Simon’s brother, Roger joined us for (almost) three weeks timed to celebrate Simon’s 65th birthday with us. Together we had some great sailing, some well deserved liming and awesome fresh fish dinners (thanks Rog!). Our fishing rod lost its virginity at last, the blue enseign was hoisted and this year, thanks to Roger, we got to know some great new places in Antigua and had some wonderful treats.
Rodney Bay to Martinique
Roger was one of our crew who helped us to bring the Princess across the Atlantic when we participated in the 2018 ARC plus rally. This rally leaves from Gran Canaria and finishes in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia where Roger left the boat to fly home after spending some time on vacation here. It was funny to meet him in Rodney Bay marina again where we had said goodbye over a year ago! As we were having work done (the heat exchanger needed replacing) the marina was the logical place to kill two birds with one stone, pick up Roger and get the work done on our generator. He quickly got to grips with helping us do some maintenance before we set sail for Martinique. That must have seemed very familiar as well… our Atlantic passage involved plenty of preparation, fixing and provisioning! Luckily this time round the prep was far shorter and we managed to leave the marina for Martinique only two days after his arrival. Our first sail over to Sainte Anne, Martinique was a beat but an exhilarating one in 25 to 30 knots with enough east in the wind to allow us to reach Sainte Anne on one tack. The occasional splash into the cockpit kept us on our toes.
A (little) week in Martinique
One of the first jobs that Roger did was to repair the blue ensign which had got tattered in the wind (with a little help from the first mate on her new sewing machine) . This blue flag is flown by boats which are members of a Royal Yacht Club or serving members of the Navy. In fact it was Roger who had done the administrative work to get the warrant for this flag as a surprise for Simon when he first bought the boat. Both Simon and Roger are members of the RNVR yacht club thanks to their father who was a submarine officer during the second world war. The flag is a nice way to remember their lovely father, Ronnie and to take him with us on our travels.
After spending a couple of days in Sainte Anne (le shopping c’est important) we sailed north to one of our favourite, more chilled anchorages. Anse d’Arlet was more popular in February than in June, unsurprisingly, and we demonstrated that even with a year of experience of living on the hook it can take seasoned cruisers a few attempts before getting it right (fourth time lucky no less!). We spent a couple of days enjoying some of the simple pleasures of life on the hook; catching up with friends who were passing through or made a little detour to come and see us (fair winds to Franz on Aton and Casia and Marcin on White Dog), doing a couple of little jobs on board, going for a swim and at sunset watching the local fishermen at work. They have a mysterious method which involves throwing something (wood, sugar cane?) into the water which seems to attract the fish and then circling with a net which they pull in. When I asked them to explain what they were doing one of the men wordlessly held up a fish. OK… ’nuff said! The man was busy…
It wasn’t long before our own fishing rod (now upgraded with the new generation reel that Roger bought in Le Marin) came up trumps. Roger’s first catch was during our sail north to Saint Pierre in the north of Martinique. A good sized barracuda. I am used to seeing these fish under the water and had read that they have prehistoric teeth… as simple as they come. A mouth full of needles. I can confirm it’s true and am now a little more circumspect when I find one under the hull! A little further south and we would have dined on barracuda (after all, I have eaten home cooked barracuda before and it is delicious). This guy has ciguatera to thank for getting thrown back into the ocean!
We then sailed north to Les Saintes, the small islands that lie just south of Guadeloupe and are part of Guadeloupe. We left Saint Pierre in the north of Martinique just before sunset to arrive at daybreak in Les Saintes. This sail had plenty of action; we started with champagne sailing in the
lee of Martinique with nice, smooth water to find swell on the beam and feisty conditions between
Martinique and Domenica with occasional gusts exceeding 40 knots, to have the proverbial ‘up and down like a tart’s knickers’ conditions along the coast of Domenica. It certainly kept the Coates-Walker brothers occupied with constant sail trim adapting to everything from gale force winds to no wind. The gusts occasionally got me out of bed as well. (Well, I thought I would leave them to it… they looked as if they were having fun!). We had beautiful moonlight all the way, squalls, lulls and everything in between and a gorgeous rainbow to welcome us when we arrived.
Les Saintes and Guadeloupe
Bourg les Saintes was a little livelier than when we were last there (again, in June). It is one of those places that is always a pleasure to revisit and to explore in a little more detail. I discovered a beach just opposite the Pain de Sucre bay where the chickens outnumber the hipsters (Anse Crawen) and we all enjoyed a sun downer drink at the Hôtel Bois Joli which looks over this bay. A good tip if you have a nice dinghy; anchor just outside the restricted area to avoid paying for mooring buoys and use the hotel for a game of pool and a nice beer to get good pics of your boat anchored in the bay.
