Sunday, 4 January 2015

The British Virgin Islands



We left St Martin and set sail for the BVI's under full sail on the 27th of December. It was a good passage arriving at Virgin Gorda at 0130hrs.
Eric caught 2 Mahimahi so he was happy. It was the first game fish we had caught since leaving Trinidad in October. We realised that all our gear was too big. The fish we caught in the Pacific were much bigger and once Eric downsized his rig we were in luck.
He has kept us pretty well supplied while at anchor though in Trevally and snapper.

After a few hrs sleep we checked in at Gun Creek Customs and Immigration then moved up to Prickly pear island off the Saba rock resort.
The British Virgin Islands are the largest cruising grounds for both bare boat and crewed charter boats in the world and one can see why with predictable weather, clean waters and safe anchorages. The population is only approx 25,000 so there are many places that are not populated where you can anchor if solitude is what you're after. The popular places are full of day mooring bouys but at night if one chooses to stay, there are places to anchor or one can pay for a night mooring.

We have made a movie of our adventures


video

We are currently waiting for a weather window to leave for the Bahamas, which looks like it will be Tuesday the 4th of January. The trip should take us 4 days to the southern end of the chain.

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

St Martin (French) and Sint Maarten (Dutch)


This unique 7mile long island is divided through the middle, the north being French and the south Dutch.
According to Chris Doyle's cruising guide there is a charming story, unsupported by historical fact that the French and Dutch were so civilised that, rather than fight over the island, they had a Frenchman armed with a bottle of wine walk in one direction and a Dutchman equipped with a flask of gin take the other. Where they met became the boundary, and the French ended up with a bit more because the gin was stronger than the wine!

 
We arrived here on the 14th December after a pleasant downwind overnight sail from Barbuda, anchoring on the outside of the lagoon on the French side at Marigot Bay. We waited here until the swing bridge opens to allow yachts into the sheltered lagoon. Waiting outside the canal entrance while boats came out of the lagoon was what the guide book suggested. But alas while we politely allowed others to go through ahead of us it closed!!!! Not having good enough French to call them on VHF radio and advised not to call speaking English we went back on anchor. Feeling somewhat pissed off Eric bought out the rum bottle and Cathy decided to cut the Xmas cake.


The next morning at the proposed opening time of 0815hrs we waited again at the canal entrance but the bridge did not open at all!!! Later we were to discover that the guide book info had changed and the bridge opened at 0900hrs

Sooooo we set off around the island to the Dutch side and to their bridge! We waited until the opening enjoying the scenery out in Simpson Bay.

The Dutch bridge opened on time and we followed other boats through into the sheltered lagoon



When the big super yachts go through it is quite a site with only centimetres of clearance each side and by the damage to the bridge sometimes the skipper gets it wrong as you can see by the photo


We counted 30 motor yachts over 150' long and around 10 super yachts within the lagoon and more outside. This isn't even the peak season! Many of the Caribbean islands economies rely heavily on the charter boat business and these super yachts are the charter fleet for the super rich who fly in and out on their lear jets as opposed to cattle class in the airbus! The middle class fly in on the largest jets and sail away on the smallest yachts while the rich fly in on the smallest of jets and sail away on the biggest yachts!


After 15mins the next bridge opened from St Maarten on the Dutch side to St Martin on the French side. This one is a swivel bridge


Irish friends on SV Karma and NZ friends on SV Rhombus were in the lagoon so we anchored nearby

We spent the next 2 weeks restocking the boat with food and duty free liquor, doing maintenance and exploring our new surroundings. As always in a new place it took time to find what we wanted and at the right price. It was strange to pay Euro at one end of the lagoon and US dollars at the other end.

We walked up to Fort Louis for the great views back across the Lagoon and out to sea


During our walk we saw Iguana and these very colourful wasps.



These  Iguana also liked sunning themselves on boats



In October a tropical storm developed into a category 3 hurricane named Gonzalo and swept across St Martin destroying many boats. As we circumnavigated the lagoon we saw remnants of the damage




A walk to Maho bay down a beautiful long beach and through resorts brought us to the end of the airport runway. This is a very popular place to spend some hrs drinking at the bar, swimming and lying on deckchairs while the planes come in. They come over so close to the beach that you feel you could reach up and touch them.


Eric looking out to sea and at the bottom right eating a baguette

Many people line up to take photos at takeoff and it's pretty exciting to be in the jet stream as these planes roar up their engines causing the sand to have a sandblasting effect. Then they all dive for cover!!




I took this movie then had to dive for cover. It was hilarious!

video


A bus trip to the Dutch capital Philipsburg was interesting. 4 cruise ships were docked and the town centre and beach restaurants were buzzing with tourists. We did some xmas shopping and strolled along the beach



We had a quiet but pleasant Xmas aboard “Erica”eating and drinking and watching the sites. On Boxing day we topped up our diesel and water tanks in preparation for leaving the next day.


