Christmas is just around the corner! Ever since we started our Caribbean adventure we have been planning on going back to the states to spend Christmas with our children and their families. But planning a trip back home is not quite the same when you live on a boat. Knowing where you will be a reasonable time before the holidays is a guessing game so making airline reservations is tricky business. Also, there is the problem of needing a place to leave one spoiled Wheaten Terrier while in a foreign country. Thankfully, John kept me calm by reminding me every time I asked that he was “working on it”. Finally, just a few weeks before Christmas, it was determined that we could make it to Antigua for sure, even arriving a couple of weeks early, and there we could leave the boat safely at Jolly Harbour Marina where our friends could keep an eye on it. Also, the Tropical Blend crew have friends who live on the island and they knew of a kennel where Kirby could be happy and healthy while we are gone. So, we left Martinique and made our way to Antigua with fun days and a not so fun experience along the way.
Living on a boat teaches you a respect for nature. While we are lucky to live in this trawler that affords us comfortable and dry quarters regardless of the conditions outside, we still need to watch winds and waves before we move. We are careful when we anchor to be aware of those around us, to know if they are on a mooring, or on their own anchor and we look to see if they use chain or line. However, sometimes the least expected is what happens.
The rains and winds were amazing on November 28th. This dinghy managed to float away from is boat. Thankfully it was discovered by its owner who rescued it from his paddle board.
On November 28th we debated whether or not to leave our anchorage in Grand Anse d’Arlet on Martinique. It turned out to be a horribly rainy day and, although we have the protection of our pilot house we thought the next day would be better for traveling. We knew our anchor was well set and, along with Tropical Blend and Symbiosis, we just settled in for a rainy day in the harbor. All was fine until about 7 PM. At that time, seemingly out of nowhere, a huge wind kicked up that was from the opposite direction from which it had been blowing. AfterMath, and all the other boats in the anchorage turned 180 degrees away from how they had been sitting for the last couple of days. Well, all of the boats except the one next to us! With the wind came big waves and all of the sudden we were approaching the neighboring sailboat way too quickly. Soon we were slamming up against this boat, which had been there since before we arrived. The owner came out and told us that, although it looked like he had been at anchor on a chain, he was really tied to a huge cement block mooring that did not have a mooring ball attached to it. This meant that he did not swing like everyone else in the anchorage did. In trying to separate the boats we found that his chain had gotten wrapped around our stabilizer. We called Larry and Scott from our buddy boats and they kindly and bravely hopped in a dinghy and came over to help, but before they got to us John had managed to ease AfterMath forward enough for us to get untangled. We were still too close to the other boat though so we had to pull anchor and move further out of the anchorage to set again during this horrible and unexpected storm. Both boats did sustain some damage, but for us it was purely cosmetic and we were still fully functional. The other boat will be fine too after some repairs and no one was hurt, but it was just not a good night. Later we found that all of the nearby anchorages had a very hard night too and many boats were dragged and damaged. The power of Mother Nature should never be taken lightly.
Tropical Blend and Symbiosis just ahead of us on our way to Dominica.
Friendly dolphin along the way.Colorful homes in the valleys of Dominica
This windjammer cruiser came in on a rainy, hazy day in Dominica. I couldn’t resist playing with these photos as the ship looked like a ghost ship at sea.
Passing through a small village in Dominica while on our tour we spotted this lovely lady.Our tour guide took us through small villages all along the way. Rouseau is the largest city on DominicaOur tour guide, Paul.A lovely village church.Everything in the Caribbean is full of color.Just outside the church, on the beach, is this boat building business. Note the rooster who is overseeing the progress.The beach here bubbles all the time, hence the name, Bubble Beach. The bubbles are from gasses that escape the ground. The water was HOT!!The bar at Bubble Beach. Frangipani caterpillars are huge, but beautiful.Trafalgar Falls in Dominica. There are two waterfalls here. This one is known as the father and the one below is the mother.In between the falls is a pool. Look carefully and you will see people in it.Here are, in order from left to right, Noi, Debbie, Larry, Scott, our guide Paul, and John making their way to the pool between the falls.They enjoyed the refreshing water!Paul trying to look like Moses.Next stop, hot springs. There are a lot of hot springs in Dominica. People who have these springs in their yards let tourists come and see them for just a small tip.A very nice young boy who was happy to chat with me.
