Friday, April 22, 2011

The People of Antigua are Simply the Best

We have really enjoyed our visit to the island of Antigua. The weather has been great (a little more wind to cool us off would be nice), the beach in Falmouth is one of the best we've been to and the locals have been absolutely amazing. They are some of the friendliest in the Caribbean. More than the Grenadians? That's pretty hard to beat so I'd have to say that they are tied for now and that's really saying something because the people of Grenada are legendary. Every day we encounter friendly helping people. Sure, most of these people are in service industries and since tourism counts for more than 60% of the country's GDP they really know how to make sure foreigners have a great time. But today, we met a large, local family that tops them all.

Today, being Good Friday, is the beginning of a four day holiday in Antigua. We start the day celebrating the 10th birthday of one of our cruising friends. A small party on the beach under the warm morning sun, surrounded by lots of kids and families, very nice. The day moves on but we don't. While some of the families have to leave, a small group of us remain at the beach into the late afternoon. The kids are having a blast in the water, the grown ups are getting quality socializing time, the sun is warm, the trees are shady. It's a perfect day.

The afternoon passes and the beach is filling up. As I think I mentioned, it's Good Friday and it seems every other family on Antigua decided to spend the day on the beach with us. It's getting crowded but so far everyone's just having a great time. The kids are having so much fun they play right through lunch!

Dinner time arrives and we manage to squeeze a few morsels into them. Then, a local woman from the very large family next to us comes over with a paper plate heaped with pieces of a dark, rich cake dripping white icing.

"Here, have some cake for da kids," she says and leaves the plate at our table. We're stunned. Not only was it very thoughtful of her but the cake is delicious! Not too sweet, not too heavy, not too moist and not too dry. It's perfect. We later learn that the guy who baked it is a well known island chef. As the kids (and adults) are still licking their fingers another woman from the other family comes over and asks if we want some food. She takes our stunned silence as an affirmative and leads us, kids first, over to their table to serve us up some of their local grub. We each get a heaping plate full of food. I'm not sure of everything we got but there was "chop-chop" (a steamed spinach dish), fish, yam, and fungie (pronounced "foon-jee"). Fantastic! The boys even found things that they would eat.

After the meal we sat around and visited with the family who had been so generous. The group was an extended family from all over the island. Some of them were visiting from their homes in the US. Apparently they usually spend Good Friday eating local cuisine with family at someone's home but decided to go to the beach instead this year. Lucky us!

Austin said that the experience was one of the tops for the whole trip. I'd certainly have to agree. Go Antigua!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Antigua Classic Yachts Regatta

We weren't supposed to be here. We passed by Antigua a little over a month ago in our rush to meet up with family in St. Maarten. We came to terms with the disappointment that we'd miss this great sounding island country and given our desire to be farther north and east by this time of year we figured we wouldn't make it back for the regatta either. But that's cruising plans for you and here we are. Nearly on the spur of the moment we decided to reverse course and zip back to Antigua for a few days to take in the festivities and keep up with many of our family kid boat friends. And what a great choice it was. Despite the fact that it took us 4 days to get here when it should take less than one (it should take about 20 hours). But that's food for a different post.

The eye candy here has been amazing with a surprise (to us) visit from the famous Maltese Falcon (aka the Death Start according to the kids). Yesterday they got a guided tour of the cruising tall ship the Picton Castle. Our friend Charlie from Kamaloha was crew on one of the Rebecca's (the smaller one) and they came in 3rd in their division. There has been a disturbance developing north of us for the past week so it's been playing havoc with the wind so there was lots for the racers to complain about :)

Now it looks like the thing to do is to sail around the corner to Nonsuch Bay and relax in the quiet picturesque waters before everyone scatters in their various directions. And we need to decide which way to go. Do we stick to our plans to visit the Bahamas and put the boat up on the hard in the US or do we sail back south, visit with friends more, say hi to our friends in St. Vincent and up the boat in Grenada. Both are very attractive. And the hurricane season is starting to warm up. It looks like it's going to be a busy one too. Hmmm. Choices.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Time Together

Yesterday afternoon we dropped off Carla and Aaron at then airport in St. Maarten. Carla needs to be back "home" for a few weeks to help out some of her clients with their year ends. It's a trip that we planned for her to make from the beginning but even with all the forewarning it was a very sad occasion. I think that there's a saying that goes something like distance makes the heart grow fonder. I think it's the other way around. Spending the past 5 months sharing all these amazing experiences, both the good and the bad, has only brought us closer. And now we're looking at spending 3-4 weeks apart.

