Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Nonsuch Bay, Antigua

Today is the third day we've been anchored in Nonsuch Bay on the windward (East) side of Antigua. It's a great place to hang out away from the busier anchorages of English and Falmouth Harbors and St Johns.

We're anchored in about 15 feet of water about 300 yards behind a barrier reef that protects the bay from the rollers coming off of the Atlantic. Behind the reef the water is completely calm in spite of the brisk trade winds. It's a beautiful place.

Quinn and I spent this morning on the nearby beach on Green Island while Jen did some laundry on the boat. She couldn't bring herself to pay the $13 (US) per load that the local laundry charges, and so has spent the last few days building up her arm muscles doing our laundry by hand in a big bucket.

Back at the beach, Quinn played in the surf for a while and then picked up all his sand toys, loaded them into his bag and dumped them at the feet of a young English lady sunning herself on a beach blanket about 50 feet away. "Do you want to play with my sand toys?" he asked as I rushed up to apologize for the interruption. Happily, Nina and her sister and father were bored and welcomed the distraction. We chatted while Quinn built Nina a little sand castle and suggested I make several errands to the dingy (to obtain Nina's undivided attention, I suspect).

After the castle was completed Quinn and I took our leave and launched the dingy for the short ride back to Mirasol. On the approach I noticed just how bad the growth on the waterline had become and decided it was time to do something about it. I had planned on snorkeling the reef this afternoon, but that will have to wait.

After a quick inspection it became clear that Mirasol's anti-fouling paint is losing it's effectiveness and I had quite a rash of barnacles to deal with, and not just a quick waterline scrub. Plastic scraper in hand, I started with the propellers and then worked my way to the bow of each hull. It's a long tedious process, but not very hard work. Along with the barnacles and other critters, there was the usual green slime that grows along the waterline to deal with. As all the scraping fell away from the boat, it attracted a big school of bluefish who swarmed around gobbling it all up. It was nice to have company.

While under the hull, I also inspected the zincs and it looks like I'll need to replace the zincs on the saildrive housings soon. I have the replacements on hand so it's time to start looking for a good place to change the zincs. The procedure requires removing the propeller, so I'm hoping to do it in a nice shallow (5' to 8') anchorage with clear water and a sandy bottom. Given that I will be doing this while holding my breath, I want to be able to retrieve anything I drop in the process of diving down, doing something quickly, and then lurching back to the surface to grab a breath. If I'm lucky, I'll be able to locate a dive shop nearby a suitable anchorage so I can rent the scuba gear to make the whole thing a lot easier... Time to dig out the cruising guides and see what I can find. Something tells me another blog will come of all this!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti's Earthquake

Just a quick note to let everyone know we're well away from the earthquake in Haiti and weren't affected by it.

We are in Antigua, which is several hundred miles to the East of Haiti. Tied to a mooring in Falmouth Harbor, we didn't feel anything or notice any change in water level around the time of the quake. We haven't heard anything to suggest the quake caused a tsunami, and it would have been here by now if it had. From what I've read the quake was quite devastating.

The volcano on Montserrat was pretty active the past few days when we sailed around the SW coast of Antigua to get to English and Falmouth Harbor. I don't know if that activity is related or not. We are northeast of that volcano, so if the earthquake in Haiti sets it off, the ash shouldn't be a problem here as we are upwind.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Its a good day when...

...you have sand in your pants!

Quinn and I had a fun time at the beach today. It has been a couple of weeks since he's had a good beach to play at and he made great use of this
one today. He spent half the time building a sand castle and defending it against an incoming tide (which is definitely more fun than with an outgoing tide - more challenge!).

The rest of the time he played in the surf and got plenty of sand in his pants, ears, nose, mouth, etc. Big smiles all around!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Jolly Harbor, Antigua

Hello from Antigua! Wednesday afternoon we cleared St Maarten customs and exited the lagoon during the 11 AM bridge opening. The passage to Antigua was expected to take between 16 and 18 hours, so we decided to make it an overnight run. To avoid a pre-dawn arrival in Antigua, we anchored in Simpson Bay for a few hours before leaving St Maarten around 4 PM. Simpson Bay was open to a moderate swell from the south east and was very rolly, but tolerable for the few hours we needed to stay there. As we departed St Maarten, we passed Philipsburg on the south side of the island. We counted 5 huge cruise ships in port, along with one small one. Quite a sight!

