Sunday, February 28, 2016


North of Antigua, about 30 miles, lies the other half of this double-island nation:  Barbuda.  Unlike Antigua, Barbuda is a sparsely populated (approx. 2000), low-lying island with more donkeys than people and miles of uninterrupted, uninhabited beaches.  There is a small town called Codrington where most people live on the eastern shore of a large, protected lagoon and the island's biggest claim to fame and most visited site is the Frigate bird sanctuary hidden away in the mangroves of the lagoon.

We headed out of Deep Bay and turned almost exactly due north for the 6-hour sail to Barbuda.  We had patiently waited for the seas and wind to make an agreeable ride so it was delightful to switch off the engines and sail without incident or change of course all the way to Low Bay on the west shore of Barbuda.

Along the way Wild Cat passed us (being a much bigger, faster boat) and we were able to have a little mid-passage photo op.  I love these pictures with the big fluffy clouds!

Wild Cat zoomed past us.

Reefed for the gusts to the mid twenties, Mowzer was happily making way at 6-7 knots.

Left in Wild Cat's dust - but still happy with our progress.  The seas were relatively flat but this shows that the waves were still around 4-5'.

On Barbuda, Low Bay is a large bay, about half of which is accessible by boat, the north half being too dangerous with coral heads and reefs.  The entire bay is fringed by a 17-mile long beach on a narrow spit of land that separates the inner lagoon from the sea.  On occasion in the past there have been inlets through the sand spit created by hurricane activity, but the wind and ocean waves have filled in those inlets.  This means that there is no easy dinghy access to Codrington and even if you did pull your dinghy over the spit, it would be a wet 3-mile ride straight into wave and wind to get there.  The much easier solution is to use a local water taxi.

Saturday morning we called up the local well-known tour guide and made arrangements with his sister for an afternoon trip to see the Frigate birds.  Our tour guide was out lobstering and apparently didn't get the message so Pat, one of the water taxi drivers, took us out instead.  He was very knowledgable about the Frigate birds and gave us lots of info and good views of the birds.  We had to zip over the Codrington first to pay the $2usd park fee and then the ride up to the sanctuary and the tour was only $14usd each.  It is strange working in US dollars again after all this time with Euros and Caribbean dollars, and ECs are accepted here, but everything touristy is quoted in USD.  You have to be careful to make sure you know which currency you are working in to avoid misunderstandings.

The Frigate Bird Sanctuary is well worth the visit, and especially if you can go at this time of year (or even a little bit earlier) as it is mating time.  After May, it would not be nearly as interesting as the males would not be on display and the females and chicks would be out hunting more than likely.  The rookery on Barbuda rivals the one on the Galapagos, with each one being touted as the biggest.  Regardless, it was amazing to see thousands of birds wheeling in the air overhead and perched in the delicate mangrove branches just above the water of the lagoon.

The males are equipped with a large red sack on their throat that they inflate to attract the white chested (black headed) females.  Any bird with a white head is immature and therefore not considered as a potential mate.

A quick ride in the water taxi with Pat took us to the sanctuary.

The first birds we saw were young pelicans.  It's amazing to see these big web-footed birds perched in the branches.

A whole group of immature brown pelicans in the trees.
We then moved on to the main rookery full of Frigate birds.  Also known as Man-O-War birds, Weather birds and Robber Birds - all of which describe their various behaviours.

Like a wattle, this male's red sack is deflated on his chest.

The piercing stare of a young bird.  Until maturity it is difficult to tell males from females.

Glimpses of red in the bushes

And finally, a fully inflated male.  It's amazing they don't pierce themselves with that wicked beak.

A young chick barely out of the fuzzy stage.

This male finally attracted a female who landed beside him at his chosen nesting site.

Getting a little more friendly!

Frigate birds have no oil sacks to waterproof their feathers.  If they get wet, they have to dry out, and if they land in the water they have to get out immediately or they will drown.

Another male working hard to attract a mate.

Lots of chicks have already hatched.

Where's mom??

Proud parents with their ball of fluff.

Females only have one chick so the one of the left is patiently awaiting it's mother's return.

Dudes with cool 'do's!
Next up on Barbuda - more exploration around the southern coast and some time ashore.

