Caribbean | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Caribbean Sailing Strategies

Do you dream of sailing the Caribbean someday? Are you looking for your next tropical sailing destination?
Come along with us as we explore the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean and show our process for route planning. We show how we use the PredictWind app for weather forecasting and route planning to design a comfortable cruise in the Caribbean as we sail from St. Martin to Anguilla, St. Barts, Saba and then do a nightsail to the British Virgin Islands.

Two devastating hurricanes - Hurricanes Irma and Maria - hit the British Virgin Islands in 2017. In this video (in 2019), we return to sail the BVI and get an update on recovery efforts before making a fabulous 3-day offshore passage to the Turks and Caicos.


Sailing Antigua to Anguilla - Clearing in and Cruising Permits

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

antigua-deep-bay - 2Deep Bay, Antigua

It was amazing how, immediately following Antigua Sailing Week (April 23-29, 2016), cruising boats, race boats and mega yachts alike cleared out of Antigua. The event definitely marked the end of the boating season on this Caribbean island.

Many sailors began their voyages south or north following the event to be out of the Hurricane Belt by June, race boats set sail to various destinations to participate in other regattas and mega yachts headed to sea to make their annual transatlantic crossing to the Mediterranean for the summer months.

Like us, some cruising sailors prepared to carry on their exploration of the Caribbean having organized safe hurricane storage of their boats in approved boat yards, in our case Bobby’s Boat Yard Airport Road in St. Maarten, or having plans to run to a hurricane hole or make a quick passage out of the Hurricane Belt when early warning forecasts were given. But there was still a month of safe cruising time left and we were going to enjoy every minute of it.

antigua-jolly-harbourDistant Shores II at Jolly Harbour, Antigua, a good place to provision before a passage.

We’d had a great cruise around Antigua (see previous newsletter) which we concluded at Jolly Harbour anchoring in the outer harbour so we could easily leave in the dark to make a night sail north to our next destination, Anguilla. It would be a 95 nm passage and we wanted to sail overnight so that we would be approaching the island and arriving in Road Bay, the Port of Entry, in daylight. (Blowing Point on the south coast is also a Port of Entry but the anchorage is rolly and is a busy ferry port so it's not recommended for visiting yachts.)

We raised anchor at midnight in Jolly Harbour after a brief rest and set sail. Conditions were good throughout the night and day. Distant Shores sliced through the sapphire blue sea passing St. Kitts and Nevis, Stacia, St. Barths, Saba and St. Maarten/St. Martin arriving late afternoon on May 5th at Road Bay, Anguilla.

Road Bay, Anguilla

There are lots of moorings in Road Bay but they are all privately owned so visiting yachts are requested to anchor. No problem. It's a large anchorage and there is always lots of room however in the winter months, when there is often swell from the north, there could be a bit of a roll in here but we had peaceful conditions.

It was late afternoon when we dropped the hook, too late to clear in with Customs and Immigration so we stayed on board with our yellow “Q” flag flying on the starboard halyard to indicate that we still had to clear in and enjoyed a sunset meal in the cockpit before calling it an early night. Tomorrow was the start of the annual Anguilla Regatta and we wanted to be well rested to film it.

Anguilla, is a British overseas territory. The name Anguilla is taken from an earlier Spanish word anguila, French anguille, or Italian anguilla, all meaning “eel” due to the island's shape. It’s 16 miles long with a population of 13,450. Anguilla is a small quiet island famous for its very high-end hotels and restaurants and the most exquisite beaches. However, we discovered there are lots of great options for mid-priced travel here too.

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The clear water, golden sand and open horizon at Mead's Bay Beach, Anguilla

You can see Anguilla easily from the French side of St. Martin. It takes less than 2 hours to sail from St. Martin as opposed to 12 hours from Antigua so most of the yachts participating in the Anguilla Regatta were coming over from St. Martin and St. Maarten. Cruising yachts from other countries also participated with all proceeds from the regatta going to the Anguilla Youth Sailing Association. Sailing is the national sport of Anguilla and scholarships are made available so that every child can learn to sail if they want to.

Anguilla Youth Sailing Association, Road Bay, makes sure every child can learn to sail.

The next morning we took the dinghy to the large dinghy dock which is in the middle of the beach. There is also a large commercial dock to the left with a marked channel where cargo ships come to so is restricted. However if you need water you can call the port authority "Road Bay Port" on VHF 16 and arrange a time to come over for water. We didn't ask about fuel but this seems difficult. Top up before you sail over is the best advice we got.

The Anguilla Customs, Immigration and Port Authority offices are all conveniently located right by the dinghy dock and all the officers are charming.


"Welcome to Anguilla. Welcome to Paradise," the Immigration officer greeted us as we walked in.

Although super friendly, Anguilla has the most restrictions for yachts on where you can cruise, specific hours you can sail to certain places, where you can anchor and where mooring balls must be used as compared to any other island we have visited in the Caribbean. This is an attempt to protect their small but remarkable marine resources but it can be frustrating and expensive if you don't plan carefully.

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Paul swimming off the beach at Road Bay, Anguilla

Please don't be put off! If you anchor in Road Bay, which has a truly lovely crescent beach with charming beach bars, and explore Anguilla by rental car or taxi you pay no cruising fees or entrance/departure fees. This is well worth doing. The island is pristine with the most beautiful beaches with wide open horizons and the clearest water you have ever seen.

If you want to sail out to the little out islands such as Sandy Island (you can also take a little ferry there for $10 US return/person), Prickly Pear Cays or Dog Island or any of the other bays around the island, day permits must be purchased. For our Southerly 49 sailboat a day permit was $50 US per day and expired at midnight.

Beach at Sandy Island with boats in mooring field in distance.

Paul enjoying a Margarita at the Sandy Island Beach Bar

Once cleared in you are only allowed to sail in daylight hours, defined as between the hours of 6:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

There is one other anchorage where you can stay overnight in your boat in Anguilla besides Road Bay and that is Crocus Bay, just one bay east from Road Bay, but since day permits expire at midnight, you pay for 2 days to stay overnight in Crocus Bay. i.e. $100 US. We didn't bother and drove there instead.

Cruising permits are also available for one week, one month and one year.

After we'd been in Anguilla for a few days we learned that if you call ahead and have an Anguilla Marine Agent clear you in (required for mega yachts but not cruising boats) you may be granted permission to stay overnight in Rendezvous Bay on the south coast which is quite lovely. (Rates are about $150 US per hour however.)

Cruising sailors are generally free spirits and are put off by these kinds of restrictions not to mention the complication and cost involved so just don’t go there. To be honest, we have been put off by this ourselves and have changed our minds several times when we considered sailing to Anguilla. There are so many other great Caribbean destinations you can sail to and explore freely and inexpensively. However, we knew Anguilla was a special place (we had cruised there 20 years ago before the restrictions were brought in and also stopped for a couple of nights in Road Bay in 2008) so were determined to check it out and learn how things worked these days when you arrive by boat and were glad we did.

There is talk of a marina being built in Road Bay (where the old salt pond is located behind the beach) so work is being done to make Anguilla more boater friendly while still protecting their the beautiful but limited marine resources of this small nation.

More on cruising Anguilla in the next newsletter…

Have you sailed to or visited Anguilla? What was your experience? We'd love to hear all about it in the comments below. Thanks!

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Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for over 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Nautical Channel and Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.


Sailing Around Antigua

By Paul Shard, copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
From Falmouth Harbour Antigua we set sail in 18-20 knots for one of those dream Caribbean sailing days. Perfect breezes aft of the beam, sparkling blue seas, sun and the dramatic coast of Antigua in the background.

We are on a broad reach and then jibe to come in closer to admire the coast past Jolly Harbour and the beaches on the west side of Antigua.
We drop anchor in Deep Bay on the west of Antigua.
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In the mouth of the bay is the wreck of the Andes, and we dive to investigate.
The Andes was carrying a load of pitch, which caught fire as she was approaching Antigua. She was denied permission to enter St John's (so as not to set others on fire). She sank in nearby Deep Bay in 1905 in less than 10 meters of water. Her funnel breaks the surface and she is easily seen by snorkelers.
Deep bay is a very calm and pretty anchorage.deep-bay-antigua-beach
Overlooking Deep Bay are the fortifications of Fort Barrington, built in 1779 to defend the approaches to the harbour and town of St John's.
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Its a relatively easy 10-minute hike to the well-preserved fort…
Friends Ken & Lynn on Silverheels III shot this as we sailed along the coast of Antigua.

Anchored for the night off Bird Island on the North Eastern corner of Antigua. A wild and remote spot where the reef and these tiny islands break the big Atlantic swell for a nicely sheltered spot. There is a lot to see sailing Antigua!

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Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2016. All rights reserved.

The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta (ACYR), held every April in the Caribbean island of Antigua, is an event that, for many years, Paul and I have been hoping to attend. This year we made it happen, sailing down from the British Virgin Islands (see previous newsletter), for the 29th annual ACYR.


Every year in April between 50 and 60 yachts participate in the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta including traditional craft from the islands, classic ketches, sloops, schooners and yawls, together with beautiful modern yachts built in the Spirit of Tradition, occasionally J Class yachts and a few Tall Ships.


Based in Falmouth Harbour at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina, headquarters for the ACYR with many after-race parties held at the historic Nelson’s Dockyard in English Harbour, you feel as if you have travelled back in time seeing all these period yachts arriving and departing to sail as a spectacular fleet around the daily race courses.



Carriacou yachts are traditional island sloops and have a class of their own in the regatta. These boats, once used as island traders, are still built in the Grenadian island of Carriacou.



One of the after-race events this year was an outdoor screening at Nelson’s Dockyard of the award-winning documentary “Vanishing Sail” about one of the last boat builders of Carriacou yachts. (The film has since inspired his sons to continue the tradition.) Watching this beautiful film under the stars amongst the old barracks and workshops of the former British Naval Base for the West Indies built in the 1700’s with the standing-room-only crowd of classic and traditional yacht sailors was a moving experience. The film will soon be available on DVD through the Vanishing Sail website where you can view the trailer.


We were fortunate to get a spot at the quay in Nelson’s Dockyard for the week of the regatta.



Nelson’s Dockyard Marina is just a 10-minute walk to Falmouth Harbour and the Antigua Yacht Club Marina from there where all the yachts participating were based for the duration of the regatta.


Having the yachts berthed all together in one place at the Antigua Yacht Club Marina created a convivial atmosphere and made it easy to dock-walk to view these floating works of art. It was also a great way to meet the special people that sail them and care for them.


Before we went out to film the races and events each day for the Distant Shores sailing TV series, Paul and I would get up early to enjoy morning walks along the forested trails around English Harbour and through ruins of the old fortress. Good spots to watch the races from if you are shorebound.



One morning we had a close-up encounter with a young mongoose.


Tropical showers brought out colourful flowers that bloomed brightly along the trails and hillsides overlooking the sea.


Working with other marine photographers and videographers on the press boat at events such as the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta is always a special time for us since, not only do we love the events we’re documenting for the Distant Shores sailing TV series, it’s a great time to catch up with fellow marine journalists and partners in the marine industry who sponsor the regatta.


The wind was generally light during this year’s ACYR which was unfortunate for participants but nice for spectators since it meant that all the yachts were flying maximum sails creating a sight to behold.




The Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta marks the end of the Caribbean sailing season for many of these beautiful yachts and several were preparing to cross the Atlantic Ocean following the regatta to sail and/or charter in the Mediterranean for the summer months. If you’re curious about what it’s like to sail in the Med check out the Distant Shores TV YouTube Channel where we’ve posted full 30-minute episodes from season 1 and 2 of Distant Shores about sailing in the Mediterranean.


During the regatta, Paul also spent a day sailing aboard the lovely schooner S/V Heron, built, owned, and captained by Bonnie Schmidt and Nigel Bower. You can buy a berth by on this fine vessel to sail on various legs from the New England coast all the way south to the Grenadines. Paul interviewed some of the charter guests aboard S/V Heron who were living their dream to sail aboard a classic yacht in the tropics, including journalists from WoodenBoat, a magazine for wooden boat owners, builders and designers.


Schooner S/V Heron

When we first arrived in Antigua for the start of the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta we were pleasantly surprised to find that many long-time cruising friends, who we have shared anchorages with over the years, come each year to crew aboard these classic yachts or to work as volunteers to keep the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta running smoothly. Even if you aren’t racing there are lots of ways to get involved as volunteers and it is such a good time!

Attending the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta became quite a social occasion for us as we got caught up with friends and colleagues we hadn’t seen for a while, danced to the great bands in the evenings and, of course, shared a drink or two after a day of filming. Every afternoon there was free Mount Gay Rum Tasting along with other events such as cocktail making contests, BBQ’s and daily prize-giving.

The last day was especially fun with Gig Races at English Harbour. A gig is a small rowboat or sailing boat generally used to taxi the ship’s captain ashore.


This was followed by a Cream Tea at the Admiral’s Inn, Nelson’s Dockyard. It was a great opportunity for me to wear the hat my British sailing friend, Elizabeth Pattison, made for me. You meet Elizabeth in the Chichester Harbour episode of Distant Shores in season 7, episode 1.





As the ACYR website says, “The sailing combined with Antiguan hospitality, plenty of rum, sunshine, and great camaraderie in a friendly relaxed atmosphere, places the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta, in a class of its own.”

Next year the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta celebrates its 30th anniversary so be sure to mark your calendar. It will be held April 19-25, 2017.

Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Nautical Channel, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.


Virgins to Antigua

Its been a busy month… sailing from St Martin to the BVI where we worked on board getting new television shows edited… (The episodes from Madeira and the Atlantic Crossing via the Cabo Verde Islands are in the queue for editing. It typically takes more than 40 hours of work to edit together the final cut of the episode ready to send out to our broadcasters)

Sheryl raises the yellow Q flag as we arrive in the British Virgin Islands after crossing the Anegada Passage today, a 90 mile sail from St Maarten.
q-flag - 1
Big Bang

After clearing customs at Virgin Gorda (Spanish Town) we moved up to North Sound. We were only anchored a few days when we had a rude awakening…
Big Bang!! Exciting morning... at 06:50 a large 51 foot charter power-cat dragged anchor and hit our bow. For 20 minutes or so we worked to untangle their anchor which was snagged around our chain. Its 60 feet deep here and we have 230 feet of chain out (see blog on short scope anchoring) . Strong gusts and our fabulous Rocna anchor was holding both boats. Main damage seems to be to the cat as our roller poked a small hole in their topsides...
big bang

Distant Shores Fans

We met up with quite a few fans of the television show over this visit. Thanks all for coming up and saying hi!
10 years ago we met South Africans, Desmond & Lynette, in Turkey where they had just bought a boat & were starting a cruising adventure with their young family inspired by watching the Distant Shores sailing travel show on Travel Channel in South Africa!
"Travel Channel played the show several times a day & sometimes we'd watch you twice a day taking us to exciting places. We learned a lot and it kept us motivated," said Lynette.
Now that their kids are in university, they're back at work but keep Pirate Lady in the BVI where they come over to sail it for a few months each year. Great to meet up once again!

We also met up with former guest-stars from earlier Distant Shores episodes…

Remember Hermione, owner of Zigzag Bags in Itchenor UK, featured in DS episode #79 "Chichester Harbour" and also #108 "Burgundy" which recently aired on AWE TV in the USA and Caribbean?
Well, we met her and her family on Norman Island! They're taking a sabbatical and cruising in the Caribbean. Great to catch up with her, Douglas and the children and hear the news of friends in the UK and the Itchenor Sailing Club.
Chilling in the BVI

Here's our anchorage in Great Harbour Peter Island. Its quite deep (over 50 feet) but very beautiful and a nice place to "chill" in the BVI.


