Friday, January 22, 2010

From Barbuda to Hell and Back!

On one of our last days in Antigua we hiked up to the point overlooking Jolly Beach and Mosquito Cove. The hill has been subdivided into about 20 lots. At probably more than a million dollars a lot, well you get the picture. Buy the whole thing and keep it all to yourself!
This is the view overlooking Jolly Beach. The channel behind it leads to Customs & Immigration, The Jolly Harbour Marina, shops, restaurants and homes.

This is the view of Mosquito Cove where Merengue is anchored....

... and the view towards 5 Islands.

And we can't resist one last parting shot of Montserrat spewing ash. We are going to miss watching the activity and seeing how the island keeps changing. It's amazing!

Our sail to Barbuda was great and once again we were anchored off of this beautiful island.
We could only stay a day as we were headed to St. Martin to meet our friend Tim who was flying in to visit us. We spent Thursday swimming and relaxing and headed out Friday morning at o4:00 for the 80 mile trip. Perhaps it was the leaving on a Friday that brought us bad luck. There's a sailor superstition that says you should never start a passage on a Friday. But we started on Wednesday when we left Antigua, right?
The forecast was for light winds, 6-9 knots. That's a lot less then we need but the wind direction was good for flying the spinnaker so we were looking forward to coasting along at about 5 knots and surfing down 6 foot seas. We started out motoring as we waited for the sun to rise and the wind to pick up. At about 05:30 Merengue's engine started to die. It sounded like it wasn't getting fuel, perhaps due to a clogged filter. We remember that sound very well from when we had bad fuel on the Great Lakes. We throttled back to idle speed but a few minutes later the engine died completely. We raised the spinnaker and I steared Merengue in the very light, 3 knot winds while Jim started to work on the engine. It's not fun hanging upside down changing filters and breathing diesel fumes in a boat that is rocking in 6 foot seas. He had to come up for fresh air several times! New fuel filters in and still the engine won't start. Further diagnostics revealed the fuel pump wasn't working. Once again we are truly a sailboat, heading a long distance without the back-up of an engine. The wind remained lighter than forecast at about 3-4 knots, not day to be out in a sailboat. We couldn't keep the spinnaker full and limped along at less than 2 knots. The seas also were bigger than predicted at about 8 feet although we did have a long wave interval so we weren't getting bashed. But it was still uncomfortable. At 15:00 the wind suddenly picked up to 16-20 knots for about 2 hours. Luckily we were watching a line of rain showers pass near us so we had dropped the spinnaker and were prepared with mainsail and a reefed genoa. Now we're flying along but the seas were also growing and rolling us a bit. The wind lasted several hours before dying again, picking up again, dying, well you get the picture. Landfall at St. Bart's was no longer an option in the dark without an engine. We now had no option but to continue on to Marigot Bay, St. Martin which is a big, open bay that is easily entered in the dark and under sail. At least that's what we told ourselves! Our 12-14 hour sail had now turned into an overnight. And just to make sure we were completely miserable, it started raining as we sailed down the channel between St. Martin and Anguilla! I'm not sure who we ticked off or if it was the leaving on a Friday but this goes down as one of the worse passages we've ever had. We arrived in Marigot Bay at 04:00 on Saturday, 24 hours after we left beautiful Barbuda.
We slept for a few hours, cleared customs and then got ready to move Merengue into the shelter of Simpson Bay Lagoon. We tied the dinghy with our mighty 5 horsepower engine to the side of Merengue and pushed her up the channel and into the lagoon. We could move her along at over 3 knots until we hit some outgoing current right before the bridge. That slowed us to about 1 knot. We held our breath until we made it through and the tide slacked. The bridge tender was very nice and never yelled at us to get moving. I'm sure we were not the first wounded boat to ever go through. I'm not sure if the motorists felt the same. It's a good thing we were holding up traffic at 2:30 on a Saturday afternoon and not rush hour during the week. We are now anchored in our usual spot, west of the hill called "The Witches Tit". Tim arrived on Wednesday and we are having a great time showing him the island. Life is good again!

