first blog

Summer 2022
John Andrews
Mon 24 Jan 2011 18:59


Subject: 15:34.8N 61:27.7W

Date: Fri, January 21, 2011

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.