Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter 2008

Spent another Easter day at sea applying sunscreen. And just like last year, I enjoyed licking the holiday chocolate from my finger tips as we made a day passage from Antigua to St Martin. The only difference this time was that we had guests aboard making it an easier day on deck for me. It was an easy 103nm broad reach and fast thanks to a spinnaker.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Another Sister Ship Sighting

We had the pleasure of being visited by a wonderful couple who have had a Baltic 51, GroBe Freiheit Nr. 7, for several years. We would later see her for ourselves in English Harbour. She is registered out of Hamburg, Germany and has a successful international racing record. We also learned more about another sister ship and the original Baltic 51 design.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Green Island Snorkeling

A new discovery for us was an idyllic anchorage in Nonsuch Bay just off Green Island. The clear colorful water protected by a long stretch of reef was a small scale version of the Tobago Cays yet without the crowds. Overall the snorkeling was disappointing due to poor coral and little sea life, but we did see some interesting things. Most memorable was the biggest stingray any of us has ever seen, which I managed to capture with my camera. Unfortunately the photos don’t give you a true sense of the stingray’s size - we estimate its tail was at least 8 feet – nor do they revel any of the spots on the stingray’s back. In the first image the stingray is working up the sand in hopes of hiding from us but it didn’t work and upon our further approach it swam away as shown in the second image. Three days later we read the news headlines about the woman killed by a spotted stingray.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Around Antigua

Soon after our arrival to Antigua we were joined by the Healey sisters for a week. It was an exciting action packed holiday for all of us as we walked, drove, sailed, swam, ate and drank our way around the island originally called Wadadli by its native Indians. Our mutual friend, also in Antigua for the week, summed it up best when he said “it was more fun than required!” (above photo is of Willoughby Bay)

Fig Tree Drive Produce Stand

Jolly Harbour

Half Moon Bay

Harmony Hall

Betty’s Hope Plantation

Devil’s Bridge

Sailing around the south coast of Antigua

Snorkeling off Green Island

Nonsuch Bay

See more Antigua photos.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Shirley Heights

Going to Shirley Heights is and for a long time has been the thing to do on Sunday’s in Antigua. The view alone is worth the taxi fare. Shirley Heights is positioned above English Harbour and offers views extending past Falmouth Harbour. For $20 EC you can join the party as early as 4 PM. It's fun suitable for all ages and it's a mix of tourists, yachties and locals. Listen to a steel band while you watch the sun go down and eat barbeque. Later dance to another band, often reggae music. The festivities last about 6 hours.

Take caution when consuming the tasty rum punch because they sneak up on you (so I’ve been told). Another word of caution, choose your footwear carefully because the ground is extremely uneven and challenging. Cheers!

Safe Yachting Haven

My captain is delighted to be back in the safe yachting haven of Antigua (pronounced an-TEE-gah).

For the first time in months there is no need to lift (winch by hand) the heavy dinghy onto the mother ship’s foredeck each night, nor must we use a heavy gage chain to lock the dinghy to the dock when we go ashore. Plus there is less worry when we go ashore, especially at night that our floating home might be missing some of its contents when we return.

To date we have been fortunate and not suffered theft but others’ misfortunes have taught us to take precautions. Dinghies and outboard motors, especially Yamaha outboards, are the most popular items stolen. While these are an expensive loss, the worst part is the inconvenience of being without “a car” as replacements are not always available. Our concerns have been beyond theft. Based on word of mouth – so a dash of rumor and a splash of gossip – violent crimes on yachts are on the increase in some areas, or at a minimum they are being reported more. We read about a string of violent incidences that occurred earlier this year in a beautiful bay we had just anchored in for a night. But we’re in Antigua now so we can relax, at least more than we’ve been able to since arriving to the Caribbean.

As I mentioned, my captain couldn’t be happier about our new neighborhood. Safety and more floating money - in the form of yachts - than one can count. I on the other hand already miss the islands I have left behind. Here there is an absence of smiling islanders willing to share a slice of their island culture with me. Instead I mostly see people without smiles charging me high prices because I’m on a boat and everywhere I can go on foot I am surrounded by people like myself. My mission is to explore Antigua beyond the yachtie comfort zones of Falmouth and English Harbours…

Ok, I also feel the need to mention that these incredible yachts make me feel like an under achiever.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Dominica to Antigua

Our anchor was up by 4am and soon after we were under sail. It was a beautiful day with mostly 15-22kt winds and a gentle sea state – all the makings for a perfect sail. The majority of the 92 nautical mile passage was sailing along the leeward shore of Guadeloupe so we also enjoyed stunning scenery.

