Pictures From Our First Month in Antigua
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Pictures From Our First Month in Antigua
(click on picture for full size image)
Ann and I were in Culebra, PR, within spitting distance of the beautiful cruising grounds of the US and British Virgin Islands, close to the shopping in St. Martins, the beaches of Anguilla and St. Barts, the stomping grounds of the rich and famous, and we decided to skip it all and head to Waladi for “Sailing Week.” Waladi is the sailing capital of the Caribbean and has been a part time home to Eric Clapton, Whoopi Goldberg, Ken Follet, Robin Leach of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous fame and, most importantly, Fred Olsen, inventor of the ball propellant manufacturing process.
Christopher Columbus named the island “Antigua” in 1493 in honor of his favourite figure, the Virgin Mary. He took the name from a famous Spanish cathedral “La Virgen de la Antigua” which means “Virgin of the Old Cathedral.”
The natives have recently decided that they don’t like that name or Chris Columbus, or the English, so they now call it what they thought was the original name, Wadadli (which means “who’s your dadli” in the native tongue). But, in fact the true original name was Waladli. I just call it “The Island” when I’m onshore to keep from getting beat up.
We decided to arrive in Antigua in late February so we could enjoy race week in Antigua at the end of March. Unfortunately, as it turns out, race week isn’t until the end of April, so we will be here for about 2-1/2 months, only a month longer than I thought. Oops! Never make cruising plans after happy hour, or at least check them the next morning. Anyway, I checked my calendar and it turns out I’m free in April anyway, so we’re good. The upside is, it’s a beautiful place and there are multiple islands to explore from here so… come visit! We’ll be here!!
The weather for the trip here was forecast to be 2′-3′ wind driven seas and a 6′ northerly swell with an 11 second period. I’m not sure what happened, but the higher than expected 4′ wind driven seas must have decided to occasionally merge with the 6′ swells because it was a fairly rough ride. Since it was just Ann and I, we decided on 3 hour shifts for the 200 NM, 30 hour trip.
We left Culebra and Sylken Sea and hopped over to St. Thomas for a one day provisioning trip and a celebratory birthday drink with John and Paulette from Seamantha and then left St. Thomas early Tuesday on a direct course for Antigua. We quickly changed our minds and set a course for the lee of Saba, St. Eustatius, St. Kitts and around the south of Nevis to protect us from the larger than expected waves for at least a few hours.
We didn’t do much eating or sleeping for the first 12 hours of the trip as we couldn’t really open the refrigerator without everything tumbling out. Plus, we just weren’t in the mood for anything other than pretzels and ginger ale. After 12 hours we finally got our sea legs under us and figured out how to hold half the refrigerator open with our right side derriere, the other half with our left knee, hold everything in place with our left hand and forehead and grab food really quickly with our right hand. I’m thinking of patenting the technique as soon as I get to an island with cheap lawyers.
We anchored in the beautiful harbor of Falmouth and I walked over to Lord Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, checked in with Customs, then to the Eseaclear office, then back to Customs, on to Immigration, back to Customs again and then on to the Port Authority and I believe I am now legal to be here, but not sure about Ann since I got flustered and forgot to mention her initially. It turns out that these two harbours are national parks and there are about 12 different fees you must pay to stay here, but, they take Mastercard so we were good!
We are now peacefully anchored in Falmouth Harbour. We anchored a little close to the next boat by accident and I was thinking about moving when another boat anchored between us, another in front of us on top of our anchor, another dropped an anchor just behind our swim platform and two more anchored on the other side. Apparently I wasn’t familiar with anchoring protocol here. Luckily the French catamaran 15′ in front of us bath nude every evening. Unluckily it’s three old French guys who apparently like carbohydrates and cheese, lots of cheese. We’re thinking about getting a mooring ball so we can be even closer to our neighbors.