Here are some scenes from the reef just beside the boat. Diving in the BVI is quite good, partly due to the clear water. Some of the best we have seen in the Caribbean.

Searching for Distant Shores III

We are continuing to search for Distant Shores III.
I visited Poland a few months ago to tour the Delphia Yachts plant, then did a test sail aboard the Delphia 46DS. It is a true pilothouse with raised saloon. So you can see out from the table and while standing in the galley. You can also steer, seeing forward from the helm.
Check out the Video on YouTube below. What do you think?

Before we left the BVI I did a check over the rigging including a trip to the masthead. Great views! Here is a blog on how we check over the rig.

Before we set sail it was Paul's Birthday… Sheryl made sure it was a special day1!
On to Antigua

Sailing to Antigua! Well motoring actually. Had a good night at sea after leaving the British Virgin Islands yesterday afternoon but have extremely light wind conditions. Just passing the island of St. Kitts right now. At this rate our ETA Antigua is about 4:30 PM. All is well on board.

Antigua - Classic Regatta & Sailing Week

Antigua is home to 2 of the most prestigious and fun regattas in the Caribbean. Classic Regatta starts things off from April 13 through the 19th with classic sailboats of all kinds. Then things really heat up with Sailing Week "Where Sailing Comes First" - Saturday April 23 - Friday 29th. We are filming all this for an episode of Distant Shores!!

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Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.

Saint Martin Boatyard Party

Sunset arrival at Nevis after a great sail from Guadeloupe today. A beam reach in east winds 15-20 kts the whole way!
SXM boatyard 1 - 1
Happy Sunday from St. Maarten in the Dutch West Indies! The perfect day for relaxing in the hammock & watching the world go by. How & where are you spending the day?
SXM boatyard 1 - 2
Haulout St Martn. Bobbys Boatyard for the next week or so for annual maintenance😀
SXM boatyard party - 1
Taking time out from the boatyard to see some Heineken party action! ‪#‎seriousfun‬ ‪#‎heinekenregatta‬ ‪#‎captainmorgan‬
SXM boatyard party - 2
Costumed crews at the 3 PM bridge opening following the day's races. Simpson Bay Bridge, St. Maarten.
SXM boatyard party - 3
Paul meets the Captain Morgan crew at the St. Maarten Yacht Club.
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Boatyard Sunday fun - Epoxy coat #1 on the keel so it's time to go to the beach for the afternoon. We are using International's "Interprotect 2000" epoxy on the keel.
SXM boatyard party - 5
Drinks at the Zafiro beach bar with Mojito and Heineken
SXM boatyard party - 6
Simpson bay beach great for running or a morning walk. We are staying in a room ashore while hauled out, and its a short walk to the beach!! We arrive before dawn for a walk (Paul runs)
SXM boatyard party - 7
Sunrise over SXM (thats the airport code for Saint Martin/Sint Maarten) and its back to the boatyard :-)
SXM boatyard party - 8

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Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.

Up Island to the Saintes

An early morning departure from Dominica as we head north…
up-island - 11
Whales are occasionally seen in the lee of these islands. We were lucky and had a close encounter with a Sperm Whale - perhaps 40 feet long?
up-island - 3
He fluked as he came behind us in the morning sun…
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Late arrival as we come in to anchor in the last of the daylight… we know this harbour so night arrival isn't a problem.
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up-island - 2
Land-Ho The Saintes.
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New country so we have customs to deal with... Homeland Security French style? I clear in at Les Saintes islands at the self-serve clearance terminal for 2Euros.
up-island - 5
The village of Bourg in the Saintes is a real gem… we pick up a mooring for 13Euro a night…
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Downtown with the lovely church…
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Traffic jam in the Saintes… scooters and electric golf carts predominate :-)
up-island - 6
The French are romantic even with baked goods… how about a cookie called "torment of love"?
up-island - 8
Water from in the Saintes… perhaps we'll stay a day or two longer than planned…
up-island - 9

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Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.

Cruising Around St Lucia

The last week we've been getting the boat ready for the winter, and cruising around St Lucia. We had been home for "boat show season" speaking at Toronto and investigating Dusseldorf (click here for the blog on Dusseldorf). Back at the boat it was time for a tall cool drink!
Cool Drinks St Lucia - 1
Shopping local!! Almost everything in this dinner is local Caribbean… from mango, starfruit, tasty local tomatoes, lettuce and cucumber to herbs, and even the chicken. Olive oil and balsamic vinegar came from our last major provisioning in the Canary Islands (plus the Sangria) … Bon Appetit…
Local Salad St Lucia - 1
Exploring Pigeon Island overlooking Rodney Bay… then I swam on the prop and bottom. I was about 90 minutes cleaning off the barnacles from leaving the boat in the marina while we were back in the studio in Canada. Then it was time for a nice hike up to look over the bay. Distant Shores II is the closest sailboat in the photo. Nice anchorage!
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Fun nature watching!
Pigeon - 4
Rodney Bay with a squall coming over.
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Down the coast of St Lucia from Rodney Bay heading to Marigot… this is a screen grab from my iPhone running the excellent Navionics Charting App
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Marigot Bay is VERY cute and very protected. A welcome respite from a windy Caribbean Day… This is the view out of the anchorage at sunset.
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Plenty of nice restaurants to keep the crew happy!
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Popular with Superyachts as well… This huge yacht is leaving from the inner harbour. The barely had room to turn around!!
Marigot 800 - 5
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Sheryl and Paul Shard have now been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.

Finding Festivals When Cruising

By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2015. All rights reserved.

Distant Shores_Festivals4

Happy Easter! The end of winter and the coming of spring is an event celebrated by most cultures in many splendid ways around the world. Paul and I have been fortunate to participate in quite a few of these celebrations in the Caribbean, Mediterranean and Scandinavia throughout our 25 years of cruising aboard sailboats. We have had fun filming and writing about the experiences to help you plan your own cruising adventures…

Fun Festivals All Year Long

We often plan our sailing voyages to arrive in places in time to participate in local festivals. And not just in the spring. There are amazing festivals around the world in places you can sail to all year long! Festivals and feasts are a great venue to meet local people since everyone is out and in a festive mood. As a result they are often more open to chatting and usually proud to explain their traditions. There is always lots to do and photograph at festivals including tasting new foods, watching parades, playing games and practicing the local language if different from your own. Take into consideration the best time for sailing in these places first and then look to see what events are going on during those times.

Distant Shores_Festivals3
Easter procession in Malta

What are our favourites? The most memorable spring celebrations for us have been Easter ceremonies in Malta, which is located in the central Mediterranean, and the festival of Smell the Breeze in Egypt, both of which we filmed for the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series. Many festivals in Spain and Greece as well as Caribbean Carnival are tops on our list too. Check out past Newsletters under the category Festivals.


Last spring we had a special Easter experience at the small island of South Caicos in the Turks and Caicos after a 5-day passage from the British Virgin Islands. We arrived and cleared in on Good Friday and had our papers stamped by the Customs and Immigration officials at the local church where they were directing the youth group reenactment of the Easter story! We were welcomed in and had a memorable weekend with the people there. (See newsletter 21/04/14.)

Distant Shores_Festivals1

How to Find Festivals when Planning Your Cruise

You can find out what local events are taking place before sailing there from tourist board websites and travel guides, sailing blogs and Facebook Groups about various destinations and watching travel shows as part of your research.

Easter Week in Malta

The Maltese are enthusiastic Christians. St. Paul was shipwrecked here as documented in the Acts of the Apostles 27:39 to 28:10 so the Maltese are amongst the first Christians and proud of the tradition. They celebrate religious events with great passion and ceremony. The events leading up to Easter are especially colourful and dramatic - candlelit night processions, astonishing acts of penance such as dragging chains through the streets on Good Friday, reenactments of the Easter story and processions of great splendour. We filmed Easter Week in Malta for episode #56 in Distant Shores season 5 (more info here) before sailing to Italy. Here's an excerpt from the show to give you the idea of what you can experience if you sail there…

Sham El Nissem (Smell the Breeze) in Egypt

This festival in Egypy dates back to the 3rd millennium BC and is now a National Holiday celebrated by both Christians and Muslims on the day after Orthodox Christian Easter. The name Sham el Nessim also has ancient Egyptian roots meaning "renewal of life" but with the adoption of Arabic language, the term “Shemu” in ancient Egyptian morphed into “Sham el Nissem” or literally "Smelling the Breeze" and that is exactly how Egyptians celebrate this popular festival. There are colourful parades and everyone spends the day outside enjoying picnics with friends and family. The food is traditional - a) eggs decorated the night before as a family event symbolizing life (did you know it was the ancient Egyptians that started the tradition of decorating eggs?) b) onions to ward off evil spirits and 3) salted mullet fish honoured as a symbol of prosperity. This fish is extremely stinky and the Egyptians pride themselves as the only people with the stomachs to eat it. We joined in the Sham el Nissem festivities when sailing up the Suez Canal from the Red Sea and filmed it for episode #50 in Distant Shores season 4 along with four other episodes about boating in Egypt.

There are great festivals going on at all times of the year and planning to be in a cruising destination when they occur can add greatly to your cruising experience.

What festivals have you attended while sailing and would recommend to other sailors or travellers? We welcome your comments below…

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Sheryl and Paul Shard have been cruising internationally for 25 years. They are sailing authors, instructors/consultants and the fun-loving hosts of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series (AWE TV, Vimeo on Demand). The Distant Shores series profiles the world's best sailing destinations and provides insights into the joys and challenges of living aboard a cruising sailboat. The shows are also available on DVD and as HD downloads.

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Clearing in to the Bahamas

Anchored in Abrahams Bay, Mayaguana, watching a passing squall

The morning of Friday April 25th dawned bright and sunny with good conditions for our sail from West Caicos in the Turks and Caicos to the island of Mayaguana lying about 50 nm to the NW, our port of entry for the Bahamas.

We had cleared out of Turks and Caicos the afternoon before in Provo (see previous newsletter) so we sailed off the park mooring at West Caicos at 0650 (we like to practice manoeuvres under sail whenever possible) and were soon making 7 kts under mainsail and genoa. We had to sail a little high of our course to keep up our speed since we wanted to get into Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana, in the afternoon with enough time to get anchored, dinghy ashore to clear in, and get a Bahamas sim card for our open iPhone. We wanted to be sure that we had phone and internet communications set up before things shut down for the weekend.

It was a delightful day as we soared along the sapphire blue seas towards the Bahamas, one of our most favourite cruising grounds. We've filmed numerous episodes about destinations in the Bahamas for the Distant Shores TV series over the years. Several years ago we made this same passage and saw humpback whales leaping and fluking so we kept a good lookout in case we might be blessed with another whale sighting but it was not to be.

All that we could see on the horizon were the sails of SV Rufus and Soliel II, two German boats traveling together that we had met earlier in the week in South Caicos. That morning they had set sail from another anchorage, the one on the west end of Providenciales, and were also headed to Mayaguana.

Abraham's Bay, Mayaguana
At around 1130 Paul I shouted “Land Ho!” as Southeast Point, Mayaguana, rose up on the horizon and by 1430 we were winding our way past the reefs and coral heads into the anchorage at Abraham's Bay. It was half tide and rising. The water is a pallet of multiple shades of blue in this large bay which is protected by barrier reefs. It is quite shallow close to shore so you need to anchor a little way out from the government dock where you can tie up your dinghy with the local skiffs.

Clearing in to the Bahamas
From the dinghy dock and public beach you walk up the road for about 5 minutes and just before reaching the small settlement you come upon a cluster of small yellow buildings where you'll find Customs and Immigration, the Post Office and the BTC Bahamas phone office. Very convenient! While I cleared us in with Customs and Immigration, Paul went to the phone centre to get a Bahamas sim card and data plan for our open phone so we would have a local Bahamas phone number and internet while traveling through the islands.

Clearing in to the Bahamas is quite expensive at $300 US for boats 31 feet and over. It's $150 for boats 30 feet and under. Distant Shores II is 49 feet. (The Bahamian dollar is tied directly to the US dollar and both currencies are used.) However if you consider that the Bahama island chain is similar in size to the whole Caribbean island chain where you are clearing in and out of numerous countries and colonies and paying for numerous cruising permits, it is a little easier to understand.

The cruising permit for the Bahamas is valid for two entries during a 90-day period and the fee includes government taxes, a fishing permit and the departure taxes for 3 people. Each additional person is charged $20 departure tax. At the Mayaguana office THEY ONLY TAKE CASH and there is no bank or ATM on the island. In fact, there is no bank or ATM until you get to George Town, Great Exuma, a few days sail away so it is very important to arrive with enough cash to clear in and cover your costs for any groceries (very basic supplies available so stock up ahead) or bar/restaurants in the small settlements you'll want to stop at on the way north. Credit cards are rarely accepted in the small remote villages of the Far Out Islands of the Bahamas so carry sufficient cash for all your needs when in these islands.

For more information about boats entering/exiting the Bahamas see the government website .

Communications in the Bahamas - Phone and Internet
Our very first trip to the Bahamas was in 1989/90 and to make a telephone call you had to line up at the local Batelco office where they assigned you a booth and you made your call from there. How things have changed!

Now at the local BTC Bahamas office which is found in just about every settlement no matter how remote, you can purchase a local pay-as-you-go sim card for your open phone so that you have a local phone number (goodbye roaming rates) and top it up as you go along. In April 2014 this was $15 US.

You can also add a data plan so that your phone acts as a personal hot spot so that you have internet access whenever you are in range of a tower. These large towers are found on all settled islands and we find that the range for internet is about 12-14 miles. The phone then acts as a modem for connecting other devices you have onboard to the internet too such as laptops, tablets, etc. We purchased a plan for 2 GB for a month, regularly $30 but on sale for $15 as an April special. It’s very fast and reliable service. You can top-up online on which is very convenient.

If you’re not interested in such plans, just up the road at the main crossroads of the settlement is a bar called Big Reg’s where for the purchase of a drink you can connect to the very fast wi-fi there.

We meet up with Yule Charlton at Big Reg’s Bar on our return to Mayaguana

Local Friends
We have visited Mayaguana twice before on various voyages through the Bahamas over the years and filmed there for the Distant Shores sailing TV series for Distant Shores season 5 “Mayaguana” and Distant Shores season 6 “Voyage to Eleuthera”. As a result we know a few local people here now and it was good to reconnect.

We stayed two nights in Mayaguana and concluded this year's visit with a lovely potluck BBQ with our German sailing friends, Heidi and Klaus of “Soleil II” and with Marion and Harold aboard their beautiful Lagoon 410 “Rufus”.

The next day we sailed on to explore more Far Out Islands of the Bahamas which we'll tell you about in the next newsletter.

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Turks and Caicos - Exploring Provo

Hello Everyone,

Our adventures in the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) continue!


After crossing the Caicos Bank on April 21st from South Caicos where we'd had a very special Easter Weekend we arrived at the island of Providenciales, better known as “Provo”. This is the most developed island in the TCI with many beautiful resorts, luxury villas, white sand beaches including Grace Beach reputed to be the most beautiful beach in the world, along with great shopping and several good marina facilities.

South Side Marina looking out to Caicos Bank

Border Control - ProvoRadio
When we were on the bank 12 nm out from Provo we were contacted by ProvoRadio on VHF 16 and asked our intentions, the number of people on board, particulars of our boat, the port we were coming from, etc. ProvoRadio mans the coastal radar station at Five Cays, Providenciales, and is directed by the Ministry of Border Control and Labour. All boats on international voyages are required to report in when within 12 nm of Provo when arriving and departing. We were also required to fill out a Vessel Arrival Information Form either over the radio or by e-mail. We opted for e-mail and completed the one page form after we anchored at Sapodilla Bay for the night and e-mailed it back to them. We received a courteous e-mail thanking us for our cooperation. Shortly after we anchored in Sapodillo Bay, a catamaran came in that ProvoRadio had been trying to contact but had not replied. Within minutes a large Coast Guard helicopter descended on the anchorage. We could see that photos were being taken of the boat. They take security seriously here.

South Side Marina
We were in need of marina time to top up our water and do a repair and friends had recommended South Side Marina, “a marina managed by cruisers for cruisers”. So on the morning of April 22nd we raised anchor and made the 40 minute trip along the coast to the east. There was virtually no wind and the colour of the banks was stunning as we approached the harbour entrance.


When we came through the cut, we were met by manager Bob Pratt, dockhand Julien, and the lovely Nevarde who serves as office assistant and bartender at Bob's Bar which recently opened at the marina. Distant Shores II was quickly secured on a floating finger pontoon and we were welcomed into the friendly cruising community at this delightful marina, also a port of entry. The team here does everything to help you get settled, get your repairs done if needed, and makes sure you enjoy your stay on the island.

Bob Pratt, manager of South Side Marina. A friend to cruising sailors in the Turks and Caicos

Road Trip Provo
The next day Bob and Nevarde helped us organize a car rental so we could get out and explore the 37.5 square island. (Turns out the guy that works at the Holiday Rentals is Canadian and his mother is a director and vendor at the Orillia Farmers Market who we know from shopping there when we're home! Small world.)


In the morning we had a lot of fun driving the little back roads of Provo filming for the Distant Shores TV series and discovered some quiet beaches at Northwest Point which we had all to ourselves.



The water is such a beautiful colour and it was a pleasure to just stroll, beach combing as we went along.

This worked up an appetite so we drove along the north coast road where there are many popular beach bars to choose from with fresh seafood and locally prepared dishes. I had a delicious meal of grouper, peas and rice, coleslaw, and fresh avocado and tomato slices. Paul opted for stewed beef with peas and grits and fried plantain. All yummy!


Next we hit the downtown in the centre of the island to pick up a few things at Walkin's Chandlery, then headed to the east end of the island to see the beautiful 5 mile/8 km long Grace Beach and the gorgeous resorts there. This area is such a contrast to the small settlements in the outer islands such as South Caicos. But you can get everything you need here in the Graceway shopping district. We were able to find a few computer accessories we needed at Computech that we didn't expect to find until we got back to the US mainland.


We also checked out the large modern marinas at Turtle Cove and Blue Haven which we found to be reasonable priced. But South Side Marina is still the best deal at $50 a day for our Southerly 49 sailboat.

Blue Haven Marina at the east end of Providenciales, Turks and Caicos

Since we had the car we concluded the day’s road trip with a stop at the Graceway IGA supermarket which is reputed to be the best supermarket to be found between Florida and the Virgin Islands. It is exceptional and we stocked up on goodies we hadn't seen for a while. Things were pricey compared to home but they had an excellent selection. We also picked up the latest Explorer Charts for the Bahamas (our next destination) at the Unicorn Bookstore which shares the same parking lot.


Meanwhile back at the marina, folks were getting ready for the Wednesday Night South Side Potluck Supper and BBQ. This happens weekly at Bob's Bar at South Side Marina with everyone bringing whatever meat they want to BBQ for themselves plus a side dish to share.


Bob's Bar is a really fun place to hang out because local homeowners, ex-pats and island visitors show up as well as sailors so it's a lively mix of interesting and interested people who aren't afraid to make conversation and have fun together. We had another great evening and then Bob treated everyone to a dish or two of ice cream! Boy, does Bob know what sailors love!


This morning, Paul spent the morning completing a repair to Distant Shores II’s bow thruster (rusty contact) and at noon Bob organized for the Customs and Immigration officials to come down to the marina to clear us out as well as another boat. It was another $50 US to clear out so $100 US total for a one-week permit. If you stay more than a week you must pay $300 but have 90 days to cruise. Our week in the Turks and Caicos has flown by so quickly! The officers were kind and courteous and tried to persuade us to stay for the weekly Thursday night Fish Fry tonight :-) Next time!


We said thanks and farewell and this afternoon crossed the bank to the island of West Caicos where we picked up a mooring off the west coast for the night. It is a national park area and there are some excellent dive sites here, hence the moorings.



We'll spend the night here and at sunrise will head northwest to the Bahamas where we plan to clear in at the island of Mayaguana. You may recall we filmed an episode of Distant Shores there a few years ago for Distant Shores season 5 so are looking forward to seeing how things have changed.

Red sky at night is a sailor's delight so it should be a good day tomorrow...


Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
West Caicos
Turks and Caicos

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Caicos Banks

What a spectacular day we had for crossing the Caicos Bank! We left the anchorage at South Caicos around low water to head out and onto the banks. It will be about 50 miles all told to get to Provo... Sailing around we are in 1000 meters water, then it immediately shoals to 6-7 meters as we enter the banks!
You can see the water is quite shallow... It started about 6 meters deep and gradually shoaled to 4 meters then finally less than 3 near Provo.
We were looking out for coral heads carefully as there are quite a few sprinkled around. Charts can never show them accurately since they grow taller. A low coral head sitting in 6 meters will be well under your keel but in a few more years it may be getting nearer the surface. Do not go over a head unless you are absolutely certain there is enough water.
Sheryl hoisted me up the mast to see how much the height helped to see the heads. Basically any extra height helps see much further ahead. But the additional height above 10 feet or so makes less difference. (Here is a link to our classic Cruising the Bahamas how-to video with segments on piloting in shallow water)
I went to the upper spreaders. The motion is a bit worse there as everything is magnified by the height, but the view was worth it! WOW!!
Happy Crew enjoying this blue marble!!

Fair Winds

Paul & Sheryl
PS. For more adventures exploring the shallow waters check out our Distant Shores Episodes on the Bahamas here. Downloadable episodes on Vimeo here and here plus our classic Cruising the Bahamas how-to video with segments on piloting in shallow water.

BVI to Turks & Caicos

After a great visit to the British Virgin Islands (BVI), which was concluded by a spectacular lunar eclipse, we set sail for the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) on Tuesday April 15/14 with perfect conditions for a lovely 3-day downwind passage from the BVI.
We were on starboard tack for the whole voyage starting out by sailing wing and wing.

Occasionally we had to bring the genoa over to the other side to keep on course but finished with it poled out wing and wing as we arrived in the Turks and Caicos on Thursday night.

We kept 3 hour watches at night and 4 hours during the day. The nights were bright with the full moon and as we soared along north of the Navidad and Silver Banks we often saw cruise ships on the horizon and on AIS. We only had one short but heavy rain squall during the 3 days. The rest of the time the weather was lovely.

Caicos Q Flag
Our port of call was Cockburn Harbour on the island of South Caicos. Here Sheryl raises the “Q” flag to signify that we intend to clear in.

Clearing in was a story... we climbed out of the dinghy in the small fishing harbour on Good Friday, a hot and dusty day in the little town, where we asked the first person we met where we might find customs and immigration. Betty Craigg told us the 2 officers were on the way to their church for Good Friday and invited us to come join in the service. She assured us the officials would be happy to process our paperwork after the service.

Betty Craigg invited us to her church where she assured us we would be able to clear in to the Turks and Caicos with the Customs and Immigration officers attending the Good Friday service.

Turns out to be a rockin’ service at the Firm Foundations Ministries! Great fun and great singing! Thanks to Pastor Hall and Pastor Cooke and the congregation for such a warm welcome! Turns out the Immigration officer, Sandra Hall, is the wife of Pastor Hall, and the Customs officer, Markia Lockhart, is a very active member of the church.

Customs officer Marika Lockhart, left, and Immigration officer Sandra Hall, right, singing on Good Friday.

Sure enough we pop into the back room after the service is over to deal with the paperwork. “Hallelujah! We are Cleared In!!”

Homiest clearance ever!

Fees were $30 for Immigration and $65 for Customs for a 1-week permit. Overtime charges were included since it was a holiday.

We went back again to celebrate Easter Sunday with our new friends. It was an Easter we will never forget! Here are a few photos...

The telling of the Easter story. Pastor Brandford Hall at the pulpit.

Church dancers add to the story.
Customs officer, Marika Lockhart, also does the choreography for the church dancers.

Sheryl with Pastor Cherimay Cooke, who is a fantastic singer! What a joyful and memorable Easter in South Caicos.

We are looking forward to more adventures in Turks and Caicos. On Easter Monday we will be sailing north across the Caicos Bank to the island of Providenciales.

Best regards,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Cockburn Town, South Caicos
Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)


Adventures in the BVI

Rescue in the Anchorage! Yikes!!

Sitting after dinner at anchor watching the full moon we heard shouting nearby and realized it wasn't just sailors coming back from the bar, it was "Help! Is anybody there?!!". A cruiser was swimming by in the dark trying to catch up to his dinghy which had come adrift. But it was drifting faster than he could swim. He climbed aboard and we headed off downwind and chased the dinghy. All OK now. Pheww!

Goes to show you how fast a dinghy can drift even in a moderate breeze as its blowing just 12 knots or so.

Excitement! And happy ending!

Wow!! A few days ago I had an amazing dive with an Octopus!!

He was right under the boat and I was able to swim with him for 15 minutes getting some great video for Distant Shores.

We had friends William and Shane aboard for a few days and William wanted to visit Fallen Jerusalem - near the Baths. We hadn’t been before and we had the perfect day with light breezes, minimum swell and perfect sun to bring out the BVI Water color!!! In the back you see the Baths and Virgin Gorda.

Who has been to the Baths?

Bob Bitchin - Not your Average Sailor

On Monday, March 10, 2014, Paul and I sailed to Soper’s Hole (West End) in the British Virgin Islands to attend the 70th birthday party of friend, Bob Bitchin, ex-biker and sailor, who many of you know as the publisher and editor of Cruising Outpost magazine (formerly Latitudes and Attitudes), presenter of the Latitudes and Attitudes TV series, and host of great boat show parties. Both the magazine and TV series celebrate the cruising lifestyle.

Sixteen guests attended, arriving by boat of course, and a good time was had by all. Since everyone was a sailor, there was a lot of spinning of yarns, tall tales, and frivolity that night!

Birthday Boy, Bob Bitchin, Publisher and Managing Editor of Cruising Outpost Magazine (formerly Latitudes and Attitudes) arrives in Soper’s Hole, BVI, aboard S/V Distant Star

16 guests arrive at Soper’s Hole in the British Virgin Islands aboard "Distant Shores II", "Distant Star" (foreground), and the catamaran "Delphine"

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 04
Paul with Bob Bitchin. We’ve worked with Bob for over 10 years contributing to his magazines as well as the Latitudes and Attitudes TV series.

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 02
Bob’s wife, Jody Lipkin, organized the party at Pusser’s Landing gathering friends together from all parts of the globe.

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 10
Cheers, Bob! Happy 70th birthday!

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 09
The most delicious chocolate birthday cake!

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 19
Lady pirates, Bob, and Charles, owner of Pusser’s Landing - a fabulous host!

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 07
Gentlemen pirates with Bob and Charles

Bob Bitchin's 70th - 08
We look forward to many more years of celebrating the cruising lifestyle with Bob, Jody and the team at Cruising Outpost magazine.

How many of you are fans of Bob’s and Cruising Outpost magazine? Feel free to comment below to wish Bob a happy birthday or post photos of your encounters with this larger-than-life sailor!

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Soper’s Hole, Tortola
British Virgin Islands

Why We Love the British Virgin Islands

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We're back in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), still one of our favourite cruising grounds in the Caribbean!

There are many reasons why we keep returning to the BVI when our schedule allows:
  1. The beautiful natural islands. We’ve been coming here since 1985 and there has been very little intrusive development.
  2. There are numerous protected anchorages as well as good marina facilities if you want them.
  3. There are numerous restaurants and beach bars if you don't feel like cooking on board. Reservations taken via VHF radio! They really cater to boaters here.
  4. English is spoken so communication is not an issue.
  5. The grocery stores are good although pricier than other Caribbean Islands but they offer a good selection and have high end specialty items due to the charter boat industry here. You can order provisions online from grocery stores such as Rite Way Food Markets and have them delivered right to your boat. There are decent yacht services and chandleries too.
  6. The snorkeling and diving is great and good sites are convenient to anchorages. The dive operations offer “rendezvous dive services” where they will pick you up from your boat, provide gear, and take you to an interesting dive site. Check out Sail Caribbean Divers. There are over 100 sites in the islands within a small area.
  7. It’s easy eye-ball navigation since the islands are all close together so stress-free. It’s a nice break after lots of challenging navigation these past few years.
  8. It’s peaceful. Rarely do you hear an airplane or a siren (unless you're around the main island of Tortola).
  9. Large mooring fields have been installed in popular places so anchor-dragging issues and conflicts have virtually disappeared. Yet there are plenty of quiet places for experienced sailors to anchor, if you prefer.
  10. People love to sail here! Many are on a week's bareboat charter and they want to sail every minute they can! There are regattas and rendezvous and beautiful mega-yachts. The atmosphere is always festive. You are surrounded by people who are happy and active and having a good time - but they fall asleep by 10 PM :-) It's a boat show everyday!
News 2014-03-08 PIX14
So having said all that, let me tell you what we’ve been up to since we got here.
The start of this year's visit to the British Virgin Islands was on Wednesday February 26/14 when we set sail from the French/Dutch island of St. Martin/St. Maarten at 6:30 AM headed for the BVI. We had delayed our departure several times waiting for a part for our Mastervolt generator to arrive but it never came so we finally moved on. (More on the happy ending to this story later.)
We normally do the 80 nm offshore sail across the Anegada Passage from St. Martin to BVI within daylight hours averaging 7-8 knots but Distant Shores II had been in the soupy fertile waters of Simpson Bay Lagoon for several weeks and the hull and propellor were seriously caked with barnacles and other interesting marine growth.
Sunset with still miles to go to reach Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

This, in conjunction with the light flukey winds we had that day (see Paul's Tech Blog on this), slowed us down so much that we didn't make landfall in Virgin Gorda, BVI, until 9:00 PM so ended up sailing in, in the dark. Luckily we have been here many times so arriving in the dark was not an issue.
After coming through Necker Passage we entered the well lit channel into Gorda Sound and anchored off Prickly Pear Island in the protection of the reef where we soon fell fast asleep.
News 2014-03-08 PIX02
Gorda Sound, also called North Sound, in the British Virgin Islands

In the morning we motored over to Gun Creek, within Gorda Sound, with our yellow “Q” flag flying on the starboard halyard indicating to the customs and immigration officials at the office there that we needed to clear in. Unfortunately the customs officer was in Spanish Town for a morning meeting so the very courteous female immigration officer said if we wanted we could take a taxi to the Spanish Town office just a few miles over the hill and down the road and clear in there or she could handle our passports and we could come back in the afternoon and speak to the customs officer when he returned. We checked the price of the taxi and it was going to be $17 US/person one way or $68 for the both of us for the whole trip! So we decided to wait.
No problem we had barnacle-scraping to do in the meantime!
News 2014-03-08 PIX04
Once cleared in ($25 fees), we anchored off Saba Rock Resort, an amazing little boutique resort built on a tiny island within Gorda Sound. They have moorings too for $30 per night which includes 250 gallons of water for your tanks and a bag of ice, which is not a bad deal.
News 2014-03-08 PIX03
They also have free open high-speed wi-fi which we appreciate the use of so support them by showing up for Happy Hour ($3.50 for a beer or Painkiller rum drink. A big difference from $1 Happy Hour beers in Grenada but what a location!) and occasional meals.
News 2014-03-08 PIX05
This first night we had a reunion at the resort with cruising friends, Richard and Lavinia Maggs of MV Partners, who we had met earlier in the season in Carriacou, Grenada.
News 2014-03-08 PIX06
We spent a couple of days at anchor in Gorda Sound editing and scripting new episodes of Distant Shores, organizing interviews and film permits needed in upcoming destinations, and completing some magazine articles that were due. Paul and I start work early in the morning when its cool and we're pretty disciplined about keeping regular 8-hour work days during the week. I know it looks as if we're just out cruising when you watch episodes of the Distant Shores TV series but it is a job that requires hours and hours of work off-camera. Luckily our mobile field office is a pretty nice place to work!
News 2014-03-08 PIX09
Sheryl walking along the Biras Creek Trail on Virgin Gorda

When we needed a break we'd get off the boat and stretch our legs on the trails that start from the Bitter End Yacht Club. Guy's Trail and Biras Creek Trail are especially nice. If you like hiking check out Michael Sweeney's guide book, “Get Ready to Get Wet: Top 10 Hikes of the Caribbean” available on the Home Page of his Zero to Cruising website.