Antigua lies about 90 nautical miles ESE from St Maarten, directly into the trade winds. We had planned our departure to catch a window of lighter winds, and it worked out as we had hoped. The trip went very well with winds under 10 knots and a lumpy mix of swell from the southeast and north. We encountered a number of cruise ships along the way, as well a few sailboats on a night passage from Antigua to St Maarten. The cruise ships are very easy to see - they are lit up like Times Square, even in the wee hours of the morning and also show up well on radar. The sailboat lights and radar return are harder to see and with the light winds everyone is right on the rhumb line between the two islands. We kept a sharp lookout and altered course twice to stay well clear oncoming sail boats. I saw a few showers on the radar, but they stayed clear of us. Come to think of it, a shower would have been handy to wash some of the salt spray off the boat.

We arrived in Jolly Harbor, Antigua around 9 AM and tied up to the customs dock. I put on one of my few collared shirts (mostly used for clearing customs) and checked in with customs and immigration without any complications. Jen and I were both tired, so rather than head out of the harbor to find a suitable anchorage, we scooped up a vacant mooring ball. After a brunch of smoked salmon sandwiches and this really yummy juice blend from South Africa, Jen and Quinn settled in for a nap while I took the dinghy to shore to pay for the mooring ball and explore a little. From what we've seen so far, Antigua is going to be a fun place to get to know.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Daddy, LOOK!

To start off, It's important to note that Quinn has been an exceptionally well behaved little boy on Mirasol. Of course we've had all the usual three and four year old antics, but when it comes to being a little sailor, I couldn't ask for more. He's fearless, smart, doesn't complain and always makes me proud when it counts.

But as for the 4 year old antics... well... Yesterday he decided it was time to ignore the DON'T PLAY WITH THE DINGY LINE edict, with unpleasant repercussions for Daddy.

Yesterday afternoon Jen "suggested" that I replenish our water supply. Hauling water wasn't way up there on my list of things to do that afternoon (loafing was a strong contender), but as the water tanks were both reading empty and we all needed a shower, I decided she had a good point. As noted in a previous post, we can't use our watermaker as the water here in the lagoon is a little gross. Or maybe a lot gross...

So, I loaded the four 5-gallon water jugs into the dingy and headed for shore. Mirasol holds 80 gallons of water so I had a few trips ahead of me. It's a fun process. Motor to shore in the dingy, unload the water jugs, walk up to the gas station office, pay for the water (20 cents/gallon) and retrieve the key to the water faucet lock. Fill the jugs and haul them back to the dock. Return the key to the office. Load the jugs into the dingy, cursing the engineer responsible for two of the jugs as he designed the caps to pop off and bounce out of the dingy at the slightest touch. Motor back to the boat. Haul the jugs up on deck and fill the tanks, jug by jug. Repeat, usually with a beer mixed in there somewhere. Tedious, but not too tough. Especially if the beer is cold and the harbor isn't too choppy.

After the second trip, Quinn was in the "help Daddy" mode and wanted to help with the filling of the tanks, the handling of the empty jugs, etc. What I didn't know was that he had also been helping with the dingy line while I was busy filling the tanks. As I was walking back to grab another jug off the dingy, Quinn ran up to me, grabbed my hand, pointed astern and cried DADDY, LOOK!

Much to my dismay, I saw our dingy floating about 100' behind Mirasol, and drifting quickly away in a brisk breeze. "How are we going to get it back?" cried Quinn in a panicky voice. "Were you playing with the dingy line?" I asked. "yes" he whispered, looking ashamed. I sighed, looked warily at the green nasty water we were anchored in (see last post), stripped off my shirt, dove in and chased down the errant dingy to the amusement of the other boats anchored in the vicinity.

Jen supplied me with a few shots of Tequila - one to gargle with and spit out and the other two to pickle whatever might have made it into my stomach during the swim through the choppy water. Feeling fortified, but gross, I used up some of the hard-earned water in the form of a very soapy shower. Grumbling a little, I came back on deck where Quinn gave me a big hug with a sincere "sorry Daddy". All was well.

St Maarten

Hi all. It's been a while since I've posted any updates, so lots of news.

The last I wrote we were in the US Virgin Islands with the plan to re-enter the British Virgin Islands while waiting for a weather window to St. Maarten (or St Martin if you're on the French side). Well, we found our weather and made it to St Maarten without issue. We left after dinner and sailed overnight for an early morning arrival. We anchored in Simpson Bay to clear in to St Maarten and then found a good spot in the Simpson Bay Lagoon to anchor.

Simpson Bay Lagoon is a great place to anchor if there's a big swell from the north, which is what we've had for the past 2 weeks. Those lovely snowstorms have rolled off the US east coast and have been sending us 8 - 12 foot swells from the north. Not so good to anchor out in the bays. Can you people please keep your nasty weather to yourselves?