Antigua Circumnavigation

After all the fun and games in Falmouth we were ready to move on back around the corner and up to Jolly Bay to complete our full circumnavigation of the island of Antigua.  I feel that we could go all the way around again and find completely different places to anchor for a completely different experience, but time ticks on and we hope to get to St. Martin before too much longer ...

Keeping company with Wild Cat and Tempo has involved a busy social scene - not that we weren't busy before, but the shenanigans have continued.  Thanks to Jan on Wild Cat for these photos that capture just a quick take on some of the fun.

We headed up to Deep Bay since it had been quite comfortable previously in a north swell when we were there with Brita and Jason (we miss you guys!!)  Joined by Bob and Gigi from Pinnacle (Montreal) we found time for another sunset visit to Fort Barrington and to watch the cruise ships exit St. John's.  We marked the first of a number of consecutive green flash sunsets from the windy heights!

George, Henry, Catherine, Bob, Gigi, Jackie, Dave - and Jan took the photo.

That's one kind of green flash, but not the same as the one we saw just a few minutes later as the sun settled below the horizon.
 Jan and George organized a 'rum tasting' party as well - we all bought our best (or worst) bottles of rum and then Jan provided us with blind tastes that we carefully noted.  We were all pretty good at picking out the older, smoother rums but it was interesting what counted as each person's least favourite.  A big surprise to us was where Foxy's Firewater placed in the finals.  This was a bottle that we had 'won' at the Foxy's Cat Fight race over a year ago but had not yet opened.  It was surprisingly good - or perhaps we had enough other really bad rums that it fared well in comparison.

Final ranking of best, second best and worst was:

  • #1:  Eldorado 15 years
  • #2:  Eldorado 12 years
  • Last:  Pere Labat 59

Getting ready for our first taste.
Once we had diligently ranked the rums we were all ready for a new game - this one was called Butt-Darts.  I'm actually not going to explain it other than to say it involved a coin, clenched butts and a red solo cup.  We ended up with a tie after three rounds so Bob and I had a play down - and apparently I have found a new calling:  Butt-Dart Champion of Deep Bay!

A coin, clenched butts and a red solo cup.  Honest the stick in my hand has nothing to do with the game.
With that it is now time to move on to Barbuda and we will continue in the company of Wild Cat and Tempo.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

RORC 600 - What a View

The RORC 600 set off from Falmouth yesterday morning and we hiked up above English Harbour for  a fabulous view of the start line.

This race of 600 nautical miles takes just two to three days for these boats to complete and sees them on a winding tour of the north-eastern Caribbean.

The guys who win this race will travel at average speeds over 20 knots!

There were four starts - the first group was the largest and consisted of your average racing sailboat.  Lots of crew onboard with grinders built like football players, these were the guys that partied it up on Saturday night with a day of recovery before the real fun began here on Monday morning.

One of these boats is not like the others.  Comanchee was just warming up as the first race started.

Spectator boats and helicopters had the best views of the day.
The second start was for the really big boys and canting keels.  All high-tech sails; even across the distance we could hear the winches grinding and the lines creaking.

As George called it - looking like a murder of crows.

All struggling to hold position as the start line quickly approached.

Team Brunel placed first on the ARC - here they may be a little outsized.

Just over the start line and the fleet already starts to spread out.

Tacking to catch more wind - like frogger trying to cross the highway.

Third start was for the cruising class - just two boats in this one, and boy was this one a beauty.  We'd been watching them tack back and forth behind the start line while the other classes stared, quite something to behold when a three-masted schooner makes quick tacks and manoeuvres.

Sunlit sails and the beauty of this boat makes you forget that they're actually in a race.

The fourth and final class was the multi-hulls, including two wickedly fast trimarans who had match raced across the Atlantic.  Phaedo3 and Concise put on a speedster show as they ran for the start line, with everyone else scattering out of their way.

Cat in the middle!

Phaedo3 had starboard advantage and Concise ducked behind.

Well before the start line and the race is one!

These guys can really fly.

Concise was picking up spray from Phaedo3.

The gap momentarily widened just before the start line.

The schooner went off on a tack from their start 10 minutes before and the cats & trimarans quickly outpaced them.
These guys will be back in Antigua lickety-split for sure.  Checking on the tracking page on the website, these two are already down around Guadeloupe just 24 hours after their start and the rest of the race is still circling Anguilla.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Onwards to the South Shore

We wrapped up our time in Nonsuch Bay where we said goodbye to Blue Moon as they are making tracks to St. Martin, and then with a visit to Harmony Hall over on the southwest corner of the Bay.  An old sugar mill has been converted into a bar and local yacht club and along with an art gallery and wonderful little restaurant we treated ourselves to lunch out after a record number of zero-dollar days sitting on the hook in eastern Antigua.