The boat felt quite empty when we returned last night. The sounds were different, the routine was different and we were all a little out of sorts this morning too. I just hope that the time passes quickly and we can get back to spending time together.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Sad end to an Adventure

A crazy thing happened the other day. A boat came up behind ours and started to anchor. Everything looked OK so we got back to doing what we were doing. A few minutes later a dinghy drove up to our boat with an animated gentleman trying to tell us in French then broken English that he thinks that the guy on the boat behind us that just anchored has collapsed and died! Can you say that again? Yes, Dead. Mort. My dad zips over in our dinghy to help reset the anchor (the boat was dragging) and sure enough, out on the foredeck, hunched over the anchor windlass was the body of a recently deceased man.

The Coast Guard were called in and the body was hauled away. Two days later, they came to take the boat away. A large rescue boat towed the 49-foot Hunter sailboat into a marina.

Sad, but strange. Then yesterday it got even stranger. It turns out that the guy who just died was the victim of a brutal attack and robbery here in St. Martin just this past summer.

The original attack:

The recent death:

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Welcoming An-Tiki

We were so fortunate to be in St. Maarten when the An-Tiki raft arrived after 66 days at sea, crossing the Atlantic Ocean. An-Tiki's intended destination was the Bahamas, so this was extra-special for all of us. A warm and friendly crowd of sailors and reporters greeted the crew of An-Tiki at the St. Maarten Yacht Club as they passed through the Dutch bridge at 5:30pm on April 6, 2011.

The An-Tiki expedition has a goal of raising £50,000 for the charity, Water Aid. They're a long way off their goal, so would surely welcome any tax-deductible contribution from near or afar.

Our friend, Maureen, and I interviewed John Russell and I was excited to meet Dr. Andrew Bainbridge, after learning he is from Canada. Dr. Bainbridge and his wife, Beryl, live in Edson, Alberta. John explained to us that for 5 days, they actually sailed backwards! They put out the sea anchor and just settled down to wait for wind.

Various delays caused a slow passage (they averaged 2 knots and their maximum speed was 4 knots), so they had to make landfall in St. Maarten instead.

The boys were amazed that a raft could cross the Atlantic Ocean. They know the swells are bigger in the Atlantic, bigger than the biggest swells (4 metres) we've experienced in the Caribbean Sea. They were also impressed by the small living space that was shared by the 4 crew on board. They learned that you can cross an ocean in almost anything. And what inspiring individuals are those four men!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Map Update

Updated the map to include our trip from Guadeloupe to St. Maarten and Anguilla.

View CARIB 2010 in a larger map

Getting Lost in Anguilla

Anguilla, a Brittish Overseas Territory, is a fantastic island. It has a reputation among the cruising world as being expensive, and while that can be true, there are ways to limit the expense and it is certainly worth it. We'd sure like to come back and visit a lot more.

After spending a day exploring one of the outer Cays (Prickly Pear Cay) we decided to rent a car and tour the island. Anguilla is a popular spot for the more wealthy so it has more than its fare share of resorts. They are all fairly small and private and expensive so we decided to try and find a more low key, remote pace to go for the day. Looking at the road map the north east end of the island looked promising as it only had one small resort, a beach bar and several remote beaches.

Off we went, stopping at grocery stores for lunch snacks along the way. The seven seater van we rented claimed to have AC but it only "worked" if we had the windows down. And it was a hot day. Hmmm.

We wind our way to the end of the island's paved roads then shift to a partially paved road about the width of a car but still two directions of traffic. Then the road starts getting really rough. We bounce and twist our way over this coral/lime road until it ends overlooking a point of rocks and desert brush. Oops, wrong turn.


A few more turns after our back-tracking, we come to another junction but are unsure what way to go. My Dad and I decide to walk over the next ridge to see what the road over there looks like (we've already been pushing the limits of this rental van). On the other side we meet up with a couple guys in a jeep coming the other way (a jeep is a much more suitable vehicle for this road). We ask them for directions and the conversation went something like this:

Us: "Hi there. We're looking for Savannah Bay."
Guys in jeep: "OK. Great spot. Do you have a Jeep?"
Us: "Nope"
Guys in jeep: "An SUV?"
Us: "Nope"
Guys in jeep: "A minivan?"
Us: "Yup"
Guys in jeep: "Is it a rental?"
Us: "Yup"
Guys in jeep: "OK, no problem then. Just follow the road that has the telephone poles, about a mile past the broken down bulldozer until you come to a rubble barricade then turn down the the little path to the right then go about another 1/4 mile until you come to the water. Easy."

It turns out those were the directions to the wrong beach. Luckily for us we figured that out fairly quickly and found the correct road which happened to be much smoother and less of a 4x4 trail!

And at the end of the road we found a very nice, nearly private beach. Definitely a spot to come back to some day.



New pictures from St. Martin and Anguilla

DSC_8703 by skyec
DSC_8703, a photo by skyec on Flickr.

Iain and my Dad after their trip on the Extreme Zip Line on St. Martin. This is the day after we all went Kite Surfing and that was after spending 3 days snorkelling Anguilla and that was after ... you get the picture. It's been very busy here and we're really sad to see Iain leave today.