The plan for 2019 is quite simple…Summer in New York, Christmas in the Bahamas!
But first I will island hop up the Eastern Caribbean …Trinidad, Granada, the Grenadine islands, and so on.
The image at the head of this post is the sun rising over Hart’s Cut Bay in Trinidad.
My mind was made up, the final documentation for my US visa application was complete, I had booked extra days in CrewsInn marina and all I had to do was book a US embassy interview and book a return flight to London…easy peazy, and then just sail to Grenada in the first week of February. BUT, the earliest date available for the interview was 1st February! So everything has to be delayed! It seems that the US government shutdown caused by the impasse over funding for “the wall” is affecting some aspects of US Embassy services.
I’m now in London, and if anyone ever again hears me utter the words “I’m popping back to the UK in January” then please slap my legs and take my passport away from me…it’s freezing cold and snow is on its way!
Today is 1st February and I spent a little over an hour at the US embassy having two short interviews, giving two sets of finger prints and handing over the documents required. My visa application has been accepted and I now have to wait around a week to get my passport back.
I’m now the proud owner of a British passport with a ten year US visa. While in the UK I have also visited my youngest son in Leeds, met with a university friend after 41 years, met friends in Hull, completed my tax return (on the penultimate day!), met with friends in London, visited Tate Britain and Leake Street Graffiti Tunnel, and had a wonderful day at the Chinese New Year celebrations in Trafalgar Square with Liz. I have booked a flight to Barbados, and three days in an AirBnB near Bridgetown. Then there is just a short onward flight to Trinidad to book….I wonder what experiences the Year of the Pig will promise!
I am coming to the end my stay in Trinidad. I’m organising quick trips to the Trinidad carnival with friend Liz who is flying out to join me for a couple of weeks. Our first taste of carnival was J’ouvert, which means “opening day” and starts before sunrise at 4am. We joined a band called Tribal Explosion and the whole experience included the loudest Soca music, food, drink and the smearing of paint on the revellers as we wound our way around Port of Spain. As the hours passed by the behaviour became more raucous, including wining (look it up on Google!) and finished at 10am. The next day we were picked up at 6am to head into Port of Spain again, and we followed the various masquerades until 2pm when we deserved a rest!……I really don’t know where the masqueraders got their energy from!
We had a day of rest and then left CrewsInn marina at 2am to arrive in Grenada in daylight. The adventure began as we briefly went aground in the Bocas in darkness! But as we left the Trinidad coast we were able to sail a lively passage on one tack as we hit 7 knots of Speed Over Ground hour after hour, and completed the 83nm passage in 14 hours. The Le Phare Bleu marina is in a beautiful setting on the south coast of Grenada, and has an ex-Swedish Lightship as the toilet and shower facility, and regular live music. We saw Sabina Francis and her band on one evening.
On our last day in Grenada we took a local bus into the town of St George’s.
I’m now solo sailing again, and will sail to the Grenadine island of Carriacou tomorrow. I’m looking forward to a few days in the Grenadines because I’m meeting up with three sets of sailing friends who I’ve met over the last few years!
Carriacou has that laidback Caribbean beach style, and I anchored in Tyrrel Bay….after two attempts! I met with David and Mark, two guys I met in Lanzarote and who both crossed the Atlantic on their own boats earlier this year. We agreed to meet again in Carriacou, and we did! I also met Karin and Chris, an Austrian couple who I met in Kalamata over the winter of 2015/2016. They now run their own skippered charter business on their catamaran in St Vincent & the Grenadines. And finally was invited for drinks on another yacht “Stealin’ Time” after seeing my OCC (Ocean Cruising Club) pennant, but hadn’t realised we had already spoken at our last stop in Grenada! Carriacou is a great place to meet old and new friends!
I then made a long 28 hour passage to St Lucia which had hours of fabulous wind until I hit the “wind shadow” behind St Vincent. Then I had a mixture of fighting against current and swell until I reached the gap between St Vincent and St Lucia when good winds hit again!
I sailed up to Rodney Bay at the very northwest of the island and was moored up by midday…I then rested and slept well on the first night! I met Paul Chopin (with Helen) who I first met in Gibraltar and then in Gran Canaria as we were both preparing to cross the Atlantic with the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Then I met sailor-cum-backpacker-cum-travelling Californian, Heather on the next boat to me….such is the life of a social butterfly! But I had a rendezvous to make on Martinique, and I sailed a fabulous passage to Fort de France.