Did I mention there were a lot of super yachts here? To give you an idea of how big they are, the guy at the dock near us was running his helicopter the first night we were here and nearly blew out our grill. Later that evening as we were strolling back from our celebratory arrival drink, the people in front of us heard us talking about the phenomena of all the anchor lights being red (except for us and the French guys) and explained that the super-yachts are so big here and that their masts are so tall that they are required to run red lights at night to keep airplanes from hitting them… yet another good reason not to own one.
So, we are here safely, have found several good watering holes, a pizza place, marine store and grocery, and we have plenty of room and plenty of time for visitors so make your reservations early, it’s starting to book up!
Arriving Antigua Waters at Sunrise
360 View of the Anchorage From the Ann Louise
We decided to begin our 3+ year adventure with a fairly long first leg, 1052 nautical miles (1210 statue miles) from Stuart, FL to the Island of Culebra, part of Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands. The people of Culebra call their island the “Last Virgin” maybe due to the fact it’s the westernmost Virgin Island, maybe due to the fact it’s not overly developed, but to us, it was the first Virgin Island coming from the States.
We planned to spend approximately 6-7 days at sea and as most of the waters we would be in are far too deep to anchor (over 20,000′ deep north of Puerto Rico), we would have to run the boat non-stop 24 hours a day. We were a little concerned about being stuck offshore in bad weather or sea conditions as it’s very hard to get a good long term forecast for some of the waters we would traverse.
We hired our usual professional weather router Chris Parker, who is typically very conservative and even tried to talk us out of several passages last year. He uncharacteristically forecast 10 days of “benign” weather. As most of you know, it’s difficult to forecast the weather out 2 days accurately in most major cities, but 10 days of good weather! He had to be right for only 6 of the 10 days, just long enough to make Culebra.
So on January 20, Ann’s birthday, we left the USA to head for… the USA. According to my phone call with US Customs and Immigration, since Culebra is a US territory, as long as we didn’t stop, anchor or have contact with another boat or foreign soil, we didn’t even have to notify them of our arrival. Apparently it’s like driving from Georgia to Alabama except with waves. We’re just so used to being hassled by Customs and Immigration when we get to a new island, it just didn’t seem right. We actually kind of missed the challenge.
The first two days of the trip were gorgeous! After crossing the gulf stream we had only 1′-2′ seas, sometimes less as we wound our way through the Bahamas: across the Great Bahamas Bank, through the Tongue of the Ocean, the Exuma Bank, through Highborne Cay Cut and finally Exuma Sound to the open waters of the North Atlantic.
Transiting Exuma Sound on Day 2
That’s when the someone mentioned how nice the weather had been and jinxed the rest of the freaking trip. OK, it wasn’t horrible, but at times, like 12 hours at a time, a little difficult to sleep , cook, walk and use the head. The waves never got really big, mostly 3′-4′, trending towards 5′ at times with an occasional 6′ thrown in whenever I was just starting to doze off. Then again, we would have several hours of 2′ seas just to tease us. All in all, Chris’s forecast was very good, the winds just being a little to a lot higher than predicted.
In addition to the weather, we also developed salt water leak in the engine room and the forward bilge at Day 3, not something you want to see offshore. It turns out the boat had probably never been loaded with a full 1700 gallons of fuel, 450 gallons of water and three years of provisions and spare parts before. This additional weight coupled with our speed put the generator exhaust under water and the thru-hull fitting was leaking steadily. In addition, the newly rebuilt water maker was leaking salt water in the forward bilge. Luckily we were able to slow the leaks and keep the water maker running using advanced duct taping techniques until we reached calm waters.
Unfortunately we were not able to fish very much due to the sea state (it’s difficult to stop the boat in 4′ seas to bring the fish in) and ended up with only two Skip Jack Tunas and a Barracuda, so nothing worth eating unless you’re a cat.