Just past Guadeloupe we were visited by a large pod of dolphins. This time last year I wouldn’t have thought this worth mentioning but it was our first dolphin sighting since mid December, something that still surprises us. Where have all the dolphins gone? Nor have we seen any whales this winter. Hopefully our lack of sightings is only due to bad timing.

We’re happily anchored in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua and surrounded by some of the world’s most beautiful and valuable yachts.

A Taste of Dominica

This unplanned two day visit to only a small section of Dominica will remain one of my most memorable Caribbean experiences. Dominica allowed me a glimpse of what the Caribbean was like before mass tourism.

At 29 by 16 miles (46 by 25km), Dominica is one of the larger Lesser Antilles islands yet the poorest and least developed. Many of the 70,000 islanders live off the land.

My captain and I spent our first day walking the streets and entering the small shops in the town of Portsmouth. Although one of the island’s main towns it feels more like a rural village. The main streets were mostly lined with old small wooden buildings with corrugated tin roofs or newer concrete buildings with a commercial business on the bottom and living quarters above. Along the main road, just off the commercial area, I saw people washing clothes at a communal roadside water-pump. Outhouses are common. It reminded me of trips to the rural south (USA) during my youth, complete with the sweet sounds of Charlie Pride blaring from a one-room home.

The locals are friendly and open to conversation. They seem to know they live in a magical place and treasure its resources. I admire this wisdom as well as their adoration for this land they call home despite the lack of jobs and in general limited access to material things and opportunities. I hope I’ve learned a lesson here.
This lush volcanic island is ideal for nature lovers and people who seek simplicity. Although it has some beaches, I’ve learned Dominica is valued more for its interior filled with mountains, rain forests, rivers and waterfalls. I took an exciting trip up the Indian River (shown above and below) that is considered a mini-Amazon full of mangroves and exotic flora. I felt like the queen of the Nile on this river journey because it was just me and my guide (also a “boat boy” called Raymond or “Ravioli") who steadily rowed while proudly imparting information about our surroundings and fun facts about Dominica. I saw wildlife too; several humming birds hard at work, other birds I’d never seen before, a large male iguana sunning in a tree, schools of mullets in the river and several crabs along the shore. Part of this jungle was the setting for Pirates of the Caribbean 2 & 3.
Portsmouth is authentic so it’s idea for tasting Caribbean food and experiencing island culture. The restaurants and roadside snack huts serve tasty “home-cooking”, including rotis which are a favorite of mine. One evening my captain and I had a delicious dinner at Big Papa's Restaurant where I watch them cut up the local catch of the day and it was serves with an assortment of traditional side dishes. For our last evening my new pal Raymond took us on a typical local’s Friday night out where we went from restaurants to snack bars enjoying Kubuli (Dominican brewed beer), reggae sounds and the people of Portsmouth.

See additional photos of Indian River & Portsmouth in the Commonwealth of Dominica.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Prince Rupert Bay, Dominica

We dropped anchor in Prince Rupert Bay, located in the northeast corner of Dominica (pronounced dom-in-EE-ka). It is considered to be Dominica’s best anchorage and conveniently borders the black (volcanic) sand Purple Turtle Beach and the town of Portsmouth.

We showered our salt encrusted bodies and put on dry clean clothes. Life was good again. We carried our tired bodies back on deck to relax while admiring our lush surroundings. Moments later a sea turtle appeared along side us and our smiles widened.

We were gradually greeted by “boat boys” offering their services or products for sale. I found them helpful, but then I always ask questions as if they are the official tourism board, including “where’s the place to be tonight?” In this case they each had the same reply, “Big Papa’s!” (a popular beachside restaurant) because Wednesday’s reggae night.