Hull Sailing Club buddy, Katie flew into Fort de France for a much needed five day holiday, and we decided to hire a car to explore as much of Martinique as possible. Martinique didn’t disappoint and our highlights were the Jardin de Balata botanical gardens, the Clément rum distillery tour and the birthplace of Empress Josephine.
My previous trip to St Lucia was far too short and I decided that I would sail back to the anchorage in Rodney Bay before, once again, island hopping north. But the weather and the anchorage were awful, so after one night I went into the marina. I had two great days chilling on the beach at Rodney Bay and lunch at Pink Plantation in Castries…I’ll also remember where I witnessed my first “green flash” as the sun finally set on a lovely day. Time to say goodbye again to St Lucia…I anchored in the bay for the afternoon in readiness for an overnight sail to Dominica….and it was a fabulous passage! I had to reduce sail because I didn’t want to arrive in darkness and was in Roseau Bay at 7am, and then on a mooring buoy soon after. Cruise ships were in harbour for two days and Roseau was a lively place to be, as was Trafalgar Falls although I took a local bus rather than a tour bus. On the move again and another lively sail to Les Saintes, part of the French island Guadeloupe, and on a mooring buoy again.
Bourg des Saintes is just fabulous! A little piece of France in the Caribbean.
The short passage across to the south western tip of Guadeloupe was very lively and I was pleased I chose to sail with just the genoa in 30 knot winds! I knew that conditions would be similar at the north western tip so I dropped anchor at Plage de Malendure opposite Pigeon Island, and chilled for two nights.
Then I sailed a short 10nm passage to anchor in the bay at Deshaies….and picked up a fishing buoy while motoring! I stopped to have a look and the line was wrapped around the propeller shaft so I continued slowly. At Deshaies it was very windy so I dropped the anchor quickly. Armed with a knife I dived several times and eventually cut all the rope away. Deshaies is famous for being the filming location for the TV series “ Death in Paradise” and is now famous for me meeting up again with fellow Atlantic crossing yacht Rose Marie! My next passage will be to English Bay in Antigua.
The passage to Antigua was very lively all the way, and I anchored in English Harbour which the Royal Navy began to use as a base in the 17th century. I will be visiting Nelson’s Dockyard during my stay…and I believe there’s an English Harbour rum! It was busy busy…I organised a repair to my dinghy so I went on the harbour wall at Nelson’s Dockyard and there I met Atlantic sailors, Nick and Hannah on yacht Waterbird, I spent a few hours in the capital, St John’s and had lunch at Hemingways, I walked up to Shirley Heights to take my Instagram photograph, and then went up again in a taxi for the Sunday night Jump Up evening, I took the ferry to Montserrat for a fabulous day-trip, I ran over to Pigeon Point beach for a swim…over three days! I bought a bottle of port cask finished English Harbour rum and met the Royal Navy Tot Club and finally had a BBQ evening with with Nick and Hannah. It would have been very easy to stay longer in Antigua, however I did cast off my lines for a rolly 55nm passage to Nevis where I dropped anchor at Pinney’s Beach, Charlestown just in time to watch the setting sun.
Pinney’s Beach was a great place to anchor, Sunshine’s Bar was a great recommendation and Killer Bee rum punch was the perfect sundowner in Nevis!
I had a pleasant 30nm sail to Sint Eustatius, probably not very well known today, but was once a powerful Caribbean island. I anchored in the bay at the capital, Oranjestad which has a very pretty old town and museum, and Fort Oranje. I took some time out to walk The Quill volcano up to the crater rim, and then took the Mazinga Trail to the highest point on the rim with a spectacular view of St Kitts.
After a tedious hour so getting around the south coast of St Eustatius against wind, current and swell, it was a fabulous sail north to the French island, St Barthelemy. As it was my birthday weekend I decided to moor stern-to on the harbour wall in front of Hotel de la Collectivite in the lively harbour of Gustavia. The West Indies Regatta gave a wonderful display of wooden yachts and evening live music, market, food and drink throughout the weekend. I then found Shell Beach (not sand, but millions of crushed seashells) and a wedding, singer, planteurs punch and some Americans who invited me to drop by in South Carolina later this year. In Le Select I tasted the Cheeseburger in Paradise (named after the Jimmy Buffett song)….and then a FaceTime chat with the boys from New York on my birthday, and a present of tickets for a Jimmy Buffett concert in August!