Jim and Linda Miller decided to join us for the journey to vacation and help crew and praise the Lord for that! It would have been a long trip for two people. With 4 of us, we set up 3 hour shifts giving us 9 hours between shifts to rest.
After 5-1/2 days, we arrived in Culebra on a Sunday to find our good friends Richard and Lavinia Maggs aboard the 42′ Krogen “Partners” waiting for us with our traditional Krogen breakfast of Bloody Marys! It was a great welcome and good to be anchored with them once again behind the beautiful reef at Dakity. Dakity Reef is one of our favorite places to anchor as the huge and very wide reef completely breaks the waves allowing beautiful anchoring conditions in turquoise waters with a fantastic view of nothing but open ocean.
Jim and Linda spent an additional week anchored with us in Culebra and we spent some quality time at the local bars and on the local beaches before they were forced to fly back to the States and the winter wonderland of 2015.
In 20′ of Water Transiting the Exuma Bank. The Water is so Clear, We Were Nervous ABout the Depth!
A Excited Pod of Dolphins Spots Us by Leaping High in the Air and Then Converge on the Boat
In May, we became the proud owners of a gently used 2007 Kadey Krogen 58′ Trawler. It has twin John Deere diesel engines, twin Northern Lights diesel generators, 1700 gallon fuel tanks and enough range to cross the Atlantic without refueling.
Since we planned to leave in January 2015 and spend the next few years in the Caribbean away from our expert refit crew in Stuart (known to most Krogen owners as Scotty Wiley), we had to make a lot of changes to the boat in a short amount of time. We wanted to make sure the boat was seaworthy as it had not been used much in its 8 year history, so we replaced almost all hoses, belts, alternators, pumps, switches, most important engine parts, steering cylinders, blah, blah, blah, and upgraded our “at anchor” systems. We added dual inverters to make 110 VAC power, replaced and doubled the battery bank, added an auto start system for the generators, and rebuilt our 1000 gallon per day water maker and dive compressor. We can now stay at anchor for around 2.32 years without ever going to a dock, unless something breaks :). Try and tax us now bitches!!!!
With all these changes, we decided to have a shakedown cruise/vacation to make sure all the systems were up to snuff. We decided that 1000 miles over two months would be a good test, so we lined up some family and friends to help out and away we went: up the ICW from Stuart, FL to Charleston, SC and then an offshore run back to Stuart to see what we could break. We did a pretty good job! Our thanks to Sarah, Michael, Reyna, Mike and Paula Schlich and Sophia for helping us drink beer, almost all of our good rum, and shakedown the new “Ann Louise!”
Last but not least, a huge thank you to Scotty Wiley, Danielle Heaton, Angel Guajardo and Philip Van Zyl for all the work done on the Ann Louise, and the staff at Sailor’s Return and Sunset Bay for keeping the electricity and the beer flowing for 5 months!
New Boat Specs
Length Overall: 62’11”
Length Water Line: 52’3”
Fuel Tank Capacity: 1,760 gals.
Water Tank Capacity: 450 gals.
Holding Tank Capacity: 100 gals.
Displacement: 96,830 lbs.
Ballast: 7,000 lbs.
Approximate Bridge Clearance
with mast “up” 25’5”
with mast “down” 15’9”
6 knots 5,690 Nautical Miles
7 knots 3,840 Nautical Miles
8 knots 2,590 Nautical Miles
9 knots 1,780 Nautical Miles
They say the second best day of your life is when you buy your boat, the best day is when you sell it. Well if that saying applies to houses as well, we had quite the two weeks in late May. Over that period, we sold three houses and our 48′ Krogen Trawler and bought a slightly larger 58′ Krogen Trawler! In addition, we sold both cars, all of our furniture, paintings, lawn mowers and moved to Florida. Whew!
Our new boat, same name “Ann Louise,” is more suited to our planned cruising style with twin screws (engines) and two generators for a little extra peace of mind out on the high seas. It’s also our only remaining residence, so it’s nice to have a little more storage room, longer range and nicer guest accommodations (hint, hint).