On the 27th of December we left the lagoon and set sail for the British Virgin islands

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Antigua and Babuda



We left Guadeloupe in the late afternoon of the 6th of December and sailed overnight to Antigua.


Authorities have a purpose built dock to tie up to and are strict with formalities. (We haven't encountered this since leaving NZ and Australia)
We berthed alongside between a chartered super yacht and a restaurant. The customs/Immigration building is the wee building with the yellow Q! Flag flying



After clearance we anchored in a lovely spot in shallow water overlooking some resorts.



Antigua is historically famous for the beautifully restored naval dockyard at English harbour where Nelson was stationed in 1784 as a naval commander and also today for the charter boat shows and Antigua yacht races.
The 2 harbours of Falmouth and English harbour lie alongside and are protected enough to be safe in a hurricane.
We chose to anchor in the NW at Jolly harbour to avoid the anchoring fees in English and Falmouth and to bus there instead. We enjoy travelling in the local buses everywhere we go to meet the people and see the countryside. We caught the bus to St Johns (capital of Antigua) and changed buses to travel to the south. During the wait to fill the bus we had a great time people watching as the bus terminal was in the centre of the market place. A very jovial beggar came to the window and asked Cathy for some money for a soda. We didn't want to set a precedent, as tourists are always targets. He then asked the bus driver who gave him a dollar and asked him to pay him back on Monday! This caused the entire busload of locals to roar with laughter!


On arriving at Falmouth harbour it was raining so we took shelter. The scene we were looking at of rusty old LPG “swap a bottles” which would be condemned in many places in the world, with a 50 million dollar super yacht behind it amused us.


Before walking to Nelson's dockyard in English harbour we had a coffee and bumped into fellow cruising kiwis off SV “Rhombus” which was a pleasant surprise. It was the final day of the charter boat show so we took the opportunity to look over the boats as we wandered through the museum and buildings. Most of the buildings have been made into restaurants and bars.




While we ate our meat patties and blueberry turnovers from the bakery washed down with local Antiguan beer this inquisitive gecko watched us


After 5 days in Antigua we sailed on to Barbuda. Barbuda is not a popular cruising area in the Carribean as it can be a difficult upwind sail, can be difficult to navigate for the inexperienced and does not have enclosed anchorages. For this reason it is secluded and untouched by Caribbean standards.
It is a low island, the highest point only 125' above sea level surrounded by shallow “baby powder blue” water.


We anchored in Low bay to the side of the very picturesque Lighthouse resort.


As we had not checked out of Antigua and could do so here we wheeled the dinghy across the narrow natural causeway that encloses the lagoon


We were met by a local who was hoping to charge us a $40USD fee to taxi us across the lagoon to Codrington. He told us that there was a new Govt ruling to stop people taking their own dinghies across the lagoon as it was a designated National Park. He stated that we may be turned away on the other side. We took the chance and met no negativities. Infact the locals were nonplussed about our arrival.



After tying off the dinghy we set off to find the Port authority at the new Port authority building.


We were then told to go to the Tourism office



The woman wasn't there so we were sent on to the Post Office


Here we were told that she was “Off island”. After some phone calls by a very helpful woman she shyly and with embarrassment told us to go to Customs with the following directions....
Walk straight ahead then turn right at Maddison square by the Orange building, pass a church then turn right again.



The rest of the directions were lost in our heads but we enjoyed the scenery along the way



We eventually found the Customs office with help from a young woman in a superette but there was no-one there.


We decided to go to the airstrip but there was no-one there either.
The arrivals area was well ventilated and the departure lounge decorated for Xmas


By the time we got back to the Customs building the officer was arriving. After the usual paperwork he kindly drove us to Immigration. We squeezed into the front seat together and others sat in the backseat and outside. I took this photo as he pulled away.



With our passports stamped and groceries bought we headed back across the lagoon.
Our afternoon adventure was a dinghy trip down the beach past the resort to look across the lagoon to the frigate bird colony



We beached the dinghy and walked along the foreshore. The sand has a pink hue with a red tide line from tiny shells


We walked through the mangroves spotting “camera shy” hummingbirds as we ventured to the lagoon, passing lizard tracks but seeing none. This was a good spot to look across to the frigate bird colony. We wanted to take the kayak into the lagoon and paddle up to the colony but it is discouraged without taking a guided tour. So not being in our budget we had to be happy with what we saw.




When we got back to the boat we were visited by a white heron who decided that our bowsprit was a good fishing spot



We left in the evening of the 13th of December hoping that the strong Barbudan desire to keep their island free of McDonaldisation and modernisation prevails as it was lovely for us to come somewhere where nature is untouched and the island is unspoilt by the Caribbean style tourism















SV Erica

SV Erica

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We met in 1971 and it was Eric's dream to build his own yacht and sail the world. This became a joint dream but it was not until 1994 that we were able to start building. "Erica" was launched in 2001 after 7yrs building her. It then took us 5 yrs to prepare her and ourselves before leaving NZ to see the world

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