), Mirabella III (135.8ft), Leopard 3 (30metres),
Windrose of Amersterdam (classic gaff rig schooner -151ft) - just google
them and you will appreciate what I am talking about. And there were many
more - both classic and modern. These are the yachts of the super class
league (and the super rich). Anyway it was fun zipping around in our
dinghy and enviously taking it all in.

Sunday was Mother’s Day (and I hope all you mothers had a good day of rest
and reward!). We had brunch at Cloggy’s Restaurant at the Antigua Yacht
Club looking out at all the super yachts as we ate an absolutely wonderful
lunch. We were surrounded by the yachties - young and beautiful crew
members from various boats who were obviously on a day/night off and
determined to enjoy themselves. Between the wonderful food, great family
and bounteous people-watching opportunities I had a fantastic time.

I should say something about Antigua at this stage. From first
impressions it has an absolutely beautiful coastline - they say there are
365 beaches here and any one we have seen has been golden or white sand
with topaz blue seas - clear as a bell - exactly what you picture when you
imagine the Caribbean. History-wise, as you can determine from the
names English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour the British Empire played a
major role in the past. Both Falmouth and English harbours provided
security from a defensible aspect and from a weather aspect which appealed
to the British Navy and the dockyard in English harbour was developed
between 1723 and 1745. Nelson was stationed here in 1784. Unfortunately
he did not make himself very popular with the local traders as he insisted
on enforcing the Navigation Act which prohibited trade with the new United
States and he had to live on board ship under threat from the traders only
able to land at night to get exercise. They have a museum in the dockyard
and it was interesting to note that Nelson regarded English harbour as a
mosquitoes hell - he obviously was a popular target for our favourite
flying intruder!
From the end of the 17th century the interior of Antigua was mainly sugar
cane plantations run by wealthy English families with labour coming from
the African slave trade. The ships would arrive in Africa with trinkets
to buy slaves, they would then endure the trip, sometimes 3 months or
more, to the Caribbean and then the ships would be loaded with the sugar,
rum etc. bound for Britain. In 1834 the abolition of the slave trade led
to the breakup of the plantations and with the advent of the distilling of
sugar from beet in Europe the sugar cane industry gradually came to an
end. Nowadays there are a few ruins to visit, the most famous one being
Betty’s Hope which has a restored mill. This plantation, run by the
Codrington family, was the largest on the island. We visited the site and
toured the museum which gives a good account of the sugar mill trade and
of the slave trade. But unfortunately there is obviously not a lot of
money available to spend on historic monuments in Antigua and we were
disappointed - we didn’t even see any sugar cane!

We hired a car and toured most of the interior and coastline. There is
little rainforest here but while the people are obviously not well off we
saw little of the abject poverty that we saw in St Vincent, Dominica or
even St Lucia. It is a lovely country and again as we have found
elsewhere the people are really, really nice.

After leaving Falmouth we sailed around to Jolly Harbour where the boat is
to be lifted out. We took a mooring buoy and enjoyed five days of
boat-stillness - only the occasional movement if a power boat went by.
For those of you who have been on boats at anchor/mooring you will realise
that this is a real treat.

While we were in Jolly Harbour we investigated the yard and talked to them
about leaving the boat there and what we had to do. We also hired another
car and Brian arranged to have a kite surfing lesson. Unfortunately there
was not enough wind so he will have to try again another day.

On 12th April we left Jolly Harbour and went back around to Falmouth.
There the number of boats at anchor had increased as Classic Racing Week
was to start on 14th. We stayed there until 16th and had a whale of a
time. Mornings before school were spent watching the parade of beautiful
classic boats motor by us as they left the marina to go out for the day’s
racing. Then after lunch watching them return and then about 4pm we went
ashore to enjoy the atmosphere and, most importantly, the free bar/food
which was laid on by the main sponsor, Panerai (the watch makers).
Initially we presumed that only the participants in the race week could
partake of their hospitality but by the second day realized that the bar
and food were available to everyone. So it was a quick dash from the
dinghy park to get a table. And we met up with a few old friends (Aurora
and Rosita) and made some new ones - Cliona and Ciara made friends with
some children who live on the class yacht, Heron, which was participating
in the racing so once we went ashore they disappeared to meet up with
their new friends. We were also introduced to Fran and Chuck Poel who
sail Andiamo. They are also lifting out at Jolly Harbour. Altogether it
was a very social few days and thoroughly enjoyed by everyone. Apart from
the one night where a vicious squall came through late and we spent a good
two hours dodging a green marker buoy as we attempted to adjust the anchor
so we would not make contact with either the marker buoy or another boat
as the anchorage was very crowded and all the other boats were having
their own fun dealing with the wind and rain. A few boats dragged but we
were lucky. Just goes to show that on boats you cannot be absolutely
guaranteed a good night’s sleep as you never really know what Mother
Nature will throw at you.