*except for my wedding day and the birth of my children and the day I quit work and that one night in Rio…
After two months on the hard, while her owners were visiting family over the holidays, the Ann Louise finally splashed back into the ocean on February 8th. We wanted to get to Martinique and St. Lucia and just two days after arriving in Trinidad a weather window appeared that promised seas of only 6-9′, but with the possibility of strong thunderstorms and rain showers, so we were in a hurry.
Unfortunately, the Ann Louise was not in a hurry, and maybe a little upset about being left alone for the holidays. Just 20 minutes after going back in the water and right after we arrived at the customs dock in Trinidad to clear out to Grenada, she blew the engine cooling pump, and 10 minutes later the generator cooling pump. After 4 hours in the engine room cursing engineers who design bolts to be hidden where no wrench can reach them, we finally headed out in the harbor with our hopes of beating the evening thunderstorms fading quickly. As we passed the old US Naval base in Trinidad, now the Trinadian Coast guard station, we were overtaken by a twin engine center console with five machine gun toting Coasties that informed us were going to have a “courtesy” inspection, and that we had to proceed to and dock at the old Naval base. So much for an early start!
Anyway, after 40 hours, some occasionally really uncomfortable seas, some really beautiful calm seas and a few serious lines of squalls, we finally pulled into the southern shores of Martinique at 4:30 am and idled in 1000′ of water just off the sand bank until first light. We were greeted by our good friends Richard and Lavinia Maggs on the Krogen 42 Partners who had thoughtfully sent us the lat/lon for the approach, their location and most importantly prepared a large pitcher of Bloody Marys! A huge thanks to Nick Starr for tracking our progress north and helping us navigate through bands of squalls during the trip!
We spent three wonderful days in Sainte Anne’s, Martinique anchored in 20′ of turquoise water just minutes from fresh croissants, french coffee, topless french sunbathers and a Catholic church (not necessarily in order of importance, although it’s a pretty good sequence if you think about it).
After Martinique, we back-tracked 25 miles through really messy 8′ seas to Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia where we rented a slip for a month, cleaned the 1/4″ of salt off the rails and awaited our friends Don and Donna Bornhorst from Minneapolis. Don is an old co-worker of Ann’s from her accounting days in Cincinnati working for Deloitte & Touche, and he is now Delta’s VP in charge of all regional airlines, including ASA for whom I flew for 10 years. We did a three day grand tour of St. Lucia, including Rodney Bay Marina, the beautiful Marigot Bay and Anse de Pitons, an anchorage between two beautiful peaks on the southern end of the island.
We had a wonderful three days including dinner at the Rainforest Hideaway and a strenuous afternoon hike in Marigot Bay, catching a huge Wahoo, a REALLY strenous/treacherous hike half way up Petit Piton, and a rousing game of Midwestern Euchre. We hope someday they return!
We have returned from a little over a month on the island of Tobago. There are many parts of the island that are just spectacular and we will probably go back and spend another month or two next year. I would also highly recommend it to any cruiser who likes to rock and roll. We were anchored in three different bays; Store Bay, Man of War Bay and Anse Batteaux, and we almost never stopped rolling for 4 weeks. I’m talking about hard to fall asleep, difficult to walk, shit falling off your shelves, crunch the fiberglass on your dinghy (yes I did) type rolling. But we prevailed, and in the end, kind of got used to it. The problem is that Tobago is oriented east-to-west and with the prevailing easterly tradewinds, there are just no good anchorages to hide from the swells.
We did a lot of hiking, exploring, SCUBA diving and cooking, met some great people, both locals and other cruisers.
This place is the polar opposite of
Pigidad Trinidad. Instead of throwing trash everywhere but in a trash can, dumping chemicals and holding tanks in the pristine waters, the people here really care about their island. They actually rake the beaches almost every day, and keep miles and miles of walking trails cleared and cut!