On Saturday March 1 we raised anchor and under genoa alone sailed out of Gorda Sound (also called North Sound) through a very shallow cut between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda. Most sail boats are too deep to use this cut but our Southerly 49 sailboat has a variable draft keel which we can raise in shallow places so this cut was not a problem for us.
News 2014-03-08 PIX12
S/V Distant Shores II sailing through the shallow cut between Mosquito Island and Virgin Gorda.

Sadly we saw a motor boat had gone hard aground on the reef there. I guess the captain had misread his charts or was not paying attention to the depths as he approached the cut. Ouch.
News 2014-03-08 PIX13
Motor yacht aground on the reef outside the Mosquito Island cut.

Our plan for the day was to visit the Digicel phone centre in Spanish Town to get set up with a local phone number and data plan, do a bit of grocery shopping, and continue on to Cooper Island or Peter Island. But when we got to Spanish Town, anchored, launched the dinghy, hiked up the hill to the main road we discovered that everything except the grocery store was closed on the weekends on Virgin Gorda! How quickly we forget when we are continually moving from one country to another. Most places in the Caribbean are open on Saturday but closed firmly on Sunday. Darn. It meant we wouldn't have a phone or mobile internet access until Monday. Then we saw a sign on the door saying that Monday was a public holiday! Nothing happening until Tuesday! Argghh.
News 2014-03-08 PIX08
We decided to return to Gorda Sound and continue our work anchored at Saba Rock where we could at least be in touch with the world via e-mail.

On Tuesday we tried at the phone centre again and a very friendly woman at the busy Digicel office in Spanish Town got us set up with a local phone number for our iPhone. The sim card was $10 US and had various pre-paid data plans we could attach to it. We ended up buying a plan for 3 Gb for $50 per month. We can tether our computers and devices to the phone which acts as a modem and both be online at the same time using it. For more info visit
News 2014-03-08 PIX16 (copy)
Spanish Town anchorage

We spent the night anchored off Spanish Town which can get rather rolly with the currents and reflecting waves so in the morning we were keen to move on. We had another nice downwind sail and decided to keep going to Great Harbour, Peter Island, one of our favourite anchorages in the BVI since you can swim from the boat right to the reefs along the shoreline for great snorkelling. There's always lots of room to anchor although it's quite deep.
In Great Harbour, Peter Island, you can swim right from the boat to reefs along the shore.

Another nice thing is that you have access to the beautiful Peter Island Resort where sailors are welcome to use the beach, enjoy the restaurants and bars, relax at the spa, and hike the trails there.
News 2014-03-08 PIX18
Hiking on Peter Island. Paul takes in the view on the Sunset Loop trail.

While anchored at Great Harbour, Canadian friends, Dave and Alex aboard S/V Banyan, sailed in from St. Martin bringing with them the oil pressure sender for our generator that we had been waiting for. We have a Mastervolt Whisper 3.5 generator. The part had finally arrived a few days after we'd left St. Martin and our friends kindly picked it up and delivered it to us in person! Wow! Friends within the cruising community really watch out for each other. We feel truly blessed.
Friends Alex and Dave aboard S/V Banyan arrive in Great Harbour with the generator part we’d been waiting for.

This coming week we'll be visiting other locations around the British Virgin Islands. Stay tuned!
News 2014-03-08 PIX21 (copy)
Kind regards,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Great Harbour, Peter Island
British Virgin Islands

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St. Martin - Running and Hiking Trails

Paul aboard S/V Distant Shores II ready for an 8 km run in the hills of St. Martin

It's important to get off the boat once and awhile and do activities that help keep you fit when you're living afloat. Something Paul and I like to do regularly is to participate in local running or hiking activities. We love to be outside and running and/or hiking gets us out into the countryside to explore places in the area we're visiting that we might not see otherwise.


Today, Sunday February 23/14, Paul participated in the Gymfit Time Trial de Bellevue, an 8 km run along trails in the hills of St. Martin, the French side of the island.


We had hiked these same trails with our friends, Lynne and Ken of S/V Silverheels III, a few days before and Paul and Lynne, the runners in the group, had done a few runs too. You can learn more about the trails of St. Martin at and find out about organized outings too.

Lynne of S/V Silverheels III and Paul on Bellevue Trails

And the week before, we had taken a break from editing and boat projects to enjoy a hike on a lovely shady downhill trail past an old sugar mill in St. Martin with about 30 fellow cruising sailors that Mark from S/V Sealife had organized. So the social aspect of hiking and running in foreign countries is as important and as pleasurable to us as the exercise and exploration.

Paul on a hike we did with fellow cruisers last week. The views over the island are beautiful.

Paul signed up for today's 8 km run at Tri-Sport St. Maarten Tours on the Dutch side of the island who also offer hiking, cycling and kayak tours but the majority of the runners participating today were from the French side and were French speaking locals. Events like this are a really fun way to meet people that live in the country you're visiting and become immersed in the culture a little bit, rather than just socializing with other travellers.

Paul running on the Bellevue Trails on the French side of St. Martin near Marigot

When in Grenada this past summer, we both joined a fun running club called the Hash House Harriers (HHH) which is an international running club with both hiking and running events. I hiked and Paul walked and the trails were timed so that hikers and walkers finished around the same time. A BBQ followed so it was always a good time.

Sheryl on a Hash House Harrier event on the north coast of Grenada.

Every weekend in Grenada there was an HHH event on trails in a different part of the island so we really got to see some unusual places and meet great people! See our newsletter "On! On! Hashing in Grenada" about this. We also got back in to shape in a hurry since the trails were up and down hills, across or along creeks and rivers, through forests and plantations, along beaches, up cliffs. Great fun!

In Grenada we really got in shape participating in a Hash House Harrier event every weekend.

We had participated in HHH events in Gibraltar many years before. One of the runs was through the tunnels of the Rock of Gibraltar! When you're a Hash House Harrier you're welcome to join in the events held in any country there's a club.

Today's 8 km run in St. Martin started early, at 7:00 a.m., since it gets too hot to run during the day. To get to the Race Start, Paul and Lynne took our dinghy to the dock at Port de Plaisance Marina on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.


Then they had a 2 km walk up the road to the Race Start in Marigot on the French side of the island, crossing the border from the Dutch side along the way.

Paul and Lynne warm up for their run with a 2 km walk to the Race Start crossing the border into the French side of St. Martin.


At the Race Start there were about 80 runners and each runner was given a start time 30 seconds apart to stagger them on the trail. The times were determined by a draw of names.


Paul's start was at 21 minutes after the first start and, by chance, Lynne's was only slightly later at 28 minutes after the start. Paul was #240 and Lynn was #236.


The brochure said the trails would offer beautiful panoramas and “the chance of encountering goats and monkeys”! We've never seen a monkey on our hikes on this island but have seen goats. However, today the only wildlife encountered were cattle that made large deposits on the trails. Hmmm. The runners had to really what their steps.


Ken (Lynne's husband) and I were at the finish line to cheer on our mates as they crossed the line within a few minutes of one another.

Paul crossing the finish line after running 8 K through the hills of St. Martin.

Cruising friend, Lynne of S/V Silverheels III, crossing the finish line.

The last runners finished about an hour afterwards. It was great since there were people of all ages and several families with children participating together.

Family running teams.

Youngest prize winners at today’s 8 K run in St. Martin.

There were lots of prizes too donated by local businesses and sponsors for the winners of various categories and the 1st prize winner got to sit on a chair and rest :-)


The $15 US entry fee for the run included a very nice breakfast of fresh fruit, yoghurt parfaits, and other snacks plus lots of water, juices and PowerAde.


It was a fun morning and a great time was had by all!


We are now having a restful Sunday afternoon on board Distant Shores II. If the spare part we're waiting for our Mastervolt generator arrives tomorrow, it will be our last day in St. Maarten. The weather is looking good for sailing to the British Virgin Islands on Tuesday. We’ll keep you posted...

Have a good week!

Warm regards,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard S/V Distant Shores II
Simpson Bay Lagoon
St. Maarten

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Strong Winds sailing through the Caribbean

Its been a very windy week ... locals call this the "Christmas Winds" and it means windy trades in the 20-25 knots with higher gusts...

We have been making fast passages hopping north from the Grenadines to St Lucia where we picked up friends Scott & Austin Swift (Singer Taylor Swift’s father and brother respectively). They sailed with us to Martinique, Dominica and the Saintes before flying out again. It was great having them on board.

Starting as we left the Tobago Cays in the Southern Grenadines we passed one of the world largest mega-yachts... that’s a real helicopter - it just looks like a model since the yacht is over 400 feet long.
Folding-out decks to launch all the boats and beach toys...
Rainy squalls meant some lovely rainbows including this nice double-rainbow.
The Saintes are one of our favourite stops
Here are some sailing pix from the trip north! It was quite breezy and a bit uncomfortable but very fast!
Some sunny patches with trade wind clouds but also lots of squalls passing
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We charged along at 8-9 knots most of the time!
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Paul ventures forward during a more settled patch to set up the camera at the bow and film the windy conditions.
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Distant Shores II has a "bone in her teeth" as they say.
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We sailed with the small 100% jib - often reefed down and sometimes full out as here.
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Nevis in the background as we complete the 2nd last day
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Waves do not look as large in photos ... Video shows it much more accurately...
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Seas are down to 2.3 meters - 7 feet or so and winds 20-25... pleasant :-)

We Celebrate the arrival in Nevis with an excellent roast pork Sunday Dinner... gravy et al!

Then its on to St Martin where we will store Distant Shores for a few weeks as we go home to the Toronto & Chicago Boat Shows.

Grenada - J'Ouvert Carnival

Carnival called "Spicemas" is underway shortly after 3am as we are woken by music ashore. We are docked at Marina Port Louis right in the inner harbour at St Georges Grenada. Remarkably there wasn’t any difficulty getting a berth. It’s off season and the rates are good. We walk out of the front gate to a scene of revelry at 5am...
Wear some old clothes as almost no one goes unscathed - however most people ask if you want some paint first... red anyone??
Traditional outfit has horned helmets, and body smeared with motor oil or molasses (we saw mainly used motor oil).
MANY thousands of revellers take part. Trucks with sound systems lead individual "bands" and you can join a band if you like. More on that later... This is the Carib beer "band"
Many of Grenada’s "St Georges University" medical and veterinary students attend and participate.
Silver and Gold body paint looks excellent!
Paul decides to go for the gold!
Hopefully this will wash off!
The golden look! Veterinary student in the horns has added some red paint!
Silver band!
Passing revellers interact with the crowd and offer to add to the costume...
Dancing revellers approach Paul to say hello!
Shake your bungee!!
"What a freindly island this is" says Paul
Grenada has solved the question of what to do with used motor oil... the "Black and Greasy" Jab-Jab band approaches...
If you do choose this option it is a good idea to put on some lard or baby oil as a barrier first!
Mud is another traditional coating, and many carry chains!
I have now "paid EC20 to get the band kit from the truck on the left. This included the attractive hat, a pot of paint, a shirt and a nice waterproof phone case! Fellow cruiser Lynn adds purple paint.
Sheryl doesn’t escape ... Paul offers a "painty" hug and Jab-Jab offers additional motor oil from behind!
Paints are latex and will wash off later...
Motor oil will be much harder to get off...
We discover the Chocolate band!!! Yes real chocolate made on the island. You can eat the stuff right out of the paint pots, or just pour it on!!
700am we are back at the Marina. Marina security guards have set up a J’Ouvert cleaning station with some soap and a hose... How thoughtful!!!

Grenadines - Bequia to Tobago Cays

In my last newsletter "St. Lucia to Bequia" we had just arrived in Bequia, one of the Grenadines in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean.
We made landfall at Bequia at sunset and anchored off Princess Margaret Beach in Admiralty Bay, Bequia’s main anchorage. Although pretty it can be a little rolly here in certain conditions so it’s actually better and more convenient to anchor closer in towards the town.

On our first day ashore the weather wasn’t good. It bucketed rain for most of the day so we didn’t take any photos in the charming town of Port Elizabeth where we went to clear-in. The Customs and Immigration office is conveniently located right near the town’s main dinghy dock, opposite the ferry dock. For more information click here. We’ll be doing more filming in Bequia in the fall so will have lots of great photos to show you then. However on the second day we had a nice stroll along Princess Margaret Beach.

There are caves and grottoes at the south end of the beach that are fun to explore.

We were accompanied by 3 local dogs as we went for our walk, all friendly.

Bequia really caters to yachts. There is a boat that comes around daily that can fill your fuel and water tanks right at anchor. Bequia is a popular destination for charter boats and cruising sailors alike so although it’s only a tiny place there are several chandleries, sailmakers, etc. and lots of upscale restaurants and food shops. You can get just about anything here.

The guys on the fuel/water boat will also take away your garbage. They charge $5 EC or about $2 US to collect a large bag. A great service!

On Sunday July 21st we left Bequia and sailed 25 nm miles south through the Grenadines passing Mustique, Canouan and Mayreau - destination the Tobago Cays.

The Tobago Cays are a group of several little uninhabited islets in the protection of the huge Horseshoe Reef. Our last visit here was 21 years ago and we were delighted to see that it hadn’t changed much. It is now a national park with park fees of 10 EC ($4 US) per person per day which is collected by a very friendly park warden.

If you have followed our adventures over the years you know we love the Bahamas and the beautiful swimming pool blue water there. The water surrounding the Tobago Cays is the closest we have ever seen to the Bahamas water. Ribbons of blue hues varying with the depth of the water are a joy to the eye.

The beaches are sugar white sand and you can often see turtles on them and in the surrounding water. Since the Tobago Cays are a protected area you are not allowed to fish but local boat vendors come by and sell fresh fish and conch they’ve caught elsewhere.

