Thursday, 23 May 2013

Antigua and South

Antigua and South.

Having spent a few days at anchor in Five Islands harbour it is time to move on. We are now heading back south, so we moved to the anchorage at Jolly harbour for some provisioning and Customs checkout.
Ashore at 5 islands. A blowhole in a solidified lava flow.
After filling up with water we said goodbye to ‘Frogslexe’ who is heading back to Europe single handed. We wished him ‘Bon Voyage’ while we embarked on our 50M trip to Deshaies on Guadeloupe. 

Deshaies as before did not disappoint, as we had some excellent snorkelling at the edge of the harbour and close to the entrance. One morning before breakfast we spotted dolphins swimming in the anchorage, but by the time we were in the water they had disappeared. One day we will get to swim with dolphins. On a run ashore with the crew of ‘Vivace’, we took a walk up the river, quite a scramble over boulders to find that the water was rather low so the expected waterfalls and pools did not materialise. The walk was still impressive all the same.
River walk
The ladies water aerobics classes started in Falmouth harbour are still going strong with the group numbers varying depending who is around.

After a couple of days in Deshaies we are on the move again, this time only as far as the Jacques Cousteau marine reserve at Pigeon Island.  The anchorage is a bit rolly but the turtles and the   snorkelling more than compensate. We go ashore with the crew of ‘Vivace’ again and discover a pretty beach resort with the usual bars, beach shops and several dive operators. After a bit of discussion and negotiation, we have all booked 2 dives each, so we will stay another day.
The beach at Cousteau reserve
Honeycomb Cowfish
The evil, invasive Lionfish & Magnificent Feather duster worm
The diving is every bit as good as promised, beautiful corals and sponges, lots of sea life and interesting underwater topography. With a statue of the man himself what more could a diver wish for? Once again we saw several new fish including hogfish, sand tilefish, white spotted filefish, a school of Atlantic spadefish, Caribbean spiny lobster and reef squid.
French Angelfish - what else do you expect in Guadeloupe!

Parrot fish - we still have not identified this one in spite of having three fish books.
Porkfish - I kid you not!
Queen Trigger fish

With Jacques. If youn rub his head all your future diving will be good. It has so far!

Sharptail eel. It was crawling in and out of the yellow sponges, presumably eating something that lives at the bottom, closely accompanied all the time by a small grouper waiting for titbits. 

Almost forgot - A Hawksbill turtle
Our next port of call is the Saintes; we will not stay long, just long enough to checkout before heading to Roseau on Dominica. Our new electric autopilot is being despatched from the USA to St Lucia so we need to keep moving in order to arrive and collect it from the marina office.  A solitary dolphin appeared to say good bye as we left the archipelago.
To The Saintes in the rain!
We arrive in Roseau in the afternoon and are too late to check in; we will do this in the morning along with the washing which has not been done for a while. After visiting the laundry and checking in and out at customs, we decide to explore the bay to the south of our mooring and maybe have lunch at the Anchorage Hotel. Next door to the hotel is the Dominica Dive centre and lodge; we enjoyed lunch on the terrace overlooking the water. The fish burger was Lionfish (yum yum!!). After such an environmentally friendly lunch we succumbed to temptation and booked a couple of dives for the following day. (Our Autopilot will have to wait).

What can you say about another beautiful marine reserve?  The diving at Scott’s Head was excellent with huge underwater pinnacles, a really good swim through with squirrel fish, crabs and lobsters. The whole area seems pristine with a huge variety of life. We saw four different varieties of sea anemone   and corals and sponges in more colours and shapes than you can imagine. The highlight being the second dive where we saw Seahorses and swam among the volcanic gasses escaping in the water creating an effect like swimming in a champagne glass.
Arrow Crab with its host Anenome, the whole crab is only about 1" legs 'n all!
Banded Butterflyfish
Lined seahorse - about 5cm
Peacock Flounder

Smooth Trunkfish
Yellowtail Hamlet, rare in this part of the Caribbean! It is a predator which mimics a non-carnivorous damselfish to catch its prey unawares. We saw a Butter Hamlet and a Lined Hamlet on this dive as well.

We have vowed not to dive now until we get to the Grenadines!

Monday being a holiday (Whit Monday), we are off to St Pierre on Martinique; we will just overnight and then make our way to Fort de France for some wine and cheese shopping.

As we are arriving at St Pierre we heard a “mayday” call on the VHF. It was swiftly answered by MRCC Fort de France, the transmission was very weak and there was some difficulty in establishing the position of the casualty and the nature of the distress. Eventually with the help of a US coastguard cutter that was to the west of Martinique the position was discovered and a helicopter and rescue boat sent from Martinique. With the helicopter, US coastguard and French lifeboat we established that the boat was from Venezuela with 4 on board, we presume a fishing boat with no lifejackets and engine failure. They requested water as there was none on board and subsequently the US coastguard engineer that they had sent on board to assist with the engine discovered that the boat was sinking!

The US supplied a pump and started pumping until the French arrived with a tow to Martinique, the helicopter being stood down. We heard no more so we presume the rescue was successful, we don’t know if these poor guys are in Martinique with a boat or not!

 The following day we arrived in Fort de France in the rain. We have plenty of water and are not sinking! It is a holiday Monday so we cannot check in or shop, lunch in the cockpit and a beer ashore in the evening.