Shopping can be hit or miss, mostly miss. The only really good shopping is near the capital of Scarborough, and that was a 1-1/2 hour drive from our last two anchorages. It’s not a put on the cruise control and sip a Starbucks type of drive either. With what seemed like several hundred switchbacks through the hills, potholes and villages with cars parked in the middle of the street, in the end, you only go 25 miles. Beautiful scenery somewhat makes up for the drive, but you don’t slip into town for a half-gallon of milk before dinner.
If you don’t want to drive, you could take the government bus, but it’s the government bus, and it only runs every three hours. Many times it’s well over an hour late, or just doesn’t come at all. Plus, it hit a slippery patch and went off the side of the mountain one day while we were there, fortunately hanging up on a tree and guardrail before going very far. Ann and I tried the bus once, but after waiting at the Plexiglas aquarium bus stop for well over an hour at 100+ degrees, we finally gave up and hitchhiked.
The people are friendly, generous and almost always with a quick smile. Most of them either fish or work for the government and there is a lot of drinking going on, starting early in the morning. One of our favorites, Andre, hikes into the hills and collects fruit, then sells it to the cruisers as they walk the streets, whether you want it or not and then heads to the liquor store for his morning ration, every day. Whenever the fishermen blow on the conch shell, which you can hear all across the bay, fresh fish is available. We bought fresh caught Black Fin Tuna several times from the local fishermen and it was a real treat.
The SCUBA diving is outstanding. Some of the best sites in the world are in Tobago and the variety of fish and the beauty of the coral reefs is amazing. I did 8 dives and Ann did 5. Her knee gave out and she did a face plant while stepping on the dive boat getting ready for dive #6 so that was the end of SCUBA and hiking for her. We’re hoping surgery won’t be involved when we finally get it checked out.
There is very little flat land so farming and walking are challenging. On one of our typical 6 mile morning hikes, you climb a 500′ hill twice. One morning during our hike, an animal came bolting out of the bushes and almost ran into us twice; I believe it was flustered. It was an Agouti which is native to Tobago and it has the face of a rat, the raised hind legs of a jack rabbit, and the appeal of a cockroach. There are many domestic animals wandering the streets and walking trails including cows, goats chickens and a lot of very sad looking dogs.
On another hike we went to the Hummingbird House where local naturalist Newton George feeds over 400 hummingbirds a day on his front porch. He buys a bushel of sugar every 6 days and feeds them home made syrup which attract hummingbirds from as far as South America for mating season. An incredible sight!
Here are just a few of our pictures from our month on the hook:
Video Clips of our Circumavigation of Tobago
We just finished our second week on the island paradise of Tobago and we have made our way to Man of War bay on the eastern tip of the island. My cousin April made the long trek from San Francisco to Tobago and helped us move the boat over 30 NM of open water. We had a beautiful sail although the wind and waves kicked up the last hour or two of the trip with head seas of 4′ to 5′, not the best point of sail for this boat. We did manage to snag two Black Fin Tunas and had really fresh Sushi at 8:30 in the morning. It was incredibly good!
We had a really great week of hiking, SCUBA diving, eating, playing dominoes and enjoying sunsets and sundowners on the aft deck. We hope she returns soon for a longer visit next time! Here are a few photos from our week:
Entering Man of War Bay near Charlotteville
Tobago, they say, is what the Caribbean was like 20 years ago. This is our first trip of the season after spending our summer break in Roswell, GA and we are looking forward to getting back into the island lifestyle: you know, drinking without regret!
We spent the last six weeks in Trinidad doing repairs and enhancements on the boat, and also enjoying the sights and sounds of Trinidad. The people there are great and we really enjoyed our time. We were docked in the yachting center of Trinidad, Chaguaramas, on the northwest tip of the island, just seven miles from Venezuela.
