Summer 2022
John Andrews
Sun 23 Jan 2011 20:09
We are currently sitting on a mooring at St Rupert's Bay, Dominica, and
have finally cracked the satellite phone/mailasail interface, have set up
our web page, and so can now join the offshore blogging community!

Storm conditions on our passage from Antigua to Dominica led to us taking
refuge in Les Saintes for two days. This was an ideal opportunity to rip
the boat apart to find the hidden ducting to lead the satellite phone
aerial aft. Tackling this was a bit like tackling one of those fiendish
chinese wooden puzzles, but persistence paid off and we now have a very
neat installation. Surprisingly we were able to send and receive e-mails
relatively easily, although are still struggling a bit with grib file

We started our 2011 cruise in Antigua on 1st January with Tess and Theo on
board. The first few days were spent recommissioning the boat which went
very smoothly. The dreaded whispergen is working like a dream and the the
batteries, the bane of our last trip, seem to have decided to behave
themselves. John is however nursing them like babies and we the admonition
that 'this is not a house!' ringing in our ears are trying to become more
amp conscious, with mixed success.

Our first trip was round the south of Antigua to anchor off Green Island
prior to sailing to Barbuda. Green Island is very peaceful and ideal for
swimming and a bit of reef fishing(no result unfortunately).

Our passage to Barbuda was a great success on the fishing front. Several
takes and two landed - well one and a half actually. When we pulled the
last fish from the water, we discovered that something had had the tail
end and we were left with the head end and some trailing guts - a bit off
putting to be honest.

Weather conditions were good enough for us to be able to anchor off Low
Bay, a fabulous sandy spit which separates the sea from the lagoon. We
launched our dinghy to go ashore, but what looked like gently lapping
waves from the boat, turned out to be potential dinghy capsizers when we
got to the shore. The return journey in the dark after a barbque dinner in
Codrington village was frankly alarming. The next day a neighbouring Dutch
boat which had a rib kindly offered to ferry us ashore. The waves were
even bigger by this time, and even his dingy was damaged when a larger
wave than usual slammed the stern down on the shore, breaking the engine
mountings. We were able however to take the trip to the frigate bird
colony which is in the north of the lagoon. It is the most spectacular
sight, with thousands of birds and their fluffy chicks roosting in the
mangroves. As it is the mating season, the male birds were in full mating
show, their throats blown up like enormous red balloons.We felt as if we
were in a David Attenborough documentary.

We braved the surf again to get back to our boat. This was daunting for us
all, but for Theo, who is not a strong swimmer, this was literally a white
knuckle ride which he faced with considerable aplomb. His luck turned when
we spotted a small open boat with oilskin clad crew landing crates of
something through the surf. Theo had been desperate to prepare fresh
lobster on the boat, so John leaped into the dinghy and chased after them,
coming back triumphantly with two fresh spider lobsters. Theo rose to the
challenge and that night we had an excellent lobster supper.

Our next port of call was St Bart's to do some celebrity spotting. We made
a good passage, and the fishing went so well that we packed the fishing
line away - we had enough for several meals. We caught two spanish
mackerel which we kept, and a jack, which we finally threw away after
reading about concerns about ciguatera. St Bart's is very French and very
pretty and stuffed full of super-super yachts and motorboats. We requested
a stern to mooring so that everyone could get ashore, but this was a huge
mistake. There was an enormous swell and we had to moor about 10 feet from
the stone dock side to prevent banging back into it. Getting ashore was a
complete nightmare and we spent a pretty sleepless night rolling this way
and that and listening the sharp report of the mooring lines snapping and
snatching the in the dreadful swell.

We left St Bart's for St Kitt's for a one night stopover. We had a lovely
meal at a charming balcony restaurant overlooking the circus and clock
tower in the middle of Basse Terre. We then wandered the streets looking
for a bar for a post prandial bevvy, but Basse Terre seems to close
completely at 8.00 p.m. and we found ourselves prowling the deserted,
windswept malls of the cruise ship dock where we found a rather dubious
looking cocktail bar, complete with bouncers. I ordered a cuba libre,
which seemed appropriate, and my first rum since arriving in the
Caribbean. When John asked for a beer, his usual tipple, the waitress just
laughed. He was eventually allowed one, however, and a good time was had
by all.

We knew that the passage to Antigua was going to be a tough one, up wind
and up current, so decided to go overnight and rigged the storm jib so
that we would remain as comfortable as possible. This proved to be a good
plan, and we made a good passage, making landfall at 7.00a.m. After
relaxing, sleeping, swimming and some lunch, we mad our way into St
John's. However, even though we rang someone and got permission to moor
there, when we got there we couldn't find any way of securing ourselves to
the wooden staithe. Our man couldn't be raised by radio or phone, so we
had to abandon and go to Jolly Harbour.

Tess and Theo had to leave us the next day which was sad. We had packed a
lot in, and they were not keen to return to the cold and to work, although
moving forward on the purchase of their flat was something to look forward
to. We had a lovely goodbye lunch in St John's at the Commissioner's grill
and then got into our respective taxis.

We have now spent two days in Dominica. I do like this island, it is wild
and woolly, the people are lovely and a bit fey - probably due to the weed
which seems to be smoked in copious quantities, but they are so
enthusiastic about their bountiful island. We have been rowed up the
Indian River - tranquil and mysterious. We have been on a day tour of the
north of the island including a trip to the Carib Territories. Although I
don't think there are any pure blooded Caribs left, the people there are
certainly ethnically distinct, with strait black hair, golden coloured
skin and oriental eyes. This morning we were up at 5.00 a.m. to do a trip
to the Syndicate National Park to see the parrots. We arrived just as the
dawn was breaking and walked through the gloom along a jungle path. The
parrots were becoming noisier and noisier. We reached a lookout point over
a spectacular, deep valley and over on the far side we were able to spot
parrots, with some difficulty as they were heavily camouflaged, in the
trees. We then went creepy crawly down a very overgrown path and there,
only 30 yards away, we saw a parrot posing on the end of a branch showing
off its red neck, and then we saw another, and then another - fabulous. On
the way back we stopped off at Milton falls which involved a
treacherous walk along a muddy track, over tree roots, forging two rivers
- wrong footwear, but hey ho, socks dry out pretty quickly - and reaching
this spectacular, thunderous waterfall - magnificent. On the way back to
the boat, we stopped off at a small farm, and bought a huge lettuce, a
cabbage (because it was there) and some green peppers. We have ordered a
local chicken and some fresh fish to be delivered to the boat tomorrow
before we set off back north, so we are well set up with local produce for
our three day journey to St Maarten where we will be leaving the boat.