It has been a while since I last posted a blog so there’s a bit of catching up to do! We had an enjoyable passage from Deshaies, Guadeloupe to Antigua in sunshine with wind on the beam and boat speed (over ground) ranging from an exhilarating 8 1/2 knots initially and down to 4 1/2 but mostly around 6 knots … and even a few dolphins for company along the way. It seemed to be a popular day for traversing between Guadeloupe and Antigua, judging by the number of other yachts we saw along the way. We anchored in Falmouth Harbor, a huge natural harbor around 3:30 in the afternoon but by the time we were satisfied that the anchor was firmly set, had got ourselves ashore, walked the short distance over to English Harbor, we were too late to check in and would have to return in the morning. So, we had time to walk around Nelson’s Dockyard and drool over some of the beautiful yachts berthed there, and learn more about the Tallisker Whiskey Atlantic Rowing Challenge, while viewing one of the solo rowing boats that participated last year and another about 10 years ago (new technology makes a difference; lighter and faster). The restored buildings bustle today though many in a different manner (e.g. restaurants, customs & immigration, a museum, boutiques, technical yacht services, etc.) from that when they were originally built. It is an interesting place, a UNESCO heritage site, with lots of opportunity to learn more about Nelson and the period when the dockyard was constructed. It also attracts large numbers of tourists from cruise ships, so best seen when they are not around.  We liked The Skullduggery cafe in Falmouth Harbor, and found their marketing board tres courant.

The next couple of days were spent trying to resolve a few issues with the boat that had developed recently, as well as do our laundry and a bit of provisioning in preparation for Cheryll and John’s arrival on the 27th. Howard replaced the hoses on one of the forward heads (never a fun job) and procured the parts to do the same on the second forward head, which John later more than paid for his passage with us by taking the lead in installing, what a Hero! We looked into replacing the wind vane but in the end didn’t proceed to do it in favor of purchasing the parts when we would be back in the US.

We enjoyed several relaxing days after Cheryll and John arrived exploring a little of the west coast of Antigua, including Jolly Harbor (which was much more “us” than Falmouth and English Harbours where the boats averaged about twice our size), Five Islands, Deep Bay and St John’s. We met up with about 7 other OCC boats in Jolly Harbor and later celebrated Howard’s 65th birthday there, both of which were a lot of fun. However, we feel there are many more lovely anchorages in Antigua that we didn’t have time to explore this time. It is much less mountainous than many of the islands we have been visiting and has many more shallow reef areas off its shores which is why the eastern side of the island has so many anchorages, even though it is on the windward side of the island.

The passage to St Barths was about 75 n. miles, so we decided it would be best to leave in the dark to assure that we would arrive in daylight. Consequently we departed Jolly Harbor around 10 pm on February 1st. The forecast was for Easterly winds 17-22 knots gusting 28 knots so we set off under reefed genoa only, for the downwind passage. The seas were a bit lumpy and there was no moon so perhaps not the easiest of adjustments to offshore passage-making for our crew. We stood 3 hour watches, Howard and Cheryll on first followed by John and I on next. Shortly after 10 am the following morning we picked up a mooring off Gustavia, St Barths, which we later found out was privately owned but fortunately the owner was not in evidence during our stay so we weren’t ousted from it. We only stayed one night so Gustavia was all we had time to explore. It is an interesting place for the wealthy to shop; all we could consider was perhaps buying a T-shirt, but alas the shops were closed by then.

Next morning we set off for St Maarten and had a really lovely stop for lunch at Isle Fourche, along the way. It is protected as it is part of the St Barths marine park system, so moorings are provided. We saw more turtles there than anywhere else to date. In fact we think we were moored over a family of turtles because we saw big ones and little ones from the boat and Cheryll, while she was using the SubWing near the boat, saw what she thought was a family. The snorkeling was good according to Cheryll, John and Howard but I enjoyed scrambling up over the hill to see the view on the other side. Vegetation is slowly making a come-back since the goats ate themselves out of house and home and were removed from the island about 10 years ago. Thankfully we had quite a fast passage from there to Simpson Bay on St Maarten enabling us to make the 3:00pm bridge opening into the lagoon where we anchored.

We ended up staying in St Maarten a little longer than expected, mainly because, having done a bit of research on Saturday, we decided to replace the 7 ‘house’ batteries with 8 6-volt golf cart batteries but had to wait until Monday to install them. Meanwhile we managed to have some fun celebrating a birthday for Cheryll and John’s friend, Angie, (with whom they would stay the following week), enjoying some excellent beach time with her and also knocking off the final head hose replacement project. John was such a fantastic help to Howard with both of these projects which he most likely would not have tackled back-to-back like that.

Now we had to beetle back to the USVI ASAP in time to host a boatload of young lads who were gathering for Scott’s bachelor party. We, H&H, departed St. Maarten for Red Hook, St. Thomas, USVI, a 102 nm passage, following the 08:30 bridge opening Tuesday morning. With the wind way aft the beam the trip to the USVI was made under genoa alone. The only exciting piece was finding a safe passage, in the dark, through the southern islands of the BVI into the Sir Francis Drake Channel. We reached Francis Bay, USVI, about 00:20 the following morning, allowing us one day to prepare for the onslaught……