So, we're here in the Lagoon, which we had thought would be a great place to hang out. It has been pretty convinent and at first very cool, but the shine has worn off and we're ready to get the heck out of here. You might have caught that from Jen's last post. ;)

The lagoon has the advantage of being well protected from any waves as it is 100% land locked, accessible through only two very narrow canals. It is about 1 mile in diameter and hosts at least a hundred boats. It also has a very busy airport which really detracts form the nice quiet Caribbean anchorage mojo. The other big issue is that it is a land locked lagoon with over a hundred boats... with no pump-out facilities... but the poo has to go SOMEWHERE! So, let's just say the lagoon doesn't provide the relaxing afternoon swimming venue we are used to. Jen's been calling it poo-water, which isn't too far off.

So given the less than pristine quality of the water, we don't use our watermaker and instead I haul water from shore in the dingy in 5 gallon jugs. We have four, and it takes several trips to fill the tanks. Well, something has to fill up the day, and the sun is shining and the view is cool. In fact, we're anchored just off of Witch's Tit. Got to love the salty sailors who named things back in the 1700's. No politically correct silliness then! Oh, and if you're wondering, it's a fair description.

So while we're on the topic of things that aren't great about this anchorage, well, all the nitrogen in the water from the boat effluent has encouraged a robust growth of weeds, which are NOT conducive to secure anchoring or restful nights when the wind pipes up. We have dragged anchor and watched many other boats drag in our stay here. We seem to have a good stick now and as a precaution, we used our engines to test the anchor today after a wind shift to ensure we're still well stuck.

On the positive side, it is a very cool place to be. This is a duty free port with very well stocked marine supply stores, which we needed. I purchased over 200 feet of line to replace line chafed badly during the passage from the US, a worn main halyard clutch wedge that I thought I was unlikely to replace before returning to the US (also damaged during the passage) and lots of miscellaneous stuff that comes up.

More interestingly, with the French and Dutch influences here, the bread, pastries, quiche, deli meats and cheese here are amazing and we're doing our best to sample it all. Morning dingy excursions to the patisserie for croissants and quiche for breakfast, grabbing fantastic stinky cheeses and fresh crispy breads for lunch and snacks... They have the good stuff here! During Quinn's naps we've taken to leaving the cheese and bread on the galley counter while we play cribbage so that we don't eat too much of it. In between hands we "get some exercise" to go scarf another bite of great stinky cheese, prosciutto and bread. Yum!
We took a $1 taxi ride to the other side of the island to hit a CostCo lookalike to pick up two more water jugs and some other goodies we needed (and could fit in our laps in the taxi-van on the way back). Nice system here - $1 per person per ride as far as you want to go, but the taxi-van stops whenever someone wants on or off so it's more like a bus ride. Works great.

We've taken the dingy across the lagoon to the French side several times. No customs required as long as you've cleared in with either the Dutch or French. We've explored a hilltop fort from the early 1800's built to protect the anchorage from the British privateers, eaten in some yummy restaurants, and explored the street markets. Lots of fun there. There is a great anchorage there in Marigot Bay, but is exposed to the swell from the north, so we haven't moved there as we had hoped to.

We look forward to returning without the northerly swells and being able to anchor in the coastal bays. Meanwhile, we're planning our crossing over to Antigua, which is about 90 nm ESE from here. We hope to leave Wednesday.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Sint Maarten

I know it's been a long time since we've posted anything. WiFi here is sporadic at best, so getting online has not been a priority. I will try to get ashore to post the latest photos to the website as soon as I can.

We've been on anchor watch with the high winds and crappy holding in weeds here in the lagoon at Simpson Bay. Winds finally let up late last night so we were finally able to get some sleep. We're staying in the lagoon, though, because of the swells in the bay. Plus we love the sound of jets going overhead. Side story - we're anchored off the end of the island's airport runway. Sometimes the planes appear so close that you could step up onto our bimini and grab the landing gear. Quinn's enjoying it, even though he's started to cover his ears.

Today was exciting for Gregg and I'm sure he'll want to comment further on his, I think, 3rd adventure in the series, "Not enough soap in the world". I just hope the tequila shots he drank killed everything he may have ingested.

We're mostly just hanging out here in St. Martin, running errands, shopping and EATING. There's a fancy and fairly inexpensive little gourmet grocery a very short dinghy ride from the boat, so I've been going almost daily buying French cheeses, baguettes and then pastries from the French bakery across the street. We need to get out of here and go somewhere with clean water so we can swim and get some exercise before we grow out of all our clothes!

We've managed to get over to the French side of the island a few times for the street market and for a hike up to the fort ruins. Again, photos forthcoming soon, I hope.

We're looking to leave Sint Maarten sometime in the next few days. We will probably go straight to Antigua, which will be an overnight sail (or motor), but from what I could tell, most of the prime anchorages between here and there are subject to northerly swells, which is what we are currently suffering. Antigua should be great and we're really looking forward to moving on with our journey.