Paul just had to climb up the mast to get an aerial view.

It’s a long way up our mast! You can see Horseshoe Reef in the background. The reefs are all that is protecting you from the swells of the open Atlantic Ocean in the Tobago Cays. Anchored behind the reef you are looking straight towards Africa! The snorkelling is good on the reefs but you do have to be careful of the currents. There are mooring balls to tie your dinghy up to so you don’t risk damaging the coral with your dinghy anchor.

After all the fresh air, sunshine, and snorkelling we had a good appetite so Paul made a delicious curry for dinner. Both Paul and I love to cook!

We spent 2 days and nights anchored in the Tobago Cays and then went on to explore another favourite Grenadine island, Union Island, to the south. But more on that next time...

More News

Interview on The Sailing Podcast
We recently did an interview with David Anderson on discussing the highlights of our 23 years of cruising, ways to earn a living while cruising, and our recent experiences participating in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). Click here to listen.

Kind regards,
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
Tobago Cays, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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St. Lucia to Bequia

Our visit to St. Lucia was a quick one this time ‘round since we had spent several weeks exploring the island in December following the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers).
So early morning on Wednesday July 17, just 5 days after our arrival, we set sail from the Rodney Bay anchorage headed for the island of Bequia in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

It was another morning of relaxed sailing as we travelled along the leeside of St. Lucia passing the port of Castries doing 7.5 kts under main and genoa. When sailing here in the Windward Islands of the Caribbean there is almost always a nice breeze on the beam. Love those trade winds!

Towards the south end of St. Lucia are the Pitons, famous twin peaks. The local beer is named after them.

We still had a good signal on our iPhone as we sailed. We have a local sim card in it from Digicel that includes a data plan so we could post updates to the Distant Shores TV social media sites (
Twitter and Facebook) as we sailed along the autopilot steering while we both stood watch.

Just as we passed by the Pitons a big squall came zooming across the island heading out to sea just missing us!

We have a radar overlay on our Raymarine chartplotter which shows the squalls (the pinky purple blotches) indicating the squalls passing behind us as they roll off the Pitons. We’re now entering the St. Vincent Channel at the south end of St. Lucia so will be in open water for about 30 nm.

Although there are squalls behind us, the view ahead is clear and sunny. We have a great sail across the channel to the north end of St. Vincent.

When we get to St. Vincent we see lots of rain showers along the coast of the island but fortunately none come out to sea.

We saw this amazing low-level rainbow as we sail along!

In fact we saw lots of rainbows as we sailed past St. Vincent. Magical!

In the late afternoon we reached the south end of St. Vincent and headed out into the Bequia Channel. Now close-hauled we furled in the genoa and furled out our small self-tacking jib which is great in these conditions. Just 9 nm to go to Bequia in the Grenadines!

Sheryl on the stern rail bench steering with the Raymarine autopilot remote. St. Vincent in the background.

We make landfall in Bequia at around 1830, just before sunset.

It’s been 21 years since we were last here anchored in Admiralty Bay in Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines! Many fond memories.

We anchor off Princess Margaret Beach and have dinner on board in the cockpit. Customs and Immigration is closed until tomorrow so we’ll go ashore and clear-in first thing in the morning...

Have a good evening, Everyone!

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

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St. Lucia - Carnival

We had spent over 3 weeks cruising around the French island of Martinique and were now looking forward to a return visit to St. Lucia, the next island to the south. Carnival festivities would be starting in St. Lucia in a few days so it was a perfect time to be there.

We raised anchor in Marin at 0730 on July 12 and as we did a dinghy shot out towards us from across the anchorage. It was our French sailing friends, Jean-Noel and Babette from SY Julie Premiere who we had first met 6 months earlier in Morocco, coming to say goodbye. Babette passed us a bottle of excellent French wine with instructions to open it later and remember the happy times we had all spent together. Our friends are staying in Martinique to work for a while so we won’t be meeting up with them on the cruising circuit for another couple of seasons.

To reach St. Lucia we had only to sail 25 nm across the St. Lucia Channel to Rodney Bay, our destination on the northwest corner of the island. It was nice that the winds were light since we'd just re-rigged the sails after taking them down during Tropical Storm Chantal a week ago. it was a good opportunity to make sure that everything was as it should be in gentle conditions.

Dolphins came to play at the bow of the boat as we sailed along adding further to the sense of contentment we were feeling this day.

Pigeon Island, which protects the north side of Rodney Bay, soon appeared on the horizon. The last time we had sailed past Pigeon Island had been in December when after 15 days at sea sailing from the Canary Islands of Spain we had crossed the finish line for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC) completing our 5th transatlantic crossing.

Clearing-in at St. Lucia
To clear-in we went into the Rodney Bay Marina, one of the IGY group of marinas found throughout the Caribbean which are all lovely and well equipped.

Customs, Immigration and Port Authority officials are all in one office right in the marina found upstairs next to the marina office. Information on clearing in with your boat can be found here.

We liked the saying that the port authority officer had painted on the wall behind his desk: "Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away."

Marina Services
Rodney Bay Marina has every type of yacht service and facility you can imagine along with restaurants, boutiques, ATM and bank, laundry services, a swimming pool, a florist and a couple of nice spas. Following 15 “fast and furious” days at sea on our transatlantic crossing in December, I visited one of the spas and the ladies there gave me a morning of pampering which completely restored my sense of well-being. So naturally I had to go and say hello and have a pedicure on this visit. It's good to treat yourself to pampering every once and a while.

When Paul and I had been at the marina following the ARC, we'd had some sail repair work done by the local sailmaker, Kenny Abernaty of Rodney Bay Sails (Mobile: +1 (758) 584-0291 or Kenny had done an excellent job at very reasonable rates so while we were there on this visit we took in our mainsail cover to have the zippers re-stitched. After 3 years of exposure to the sun and wind some of the stitching was disintegrating. We dropped off the sail first thing in the morning and Kenny had it done before lunchtime.

Saturday is market day at Rodney Bay Marina. It's such a treat to be able to buy fresh locally grown produce right in the marina and have a chat with the friendly vendors that run the market.

Lucian Friends
We also caught up with local friends including Sean Compton, a Lucian architect and owner of Melon Design, who serves on the ARC Planning Committee. We'd met Sean through the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) and when after the rally we’d sailed north from St. Lucia up through the islands to St. Maarten to meet the family for New Years, Sean and his girlfriend, Vern, had joined us for a fun-fllled week of sailing and lessons in local cuisine.

With our chores done and water tanks topped up we left the marina to anchor outside in Rodney Bay where we could swim and enjoy the festive beach atmosphere. Sheryl’s auburn hair is going strawberry blonde in the tropical sun!

The marina offered good wi-fi. Out at anchor we used our cell phone with a local sim card as a modem using a plan through Digicel that made our iPhone a personal hot spot. This was good since it meant we can be online while walking around allowing us to update our social media sites (Facebook and Twitter) with photos of events when they actually happen. The Digicel office is across the street from the Rodney Bay marina. In the Rodney Bay anchorage we were also able to pick up free wi-fi from one of the beach bars at the south end of the beach but it was a very weak signal so we prefered to use our phone to get internet access on board.

Lucian Carnival
Monday July 15 was the Lucian Carnival so we hopped on one of the local buses that stop in front of the marina and headed into Castries, the capital city where the parade was to end in front of the city market. We’d been told that the parade started at 9 a.m. and would arrive in Castries at about 11 a.m. so we got there about 10 a.m. to get a shady spot along the route. However, for most of the morning we saw costumed dancers strolling casually around town and the parade didn’t actually get to Castries until about 1:00 p.m. (You may recall that the same thing happened to us the day we went into Phillipsburg to see the St. Maarten Carnival!)

Well at least we had a good spot to watch the parade. While we waited we watched this woman and her friend prepare fresh food before our eyes for their street food stand.

They did it all by hand and right at the roadside – chopping and grating salads and vegetables...

...boiling potatoes and roasting bread fruit, BBQ’ing chicken, frying fish and making sauces in pots and pressure cookers on traditional charcoal stoves set up on the sidewalk.

We got so hungry sitting there watching them all morning we were first in line when everything was finished! It was noon and still the Carnival Parade hadn’t arrived. However the local Piton beer being served had a special Carnival label on it so we knew we had the right day.

Finally the large floats and bands of dancers began to arrive about 1:00 p.m.

We were impressed with this band who walked the whole parade route on stilts!

It was a hot day and the dancers were out in the blazing sun so this water truck shadowed the parade and offered the participants refreshing showers of fresh water to keep them cool.

There were large gaps in the parade, sometimes of almost half an hour, while the group arriving had their costumes judged in front of the market. Lots of rum was being consumed and everyone was having good silly fun.

Here the parade spectators - both on the roadside and on boats out in the Castries anchorage - wait for the next band to arrive. The boats in the anchorage had a front row seat.

It was actually kind of fun because with the large gaps in the parade the spectators created an on-going street party to keep themselves amused. Families brought chairs and picnics plus there were lots of vendors selling interesting street food.

The parade actually became background to the local party. In the photo above, the women is BBQ’ing chicken and fish as well as grilling "bakes" a type of local bread that is baked, grilled, or fried. It’s a bit like an English muffin.

It seemed as if everyone was cooking. One of the popular local foods was grilled kidneys.

It was all really fun but by 3:00 p.m. our shady spot had become too sunny so we didn’t stay to the end (finish time was 7:00 p.m.!) but we had a great day, met a lot of great people, and got to experience a local event. Since it’s off-season this is not an event for tourists. It’s a day when the people of the island relax, kick pack, and just enjoy each others company. We felt privileged to be there and to be included.

Wishing you all a good week,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Rodney Bay, St. Lucia

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Martinique - After the Storm

Hello Friends,
In my last newsletter we had been cruising on the south and east coasts of Martinique when we got word that Tropical Storm Chantal was headed in our direction. I referred you to several detailed reports that Paul wrote for his Tech Blog about how we prepared and fared, and this week he has posted another one for you, Tropical Storm Moves Off, about the aftermath of the storm which I also invite you to read.

Housekeeping after Tropical Storm Chantal
Tropical Storm Chantal blew through by lunchtime on July 9/13 and everyone anchored in the mangrove gave a sigh of relief and basically just rested for the afternoon (unless they had damage to contend with which fortunately we didn’t). You experience a big adrenaline crash after dealing with situations like this. Then we got really hungry!
We felt like celebrating so Paul jumped in the dinghy and came back from town with steaks and a bottle of French wine. We slept well that night.

The next morning was spent untying the spiderweb of lines we had tied onto the mangrove roots.

Then we had 3 anchors to raise - our 33kg Rocna anchor, a Fortress FX37 and Fortress FX23. They were really hard to get up (a good thing!) now that they were firmly wedged into the muddy sand bottom of the lagoon after taking the force of the 50-60 kt winds during the tropical storm.

The Fortress anchors make excellent secondary anchors since they are aluminum so strong but lightweight and stow compactly in canvas bags which are easy to carry. The additional anchor rodes we keep coiled, clean and dry in canvas bags in a large sail/fender locker in the bow of the boat.

Health Issues
Now that the storm had passed and we had no damage or injuries, my main concern now was a health and safety issue. In the Caribbean islands you are vulnerable to catching dengue fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever (sometimes fatal) which are viral diseases transmitted by aedes aeypti, a domestic day-biting mosquito.
Mosquito net covering companionway hatch aboard Distant Shores II. Photo by Sheryl Shard

Despite precautions (tropical strength insect repellent with deet and screens/mosquito nets on the boat) we both had gotten a lot of mosquito bites crawling around the mangroves in the heat.

Be sure to keep a supply of tropical strength insect repellent containing deet on board when cruising in the Caribbean.

Symptoms of dengue fever occur after a 2-7 day incubation period and may include high fever, severe headache, joint and muscle pain. If you suffer from any of these symptoms a few days after getting bitten don't take aspirin (there is a risk of bleeding) and see a doctor immediately. So I was watching us both for symptoms and am happy to say that all is well!

Another issue I hadn't even thought about was the risk of rats coming on board by crawling up the lines we had tied into the mangroves! Some local sailors ,who spend the summer working in Marin and leave their boat tied into the mangroves all the time, mentioned this to us later. Our friends cut out the bottom of large water bottles and thread them into the lines they tie ashore so that if rats do come up the lines they can't get past the scoop made by the water bottles. I've heard of people threading metal pie plates into their dock lines to create barriers to crawling creatures as well. You see fancy versions of this on cruise ships. I'm happy to report that we had no stow-aways after being in the mangroves! I'm glad I didn't know about this concern at the time. I'd have been awake all night!

Once untied, we headed back out into the fresh air and open space of the main harbour of Marin. Boats here didn't fare as well during the storm since anchors broke loose and the drifting boats created a domino effect by bouncing into other boats and fouling their anchors, setting them adrift as well. Lots of trees were down ashore too.

Order had now been restored and finding a clear spot in the anchorage we started putting the sails back up and preparing to head south to St. Lucia.

In Marin there is bay-wide high speed internet available from the Marin Marina. You buy vouchers for several hours, days or months from the main office (they speak English) so we were well connected in Marin. We could do uploads to our website and make skype phone calls without difficulty. There are also lots of internet cafes around town.

Before leaving Marin I wanted to do some more stocking up. Martinque is a French island so was a good place to add to our stock of good French wine, cheeses, and specialty European products that I had discovered when we cruised through the French canals last summer.

An example was little tiny jars or cans of delicious sauces perfect for 1 meal for 2 people on a sail boat. These are not exactly environmental but store well and can make a meal at sea on a passage a real treat and you don't have to deal with ½ a can of tomato sauce in a rolling boat. (I do stock large cans as well and store unused portions in Lock 'n Lock™ plastic containers when we're at anchor or just coastal cruising.)

There are several good grocery stores in Marin with nearby dinghy docks – Carrefoure, and 2 discount grocery stores called Leader Price and Dia which are good for stocking up on beverages, snacks and dry goods. Their meat and produce were pretty good too but I found Carrefoure to be the best since it had more selection.

In the grocery stores in Martinique you can buy herb bundles (bouquet garni). Here is a bundle of thyme, parsley and green onions.

Marin is a huge base for many yacht charter companies so there are all kinds of specialty food stores and provisioning services here as well. All are listed in the free guide “Ti'Ponton: The Sailor's Guide to Martinque” as well as all yacht services and chandleries. You can pick it up many places in town including the marina. It is written in English and French. Another useful free guide is “Martinique Bonjour” with tourist information. The section on Martinique in Chris Doyle's, Sailors Guide to the Windward Islands, the cruising guide we have been using, also lists provisioning options plus yacht services and chandleries. Chris also gives sketch charts showing the dinghy docks closest these facilities.

Once our chores were done and provisions stored we decided once again to celebrate our safe handling of Tropical Storm Chantal this time with lunch ashore at Mango Bay Restaurant and Bar, a waterfront place local friends had recommended.
Fruity cocktails and a sampler plate of local goodies was the order of the day.

Clearing Out from Martinique
Next we went to clear out from Martinique so that we could leave early the next morning on July 12 for St. Lucia. This was done at a do-it-yourself Customs and Immigrations computer located in the marina office in Marin. There is a 5 euro administrative charge. The marina receptionist checks your papers and stamps your printed clearance papers once you have filled in the details. Although convenient, the process can be slightly challenging since form is in French and you are working with an AZERTY keyboard used on computers in French territories so letters are in different places on the keyboard. For information on Customs and Immigration for Martinique click here.