After les Saintes we found ourselves retracing the route that we had made the year before with Rob and Sally and headed for Malendure on the west coast of Guadeloupe. The highlight of this trip was when Roger caught a beautiful (and perfectly sized) black fin tuna. That night we feasted on the first fish caught on board since we had crossed that Atlantic. Delish!
This is an opportunity for snorkelling and more stocking up with French provisions, naturellement. The Jacques Cousteau marine park is always a pleasure. You can never have too many pics of the fabulous parrot fish even if these underwater pics do not do credit to their wonderful colours.
After Malendure there is the inevitable stop in windy Deshaies. We had two nights here, both eventful. The first night we were lucky enough to see the town in carnival mood. The little carnival was a little late and admittedly was a small one, but what it lacked in size it made up for in energy. It was great to see the town in festive atmosphere with families and tourists alike lining the streets.
We had a windy weekend in Deshaies with the fierce gusts that make this pretty, little anchorage so famous (or infamous) among cruisers. While dinghying back to the boat from town, Simon and I came across an OVNI that was dragging in the
storm force gusts that were barreling down the hillside. Roger later told us that he had seen our wind instruments show a gust of 60 knots! The OVNI had dragged onto the bow of a catamaran (neither boat had any crew on board) and was pinned against it. It eventually drifted free of the cat and then started dragging slowly towards the super yacht behind it, happily missing it narrowly. After managing to get on board Simon, along with a couple of other intrepid cruisers, cut the snubber and then managed to let out enough extra anchor chain to bring the boat to a halt before we all found ourselves out at sea. The owners arrived shortly afterwards and brought the boat safely back into the anchorage where many cruisers applauded our return, which was nice! Deshaies strikes again!
Birthday treats in Antigua.
I had said to Roger jokingly that after the barracuda and the tuna, only a mahi mahi would make it onto the blog. He didn’t disappoint with a huge Mahi mahi caught on route between Guadeloupe and Antigua.
There was, of course, tons of fish. So once we’d arrived and anchored up outside Jolly Harbour, Roger called his friend, Glenn and arranged to meet him for a drink with a couple of bags full of filleted mahi mahi for his family. We dined like kings that night with the fish that Roger caught, filleted and cooked for us! The start of a week of Antiguan birthday treats that I got to share as well. Thanks Rog!
Roger has been coming to Antigua for many years and knows the island extremely well. Thanks to him, we discovered some new places, met some lovely people and saw a new side to the island. The first of the birthday treats (which I got to share as well) was a wonderful massage from Roger’s favourite masseuse, a lady called Bernice who is an old hand at it (sorry, couldn’t resist) having done massages in Antigua for 28 years. This was my first ever massage and the perfect gift for a cruiser. I hadn’t realised how knotty those back muscles were from all that work carrying heavy bags of shopping on and off the dinghy. I think the smile on my face speaks for itself. For an evening at least, I felt a wonderful glow all over. Simon agreed that the hour went by all too quickly. We can heartily recommend her.
Although this was our fourth time in Antigua on the Princess we had only visited Jolly Harbour, Falmouth and English harbour before. Roger took us to Deep Bay just north of Jolly Harbour, where there is the very well preserved wreck of the Andes and the wonderful Fort Barrington with (unsurprisingly) fantastic views over the bay as well as to St John behind. It is quite a sight to see the enormous cruise ships pass by between the gap in the rocks from the cosy anchorage where a handful of yachts were moored or on the hook.
Lobster lunch at Bird Island
We then made it north to Bird Island where Roger’s friend, Glenn, organises lobster lunches on the beach. Can you believe that I had my first Caribbean lobster barbecue after more than a year of living on a boat in the Caribbean? About time! This was a wonderful treat, a very striking part of Antigua with an unexpectedly off-grid feel (only one other boat was anchored up in front of the island) and definitely a place I would like to revisit and stay a night at anchor. Again… the smile on my face speaks volumes!
We said goodbye to Roger on the evening of Simon’s birthday after a final treat; lunch at Melini’s in Jolly Harbour, where we got to have a drink with fellow cruisers, Thui and Casper from Shalom who we had met while checking in. Spoiled right to the last minute! Looking back on the three weeks together we had some fine adventures, some firsts, some cracking sailing and some epic moments. We picked Roger up in the marina where we had arrived after crossing the Atlantic and dropped him off on the beach where he has had so many great holidays and has so many memories. To quote one of my favourite books (the Hitchhiker’s guide to the Galaxy) “So long… and thanks for all the fish!”