Jolly Harbour with it’s flat water looked like heaven!
Admittedly, we are beyond blessed to have the opportunity to live on LIB and have these adventures. I know Facebook and blogs tend to make cruising look like an idyllic, lazy lifestyle. And it certainly can be.
But let’s be realistic for just a minute; peal back the rose colored lens and share with you our trip from St. Martin to Antigua.
December is the time for “Christmas winds” in the Caribbean which means the wind is strong! Add to this the fact that Antigua is south east of St. Martin which meant going there would be sailing into the wind because the wind usually comes from the east. We were facing a pretty miserable trip.
So when we saw a slight north predicted in the wind on December 27th, we decided to grab it and hope we could sail fairly close to our rhumb line to Antigua.
The good news is that there actually was a bit of north in the wind. The bad news is that the winds, which were predicted to be around 20 knots, were consistently above 25 knots and usually were around 29 knots. The highest wind speed we saw was 41 knots during one of the several squalls we faced.
Next, combine the delightful winds and squalls with waves that were 8-10 feet until we were an hour from Antigua.
As if this weren’t enough, the passage is about 88 miles which means we sailed overnight.
The final piece de resistance is seasickness. Yep, I prepared by taking Meclizine the night before but I didn’t take it during the trip because I wanted to be awake and able to help. Bad planning on my part. I would have been more help working sleepily than I was because I was too ill to do much more than a one or two hour shift.
So, that is the bad part. There were actually some good things too.
~The moon was beautiful and FULL! This meant visibility was excellent – so I could see those big waves heading toward us. 😉
~The wind had enough north in it that we were able to sail pretty directly to our destination without tacking.
~We were cautious with our sail area. We had double reefed the main and our jib was also shorted. So even though the motion was rough, between our reduced sail area and heading up into the wind to reduce forces, we were safe.
~We arrived pretty quickly – we were along the Antigua shore after about 17 hours.
~We love Jolly Harbour and it is a beautifully calm anchorage!
All in all, the trip to Antigua was not fun for me, though Frank fared much better!
Still, we will be around Antigua for about a month and our next several sails should be with the wind instead of against it.
So, next time you are looking at a blog or FB page and everyone else seems to be having these amazing, beautiful, idyllic, exciting lives…. remember, you are only seeing the rosy bits.
Anyone else care to share a less than perfect sail story?
It is hard to believe it has been 2 weeks since our last post. So much and so little has happened….
I think we are beginning to feel like we are really living this lifestyle and not simply on vacation.
We had a reasonably good passage from the BVIs to St. Martin, but we were both happy to arrive and have that passage finished before the Christmas winds kicked in.
Our arrival port in St. Martin
The wind eased a bit so we left The North Sound, BVI on December 15th around 1 pm. The wind was mostly on our nose, but we managed to motor sail for the first 5 hours. Around 4:30 pm we reefed our sails as we saw a rain storm heading our way. Sure enough the wind kicked up to a brusque pace and the rain absolutely dumped on LIB. But only for about 10 minutes. Boy were we happy to have the helm enclosure we added back in September!
The rain storm brought a temporary change of wind direction and we were able to actually sail directly toward St. Martin for about 45 minutes. That was nice, but short lived. As night was falling, the wind turned again and hit us head on. I voted to drop sails and motor through the night rather than sail at such a tight wind angle.
Frank kindly agreed. We probably would have had better boat motion if we had continued to sail. By falling off the wind and tacking a time or two the passage would have taken longer, but may have been a more pleasant ride. Still, we arrived safely in SXM around 9:30 am and I appreciated Frank’s lowering of the sails.
Last June we spent time on the French side of St. Martin, so this time we went over to the Dutch side, that is Sint Maarten. We had our first bridge crossing into the lagoon. I was at the helm and at first I was nervous about the width of the boat versus the bridge, but we had plenty of clearance.
The bridge into the lagoon in Sint Maarten
We had plenty of clearance, but not so much that I could take a picture while passing through.
I don’t know why, but Sint Maarten draws a large number of h-u-g-e yachts. We enjoyed dinghy-ing around the marina and seeing the mega-yachts.
Minimum length – about 180 feet
Pretty sure this tender is larger than our ski boat was!
I especially liked watching the big yachts enter and leave through the bridge.