We had arrived in Martinique on June 16th in St. Pierre. What a wonderful, and rather exciting, 3 ½ week cruise around this French island in the Caribbean!

More News

DS episodes - Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC)
We've just completed post-production on 2 new episodes of Distant Shores about cruising in the Canary Islands and our transatlantic passage as participants in the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC). These episodes are the first 2 of 3 episodes covering the ARC, all part of Season 9. The “Distant Shores Season 9 DVD - France, Morocco and the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers” will be available in August 2013. However individual episodes are available now online as HD digital downloads on Vimeo.

Port Credit In-Water Boat Show August 23-25, 2013

We'll be flying to Canada at the end of August to conduct seminars about “A Summer Cruise through the French Canals” at the Port Credit In-water Boat Show, Mississauga (near Toronto), Canada.
Friday August 23 at 1:30 - 2:30 p.m.
Saturday August 24 at 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Sunday August 25 at 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
Information and directions here

That's it for this week...

Wishing you Fair Winds,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SY Distant Shores II

Click here to check out our DVDs for more cruising adventures and tips!

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Martinique - South and East Coasts

Hello Everyone!
IMG_8693 storm
We've had a rather exciting time during the last few days in Martinique as Tropical Storm Chantal blew through the islands on Tuesday! We have just untangled the boat from the mangroves where we had tied ourselves onto the mangrove roots in a spiderweb of lines and anchors to protect the boat from the 50+ kn winds. Paul has written a few detailed reports in his Tech Blog about how we set up the boat for the storm and how we fared as Chantal vented her fury, so I refer you to those for the Tropical Storm update:
Tropical Storm Arrives
Securing in a Mangrove
Tropical Storm Chantal is coming

My newsletter is about our cruising adventures preceding the storm as we sailed to some lovely places on the the south and east coasts of Martinique.
st anne3
Anchored off the seaside village of Ste. Anne. Photo by Sheryl Shard

Ste. Anne & Marin
After sailing down the west coast of Martinique (see previous newsletter) we arrived at the south coast at the seaside town of Ste. Anne.

There is an enormous anchorage here which is the outer harbour of Marin, the yachting capital of the Eastern Caribbean. Every kind of yachting facility and service can be found in Marin and its inner harbour, Cul de Sac Marin, is also huge with over 1,000 boats there.
Better yet, it's a huge hurricane hole with several mangrove creeks running off it so for summer cruising during Hurricane Season it's a nice place to be close to.

Outside in the anchorage off Ste. Anne, which is a quiet little town built around the village church, there are many lovely white sand beaches and the atmosphere is relaxed yet festive with numerous beach bars.

Ste. Anne has lovely clear water for swimming and snorkelling.

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In Ste. Anne there are a couple of small grocery stores, a vegetable and fish market, a post office and bank that both have ATM's, several internet cafes that frequently aren't working, a couple of really good dinghy docks with free garbage disposal at the main pier, and many boutiques and souvenir shops for fun shopping.

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We have been spent many nice days at anchor here while we work on our latest assignments taking breaks to go snorkelling and enjoying beautiful sunsets in the evening.

When we need more supplies or a visit to a chandlery we just raise anchor and in 15 minutes are in Marin where we can fill our water tanks at the fuel dock at the huge marina there and anchor while we run to several good grocery stores, phone centres, etc. When our chores are done it's an easy run back to peaceful Ste. Anne.

When we left the island of St. Maaretn/St Martin in June we felt as if it was the end of the season with yachts migrating back to Europe, north to the US and Canada, and south to Grenada and Trinidad for Hurricane Season. But here in Martinique the season is on-going. Marin has numerous active charter fleets and lots of places around the island to cruise to, local boating families are now on summer holidays, and the French live-aboard cruisers are basing themselves here as they do annual maintenance or get seasonal work to improve their cruising funds. (I will write more about Working While Cruising in a future Life On Board article.)
When we arrived in Ste. Anne on June 20th we were greeted by a group of French sailors that we had shared a dock with in Rabat, Morocco, 6 months previously.
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Jean-Noel saves the day in Rabat, Morocco, by swimming lines across the harbour to the opposite pontoon. This is where we first met and are now having a reunion in Martinique on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean - and dealing with another storm together!

We had ridden out a bad storm with them in Rabat (related to weather weirdness following Hurricane Sandy) where Jean-Noel of Julie 1re swam across the harbour to the opposite pontoon to secure our boats from the strong crosswinds that had broken the pontoon in several places.
Our French friends had been sailing together in a casual flotilla of 3 or 4 boats and, while we sailed west from Morocco to the Canary Islands and across to the Caribbean, their route to the Caribbean had been to continue south visiting more ports along the west coast of Morocco before heading offshore to the Cape Verde Islands, then Senegal, then French Guyana from where they jumped off for the islands of the Caribbean. This seems to be the preferred route of French-speaking sailors just as our route is preferred transatlantic route for most English-speaking sailors (with some overlaps in the Cape Verde Islands for example.) Language and cultural familiarity seem to be the determining factors in these choices as well as wind and currents.
Babette and Jean- Noel, French friends aboard SY Julie 1re.

Our friends were making Martinique their base while they worked for the season. Babette, a nurse, had gotten contract work for several months filling in for women on maternity leave, etc. Her husband, Jean-Noel, an engineer, was working at the shipyard in Marin as well as doing yacht deliveries. And Virginie of SY Marjalou was working as a waitress at a local restaurant while her husband David made repairs and modifications to their boat, their fulltime home, for the coming winter sailing season. All were enjoying the break and the sociability of their new jobs in a new community. Working is fun if it is part of an adventure!
Many of our cruising friends with shallow-draft yachts had waxed poetic about cruising the east coast of Martinique that is wild and natural and full of quiet coves and bays that you often have to yourself. But the east coast is the windward side of the island which is open to the ocean swells of the Atlantic. This means you have to wait for calm conditions to sail safely into these anchorages since you enter with seas behind you. Many of them have bars at the entrance which can be dangerous in large seas and because of this you must cruise here fully provisioned with food and water in case the weather turns suddenly and you get trapped here for a few days.
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Courtesy Navionics Mobile

So last Saturday. July 6, we finally got the conditions we were looking for and raised anchor from Ste Anne to spend the weekend in quiet solitude – or so we thought! It was an absolutely beautiful blue-sky day and as we headed around Point Dunkerque to sail past the gorgeous stretches of white sand beaches on the south coast there was a parade of charter yachts, speed boats and jet skies headed the same way! Uh oh. Was everyone taking advantage of the weather and heading for the east coast for the weekend too?!
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However, when we reached Anse des Salines we saw that they all stopped there since there was a huge beach festival going on. The largest raft-up of small power boats we'd every seen, probably more than 50 boats (later we saw that stern moorings had been laid out to make this safe) was strung out in front of the beach with probably another 50 or so yachts anchored further out. Music was blaring, people were dancing on the beach, bubble machines were filling the air with sparkling bubbles and foam, and lots of Martinique rum was being consumed – at 1030 in the morning! What was up? We had to stop and get the story. Turns out it was Mercury Day, the island's biggest beach party sponsored by the company Mercury that manufactures outboard motors.
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After partying for a couple of hours we said goodbye to new friends and continued on around the corner to the east coast.

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What a change in scenery! It was rough and wild exposed to the Atlantic swells.

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But today it was lovely and we had no problem navigating into Baie des Anglais.

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However when we got into the anchorage we discovered it was now a nature reserve and anchoring no longer allowed in certain areas. But moorings had been laid and we joined 2 catamarans there for the night. We always dive on moorings to make sure they are safe and these looked well maintained.

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We had a very pleasant weekend there and the Mercury Day party provided quite a contrast to the peacefulness of Baie des Anglais.

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But then we got word that Tropical Storm Chantal was on the way ETA Tuesday so we headed back to the safety of Marin on Sunday afternoon.

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The weather was still great and we had a lovely downwind sail back to Marin past the south coast beaches and right into the harbour.

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What a weekend!

Warm regards,
Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II

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Town of Ste. Anne on the south coast of Martinique

Greetings from the French island of Martinique! July 1st was our national day so yesterday Paul and I celebrated Canada Day anchored off the quaint town of Ste. Anne on the south coast.

We arrived in Martinique, the largest of the Windward Islands, after a great week exploring Dominica, the island to the north (see previous newsletter) and the most southern Caribbean island in the Leeward Islands group.

Leaving Dominica
On Sunday June 16 we said goodbye to Dominica and, leaving Portsmouth at 0830, we motored in a southwesterly direction in the lee of the island.
It was a pleasant morning since we kept in fairly close to shore to enjoy the view of the picturesque fishing villages along the dramatic mountainous coast. Our destination was the town of St. Pierre, about 55 nm onwards which is a port of entry on the northwest coast of Martinique. (Note: We didn't need to clear-out when we left Dominica because when you clear-in you are automatically cleared-out two weeks later. You only have to visit Customs and Immigration to clear-out if you stay longer than 2 weeks. Very convenient and welcoming!)
Four hours out from Portsmouth at 1230, we arrived at Scott's Head, a rocky outcrop at the southwest corner of Dominica, and headed out into open water sailing close-hauled for 20 nm across the Martinque Channel. There is an “acceleration zone” here where the wind speed is accelerated as it whirl around the mountainous end of the island. A similar thing happens with the currents. The seas can look rather exciting at this point but smooth out once you get away from land. We had headwinds of 20 knots with gusts to 30 knots, borderline conditions for making this a comfortable passage, and were prepared to turn back and stay the night anchored off Roseau, the capital city of Dominica, if the seas were too nasty. We plowed on but Distant Shores II, our Southerly 49 sailboat, sliced through the seas and we made good progress.
The Martinique Channel divides the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean from the Windward Islands (although some sources include Guadeloupe and Dominica as part of the Windward Islands and make the dividing line further north).

Why are they called the Leeward and Windward Islands? In days of old when sailing ships were the commercial vessels of the time, ships sailing from Europe to the New World would follow the transatlantic currents and prevailing trade winds that blow east to west for the fastest voyage possible. This route would bring ships to roughly the dividing line between the Windward and Leeward Islands so named since the islands to the north were more to leeward for the sailing ships and the group to the south were to windward.

Our main resource for this part of our voyage south through the Caribbean is Chris Doyle's cruising guide, the 2013-2014 Sailors Guide to Windward Islands, and Chris defines the Windward Islands as Martinique, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.

St. Pierre
After a good beat across the Martinique Channel we arrived at the picturesque town of St. Pierre at the foot of the Mt. Pelée volcano at around 5:00 p.m. - just in time for sundowners in the cockpit.
We anchored off the town quay leaving room for the ferry that comes to the quay. There is a shelf with comfortable depths of 3-8 m (10-25 feet) just off the town and then it drops off quickly to very deep water, so you need to be sure to get your anchor down securely on this shallow shelf. We anchored in 4 m (13 feet) with good holding. This is a good overnight anchorage except in heavy northerly swells.
Clearing-in is done at the tourist office at the waterfront which is open Monday-Friday 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. so we waited and didn't go ashore until the next morning. The process is very easy and casual. There is a designated computer at the Tourist Office for Customs and Immigration and you fill in the documents yourself which require information from your ship's papers and crew passports. We brought all these documents with us since it's customary to show them to some kind of official but here it's the tourist office receptionist who welcomes you and she said she didn't need to see them. There were no administrative charges since it was a government office. We had the same experience in St. Martin and Guadeloupe, the other French Islands we've visited. In Deshaies in Guadeloupe, the DIY Customs and Immigration computer is in one of the local bars, so you can have a drink while you fill out the forms!
The history of St. Pierre is quite fascinating. In the late 1800's and early 1900's it was known as the “Paris of the Caribbean”. With a population of 30,000 people it was a prosperous town due to the success of the plantations surrounding St. Pierre. The shipments of rum, coffee, sugar and cocoa made several of the plantation owners multimillionaires. St. Pierre was the commercial, social and cultural centre of Martinique.
Cyparis, one of two survivors of the volcanic eruption of May 8 1902. He was later hired by the Barnum & Bailey circus.
But this ended abruptly when on Ascension Day, the 8th of May 1902, the Mt. Pelée erupted and a fireball with the explosive power greater than an atomic bomb blasted the town killing all but 2 people. One was a prisoner named Cyparis, imprisoned for murder in a stone cell. The thickness of the walls saved him but he was still badly burned.
We visited the museum on the waterfront that tells the story in French and English, then visited the cell that Cyparis survived in for 3 days until he was found by rescuers.
We also visited the remains of the once beautiful old theatre. Today the population of St. Pierre is about 5,000.
In French territories there are clean public washrooms everywhere. Here’s an example of coin-operated curbside toilettes.

Menu du Jour
You may recall that at this time last summer we were taking Distant Shores II through the canals of France. One of the things we enjoyed in France was that lunchtime is a sacred hour. Everything shuts down promptly for 1-2 hours at mid-day and people sit down to a proper relaxing meal. During the work week most restaurants offer a Menu du Jour (Menu of the Day) which has a starter, a main course, a dessert, and a glass of wine. Sometimes a cheese plate is included and tea or coffee. The Menu du Jour is excellent value so we were happy to discover that the same tradition is honoured in the French islands of the Caribbean.
In St Pierre we enjoyed a delicious mid-day meal at a little restaurant close to the waterfront called Le Switch. It was quite plain looking from the street but it was full of working people, not just tourists, always a good sign. We were welcomed in warmly by the women running the restaurant and everyone sitting at tables gave us a friendly “bonjour” (good day) then helped explain in bits of French and English what the Menu du Jour was.
We had a choice of BBQ chicken or fresh-caught fish with sides, salad, dessert and a glass of wine. The cost of each 3 course meal was 8 euros (around $10 US), wine was extra, and we had fun watching and talking to the local people there. Everyone was laughing and joking and talking to one another the entire time. Such a great atmosphere! And the food was really good too. Cooked with love.

Wi-fi Woes
Internet access is pretty important to the cruising lifestyle these days, at least to those of us that communicate by e-mail and skype, do research and check weather forecasts online. Most cruisers maintain a blog, website and/or social media sites to keep folks at home updated on their whereabouts and adventures too. So our afternoon plan was to buy a voucher from the restaurant La Vague on the waterfront that advertised in our cruising guide that they offered an internet service for sailors at anchor. We'd seen the signal and should have been able to sign up for it on the boat via PayPal but the link wasn't working. The news wasn't good when we went in to the restaurant. The system was down and the person that usually looked after it was on vacation. There were no other internet cafes in town that we could find. In Dominica, we were able to get really good internet service on the boat through a service called Hot Hot Hot Spot which also covered islands further south. There were several other options too. We were going to the capital city of Fort-de-France the next day so decided that one day away from internet wouldn't be too bad.