By 7pm we were struggling to keep awake so we decided to stay in and give the music a miss. Around 10pm I was woken by incredible reggae music (not my favorite music genre) that made me regret not going in to see the band. The longer I listened the more impressed I became so I tried with all my might to climb out of bed but my body refused. So I lay in bed enjoying the sounds. The next morning most of the other boats departed - they had been in the know and were here for reggae night. Later it was confirmed by Big Papa himself that we had missed a great party and some famous people in the crowd (who were on the mega yacht behind us). But I was relived knowing I hadn’t missed one of the world’s best reggae bands– it had been a DJ!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Northbound - Day 1

Despite over 24 uncomfortable wet and windy hours offshore and a few days to spare, my captain ignored my pleas to stop at an island – any island – before reaching Antigua. For the first time in months we were forced to sail close hauled as we work our way windward. This sailor had forgotten just how uncomfortable the sailing life can be. Only one day at sea and yet my soggy body ached as if I’d been soaking in salt water and confined to the cockpit for days. During a moment of silent encouragement when the only positive thought I could muster was at least the water is warm, I heard my captain shout “let’s go dry our knickers” and we changed course for Dominica.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


With the arrival of March and my captains desire to return to New England as soon as possible, it is time to begin our journey north. Thankfully we will be making stops along the way to meet friends who’ve decided to join us for a few days of boat camping. Our first scheduled stop is Antigua but I’ve my fingers crossed and I’m on my best behavior in hopes that my captain will let us visit one of the several islands we sailed past on our southbound passage. I’ll keep you posted.

The Grenada Chocolate Company

For several days I was plagued with a bought of insomnia. It was my clever captain that solved the mystery. My restless nights coincided with my latest caloric addiction, dark chocolate made by The Grenada Chocolate Company.

My pre-arrival research revealed the existence of The Grenada Chocolate Company so upon reaching Grenada I was immediately on the hunt for this intriguing local confection. I soon secured my first 4 oz. bar of organic cocoa goodness and quickly fell into a bar a day habit. They make a 60% and a 71% cocoa chocolate bar – both delicious dark chocolate. My preference changes regularly, often depending on what I am pairing it with or what time of the day I’m savoring. For example, before noon or when eating mango I usually prefer the 60%, yet in the evenings or when drinking red wine (always after noon!) I gravitate to the 71%. But neither will ever disappoint!

While a believer in the health benefits of cocoa and someone who always keeps a stash of good chocolate on hand, I quickly preferred Grenada Chocolate because of its wonderful rich flavor and smoothness. It wasn’t until after the consumption of numerous bars and a trip their cocoa farm in northern Grenada that I learned the other reasons to favor The Grenada Chocolate Company’s chocolate. The company is an environmentally friendly co-operative that ensures all workers are paid fairly while producing organic chocolate from tree to bar in a unique small batch process using solar energy to power their factory.
All this goodness doesn’t come cheap but it’s worth every penny. I’m not the only one impressed. It won the Academy of Chocolate's 2008 Silver Award for the Best Organic Chocolate in the world and before that other aficionados deemed it "the best chocolate in the world".

Due to my unfortunate sensitivity to caffeine I’ve had to put a daily 6pm curfew on my consumption. Sadder yet is that I miscalculated my inventory needs (I’m already unwrapping bars purchased for gifts!) and will be depleted before I’m able to secure another order. Soon I’ll be forced to make due with those other chocolates for a while.
If you get to Grenada, take the time to travel to the lush rainforest area of St Patrick’s parish to visit the Belmont Estate and take a tour to learn how chocolate is made from tree to package at The Grenada Chocolate Company. If you can’t make it to Grenada, treat yourself or someone you love to their chocolate.

Additional photos taken at the Belmont Estate of The Grenada Chocolate Company can be viewed at

Getting to Know Grenada

I’ve been exploring more of this 12 x 21 mile island known as the Isle of Spice, because it has more spices per square mile than any other place on the planet and has long been a major source of nutmeg, mace, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, turmeric and cocoa. Grenadan's call nutmeg "black gold" because it's their #1 export crop and it's two spices in one - nutmeg & mace.

Grenada recently celebrated 34 years of independence with great enthusiasm evident by the remaining waving flags and national colors of green, red and gold painted on just about any and everything throughout the island. The green stands for her lush vegetation, the red for her past history of struggle and conflict, and the gold for her sunshine.

Grenada has picturesque mountains, tropical flowers, beaches, waterfalls, lush rainforests, and crater lakes. But it was not Grenada's physical beauty that impressed me most but rather her rich history and current living cultural heritage.

A couple of interesting facts:
- 65% of Grenadan's are under 25-years of age.
- China built Grenada's new cricket stadium and continues to invest in the island with laborers, money and commitments for additional building projects.

Top photo shown is the Grenada Dove. Additional photos of Grenada can be viewed at