At the request of ArgleBargle, here are some edited notes from my log. For others, sorry for the long post – feel free to ignore. On the other hand, for those of us who are patiently waiting for spring weather to get back out on the water, maybe some pictures will help?
We had virtually no northerly swells for our entire 8 days. In the winter it is not unusual to get northerly swells. If so, a number of the places where we stayed would be susceptible to the swell and we most likely would not have stayed at some. Doyle’s Cruising Guide to the Leewards is essential and will direct you on this.
Night 1 – Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour, picked up our boat. Sunsail 434 Catamaran. While I prefer to sail a monohull (and that is what I own), it is tough to beat the comforts of a large cat when you are in the islands.
Saw the Maltese Falcon docked in nearby Falmouth Harbor. We actually walked up on the dock past security right next to her and took a bunch of pictures. That is one large boat!
Sail Day 2 – English Harbor to Dickenson Bay (20 nm). Wind and waves moderate. Night 2 – Dickenson Bay, Antiqua. (GPS N17 09 45.3 W61 50 59.6)
On the way west and north, we navigated through Goat Head Channel off SW coast of Antigua – looks ominous from the chart but it is the way to go. In Dickenson Bay, anchored a little N of the Sandals Hotel in about 10 feet of water, good holding in sand, couldn’t see the bottom (water in most every anchorage near shore was cloudy with suspended sand – apparently the week before was rough and stirred up the sand), probably not good anchorage in N swells, ashore by dinghy – no dinghy dock – landed on beach. The N end of the beach was more quiet (N of Sandals) but the whole bay was somewhat devoid of nightlife perhaps due to the economy?
Little Sisters Rocks, S Dickenson Bay
Ashore we went to King’s Casino in downtown St. Johns. The casino was pretty much a dump but we all came away with a little extra cash so there was no complaining. I did feel a little odd being searched for weapons at the door with a metal detector. I’ll probably avoid that place next time around. Peaceful night among only 2 other boats.
Sail Day 3 – Dickenson Bay to Cocoa Point, Barbuda (29 nm). Wind E 20-25kts, Seas 8-10’ between islands. Night 3 – Cocoa Point (GPS N17 33 11.1 W61 46 15.3)
Once again, with northerly swells I think that Barbuda would not be an option, we were blessed with easterly waves mostly all of the time during this trip. Anchored near rarely used airstrip just W of Cocoa Point in 12 feet of water. Good holding in sand but couldn’t see the bottom.
Took the dinghy around Cocoa Point into Gravenor Bay for some snorkeling (not all that good). Beautiful night, approx. 6 other boats within site.
Sail Day 4 – Cocoa Point, Barbuda to Low Bay, Barbuda (11 nm). Wind E 12-15kts, Seas 3-4’. We sailed mostly in the lee of the island for this short sail. Night 4 – Low Bay, Barbuda (GPS N17 38 02.7 W61 51 16.0) Anchored in 15 feet of water in sand – good holding. Since most of most of the anchorages we were in were cloudy water (suspended sand) and we couldn’t see the bottom, we used our anchor float technique for anchoring. Since it is the Caribbean, once the anchor is set and I have backed down on it, I generally put on the mask and snorkel and dive the anchor to confirm the set and what the bottom is. With visibility in the 3-4 foot range it was next to impossible to find the anchor without a float. We ended up using some thin line we brought and an empty Evian bottle clipped to the anchor before we drop it. Once the bottle floats to the surface it is easy to skin dive down 15-20 feet to view it. Not very ‘yar’ to have a plastic bottle floating on top of your anchor but it allows me to sleep well at night knowing the anchor has set well in good holding bottom.
I’d have to say this was the most beautiful anchorage of the trip. Low Bay is in the middle of 11 Mile Beach on the W coast of Barbuda. Simply breathtaking. 4 boats in view. Palm trees. White/Pinkish sand as far as the eye can see. Very few if any very small buildings. Well worth the detour off the overall trip from Antigua to St. Martin if the weather allows.
This location also had my favorite outing of the trip. We called George Jeffrey on the VHF (see Doyle’s Guide for details) and arranged the Frigate Bird Tour in the northern part of Codrington Lagoon. He takes you on his boat into the bird colony – I believe the largest Frigate Bird colony in the world. Wow. 20,000 nesting birds. George was a wealth of local knowledge and really knows the ecology and biology of the region. All at a very reasonable price. I can’t recommend this enough. He then brought us to the only town on the island – Codrington. We walked around for a little and looking for some food, went to find Jackie at Wa O’moni’s Best restaurant. We arrived just as she was closing. She reopened for us with a smile and we had a great lunch. Beautiful sunset with Nevis and St. Kitts on the horizon.