Next, a short and pleasant sail to French St Martin to anchor in windy Marigot Bay. April ends here, and May begins…my final month in the Eastern Caribbean! Both the Dutch and French sides of this island have a huge yachting community, and everyone just mingles together….I crossed the “border” several times by taxi, local bus and in my dinghy. Marigot’s history includes the building of a fort in 1789 to keep English pirates out. In the Dutch Sint Maarten, Philipsburg is very much a cruise ship destination with streets lined with tax-free shops. In 2017 the whole island was hit by hurricane Irma…the most powerful Caribbean hurricane known. Just 18 months later the island seems to be thriving again.
Again, and possibly for the last time, I met Paul Chopin on yacht Corryvrekan. Paul will leave Sint Maarten to sail back across the Atlantic to Europe, while I head up to New York.
An easy sail and my shortest sail this year…just 12nm to Road Bay, Anguilla and I celebrated that achievement with a rum punch in Elvis’ Beach Bar! I had a very long, hot walk to the capital, The Valley and then down to Crocus Bay. Anguilla is very laid-back Caribbean style. I’m spending the last of my Eastern Caribbean dollars before I change to US dollars for the rest of the year.
I left Road Bay late afternoon and sailed all night in good wind to arrive in the BVI’s in the mist and cloud and rain! But the sun began to shine as I hooked up a mooring buoy in Road Town Bay on Tortola. Next day I went into Village Cay marina and planned for the arrival of UK friend Susie for a couple of weeks island hopping to Puerto Rico. We took a day trip ferry to St Thomas where we both had some US beurocracy to sort out, and I pre-booked a marina in Charlotte Amalie for the coming weekend. Back in Road Town all problems were resolved after a Pusser’s Painkiller rum punch!
The sail up to Anegada was very pleasant and the entrance through the coral reef, although daunting, was fine and here I was in the Land of Love and Drowning! We booked a lobster dinner in the Wonky Dog restaurant as Anegada lobster is famous.
We lifted the anchor, negotiated the buoyed channel through the coral and were sailing to Jost van Dyke by 07:00. We sailed all the way and were anchored in Great Harbour on Jost van Dyke at 12:30. We were able to clear out of the BVI’s in readiness for leaving in two days time. We then acquainted ourselves with the famous Foxy’s Bar!
The highlight of our stay on Jost van Dyke was a tough walk over into White Bay to visit the Soggy Dollar Bar for an original Painkiller rum punch, and then an evening BBQ at Foxy’s!
The next day was an easy 18nm sail out of the BVI’s to St Thomas in the US Virgin Islands. We had to anchor in the bay at Charlotte Amalie to dinghy in to the customs office to clear in to the USVI’s, and then back on the boat to our mooring booked in the IGY marina.
Charlotte Amalie is a wonderful historic city with Danish roots that is tarnished by cruise ship duty-free mentality…but I did find The Beer Garden just off the Main Street!
Then an easy short sail to the Puerto Rican island, Culebra where I finally got hold of a 12 month US Cruising Permit!
Then a lazy day swimming, photography and reading on Flamenco Beach, once given the honour of being the 3rd best beach in the world by TripAdvisor Travelers Choice.
My last passage of my Caribbean Odyssey would be an early start and 55nm sail to San Juan, the capital of Puerto Rico…but it turned out to be motoring with an attempt to sail once reaching the NE coast of Puerto Rico. We anchored in front of the marina in San Juan bay and remained there throughout my stay in San Juan. We caught the local bus into Old San Juan and spent two days visiting the fabulous Spanish colonial city, including the two military forts and dined both days in Cafe Berlin…we even stumbled across the bar, Marilyn’s Place, dedicated to Marilyn Monroe. Then it was time for friend, and birthday girl, Susie to fly back to London after an adventure covering three countries and six islands!
This brings to an end my Caribbean Odyssey and my next Diary post will cover Puerto Rico to New York, via Bermuda.