On 16th we left Falmouth once more, following the racing yachts out that
morning. We then hung around and watched each race start. Obviously the
one to watch was the biggies - the two “J” class boats - Ranger(136ft) and
Velsheda(139ft) vying for line space with Elena (136ft), Marie (180ft),
Rebecca (139.7t). Absolutely stunning and exciting.

We had our own lovely sail that day to - back to Jolly Harbour for the
night and then on 17th we left Antigua for St Martin. Stopping off
briefly at St Barts for a sleep we arrived in Simpson Bay, St Martin, on
18th April having had one of the most exciting sea passages ever. We left
St Barts approx. 8am that morning and were only just outside the island
when the water in front of the boat started to churn. And then, about 10
ft, away a whale breached. Easily 20ft into the air and then splash back
down. This happened a few times as he moved off. It was so exciting and
what you dream of seeing when you go off shore. And we were only in the
short 15mile or so passage between the islands. Mother Nature at her

Simpson Bay was to be our home then for five nights. We stayed on the
Dutch side of the island only visiting the French side by dinghy. Brian
got some work done on the boat and we spent our days mainly schooling and
then going ashore at approx. 5pm to have a drink in the yacht club and
watch the opening of the bridge into the Simpson Lagoon. If you look at a
map of St Martin you will see that there is a large lagoon on the south
east coast. Simpson Bay, where we anchored, is the main entry point for
all the large boats who wish to stay at the main marinas which are inside
the lagoon. So it is quite a tradition to have a sundowner watching the
big boats go by. And some are BIG. Easily 100ft some of them and it is
quite a sight watching them squeeze in through the opening. These are
mainly motor yachts but you do have some large sailing yachts staying
inside the lagoon. While we were there Mirabella V and another “J” class
boat were at one of the marinas, unfortunately we did not have the
pleasure of watching either of their crews sweat it out as they entered or
left the lagoon. On our stay in December there had been a good amount of
larger boats but this time round you could see that a lot of boats had
left. In fact when we left St Martin there was only one or two boats in
the large marinas in the lagoon and great deals could be had if you wanted
to stay for the hurricane season. Everything in the Caribbean had started
to wind down and the “money” was headed for the Med.

On Good Friday we left Simpson Bay and went round the corner to
Philipsburg Bay. This is the main town on the Dutch side and full of duty
free shops so a pleasant afternoon was spent on Saturday window shopping
all the jewellery and camera shops - something for everyone. And they had
a McDonalds - civilisation as far as Jack is concerned!

On Easter Sunday we returned to Simpson Bay in anticipation of getting
more work done when the chandleries opened on the Tuesday. We ended up
staying there until 3rd May. The weather had changed and it was very
squally. Again we had to deal with keeping a close watch on the way the
boat was swinging and ensure that we did not drag the anchor. One smaller
boat did and it was amazing (perhaps horrifying is the correct word) to
see how quick the tide moved her, she just managed to avoid hitting two
other boats due to the quickness of other boat owners who jumped into
their dinghies and used them as fenders. Unfortunately the owners of the
wayward boat were not on board and Brian and another two sailors had to
break in to get the engine batteries on so they could start the engine and
move the boat back to safety. But the owners were very grateful. Our
time was spent mostly schooling and working on the boat with the daily
trip ashore for Brian to use the internet as there was none available in
the Bay. Again something which we have noticed - some of the more
“modern” of the islands eg. Martinique, St Martin do not have bay-wide
wifi available (either free or pay) and then Dominque, one of the poorer
islands, no problem getting wifi. And having wifi, especially when you
are weather bound at anchor, is a very important part of life.

But thankfully the weather improved and we headed back to St Barts on 3rd
May. We stayed three nights and enjoyed the shore excursions to wander
around the chic boutiques and get wifi! We hired a car for a couple of
hours and really explored the small island. It is beautiful - lovely
beaches and lovely houses to look at. But you could notice that the
number of yachts on cruises was getting smaller. St Barts was, in effect,
winding down. There was only two large motor yachts in the harbour and
ashore a lot of the shops and restaurants were shutting down or limiting
their opening hours. This trend was repeated when we returned to Antigua
on 6th May.

Back to Jolly Harbour and the mooring buoy. But unfortunately as the many
boats were abandoning the Caribbean the weather also changed. The
humidity level has gone through the roof, the mosquitoes are now out in
full, the flies etc. The rain has come. All in all not the Antigua we
had experienced only a month ago. But schooling has to be done and now
that we are only just over a week to lift out there is plenty of work,
packing cleaning etc. So a busy time.

We are now back in Falmouth - a change of scenery and another rain shower
has passed through. The humidity is yeucky. Thank God for air con!

Keep well.