We joined Livin' Life and Slow Dancing and we checked out the grounds before settling into a delicious lunch and then an afternoon lounging by the pool.  I think this is the life most people think we live on a daily basis but believe me when I say it was a real treat for us!

We passed Leander (the motor yacht) on our ride over.  The sailboat tethered to the back of the yacht is probably 35' - just a little toy for the big boys!
All the amenities are covered - what a delightful place.
Harmony Hall Yacht Club - complete with free rum tastings.
Our lunch table awaited under the canopy.

A delicious meal and just look at the view out over the bay!
Post lunch lazing by the pool
More lazing in the delightfully cool shade.
With reluctance we finally tore ourselves away and back to the boats having thoroughly enjoyed the day.

On Thursday we had finally eaten our way through most of our provisions so we headed along the south shore of Antigua, continuing our clockwise circumnavigation, and arrived at Falmouth Harbour where we dropped anchor.

As we entered the harbour and drove past the docks we ogled the big boys who are here to race in the RORC 600 which heads out on Monday.  These are serious racing machines with high-tech sails that are worth more than our entire boat!  Sailing however is a completely inclusive pastime and mariners of all stripes are welcomed ashore and along the docks, and it seems that we all end up eating in the same little restaurants.  Just some of us don't come with matching polo shirts.

Nero and Athena anchored next to each other.

Phaedo3, a trimaran, crossed the Atlantic in the RORC Transatlantic Race averaging 28.3 knots and maxed out at 678 miles in one day!!  We're happy to toddle along at 6 knots :-)

Lots of beautiful motor yachts at the dock but I would say that this is not one of them.  Who would name their boat SKAT??

Another glimpse of Phaedo3.  The mast rake is controlled from the decks to improve their performance.

After wandering round the docks we set out on a few exploration walks around Falmouth and Nelson's Dockyard.  When we were here last June we were only able to visit briefly by bus but staying in this anchorage puts you smack-dab on the doorstep of nautical history that goes back to the 1600s.

We did one hike around the end of Falmouth Bay and ended up at Papa's for lunch with Janice and Dave.  We did another late afternoon hike where we reunited with Dave and Jackie on Tempo and met George from Wildcat, up from Pigeon Beach and over the ridge to Fort Berkley and then back through Nelson's Dockyard.

Finally this morning with George and Dave, we did the longer hike up to Shirley Heights, an old fort that sits high up on the hill above the eastern approaches to English Harbour.

Not your usual mode of transportation, but if you pick a short donkey it makes it easier to get on.

It was a hot, seemingly never-ending walk just "around the corner" but we eventually made it to Papa's.

Deep and comfortable Falmouth Harbour - all our boats are anchored out there, dwarfed by the tall masts of the boats at the dock.  Some of them are so tall they have to have a red light at night for aircraft warning.

Jackie and Henry enjoying the views at the top of the hill.

As we hiked along the ridge we passed the ongoing construction of Eric Clapton's latest abode.

Looking down on the entrance to English Harbour, Fort Berkley in the foreground and Shirley Heights at the top of the hill on the other side of the bay.

George, Dave, Henry & Jackie pointing the way back home, I think...

There - evidence I was there too!

We scrambled down the hill to Fort Berkley where we took a look at the powder magazine and guard house dating back to the 1700s.

We walked up the road to Shirley's Heights but found this trail that led down to Galleon Beach.  Not sure who Desmond is/was but the trail up to Shirley's Heights from Galleon Beach would be a good workout. 

The views from Shirley's Heights are stunning, capturing English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard in the foreground and Falmouth Harbour in the distance.  We could see all the way across Antigua to the north shore from up here.
This area of Antigua is a little like sitting on a resort in that the feeling is quite different from the rest of the country.  Between the massive boats, the constant activity with their crews running to and fro, and then partying into the evenings and the beauty of the historic surroundings, its a bit of a rarified atmosphere.

It is time however for us to push on back around the island and prepare for a completely different place.  We're off to Barbuda as the weather permits later this week which promises to be a completely different experience.