We check in on the Tuesday and get the first load of shopping, we will shop some more on the Wednesday, checkout and then sail to St Lucia on Thursday. Our parcel containing the autopilot has arrived on the island.

We should have seen the clues: no ferries and little traffic when we got up. In our defence it was raining heavily so we were hiding behind our boom tent and rain covers.  Guess what? It is another holiday! No shopping today and no checkout either so we will spend a wet bank holiday here in Martinique. (At least the boat has had a good wash again!).We will shop and checkout tomorrow (Thursday) and sail to St Lucia on Friday and hopefully collect our parcel on Saturday.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Falmouth Harbour

On Wednesday we sailed round to Falmouth Harbour. We went on the inshore passage as it is much shorter, but very shallow all the way about 7-8 m max. The was on the nose (as usual!) so once we were past Pelican Island we were motoring in fairly rough seas . The you really have to pay attention as the land is to port and to starboard there is Cades Reef (Where we had dived, so at least we had had a little preview) which is easy to see with breaking waves all the time. But, inside this is Middle Reef which you can't see so there is a 600m wide channel you need to be in. This sounds a lot but there are bits of land jutting out and odd rocks to avoid as well. Quite nerve wracking.

Once past Old Road Bluff the water deepens so a much easier sail up to the harbour mouth. We had seen how many boats were at anchor when we came up before so were wondering where to go. Just inside the harbour on the eastern shore is Pigeon Beach, which is lovely white sand and again turtles bobbing up and down. That settled it. We found a nice sandy patch amongst the seagrass and dropped the anchor in  4m.

We had a snorkel to check the anchor - well dug in. There were turtles grazing on the sea grass, some corals, cushion sea stars, sea cucumbers and sea eggs.

Once again, there were old friends and new, invitations to dinner and to go to the Red Hat party (Mountgay Rum), the Yellow Hat party (English Harbour Rum) and various other events for Classic week and then Antigua week. From our mooring near the mouth we could watch all the racing boats coming and going and watch some of the racing out in the bay.

I joined a group of ladies (the men can't take the pace) doing water aerobics with "noodles" in the mornings, very good fun and harder than you think. They are run by Awilda "Willie" Haskins who has written a Kindle book, Noodling at Sea or Staying Fit with Water Aerobics. Part of the proceeds from the sale of this book will go to 'Hands Accross the Sea', a charity that supplies books, computers and other materials to schools in the Caribbean. For the uninitiated noodles are 2m long thin solid foam cylinders. You sit on them or push or pull them.

Water aerobics - Falmouth Harbour
There is a new marine park at Windward Bay, a short walk to south of the island. There are magnificent corals and lots of marine life. There are several buoys which mark nice corals and name them. They are publishing a booklet to go with it, bit it so new that when I went to the Dockyard museum to get one they were not ready yet. The rocks around the beach are covered in small black sea urchins, so getting in was a bit tricky.

Elkhorn Coral

We joined the Antigua Hash House Harriers for a Saturday afternoon walk or run - we walked - from Pigeon Beach up to the old fort at Middle Ground and back. Lovely views of the sea and both harbours, trees, birdlife including hummingbirds feeding on cactus flowers and goats along the way. Back on the beach, a few drinks, good socialising and delicious rotis.

English Harbour entrance from Middle Ground

The day ended with Richard breaking a filling in his tooth while eating supper back on the boat. Monday will be a busy day arranging a dental appointment and getting our gas cylinder filled.

Falmouth harbour is adjacent to English harbour, the site of Nelsons Dockyard. It is the original Georgian naval dockyard that has been partially restored. Some of the buildings are being used as workshops for sailmakers and other marine trades, other buildings have been given a new lease of life as bars, shops, restaurants and even a hotel. The original dockyard bakery is guess what... a bakery! It is definitely worth a visit. Probably the oldest working dockyard in the world. Complete with a Sunsail base!

Restored Dockyard Buildings
Old sail loft ruins

Wednesday we are up early to catch the bus to St Johns for the dentist. Good news is that the tooth can be repaired but will eventually need to be capped. Open mouth and wallet and an excellent job done. The bus rides are always an interesting experience, on the way to St Johns we have talk radio with the usual morning show chatter. On the way back we are treated to Gospel music all the way. We are now experts in local politics and our souls have been saved! Fortunately most of the time it is just reggae.

Local House

Arriving back at the boat we discover that there is dinghy racing taking place off our beach. Our anchoring spot gives us a grandstand view. This is a new event for the 'lay day' of sailing week, where an invited few skippers and crew of the largest race boats compete against each other in dinghies.

Dinghy racing off Pigeon beach

It is not only us that consider our position to be a good viewing point as we are surrounded by anchored boats, fortunately they move when the racing finished as they were really much too close. Tomorrow we are planning to sail to Deep bay near St Johns harbour, light winds are forecast so we may only sail as far as 5 Islands harbour.

Don't get too close -  I hardly know you! (Sunsail again!)

A slow gentle sail in 10kts or less takes us to 5 Islands harbour and the anchorage in Hermitage bay. We are anchored off a pretty resort complex with chalet style rooms among the terraced hillside gardens and a white sandy beach.

Deep bay can wait until the weekend.