We’ve been waiting for the weather to clear up in Les Saintes for a few weeks. It is a terrible imposition to be stuck in such a lovely bit of paradise. The wind is howling at night and getting into town has been quite rough at times, but the snorkeling continues to be fantastic and our spot at Ille Cabrit is well protected from the seas. We were sad that we didn’t notice the arrival of our friends on Horizon the night before we departed, but we were able to say a quick hello as they scrambled to haul up their anchor and grab the mooring ball we had just vacated.
The forecast, as always, was less than accurate. We were supposed to have a 2 to 3 day respite from the prevailing easterly 25 kt winds of the past few weeks, but the gap between Les Saintes and Guadeloupe was quite bouncy with sustained 25 kt winds and 6-8 ft seas. Fortunately we were taking them on the starboard quarter and with the jib up we made a good 8 kts and turned the corner into the lee of the island in no time. The boys had a blast rolling back and forth in the aft berth as things rearranged themselves in the saloon. Once in the lee of Guadeloupe the seas calmed down considerably with just a little bit of chop and variable winds. We dropped anchor for the night in Deshaies on the northwest side of Guadeloupe. It was fairly crowded, but we had a chance to catch up with s/v Mynx whom we’d met in Grenada. We conferred about the weather, and they planned to leave in two days, but we decided to go ahead and follow the fleet out in the morning which turned out to be a bad idea.
The favorable forecast continues to be incorrect. Once we were out of the lee of Guadeloupe and heading north to Antigua, the seas increased to 10-12 feet on the beam with sustained 25-30 kt easterly winds. With a heading of 020, we were able to have a slightly more comfortable sail while still filling the jib and fighting the current that tried to pull us to the west. The occasionally breaking seas would sometimes crash on the bow and send torrents of water into the cockpit and up the lower quarter of the jib. By the time we reached Antigua, everyone had suffered through a bout of seasickness and the entire cockpit was covered in a thick layer of salt. The line for the roller furler snapped and had to be temporarily spliced as we arrived in port so that we could bring the jib in without having to drop it to the deck. We made 3 unsuccessful attempts to anchor off of the beach at the entrance to the harbor before giving up and grabbing a mooring ball.
We stayed in Falmouth for a few nights before deciding to head around to the west end of the island and get in a little shore power time at Jolly Harbour marina. The location of the marina provides better protection from the winds which look to continue for at least another week. We have nothing but good things to say about the marina itself. They are one of the rare marinas that actually answer the VHF when you call and their staff was professional and friendly. The wifi was intermittent, but it worked well on our last two days in the slip. With direct access to Budget Marine and a decent grocery store, this is an excellent spot for provisioning. Unfortunately the restaurants surrounding the marina take turns playing exceptionally loud music nearly every night of the week. They turn things down around 11, but karaoke night was particularly intolerable.
After completing our school week, we rented a car for a few days to explore the island. We considered checking out a place called Stingray City, but they wanted about $200 for us to spend one hour snorkeling with their stingrays which we considered to be exorbitantly expensive considering that we snorkel off the back of our boat for free whenever we like. Instead, we visited Devil’s Bridge and Hawksbill beach on the first day. Devil’s Bridge is a natural bridge carved out by the sea on the eastern end of the island. The kids had a great time running around on the stony point as the waves crashed on the rocks below sending spray all over the place. Hawksbill beach was relatively unpopulated, especially for a Sunday. It is located southwest of St. Johns and has convenient parking next to a small resort. There were some great waves crashing right on the beach and the kids had a blast getting rolled around and tossed up on the sand. There was a less bouncy spot towards the northern end of the beach where families with smaller children played.
On the second day we went over to check out the Donkey Sanctuary. It is a bit hard to find, but they have signs up at nearly every intersection in the area if you look hard for them. Apparently Antigua is home to several hundred donkeys, and about 170 are currently kept at the sanctuary. We all enjoyed spending some time with them. The guide provided brushes so the kids could help brush down the donkeys. While the tour is absolutely free, we bought some shirts and left a donation towards helping support the donkeys. These guys are a class act.
After visiting the Donkey Sanctuary, we went to Betty’s Hope Plantation. It sports a small museum that was nearly free and provides some great information about the history of the islands and the old sugar plantations. The old windmills from the plantations are scattered all over the island. Unfortunately monoculture tends to be a bad thing and the island had some serious economic troubles when the market for sugar declined.
We wrapped up with a trip into St. Johns (a.k.a. Thah Citaaay). We stopped at Alligator’s for lunch which was average. The Best of Books Bookstore is an absolute gem of the Caribbean. It has several thousand books ranging across all genres and even a decent used book section. We scored some great kids books which will really help out as Duncan has just finished reading all of the Magic Treehouse series that we have onboard. Captain Crunch also took the opportunity to stock up as we haven’t been able to find a good book store for English readers in months and the books available at book swaps tend to focus a bit much on nautical and spy novels. We made a brief stop at the gelato shop just down the street before dragging our exhausted children home for a good night’s sleep.