Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sailing to Christmas

With the sea conditions improved, it was time to leave St. Lucia. Antigua was our destination for Christmas and we only had a week to get there.
Light winds gave us the opportunity to fly the seldom-used spinnaker. What a beautiful sight against the blue sea and sky!
It was great sailing along the coast of Dominica at 4 knots with just over 5 knots of wind. So peaceful, so calm, no pounding, no beating to windward.

Time to think, time to appreciate this life we live.

It was really hot in the mid-day sun with very little breeze. When the spinnaker was up it offered some shade to sit in. When the wind died completely, I did the island thing and pulled out an umbrella.

We moved quickly, sailing 5 of the next six days. The first day was from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia to St. Pierre, Martinique 47 N.M. Day 2 was from Martinique to Portsmouth, Dominica 54 N.M. There we were greeted by Alexis, our favorite tour guide/water taxi driver who stopped by to chat for awhile. We promised him we'd do some hiking our next time through. Day 3 was a short trip of 22 N.M. to Les Saintes. The weather report continued to look good so we couldn't resist stopping for a day to enjoy this favorite spot of ours. The next day was a 32 N.M. sail to Deshaies, Guadeloupe and finally, 44 N.M. to Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. We'd made it in time for Christmas!

Showers formed over Dominica shortly after we left. This was the view behind us....

... and this was the view of Les Saintes in front of us. Two completely different weather days just a few miles apart.

Hobie Cats on the beach in Bourg, Les Saintes.

The view of Montserrat blowing ash into the air as we sailed to Antigua. The volcano has been quite active lately.
Our friends Pat and Carol on S/V Songbird were in Falmouth Harbour when we arrived. We made plans to spend Christmas together.

We arrive at Songbird on Christmas Eve to see Santa with Christmas Carol.

Setting the table for Christmas Eve dinner.

Pat pops the cork on a bottle of champagne for us.

Carol & Wendy.

Jim lends a hand in the galley.
You can't have too much garlic!

Men in the galley. It's a beautiful thing!

Thanks to Pat & Carol for a beautiful evening.
Christmas Day and it was off to English Harbour where there is a social gathering each Christmas. Cruisers and islanders gather in Nelson's Dockyard to drink champagne, listen to music and visit with friends.

We head straight for the champagne!


It's not the champagne that makes me dance while I walk, it's the music. Well, maybe the champagne helps a little.

The party takes place right along the waterfront in front of the mega-yachts. The champagne sales benefit a local charity so I guess our indulging actually did a little good!

I wonder what it's like to have a boat that's big enough to hold an 8 foot Christmas Tree on the deck?

Who's that climbing the rigging?

Nelson's Dockyard is a beautiful, historic sight from the 1700's that has been restored. Once a British Navy shipyard with Admiral Nelson in command it now houses restaurants, shops, a bakery, laundry, hotel, sail loft, customs and immigration, a museum and more.

Jim plays soldier in the museum.

Admiral Nelson keeping a stern eye on things. Didn't know the admiral was into lipstick!

Dinner was in a beautifully restored copper and lumber store, now a restaurant and hotel.

The restaurant, just off of the courtyard.

We hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Fire on Pigeon Island

The day started like many others. We had a light shower that gave us a beautiful rainbow over Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.
Yes, I know we've shown you lots of rainbows but who gets tired of this wonder of nature?
Not us.

At about 4:00 in the afternoon Jim spotted smoke across the bay on Pigeon Island. Pigeon Island is a national park with hiking trails and the remains of the fort where Admiral Rodney kept an eye on the French. There was a fire burning along the ridge and the wind was carrying it down the far slope toward the sea.

There was the occasional burst of flame as the trees caught fire.
We could even see hikers standing along the ridge watching the fire burn below them. We couldn't help but wonder how it started. There are no campfires and there was no lightening.
A cigarette perhaps?

Two days later we hiked to the fort to see the damage. Luckily there are no ruins in this part of the park, just trees and shrubs. The fire swept down to the ocean and burned itself out.

The air had that charred, smokey smell as we walked the ridge above where the fire was and there were dust devils of ash blowing in the wind. I guess it's up to Mother Nature to make it beautiful again.
It looks like the seas are moderating so we'll be heading north on Wednesday. It's a short weather window so we'll have to keep moving past Martinique, Dominica and Guadeloupe stopping only to sleep. We should be in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua on Saturday in plenty of time to celebrate Christmas.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The ARC Comes to St. Lucia

The ARC has arrived!
The Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, better known as the ARC, is a rally for cruisers crossing the Atlantic Ocean. The rally starts from the Canary Islands and ends in St. Lucia 2700 miles away. The vast majority are cruising boats who enjoy the idea of making the crossing in the company of others. 206 boats were at the start this year.
Although the rally has always been a fun event, over the years it became apparent that some of the boats wanted to compete so a racing division was added. In an amazing finish this year, only 16 minutes 5 seconds separated the first 2 finishers. Unfortunately for us, the finish was at 3:36 a.m. local time on December 4th and too dark to get pictures. We understand it came down to a gybing duel over the last 24 hours with the yacht "Big One", a Volvo 60 the victor.
This is "Bagheera", a Wally 80 that took second place overall but came in first in the racing division. To give you an idea of just how big a 80 ft racing yacht is look at the man in the yellow shirt who is standing on the stern of the boat. He looks very small in comparison!

Here's one of the docks bustling with activity as crews tidy up their boats, fold sails and wash the salt off after several weeks at sea. The smallest cruising boats may take close to a month to arrive but as of today almost half have completed the trip that began 18 days ago. You must be at least 27 feet in length to enter so Merengue would just qualify.
Hmmm... what do you think?
The two smallest boats in the rally are a 29 footer from Great Britain and a 31 footer from Sewden.
Here's one of the boats on the final tack across the finish line in Rodney Bay. Notice how the spinnaker is stuck with only the top and bottom furled in behind the genoa? An ocean race takes it's toll on boats in broken parts and ripped sails.

We are spending our days watching the yachts come in and waiting for the ocean conditions to improve so we can move north. The seas are expected to reach 10-14 feet for the next week so we are sitting tight. The ARC boats are downwind sailing and surfing down the big waves. We have to head north and won't attempt bashing into waves that size. So we wait.....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Simply Simple Solutions

With Christmas just around the corner I have an idea for the sailor on your shopping list. The book is called Simply Simple Solutions and it was written by a friend of mine, Jeannette Deale. We met Jeannette and her husband Bill in Luperon, Dominican Republic.

Through a lifetime of sailing and years of living aboard, Jeannette has compiled tips for living aboard (and on land) as well as lots of recipes. The cost is just $10.95 plus shipping. You can order your copy by contacting Jeannette at I'm asking Santa for one! Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Green Flash!

Is there such a thing as a Green Flash at sunset?
Could it be an old wives tail, a figment of the imagination or the result of too much rum at happy hour? Galileo was persecuted for his belief that the earth rotated around the sun. Jim has suffered his own persecution when he spoke of the green flash. Great men and women throughout history have endured much in pursuit of the truth.
Jim has been on a quest to capture the green flash and he caught this one from Rodney Bay, St. Lucia.
Next time you are watching the sunset over the ocean look carefully and don't blink. You just might see the FLASH!