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Back Yard

We finally made it to the Back Yard!
The Back Yard is a local restaurant and gathering place that we first heard about last year from John & Marie on the S/V Mettalia. John & Marie go almost every Saturday when they are in Antigua to "lime" and visit with their friends. They know everyone! This is not a tourist place but a local restaurant and bar that is only open Friday evenings and Saturdays. We were eager to see it.

That's Marie on the left with her friends Mary Linda and Ron who are visiting from Montreal.

That's John, with the sunglasses on his head, catching up with friends. John was born in Antigua and lived here until the age of 12.

We ate fried red snapper, jerk pork, spicy wings, fish water (a delicious seafood soup) and drank Wadadli, the local beer. We had a great time.

Hop in the back of the truck and it's back to Jolly Harbour where the boats are anchored.
Thanks John & Marie for taking us to the Back Yard and thanks to all your friends who made us feel so welcome.

Montserrat continues to captivate us. Saturday brought clear skies and the best view of the eruption yet.

The new ash flows look amazing! Take a look at the volcano website, to see video of the eruptions.

Time to relax with a walk along Jolly Beach. The high surf from last week brought in lots of shells.

I must look like a hunchback walking along the beach with my head down.
I wouldn't want to miss a good one!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Fort Berkeley, English Harbour

Fort Berkeley was built in 1744 on a narrow strip of land at the entrance to English Harbour.
During times of siege a chain and wood boom was pulled across the entrance to block enemy ships from entering.

Merengue is the 4th boat from the left, anchored close in towards the beach. We had a beautiful view of the fireworks on News Years Eve which were launched from the fort.

Ruins of the bunkhouse and the view in toward Nelson's Dockyard.

The ammunitions bunker.

Another sunset behind the haze of volcano dust from Montserrat.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Green Island

December 26th, the day after Christmas. It's Boxing Day here in Antigua. Back in the States it's 50% off everything Christmas related. Songbird and Merengue head out of Falmouth Harbour for Green Island.

Here's Merengue (left) and Songbird (right).
Green Island is a small island on the east coast of Antigua. Located on the outer edge of Nonsuch Bay with a barrier reef to protect it, it's a beautiful spot to spend a few days. The snorkeling was great.

During a walk on the beach we discovered this large rock that was thrown up on shore by the big surf. This sea anemone was clinging to the rock, high and dry but still alive.
The anemone was an amazing bright red color.

The tentacles dropped down as soon as we moved it back to the water. We weren't sure if it would survive. No telling how long it was out of the water but we'll hope for the best.

One afternoon, Pat and Carol took us out on Songbird for a lazy sail around Nonsuch Bay. Well, it was lazy once I got that mainsail out. Protected by a barrier reef, Nonsuch Bay is more like a big lake with nice winds but no waves.

Our hosts, Pat & Carol. Songbird is a Hunter 410.

As we left Green Island we could see the island of Montserrat. The volcano has been very active lately. That's not all clouds above the peak. Notice the large plume of ash billowing out the top.

The dome of the volcano grew about 60 meters from Dec 30 - Jan 2. You can see the ash flow on the picture below and we're about 30 miles away!

You can follow the activity at
Lucky for us, Antigua is upwind of all of this.

Heading to English Harbour for New Years and sailing past The Pillars of Hercules, beautiful rock formations that guard the entrance to English Harbour.

We thought English Harbour might be too crowded because of the festivities at Nelson's Dockyard but we found a beautiful spot to anchor off of Galleon Beach. We got all dressed up for dinner ashore but the rain started about 6:30 and didn't quit until almost 11:00. It was pouring too hard to leave the boat! The good news was that the sky cleared in time for the fireworks and we had a beautiful view from Merengue's cockpit.

We celebrated New Year's Day with lunch at Catherine's Cafe, a great French restaurant on the waterfront in English Harbour. We hope everyone has a wonderful 2010.