Fort de France
Tuesday June 18 we raised anchor and motored along the windless lee of the island from St Pierre to Fort de France where we anchored off the newly renovated waterfront of the city with a nice park and promenade and welcoming dinghy dock. In the anchorage were other boats we had seen up-island heading south like us. The southbound migration for Hurricane Season was underway.
At our bow was Fort St Louis. Off our stern was a very modern skyscraper! It was such a shock to see it because, since arriving in the Caribbean in December, I don't think we've seen a building more than a few storeys tall. The anchorage was good except for the constant ferry wakes during the day.
Beautiful fabric stores and fashion boutiques are a-plenty in the city of Fort-de-France

Our mission in Fort de France simply to get our wi-fi set up and do a bit of grocery shopping in the large supermarkets there. All we needed was a local Pay-as-You-Go data sim card for the Huawei E586 device that we use to connect to our computers for internet access onboard. It is a modem and portable local hotspot. Digicel is a Caribbean communications company that we had used in both St Lucia and the BVI with success so we went to the Digicel office to start the process. Well to make a long story short, we went back and forth to that store for 2 days and had no luck getting it to work. Our French isn't good and no one spoke English so that made things all the more difficult, I'm sure. In between we tried 3 internet cafes – none of them working or they only allowed you to use their computers which wouldn't work for the jobs we were sending. The only success we had was at the McDonalds on the waterfront right near the dinghy dock, not very satisfactory when we had a lot of things happening that required frequent back-and-forth correspondence. We didn’t want our time in Fort-de-France to spent sitting for hours in a McDonalds.

Fort de France to Ste Anne
So on Thursday June 20 we raised anchor and left, internet free. How could a struggling country like Dominica have great wif-fi service and not the very developed sophisticated island of Martinique, a French department? Go figure. Getting out to sea helped us feel better. That is the great thing about sailing! It puts everything in perspective. It was a rougher sail than we expected as we rounded around to the south coast the strong headwinds.
We passed the famous Diamond Rock that was captured by the British during the rule of Napoleon and named HMS Diamond Rock since they fired on French ships bringing supplies to Martinique. They held it for 18 months.
The seas and headwinds knocked down our speed so we arrived a little later than planned. But still time to go for drinks at the local internet provider, the restaurant La Dunette for 2 pina coladas (12 euros) to use the wifi. The ending to this story - their wi-fi didn’t work! Nor did it work in the 2 other internet cafes in town. It took days to repair. But now it’s flying like lightning and we are back in touch :-)

Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Ste Anne, Martinique



Greetings from Dominica, one of the most pristine islands in the Caribbean!
Its mountainous terrain makes it a haven for hikers and the beautiful clear waters make it a treasure for divers too. If you love quiet places and getting out in nature, Dominica is a great place to visit.
We arrived here aboard our Southerly 49 sailboat, Distant Shores II, on Saturday June 8 after 3-days of island-hopping from St Maarten to Nevis, Nevis to Guadeloupe, and Guadeloupe to Dominica where we’re anchored in Prince Rupert Bay off the town of Portsmouth on the northwest coast of this ruggedly beautiful and luxuriously green island.
Our first visit to Dominica was 21 years ago (!) on our way home after a 3-year Atlantic Circle aboard our first boat, a Classic 37 sailboat named, "Two-Step". At that time we anchored off the capital city of Roseau (pronounced "rose oh") and were so hassled by overly aggressive "boat boys" - local vendors that come out to your boat on anything that floats, cling to your lifelines, and pester you to buy stuff from them and not anyone else - that we had no peace and vowed never to go back to Dominica!
Left to right: Martin Carriere of Dominica, Sheryl Shard, and author Chris Doyle at ARC seminar in St Lucia about Cruising in the Caribbean

However, at the conclusion of the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) in December we attended a lecture by Chris Doyle who told us about the huge improvements to yacht security and the yacht services training that locals have been given in Dominica to encourage cruising sailors to visit the island. Chris has cruised the Caribbean for decades and is the author of our favourite cruising guides to the Caribbean. We’re using his Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands which covers Anguilla through Dominica and Cruising Guide to the Windward Islands which covers Martinique to Grenada. He also has a very good website We really trust his recommendations. Plus a lot of sailors we were meeting recently said Dominica was their favourite island in the Caribbean. Hmmm. Time to investigate.
Chris talked about a group called P.A.Y.S. (Portsmouth Association of Yacht Services) based in Portsmouth, Dominica, which are a group of trained certified guides and local businesses that also patrol Prince Rupert Bay 24/7 during the winter sailing season (November to the end of May). They help "yachties" with numerous services from taking garbage to organizing scuba diving outings, plus offer guided tours by boat, especially the wonderful Indian River trip where scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean II were filmed, and island tours by van. He also introduced one of the members, Martin Carriere, who accompanied Chris to St Lucia for the lecture.
P.A.Y.S members monitor VHF 16 and when you arrive the P.A.Y.S. member on duty will come out and help you anchor or tie to one of the moorings they maintain and answer any questions you might have. They don’t pester. They also advertise in the Doyle guides where you can find the mobile phone numbers of most of the guides and learn their areas of expertise. Some are good fishing guides for example, others know good music venues, some specialize in bird watching, some are great hikers, etc. You can call ahead and your guide of choice will meet you with his boat and run you to customs for clearing in if you’d like, or take your crew to a local restaurant and pick everyone up afterwards if you’d rather use a water taxi service than launch your dinghy if you’re making a late arrival. We did this with Albert who also took 3 bags of laundry for cleaning and brought it back nicely dried and folded the next day for about $8 US per load.
On Sunday nights they hold a fundraising BBQ at the P.A.Y.S. Events House which is a great way to meet other sailors as well as local Dominicans. The tickets are $20 US per person and there is a ton of great food, music, and all you can drink rum punch or fruit punch!
Since it wasn't originally in our plans to visit Dominica, I hadn’t applied for the necessary filming permits in enough advance time. As working journalists and filmmakers we can't just take pictures and videos freely as regular tourists since our images are used commercially for television and magazine publication. And the process is a bit complex in Dominica since there are many different government departments and sites that require different permits and charge different permit fees due to the many National Parks, Reserves, etc. across the island. So on Tuesday I had to make a 1-hour trip into the capital city of Roseau to meet with Samantha Smith, Marketing Director at the Discover Dominica Tourist Authority office, who was extremely helpful and supportive in streamlining the permit process so that we could film an episode of Distant Shores about Dominica. Paul stayed on the boat continuing post-production work while I dressed for a business meeting and rode the bus to town.
I took one of the local buses, a little 10-person van, which is a great way to meet local people and experience their daily routines. The vans run constantly and the cost was 9 EC (~ $3.50 US dollars) one-way. The route was all along the excellent and newly paved coastal highway so I enjoyed the ride and the beautiful scenery. Everyone I met was helpful and friendly and I felt so glad that we had decided to come back to Dominica. There HAVE been big changes in attitude and economy since our visit over 20 years ago! A lot can happen in a generation!
Black volcanic sand beaches

Our filming permits came through on Thursday. Samantha had helped me design a very interesting itinerary for Thursday and Friday with Martin Carriere, the P.A.Y.S member who we'd met at the lecture in St. Lucia, as our guide.
Martin picked us up in his boat, Providence, early Thursday morning and drove us in his van to the northeast coast of the island, a rugged exposed coast on the windward side.
Here we visited the Carib territory where they have set up a traditional village called the Kalinago Barana Autê where you can learn about the history and traditions of the indigenous people of Dominica. DominicaNews18
In the high season, November until May, they have music and participatory activities on a regular basis.

Martin showed us how they grind up cassava root and boil it up to make cassava bread.
They mix the dried cassava with coconut and and a little salt then cook it on a griddle to make bread. Delicious!

One of Martin's areas of expertise is with local cuisine. He and his wife, Florian, offer cooking classes on a Saturday that start with a tour of the Saturday market in Portsmouth buying ingredients for the meal you will learn to prepare and then eat at the P.A.Y.S. Events House. Unfortunately we weren’t able to organize to attend one of their classes on this visit but hope to in the future. On our island tour Martin made sure we got "a taste of the island."
We stopped at roadside stands for a grilled plantain snack - looks like a banana but tastes more like a potato. Healthful and filling.
He cut up fresh pineapple.
Martin showed us raw cashews. They hang below a plum-like fruit and are deadly when raw. They make your skin and throat swell up. They must be roasted first to be eaten!! The fruit makes a nice juice. Who knew?!!
While touring the island of Dominica we stopped often to refresh ourselves with cool drinks (non-alcoholic since we were working) made from local fruits. At the Islet View Restaurant and Bar we tried star fruit juice.
The star fruit juice is served on ice in a coconut and garnished with fresh bay leaves. 3 kinds of bay leaves grow on Dominica - one that's slightly lemon flavoured, one licorice flavoured, and one cinnamon flavoured.
There are lots of species of both land and sea crabs on Dominica. Here Paul proves his ability to catch them with his bare hands. Crabs are used in the local dish called Callaloo. (No crabs were harmed in the making of this episode of Distant Shores. Nor TV presenters.)
If you love relaxed walking or serious hiking there are numerous trails from easy to advanced through the rain forests of Dominica. Just be prepared - it does in fact rain! Here we are doing on easy 10-minute easy walk to Emerald Pool.
There are said to be 365 waterfalls in Dominica - one for every day of the year! You can swim in many of them.
Paul swimming in the Emerald Pool. We had it all to ourselves.
The hike out to Trafalgar Falls is another nice hike to double waterfalls. You can walk right up and swim here too. There are also hot springs. Paradise!
There are nice several spas around the island that make use of natural sulphur hots springs. We stopped at Tia’s Sulphur Springs. Ahhhh.... Good after a day of hiking in the rain.
Our favourite activity touring Dominica was the river trip with Martin up the Indian River. Several scenes were shot here for the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies 1 and 2 for the home of the mystic goddess, Caruso.
Amazing roots on the bloodwood trees.
No outboard motors are allowed to be used in the Indian River and you must go with a local guide. No problem.
The vegetation is so exotic and Martin shared his knowledge of flora and fauna.
Martin also made me this lovely hummingbird out of palm fronds as a souvenir of Dominica. I don’t think we will ever forget the memorable visit to Dominica. We’re so glad we came back!

The Distant Shores episode on Dominica #115 will be broadcast this summer and available on DVD and download in August 2013.


Departing St Maarten

Hello Friends,

I, Sheryl, just got back to the boat after a 2-week visit home to Canada for some business meetings and to catch up with family and friends. Paul stayed on board Distant Shores II anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon working on scripts and rough-editing 2 new episodes of the Distant Shores sailing adventure TV series while I was away. Paul and I have been married for 27 years and this is the longest we’ve ever been apart! Thank goodness for skype and facetime so we could make video calls :-) We had dinner together via skype a few times and whenever I was at a gathering of friends and family we would call up Paul on skype and pass him around. Isn’t technology marvellous!
IMG_1251 onboard
I flew back to St Maarten from Toronto yesterday and Paul met me at the airport and then treated me to lunch at the St Maarten Yacht Club. I had a great time at home but it was so good to be back on board Distant Shores II with Paul.
Dep SXM3
Today was a day of chores. First thing this morning we raised anchor and headed for the fuel dock at Island Water World to top up the fuel and water in preparation to sail to St Kitts and Nevis tomorrow and then continue down-island. IWW generally has the best price on fuel in St Maarten. Today diesel was $1,18 US/litre and water 15¢ per US gallon. If you pay by credit card there is an extra 4% surcharge.
Dep SXM6
Next on the list was stocking up on provisions. We like to shop at Le Grand Marche in St Maarten. We can take the dinghy to the dinghy dock at Port de Plaisance Marina and walk up from there. There's a very nice selection of European delicacies & wines at good prices since the island is duty-free. For even cheaper prices there is a Cost U Less (similar to Costco or Sam's Club) a bus or taxi ride away but Le Grand Marche is convenient. They give a 5% discount if you're doing a large purchase for the boat and offer free delivery in the store's van to the dinghy dock. We give a few dollars tip the driver who usually helps carry stuff from the quay down the dinghy dock.

As I write to you now, Paul is at Customs and Immigration clearing us out to leave first thing tomorrow morning. I’m on board stowing provisions. I’m protecting the wine bottles in clean socks to prevent breakage. I also group similar items and put them in self-sealing plastic bags. This makes it easier to find things and if anything breaks or leaks, the mess is pretty much contained in the plastic bag.
Everything is stowed under in lockers around the boat. Under the bed, under the settees, wherever there is space.
We came out of Simpson Bay Lagoon through the Simpson Bay Bridge at the 4:30 p.m. bridge opening. The opening at 4:30 pm is for outgoing vessels and at 5:30 p.m. it opens for incoming vessels. We are now anchored in Simpson Bay ready to sail off tomorrow morning, all going well.
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We may be out of touch for a couple of days as we island-hop south but will post again as soon as possible.

We’ll be in touch again soon!

Warm regards,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard Distant Shores II

St Maarten - Carnival 2013

St Maarten Carnival Parade

Hello Everyone!

It's May 1st and therefore the May Day public holiday in the Dutch/French island of St Maarten/St Martin, as it is in many places around the world today, so most businesses are closed and people are enjoying time with friends and family.
There have been a series of public holidays in St Maarten since we arrived here last Friday sailing from the BVI. Yesterday was the St Maarten Carnival in celebration of the Dutch Queen Beatrix's 75th birthday. She is actually the former queen since she abdicated yesterday and her son Prince Willem-Alexander is now king, so the celebration continues for new reasons.
There was a big parade for the St Maarten Carnival in Philipsburg, the capital, so we met up with Canadian friends, Dave and Alex from SV Banyan, at St Maarten Yacht Club at 9:00 a.m. and caught one of the little buses that runs along the main road in front of the club to go and see the parade.

The little local buses in St Maarten are great. You can just flag them down anywhere along the road and for $2 US a person make the 15-20 minute trip into Philipsburg from where we are located near the Simpson Bay Bridge into Simpson Bay Lagoon. The buses are vans that seat about 8-10 people. Just look at the license plate. It says BUS followed by a few numbers. Taxi vans say TAXI on the license plate followed by a few numbers. When you get on the bus it is courteous to say “Good Day” to everyone on board. Tell the bus driver where you want to get off and he'll stop there for you. You can ask to stop anywhere along the route. Everyone is very helpful if you're not too sure where the best place to get off is.
We'd been told that the parade would start at around 11:00-11:30 a.m. and that we should get to Philipsburg early since they'd be closing the road but when we arrived the streets, and even the usually crowded waterfront promenade, were pretty much empty. There were a few people setting up stands who told us the parade didn't start until 1 p.m. but that was further out of town and it wouldn't get to Front Street, where we were now, until around 2 or 3 p.m.!
Well, no problem. It was a beautiful morning so we strolled along the promenade and then Paul, Dave, Alex and I went for brunch at one of the pleasant waterfront restaurants. Some of the shops were open too, since Front Street in Philipsburg is a tourist zone and home to many duty free electronics shops, so we were able to pick up an additional computer drive that we needed as we wandered in and out of the stores filling time until the parade started.
It was well worth the wait! I think more people living in St Maarten participated in the parade than were watching it - and there was a good crowd!
The live bands on floats and troupes of fantastically costumed dancers were amazing!
People of all ages participated and since the parade route was so huge everyone attending could get a front row position to watch it somewhere along the streets.
The parade went on for over 2 hours. Wow! What a day!
These are just a few photos. The highlights are on video and will be included in a new episode of the Distant Shores sailing TV series.

Alex on SV Banyan is a really good blogger so check out her story and photos as well at

Happy Carnival, Everyone!

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Simpson Bay Lagoon
St Maarten

Click here to check out our DVDs for more cruising adventures and tips!

British Virgin Islands to St Maarten

Sailing from BVI to St Maarten - Anegada Passage - April 27 2013

IMG_7674 sher swim

Hello Everyone,
The time arrived at the end of April to conclude our winter respite in the British Virgin Islands and begin the next leg of our voyage - heading south through the Caribbean island chain so that, come summertime which is hurricane season, we would be out of the hurricane belt.