While Tobago is an unspoiled gem and many areas of Trinny are beautiful, the northwest tip of Trinidad is an industrial swamp with garbage strewn beaches and roads. The people there are very nice, but apparently not all are environmentally conscious. And, it’s not just the locals – boats anchored and even docked at the marinas here don’t use holding tanks and just flush their toilets directly into the local waters.
The water in Chaguaramas, Trinidad is a disgusting, smelly, black, garbage strewn cesspool. But enough of my lighthearted plug for vacationing in Chaguaramas, let’s go to Tobago!
Tobago is 24 miles long and 6 miles wide. It’s oriented mostly east to west which means there are very few good harbors due to the easterly trade winds making for very uncomfortably rolly anchorages. We plan to spend a week anchored at the western tip of the Island in Store Bay and then cruise the northern coast to Charlotteville near the eastern tip where the really good reefs are located.
We hope to get our SCUBA certification next week with a company by the name of Undersea Tobago and spend at least a month here diving the beautiful reefs and caves and exploring the island. Until then, I’ve posted a few pictures from our Trinidad visit and our journey here. Enjoy!
The Halfway Point of our Beautiful 12 Hour Sail to Tobago
We were actually kidnapped from this church by and elderly women by the name of Kwailan La Borde.
After church, she asked us if we needed a ride home which we gratefully accepted. She then asked us to sit in the back seat and promptly turned left and took us the opposite direction we were expecting. She said, “I hope you have a little extra time because I wanted to show you a few things on the island and do some shopping”. We spent the next two hours doing just that and thoroughly enjoyed our kidnapping and eventually ended up back at our boat with unexpected groceries and a new friend. It turns out she’s a famous Trinidadian and, with her husband Harold, were the first Trinidadians to sail around the world. She even took some time to show us the book she wrote about the journey.
We made it to Trinny, our final sail for the summer and south of the hurricane belt! I don’t know what I really expected, but I was thinking paradise lost and a few hundred people on a basically deserted island. I guess I should have read the guide-book; not even close. It’s 1.5 million people on a 40 X 80 mile island with malls, superstores, lots of KFCs, traffic jams, urban sprawl, crime, drugs: you know, just like home! It is a melting pot of 40% Indian, 40% African 1.2% Chinese, 0.6% white and lots of everything else so OK, maybe not exactly like home.
Don’t get me wrong, there are lots of beautiful unspoiled areas of Trinidad. They are just a long drive from where we are docked.
A couple of days after our arrival, we did the “Taste of Trinidad” tour of the island with our host, historian and driver Jesse James. What an experience! Jesse is a Trinadian of East Indian origin and took us on a 10 hour drive around the island and treated us to almost 80 different Trinadian delicacies. Most of the food was delicious, well, except for the cow hoof soup and barbecued pig tails. The flavors of the soup and barbecue sauce were good, but the hooves and tails were just too chewy. I don’t like having to crush cartilage for a full minute before I can swallow.
We are in a nice marina called “Crews Inn” in Chaguaramas. The great thing about Chaguaramas is that it has become a yachting refit center mecca. You can have anything done in this place; new sails, new engines, new fiberglass, woodwork, electronics and everything in between, and at 1/4 to 1/2 the cost compared to the US for anything labor intensive.
The trip from Grenada to Trinidad was 18 hours and fairly lumpy. The waves weren’t large, but they were confused and we felt like we were in a washing machine for about 12 hours. No one was able to sleep very well, but at least there were four of us to share the helm. We dragged two fishing lines for the entire trip and didn’t even get a hit, which is unusual for these waters.
Sunrise and a Squall Between Grenada and Trinidad
On Friday June 28, we are hauling the boat out of the water, cleaning up from 6 months at sea, and heading home to Roswell for couple of months to relax, visit friends and family and wait out the worst of hurricane season. We probably won’t post until we are back at sea in October. Thanks for following the blog and see you soon!
Postcards From Trinny