Greetings from the Leeward Islands! Greetings also from the Lesser Antilles! With multiple countries staking colonial claims over hundreds of years, Caribbean nomenclature can be a bit confusing. One name for the island chain that runs from Cuba to Trinidad is the Antilles. The mostly larger islands that run west to east; Cuba, Hispaniola (Haiti and the Dominican Republic), and Puerto Rico, as well as the relatively tiny Virgin Islands; are referred to as the “Greater” Antilles. The much smaller islands east of the Anegada Passage that run roughly north to south are known as the “Lesser” Antilles. The Lesser Antilles are further broken into two groups: the Leeward Islands to the north and the Windward Islands to the south.
All this by way of saying that, now that we’re among the “Lesser” islands, the crew of S/V Delancey has visited three countries in two weeks! We last touched base just prior to leaving St. Martin where we’d been playing with cruising buddies Lauren and Brian aboard S/V Nightingale Tune. We capped our time in St. Martin with a bus ride to Grand Case, a beach town lined with excellent restaurants where we ate well and strolled along the strand.
Before departing St. Martin, we had one more boat project to attend to. I mentioned in the previous post in my multi-pronged effort to avoid dinghy theft (a not-uncommon problem in the Leewards and Windwards). We’d already invested in multiple locks, chains, and cables, as well as painted the outboard to give it as much “personality” as possible. We knew that the best practice for dinghy security is to hoist it up out of the water every night. It’s a lot harder to cut away unnoticed when the dink is six feet up in the air. Unfortunately, our davits (the cranes that extend off the stern of the boat) aren’t rigged to handle the weight of the dink and the outboard (about 200 lbs total, most at the dink’s stern). We solved the first problem by replacing the old 4:1 purchase blocks (pullys) with new smooth-running 6:1 purchase blocks. Now we could at least lift the dink/outboard without getting a hernia. The first test hoist was a marked improvement, but as soon as we got everything in the air we could see the davits flexing with each wavelet that slapped the hull. Before the wake from a passing boat completely tore out our stern rail, we lowered the dink back into the water and got to thinking. We saw where we could add a compression strut to one davit to carry the extra load of the outboard. Now all that remained was to find the parts and fabricate it. St. Martin/St. Maarten is a boat-friendly island with multiple well-stocked chandleries, pretty much all of which I had to visit before I’d collected everything I needed to cobble together our strut.
After a sunny afternoon’s labor, voila! We now haul up the dink/outboard every evening, easy-peasy. In addition to thwarting theft, this practice keeps the dinghy’s bottom clean (and helps us sleep easier).
Speaking of the dink, around this time Deb took her first solo flight! She’d previously had a difficult time starting the outboard but better maintenance on my part and daily use have made for an easier pull and now she’s zooming off on the regular.
Shortly thereafter, S/V Delancey and S/V Nightingale Tune hoisted anchor and set off sail to Anguilla. Not 10-miles north of St. Martin, Anguilla, a former British colony, is a long, low island fringed with stunning crescent beaches.
After anchoring in Road Bay and checking in with Customs and Immigration, the two crews spent a day exploring the local beach bars.
The next day we rented a car (I took the pilot’s seat, always embracing any opportunity to drive on the wrong side of the road). We covered the entire island, stopping at and “testing” every beach.
I know it sounds ridiculous to the reader at home, but these few days in St. Martin and Anguilla have been the most “vacation-y” of everything we’ve done on this trip.
All the while we’d been monitoring an anomalous weather pattern that was forecast to hit our region in the next few days: a cold front from the north was going to create an unheard-of northerly swell approaching 10 feet high with 20-25 knot winds. The winds we could handle, the seas not so much. Our original plan was to make a leisurely passage south, stopping at St. Barts, St. Kitts, and Nevis on our way to Antigua, where we’ve friends visiting. Rather than wait for the seas to lay back down to something manageable, putting us in danger of missing our Antigua connection, we chose to beat the weather and leave now. With the short notice that cruising friends have all come to accept, we bade farewell to S/V Nightingale Tune and, after one evening on a park mooring in tiny Ile Fourchue, just a speck north of St. Barts, we made for Antigua.
INTERLUDE: Here is a short-but-charming video of Lucy drinking water. Lucy is weird. And spoiled.
We set out in the morning, sailing south past the megayachts anchored off St. Barts, and on to St. Kitts.
Given the impending forecast and the wish to not find ourselves in big seas overnight, we motorsailed in the protected lee of St. Kitts and Nevis. By sunset we’d turned east, still motorsailing, for the overnight to Antigua.
In Antigua we quickly met up with our friends Jack and Susan. Born in Antigua, Jack has been dockmaster at our home marina for nearly 20 years. Every January, he and Susan leave their East Village apartment to visit the island and add a month’s labor to the house they’ve been building for the past 10 years or so.
Now fully enclosed, the house is nearing completion and promises to be wonderful, not only for its comfortable layout but also its stunning roof deck views, from which you can see all the way to Monserrat.
During our stay, Jack and Susan played enthusiastic hosts and tireless tour guides, taking us to visit Potswork Dam Park with the ruins of its 1890s British water control system, exploding seas at Devil’s Bridge Park on the rough eastern shore, and the hilltop views of English and Falmouth Harbors from Shirley Heights.
Later, we drove up to the capitol, St. Johns, to tour the markets and enjoy the finest roti we’ve ever had.
More than showing us around, Jack and Susan included us in their social world, inviting us along a weekly Seafood Friday dinner at Nelson’s Dockyard, as well as for their regular beach Sunday with friends. Everybody’s contributions to the pot-luck lunch (including our Bahamian mac and cheese), ample rosé, and Jack and Susan’s generous friends made for a lovely low-key day.
Left to our own devices, we returned to Nelson’s Dockyard. Located in English Harbor, the dockyard was run by Admiral Lord Nelson in the 1780s. Having fallen into disrepair after the age of sail, it was restored in the 1950s and is now a UNESCO Heritage Site with resorts, hotels, restaurants, shops, and a (very exclusive) marina, as well a museum, tucked into its reconstructed historic buildings. Deb and I, suckers for all things in the Aubrey/Maturin and Hornblower lines, scoured the dockyard museum (and had a beer at the bar).
And after all that, we’re ready to get on the move again! The next couple of days should see us take on fuel and water and head south to Guadaloupe, like St. Martin, part of France. Good thing too. We’re running low on paté.