The area of high risk for hurricanes in the Caribbean region, as defined by our yacht insurance company Pantaenius Yacht Insurance, is East of 98°W and West of 60°W, and between the Latitudes 10°N and 30.5°N. The “Named Tropical Storm Clause” in our insurance goes into effect from July 1st to November 15th. Different insurance companies have different limitations so check this out if planning to sail or store your boat in the Caribbean during the summer and autumn months.
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Paul at Pipe Creek, Bahamas

Another option for avoiding hurricanes in the summer would be to sail north through the islands of the Bahamas, one of our favourite cruising grounds as you may have determined by the number of Bahamas Distant Shores episodes we have filmed there, and then north to the Chesapeake Bay, another great cruising ground on the east coast of the USA that we have documented in the show. (Maine and the Canadian Maritimes are other appealing summer destinations for many sailors that cruise in the Caribbean for the winter, as is the Great Loop, a route exploring inland waterways of the USA and Canada.)

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Travelling through the Erie Canal, Chesapeake Bay and Intracoastal Waterway (ICW) in Distant Shores Season 6

We have made the trip up from the Caribbean to the Bahamas, the Chesapeake Bay and home to Canada through the Erie Canal to the Great Lakes and Trent-Severn Waterway in the past and, since next season we are are planning to cruise the western Caribbean, going north would mean a long journey retracing our steps back to the Caribbean in the fall. So we have decided to take the boat south for Hurricane Season this year and explore more of the leeward and windward islands along the way.

The first leg of our journey south from the BVI was to sail back across the Anegada Passage to the Dutch/French island of St Maarten/St Martin, a passage of about 90 nm. In February we did this in the opposite direction, going St Maarten to the BVI, which is generally a nice downwind sail with the current in your favour as well. (See Feb 26/13 newsletter).

But going the other way, from BVI to St Maarten, is a whole different story since you are sailing into the trade winds and with the 1 to 1.5 knot current against you, so you need to plan the eastbound journey a bit more carefully. As cruising sailors we are blessed with hundreds of great sailing days in a year so the general strategy for this passage is to wait for calm conditions, motorsail into it topping up your batteries as you go, and Get It Done. From St Maarten heading south through the island chain your angle of sail is better and you can expect days of great beam-reach sailing with regular trade winds blowing from the east.

Checking the weather forecast on WindGURU we saw light wind conditions predicted for Thursday April 25 and Friday April 26. On Friday, the wind was predicted to be slightly more ENE rather than E and since we were going to set sail from North Sound in Virgin Gorda at the most northern end of the BVI we would have not-bad angle on an ENE wind. If we left very early on Friday morning there was a good chance we'd be able to make the 12-hour passage under sail, at least for part of the day. (Of course you could skip St Maarten altogether and sail southeast to islands further down the chain to avoid a headwind bash but St Maarten is a great place to stock up on provisions, fuel, and chandlery items before sailing down-island so we really wanted to stop there.)

The Cruising Guide to the BVI by Nancy and Simon Scott have a good section on options for sailing south from the BVI to the Leeward Islands of the Caribbean.

A new customs office in the BVI has recently opened in North Sound (also called Gorda Sound) at Gun Creek just across the sound from where we were anchored off Saba Rock so in the late afternoon on Thursday April 25 we motored over to Gun Creek, anchored off the customs quay, and cleared out of the BVI. You can clear out 12 hours before your planned departure.
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Early the next morning, Friday April 26, we were up at 4:30 a.m. and raised anchor at 5:30 a.m. just as the sun was rising and the full moon was setting over Virgin Gorda, a beautiful farewell image of the BVI.
Sail to St Maarten03
Heading out of the sound into Necker Passage we noticed there were 3 other yachts in our wake. We wouldn't be alone out in the Anegada Passage.
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Necker Passage takes you out past Necker Island, the multi-million dollar private resort belonging to Sir Richard Branson, owner of Virgin Airlines and other Virgin Group corporations.

We were soon out into open water, mainsail raised and self-tacking jib ready to unfurl but the wind never did set in from the ENE. It was light and on the nose, due E, the whole day. Motorsailing it was to be. It was a very clear day and Virgin Gorda didn't disappear off our stern until mid-morning. We each stood our watches listening to audio books on our iPhones to pass the time and watching the many sea birds and passing ships. The Anegada Passage is a gateway to the Caribbean for ocean-going ships travelling to and from the rest of the world.
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At the half-way point we passed sailboats heading in the opposite direction and the blue skies began to get cloudy. Then the radar started to show patches of squalls developing and by the afternoon we were getting scattered shower – brief and cooling.
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However, just after sighting St Maarten on the horizon in the late afternoon, we got a series of big squalls. No worries. The heavy rain gave the boat a good cleaning washing all the salt off the decks.
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At the same time as the squalls passed we noticed an incredible feeding frenzy going on. Hundreds of sea birds were diving on fish at the surface all around us. Now we're not very good at fishing but we thought if we put out a line in this location we couldn't go wrong. Over the years we've done a lot of fishing with the hand spear but not so much with a line. But now we're getting into it and found a great book to guide us, The Cruiser's Handbook of Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerot. We dropped our line but I guess we were a bit late doing it since no fish seemed interested in our lure. Oh well. Better luck next time.
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Just after 5:00 p.m. the skies had cleared and we were rounding the south end of St Martin/St Maarten in sunshine under blue skies. By 5:30 p.m. we were dropping the hook in Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of the island just behind SV Banyan owned by Canadian friends, Dave and Alex, who had left the BVI the day before us.
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That's the great thing about cruising. You meet so many great people on your travels and encounter them many times in many places. A welcome always awaits you.

Until next time,

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard SV Distant Shores II

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Snorkelling today we had a fantastic encounter. Meeting up close with a Hawksbill turtle!
He was cruising the reef and we got to swim with him for more than half an hour!
Its about 4 meters deep here. Sheryl comes to take a look.
He was browsing on the bottom and got used to me being around.
He went back to biting away at corals on the reef.
Investigating the camera on the tripod... is it edible?
Going up to take a breath - only once every ten minutes or so.
Such a privilege to see an animal like this in the wild!

At Anchor BVI

Here is an album of shots from our little anchorage here in the Virgin Islands, Great to be back diving and exploring!
PS Tropical Portrait lores
Enjoying the reef.... All around the bay is nice snorkelling in clear water. No swells so it is good for beginners too.
Paul and Reef-1
The reef right behind the boat has some great fish and very clear water. This is a trumpetfish.
trumpetfish grunts
Trumpetfish hang still and pretend they are waving corals...
Here’s a Porcupinefish - a member of the Pufferfish family. He’s about half a meter long.
A "Scrawled Filefish". We have only seen these a few times in all our years of diving. They grow up to almost 3 feet long. This fellow is over 2 feet long.
Scrawled Filefish
Sheryl swims in a school of silversides.
I dive down under the boat. This is a different anchorage - deep water at about 18 meters to the bottom.
Paul under hull-2
Enjoying the reef.

St Martin to British Virgin Islands

Hello Everyone,
Greetings from the British Virgin Islands!

Our first visit here was in 1985 when Paul and I chartered a CS 36 sailboat with friends to test out our dream of sailing to the tropics. Needless to say, we loved it and did the voyage from Toronto, Canada, on our own boat a few years later. A lifestyle of sailing adventure began and our work as travel documentary filmmakers and writers blossomed. Now, with over 20 years of years of international cruising experience, 90,000 miles of voyages on our sailing resumes, and over 100 X 30-minute episodes of our sailing adventure TV series Distant Shores being broadcast around the world in 24 languages, we are back in the British Virgin Islands(BVI) for probably our 10th visit.
This time we're cruising this beautiful island chain on our 3rd boat, Distant Shores II, a Southerly 49 variable-draft sailboat, which we sailed across the Atlantic Ocean last December as participants in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). We were accompanied by our ever-cheerful Australian friend, Matthew Heron, who is an excellent sailor and, as always, great crew for a passage. It was Paul and my 5th transatlantic crossing and we documented the experience for Distant Shores episode #111 which is still in post-production.

To see a Sneak Peek from this episode about how we dealt with squalls on the transatlantic passage Click Here.

When I last wrote to you, on February 15, we had just re-launched Distant Shores after a couple of weeks of annual maintenance on the French/Dutch island of St Martin/St Maarten. We spent a couple of days at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon finishing up projects and then did a big grocery run across the lagoon in our dinghy to stock up on European delicacies and duty free goods for the ship's stores before leaving for the BVI where things can be a bit more pricey although there is great selection.

We got rather enthusiastic and when the courtesy delivery van from Grand Marche deposited us at the dinghy dock at Port de Plaisance, we had so much stuff we were afraid we were going to sink the dinghy on the ride back to the boat! Luckily it was a calm day and by going very slowly we arrived safely back at Distant Shores II without losing any of our cargo.
The next day when everything was carefully stowed away in lockers under benches and berths, we headed out of Simpson's Bay Lagoon at the 5:30 p.m. bridge opening at Sandy Ground Bridge on the French side of St Martin. (Sandy Ground Bridge Openings are at 8:15 a.m, 2:30 p.m. except on Sundays, and 5:30 p.m. Outbound traffic before Inbound. Bridge Operator is on VHF Ch 16 or tel. (0590) 590 87 20 43. There are no bridge fees as there are on the bridge on the Dutch side.)
Conditions were good for anchoring off the town of Marigot in Marigot Bay. If there is a big swell from northerly directions it can be very rolly but we had steady east winds. Out in the clear open water off Marigot you can swim off the boat and beaches (the water in the lagoon is too dirty for swimming unfortunately) which was the first thing we did when we were anchored in Marigot Bay. This was followed by a sundowner in the cockpit looking at the lovely view of the town with Fort Louis overlooking all.
Paul and I try not to work on a Sunday and honour it as a day for family and friends so in the morning we took the dinghy back to St Maarten Shipyard and visited friends Peter, Monika, and their daughter, Claudia, aboard their boat, Tauá. We’d met Peter when working in the yard. His wife and daughter had just arrived from Paris and we were looking forward to meeting them. Like Peter, Monika and Claudia were great company and we ended up taking the bus into town together (you just hail little vans that have a BUS license plate as they pass by. $1 per person) to enjoy Sunday Brunch with them at ZeeBest Restaurant near the Simpson Bay Marina.
In the afternoon, Paul met up with long-time friends from our York University days, Terry Fraser and Michele Yard Fraser, who he picked up in the dinghy at the Marigot waterfront. Terry and Michele have had a timeshare in St Maarten for many years and know the island well. We had a great afternoon together aboard Distant Shores II and got caught up on everyone's news and adventures.

Back in Marigot Paul cleared us out from St. Martin (you can clear Customs and Immigration on Sundays at Marina Fort Louis, otherwise at the ferry dock or the harbourmasters office at Marina Port La Royale the rest of the week). We were planning to leave early the next morning for the British Virgin Islands.
Morning commute aboard Distant Shores II

At 0630 on Monday February 18, we raised anchor and began a 84-mile crossing of the Anegada Passage, a strait that lies between the British Virgin Islands and St Martin plus the neighbouring island of Anguilla.
Many large ships enter the Caribbean Sea through this strait so we kept our eyes peeled and throughout the day we saw a lot of them. We had beautiful fresh tradewinds blowing from behind us so we poled out our jib and genoa and sailed wing and wing for the day.
After a great sail, we arrived at Round Rock Passage in the British Virgin Islands 12 hours later, just before sunset so the timing was perfect. From there we made a 20 minute run up to Spanish Town where we anchored for the night. First thing the next morning we cleared-in to the British Virgin Islands at the customs office at Spanish Town ferry dock on Virgin Gorda. Customs offices are open Monday to Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm and Saturday 8:30am to 12:30pm. Closed Sundays and on BVI public holidays. For more info on locations and cruising permit fees Click Here.
Paul and school of Blue Tangs

We will spend the next couple of weeks break here in the BVI, relaxing at anchor, snorkelling, and working on scripts and editing. We have already filmed 2 episodes of Distant Shores about the BVI, one about bareboat chartering here if that is something that interests you. You can see both BVI episodes in the Distant Shores season 5 DVD collection. For more information or to watch a trailer Click Here.
Anchoring in Great Harbour, Peter Island. Photo by Andrew Evans

At the moment, Distant Shores II is anchored in Great Harbour, Peter Island, one of our favourite places for snorkelling. The sun is high so it's a good time to go for a dip and explore the reefs along the shore, so we'll say ciao for now.

Have a great week!

Sheryl and Paul
Aboard Distant Shores II
Great Harbour, Peter Island
British Virgin Islands

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St Martin/St Maarten

Hi Everyone,

Our Southerly 49, Distant Shores II, is back in the water in St Martin in the Caribbean, after a week of seasonal maintenance on the boat before we continue with a winter season of sailing and filming new episodes for the Distant Shores TV series in the tropics this year. We re-launched the boat on Monday and are now anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon near Marigot, St Martin (the French side of the island).
Paul and Sheryl at Toronto International Boat Show January 18-20, 2013

We have only been back in St Martin for 10 days since were home in Canada for 3 weeks doing presentations at the Toronto International Boat Show and other events, then flew back from Toronto on Feb 5.
Paul and Sheryl with Toronto sailor, Dave McGuire

Our flight back to St Martin/St Maarten was good on WestJet which has direct non-stop flights from Toronto YYZ to Phillipsburg SXM. There were 5 other Toronto sailors on the plane that we knew, all heading back to their boats after visiting home for the Holidays and Toronto Boat Show, so it was a sociable flight! We all met up again later on the island, at Barnacles, the sailors' bar in St Maarten.
Salt fish cakes or fritters are a traditional snack throughout the Caribbean.

There are lots of great restaurants and varied cuisine on this half-Dutch half-French tropical island. When we were in the boat yard we really enjoyed the Boca Marine restaurant that was on site. The appetizer pictured above is salt-fish cakes (dried salted cod made into fritters) which are a traditional snack found throughout many islands in the Caribbean.

St Maarten Shipyard, where we had hauled out the boat for storage before flying home, is very close to the airport so we just walked to the boat after landing and clearing in!
Sheryl walking from the airport terminal to the boat yard

The yard is right beside the runway so as we worked on the boat all week we had a constant Air Show :-)
View of SXM runway from Distant Shores II in St Maarten Shipyard

There were other sailors working in the yard too and the staff there were all really helpful and nice, so the time in the yard was very pleasant despite working with messy/toxic anti-fouling paint.
See previous newsletter for details and cost of the haul-out.

St Maarten Shipyard has a SeaLift which is like a huge padded forklift that they use instead of a travel lift. The SeaLift could raise us high enough to paint the full height of the keel. It was good to get a close-up look and see that all was well.
We re-launched the boat on Monday February 11 and will spend a few days at anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon on the French side of St Martin finishing up some projects before sailing on. Mardi Gras celebrations are going strong in Marigot this week with the start of Lent. I've decided to give up "snow" for Lent this year :-)
On the weekend, weather permitting, we'll leave St Martin for the British Virgin Islands where we plan to stay for about 10 days. After that we will work our way slowly south through the island chain filming new episodes for Distant Shores season 9 in Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and Grenada.
In May we will probably store the boat in Grenada for the Hurricane Season so will be home in Canada to continue with post-production on the shows in the summer for a change.

Have a really great weekend!

Warm regards,

Paul and Sheryl Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
Marigot, St Martin
West Indies

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Cruising the Caribbean – Antigua, Barbuda, St.Martin, Virgin Islands

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