By Sheryl Shard, copyright 2016. All rights reserved.
Deep 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.
Distant 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.
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.
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.
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 www.btcbahamas.com 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
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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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
Turks and Caicos
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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.
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.
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SV Distant Shores II
Cockburn Town, South Caicos
Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI)
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...
Interview on The Sailing Podcast
We recently did an interview with David Anderson on TheSailingPodcast.com 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.
Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard SY Distant Shores II
Tobago Cays, St. Vincent and the Grenadines
Click here to check out our DVDs for more cruising adventures and tips!
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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."
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 firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.
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.
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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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.
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!
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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