The next day, our little flotilla moved from Grand Anse d’Arlet to St. Pierre in Martinique in preparation for the next trip to Rupert Bay in Portsmouth on Dominica. Portsmouth has a group of “boat boys” that are part of the Portsmouth Area Yacht Services (PAYS) organization. This organization was formed several years ago after there had been a lot of crime in the anchorage. Now cruisers have very little to worry about when they arrive here. The boat boys help tie boats to moorings and then take very good care of you for your whole stay. If you need a ride to shore, they will take you, if you want a tour, they will arrange it. Last time we were in Portsmouth we needed a refrigerator repairman and our boat boy, Daniel, delivered one to our boat. As we arrived in the anchorage we asked if we could again have Daniel as our boat boy. Minutes later he arrived on his colorful boat and welcomed us back to the island as if we were old and valued friends. The first couple of days on Dominica were dreary and rainy but we did manage to get a nice clear day to take a tour of the island with our friends. Dominica is a beautiful island that has nicknamed itself “The Nature Island”. Our tour guide, Paul, made sure we saw the best of it.
A very crazy brown booby that joined us on our trip.
We left Dominica on December 4th and traveled to Isle de Saintes in Guadeloupe. On our way a bird known as a brown booby joined us. This bird was with us for well over a half hour and was very entertaining to me, but especially to Kirby. He flew next to the boat, cutting just a couple of feet in front of us, then he would fly about 50 feet away, dive for a fish, and come right back to entertain us over and over again. We have had sea gulls and such follow us, but we have never been quite so closely accompanied by a bird as we were with this one. Needless to say, I was able to get a lot of pictures!
Entering the Isle des Saintes.
The entry into Guadeloupe from the south has to be one of the prettiest entries into a country in the Caribbean. Little islands and beautiful rock formations appear in front of huge mountains covered in green and dotted with colorful villages. It truly is breathtaking to see.
Although we expected to spend a few days in the Isle des Saintes, we noticed that the weather was turning and that what are known as the Christmas Winds seemed to be arriving. Frequently, during the period from early December to mid January, the easterly trade winds here in the Windward Islands become stronger. These winds are called the Christmas Winds. They typically blow for 25-30 knots persisting for several days causing the seas to build to 15 feet or more. They are more wind and waves than we want to handle on AfterMath. By this point we had made our airline reservations to go home to see our family, and we needed to be in Antigua before the 20th to catch our plane. Because we just couldn’t be sure that there would be another safe window to leave for a while, we left our friends on Tropical Blend and Symbiosis behind and moved to Deshaies on the main island of Guadeloupe. From there, on December 7th, we made the 40-mile crossing between Guadeloupe and Antigua.
Falmouth at night
The Maltese Falcon
The first harbor in Antigua was English Harbour. It is a pretty place but it didn’t have much room to anchor so, after a brief look around, we moved to Falmouth. Falmouth was a joy. While we were certainly the little kids on the block, we loved seeing the mega-yachts that surrounded us and we enjoyed the beautiful lights they displayed at night. During the day we dinghied around the harbor and looked in awe at the amazing ships there. A boat that had the most interesting masts I had ever seen particularly fascinated me. A quick online investigation and a conversation with our son, Jeff, let me discover that this was a famous sailing yacht called the Maltese Falcon.
The Maltese Falcon under sail.
Soon we left Falmouth and started the short, easy journey to Jolly Harbour where we will stay for a month. Our trip was made even more enjoyable when we noticed the Maltese Falcon was on the same route as we were. We watched them hoist their sails and soon they were traveling right next to us.
Christmas photCongee, a delicious Thai breakfast soup.Good times on the dock.Our little tree aboard.It was Christmas at the marina and these three cuties were dressed for the occasion.From right to left, you see AfterMath, Tropical Blend, and Symbiosis.
Just one day after we arrived in Jolly Harbour our friends joined us and we were all able to dock right alongside each other. Since they have arrived we have been having nightly happy hours on the dock, meeting new people, taking a trip to the beach for some Christmas photos, enjoying the marina and the town, and even having a great Thai breakfast treat made by Noi, who is from Thailand. It is so wonderful to be settled again for a little while, but especially wonderful to know that we are going to see our family for the Christmas season. I can’t wait to hug those little ones, and I have heard that Rush is looking forward to “Nana’s special songs” for him. How fun to have someone that likes me to sing!!
To all of you, we wish you a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year and, as always, we wish you happiness as you follow your dreams, whatever they may be.
Here is where we are today: