Dominica to St. Maarten via Guadeloupe and Antigua.
There is still an awful lot of rebuilding work going on in Dominica, the result of the devastating hurricane Erma that ripped through the Lesser Antilles in 2017. I'm sure there's more tourism in Roseau but little sign of it in Portsmouth, save for a few (comparatively) small hotel and the cruise liner dock. Plenty of beach bars and restaurants to serve the passing yachting community and we found a good one, Madiba, last night. A few local beers, a lovely blue marlin fish supper washed down with the odd rum punch. We shall be moving on later today to Guadeloupe, some 50nm further north, and the island where the fictional detective series 'Death in Paradise' is filmed. Our port of call, Deshaies, should take us to some of the film set areas that might be recognisable, especially the bar, to those that have seen the series. However, before we depart for Guadeloupe there's still plenty of time for a swim, a bit of washing and lunch.
We had left Dominica at 17:15 last night. The first hour or so was relatively slow as we were still in the wind shadow of the island. Once we had gained sufficient clearance from Dominica we rattled along at 6 - 7kts in 12 - 15kts of wind. It did creep up to high teens but not for very long. As soon as we had passed the channel between the two islands and were sailing up the west side of Guadeloupe we again encountered the wind shadow and it was a case of motoring or motor sailing virtually the rest of the way to Deshaies. The approach to the bay of Deshaies is littered with fishing pots, and, not wanting to get one of these wrapped around the prop again, a constant lookout was needed to avoid them. The anchor was dropped as close to the shoreline as possible, in 3 - 4m of clear water, the bottom being a mix of sand and weed. Anchor held, bearings taken, it was time to relax. We were greeted by a small pod of dolphins and a turtle no long after our arrival and a few photographs of our surroundings taken before breakfast and the morning swim. A trip ashore to get (a very expensive) breakfast, find the shop that allowed customs clearing in and get a feel for the place. In the afternoon it was time to find 'Catherine's bar', as used in the Death in Paradise series. A Google search provided us with the exact location. It's actually called the Madras bar and restaurant. A beer and a photograph taken before returning in the evening to have a meal there, and a very nice one too. Octopus cooked poorly can be quite chewy, but cooked well is fantastic. This was cooked to perfection.
The morning swim was had before going to shore to have clear customs and to get some fuel for the outboard. The shop where I cleared in didn't open until 09:00 so I decided I would clear out from the local police station. And no, it isn't the same one used in Death in Paradise, that's the local church! Clearing out formalities taken care of it was now a case of coffee before heading off for Antigua. As the passage was around 40nm we left at 11:30 with the intention of getting into English Harbour before dark. A night entry is not recommended. The first three hours went very well but the next three hour stint we slowed right down. We were now heading more or less into the wind and waves and a night entryway looking more likely. We did finally get into English Harbour at 20:00. A mooring spot was located and the anchor dropped. Not happy with it being set we tried to set it again. I wasn't happy with the way the anchor was holding but was convinced by the other crew that all was good. Taking their word we went off for an evening meal and plenty of complimentary after meal drinks (shots)
It was just as well the winds were light during the night because when the wind did start to pick in the morning we were being pushed back on to the quay. Quickly the engine was switched on and I tried to keep us off the quay whilst the lines were released. Anchor raised, we came back again but still it wouldn't take. A further attempt, but this time at a different spot still didn't bring the required result. Another location and this time it held, only for us to be told that we could not anchor here, reserved for the yachts involved in the racing. As the anchor was being raised the chain got caught in the gypsy and stopped. The motor had burnt out. No anchor and no fingers to moor alongside we were in a pickle. Fortunately a stretch of quay had been vacated and we began to go alongside, only to be told we couldn't. We had no option but to continue, and once tied up, explain the situation. The harbour crew gave permission to remain but had to go before the racing yachts returned. John went off to see if my make of windlass was in stock but was told that it wasn't. They could get one in but we still had the problem of not being able to raise the anchor...... even if it held! I decided that we had no choice but to leave Antigua and sail to Saint Martin and try our luck there. We knew that some of the marinas had finger pontoons which allowed us to go alongside without needing to drop the anchor.
An excellent sail during the night, although the swell was hitting the beam and spraying the cockpit with water every so often. We arrived just outside Phillipsburg bay around 04:00, the pilot guide did not recommend a night entry so we went up and down the coastline until day break. Just after 06:00 we found Bobby's marina and went alongside the first pier that was available. I had tried calling the office on VHF radio but there was no response. The reason for this, I found out later, was that they too had a public holiday. Clearance completed with immigration, I had a choice of either walking to the Ferry Office to complete Customs or take a taxi to Simpson Bay. There were much more pressing needs on the boat so I delayed this until the following day. Unfortunately everywhere was shut due to the public holiday so I couldn't do anything about the windlass, or the boom. The windlass was removed so I could take it to the chandlers when they opened on Thursday. The boom I would leave for the time being. Mid morning we were joined by Simon and Rachael, who also completed the Arc + with us and had been sailing the Caribbean since leaving Rodney Bay in December. Lunch was taken before we set off to look at the carnival procession. Rain delayed play for the start, and I must be getting too old as I could only put up with so much loud noise. So back to the boat and then Lizzies bar for the evening.
Up early and a walk round to the ferry port to sort out customs. They handed me the forms to fill in but I didn't have a pen with me to complete them. Not wanting to go back to the boat and have to return again it was now a case of trying to find someone who could lend me a pen. Fortunately a security guard on the gate had one so, forms completed for entry and exit, they were handed back to customs. I just need to visit immigration before leaving Sint Maarten. Back at the boat an English couple from Lancashire wanted a hand slipping their boat as it was being hauled out of the water. Not a problem, and Wally, John and I assisted with the manoeuvre. Once his yacht was in the 'box' I went off to Simpson Bay to locate an anchor windlass motor. I knew that Budget Marine had one so that was my first port of call. Indeed, they had just the one in stock. Checked that it was identical to mine, I tried to haggle over the price. Initially I was given a 10% discount. Nice but I needed more. The assistant went to locate his manager, as they always do, and returned offering a further 5%. An improvement but could I squeeze more. Maybe if he couldn't find the display box and all the ancillary items, that would get the price down. Unfortunately he managed to find the box. And it was probably a good thing too. Inside, packed away, was a trip switch. Something I had failed to locate on my boat, and probably the one thing that might have prevented the motor from burning out when the chain got jammed! $1300US lighter but with a much heavier bag I returned to the yacht. The couple we had helped with their yacht had very kindly brought round a case of beer as a 'thank you' and this was placed in the fridge. I began installing the new windlass and Wally started to find a place to put the trip switch. David, from 'Wild Beast' dropped by to have a chat and to find out how progress was going. Once the windlass was completely fitted and wired up I made a visit to the chandlers to purchase a length of wire with ring terminals attached for the trip switch. This was then wired in and the windlass checked to see if we were now 'up and running', or at least the chain was! We were and this meant we could begin to think about moving off the pontoon and anchor in the bay. Last task that day. A visit to the supermarket to provision up the yacht for our 6 - 7 day passage to Bermuda.
Getting caught up in the Antigua race week after leaving English Harbour. Looks like we're leading!!!