Sail Day 5 – Low Bay, Barbuda to Charlestown, Nevis (56 nm – long sail!) Winds E15-20kts, Seas 7-8’. A few showers. Night 5 – N of Charlestown, Nevis (GPS N17 08 54.1 W62 37 53.3) We left at sunrise for our 7 hour sail. Downwind, one tack – lots of flying fish. Great day on the water. Picked up a mooring off the S end of Piney Beach, N of the Main Dock in Charlestown Harbour . There are a lot of moorings here (maybe 50?). When we were there, only about 15 were being used.
Special thanks to Hud / hphoen “Nevis Nice” who provided the best tip of this thread – the Double Duece. Thanks Hud!! Arriving after our longest sail of the trip and not so deftly beaching the dinghy we were in need of a drink. Mark Roberts of the Double Duece was tending bar and offered up a ‘Stinger’ and we were hooked. We ended up staying all night, eating a great dinner, swapping sailing and cooking (one of our crew is an accomplished cook, and Mark is an amazing chef) stories, playing pool and generally loving life. Double Deuce was clearly the best restaurant/bar of the trip. View from the beach bar deck. That is St. Kitts in the background.
Sail Day 6 – Charlestown, Nevis to White House Bay, St. Kitts (8 nm). Wind E12-15kts, Seas 3-4’. Night 6 White House Bay, St. Kitts. (GPS N17 14 59.8 W62 39 32.6). Anchored in 25’ of water. Had to haul up 1st attempt because of poor holding and drop the hook a 2nd time which is unusual for us. A dive on the anchor showed a mix of grass/rock/sand which indicated why the first attempt failed. We specifically chose this anchorage because of the fore casted easterly winds. We ended up with winds that clocked around all night. I left the GPS on and we actually spun around all night and at anchor traveled (as recorded by GPS track) a total of one nautical mile during the nighttime hours! Erring on the side of caution, I instituted an anchor watch this night based on the proximity of the other boats (none of which were swinging in the same direction) and because for part of the night, due to the wind shift, we ended up anchored on a lee shore. Strange wind pattern that night. Fairly nice spot though. 8 other boats. Decent snorkeling on a wreck in Whitehouse Bay and a good reef at nearby (dinghy ride) Ballast Bay.
Sail Day 7 – White House Bay, St. Kitts to Basseterre, St. Kitts (for water) and back to Charlestown, Nevis (16nm) Wind E12-15kts, Seas 3-4’. Night 7 – N of Charlestown, Nevis (GPS N17 08 58.5 W62 37 54.1). Took a Mooring a few spaces up from where we were 2 nights before. The original plan was to head from Whitehouse Bay to Statia. The weather forecast has the swells turning to the North and based on the advice of Hud / hphoen “Nevis Nice” and others we spoke to locally we didn’t want to risk rolling all night long. Since we had to get water, we headed to Basseterre on the chance that we might stay there the night. A few minutes after docking and looking around, we decided it wasn’t for us. Big cruise ship, dumpy harbor, gated parking lot, etc. Once again Hud’s advice was right on. Based on what a blast we had with Mark at the Double Deuce 2 days before, the only logical decision was to head back to Nevis. We had dinner at Sunshine’s just up the beach from the Double Deuce. Great location, great outdoor dining and good food. Worth the stop. Back to visit Mark for a nightcap before turning in.
Sail Day 8 – Charlestown, Nevis to Anse de Columbier, St. Barts (52nm). Wind ESE 12-15kts, Seas 6-8’. Night 8 – Anse de Columbier, St. Barts (GPS N17 55 29.0 W62 52 14.2) Left just before sunrise for our 2nd long sail of the trip. Best day on the water. After passing between Nevis and St. Kitts and turning north it was one tack with perfect weather. We only say one small power boat in the next 6 hours until we passed the coast of St. Barts. We opted for Anse de Columbier instead of the crowded Gustavia. We had been to Gustavia once before and while it was nice to see once, it is much too high society for our tastes. Took a mooring. We got there at about 1:30PM on a Monday and we had our choice of 5 or so moorings left. By the time the sun was setting, they were all filled. Anse de Columbier was beautiful. Perfect bay with green hills, part rocky shore and part sandy shore, no easy access from the land so very undisturbed.
We had the best snorkeling of the trip here because the water was clear. Among many other things, I was able to film a octopus swimming. Very cool. And tons of turtles popping their heads up all afternoon and the next morning. Beautiful sunset over the water with St. Martin off to the right. Great last night.
Sail Day 9 – Anse de Columbier, St. Barts to Oyster Pond, St. Martin (12 nm). Wind E20-22kts, Seas 4-6’. Again, great weather, no complaints for the whole week. The final approach to Oyster Pond is always interesting. Although the waves were breaking they were small enough to not be a huge challenge. Regardless, that last ¼ mile through the well marked channel with reefs on both sides is exhilarating. Returned the boat by 11am and packed up for the afternoon flight home.
At just over 200nm for the week, we had some good long sails but still had plenty of time at anchor and as much time on land as we wanted.
Argle, I’d be happy to go back and show you around if you need an extra hand.
Have a great trip. I know you will.
A couple more wildlife photos...