Fun to watch and celebrate NOT being at the helm!
We had an opportunity to meet up with David and Amy of Starry Horizons again, which is a big treat for us.
We also reconnected with Shane and Sara of Dream Chaser, whom we had met last spring in the BVIs.
Dream Chase, Starry Horizon and LIB are all Helias, so the six of us got together and had another episode of, “What changes/additions have you made to your boat?” and “How did you fix this Helia issue?”
Who knew I would become so fascinated with how others store provisions, plates, spices etc., much less want to know how they arranged their water maker or forepeak compartments. Life aboard has caused changes in me already!
We have shared sundowners with a few other cruisers and enjoy hearing about their adventures and learning from their experience.
Breakfast at Serafina, St. Martina
Since LIB is a boat, there are always things to be considered or addressed. Recently Frank went up the mast and diagnosed the problem with our anchor light (white light at the very top of the mast) and our deck light (about 1/3 way up the mast and shines on the foredeck). Luckily the only issue was two burned out light bulbs which we were able to buy at Island Water World. Now LIB is visible at night with her anchor light shining brighter than ever before.
The view from the top of the mast is too pretty not to photograph….
Looking outward toward the mega yachts.
Looking down on LIB and Day Tripper.
St. Martin/Sint Maarten is popular with tourists which is evidenced by the tours we saw daily. The two most popular tours on the water appear to be kayaking and mini- dinghy parading.
Captain kept a close eye on every dinghy parade!
After spending almost a week in the Lagoon, we exited and moved to Grand Case, a French bay on the western side of St. Martin. Grand Case is quaint and full of restaurants, but the dinghy dock stinks!
The water is so blue!
We spent Christmas Eve with Shane and Sara of Dream Chaser including a leisurely dinner at La Villa. The food was delicious, the service was excellent and the company terrific! A very nice treat.
Thanks Sara and Shane
Christmas Day was a quite different this year and we missed being with our sons. We had a chance to talk with family which helped make the day much happier. We toured St. Martin by car and enjoyed the views looking out from land instead of in toward land. And even though we missed our kids, we consider ourselves truly blessed to have this adventure on LIB.
Lest some readers be concerned, Frank has had a chance to kite a couple of times while in St. Martin as the wind has been “nuking.” Frank took me with him to kite one day and sadly I am still not proficient. However, I am determined to succeed and I am confident I will conquer the sport very soon!
We left St. Martin and had a quick and easy motor sail to St. Barts.
Our first stop was Anse de Colombier which is exactly the kind of anchorage we love…
Clear blue Colombier
The water is beautifully clear – I counted 5 starfish on the sand 12 feet below our boat while at anchor!
The French are trying to restore the bay after damage from anchoring and have installed several free mooring balls which we were happy to use. And their efforts are working as much of the sand is gaining sea grass and we saw a lot of turtles and other marine life.
This turtle posed for the photo!
Rays and fish just below our boat.
While moored in Colombier we went scuba diving two times on the south side of Ile Petit Jean. The coral and fish were more plentiful than any other Caribbean diving we have done so far. Our camera wasn’t graded for the depth of our dive, so I don’t have photos, but we saw many schools of fish in a variety of types and sizes. Also the sponges were HUGE! They looked like giant planters that could be used in a garden.
We also spent a lot of time hiking from Colombier. Here are some of the beautiful scenes from our hikes:
LIB nestled up close to the shore in Colombier.
Just another beautiful bay, but too shallow for us to anchor here.
Gustavia in the distance.
Gotta have a selfie.
We managed to exhaust Captain!
The public pier of Gustavia is clean and landscaped.
The public dock in Gustavia was our next stop on St. Bart’s. I have to say, this is a gorgeous town where you can buy all kinds of beautiful baubles, clothes, food and wine.
We spent three nights in Gustavia and sampled food from several delicious restaurants. And we managed to find chocolate croissants again! YUM.
After sampling Gustavia, shopping and not buying the rather expensive clothing, we decided Colombier was more our style.
Kathe and Gary ready for our walk.
So back we went to Colombier to meet up with our friends Kathe and Gary on Tribasa Cross who braved a slog into the wind so they could meet us on St. Bart!
It was great sharing sunset drinks with Kathe and Gary, then hiking with them the following day.
I much preferred St. Bart to St. Martin, at least on this trip. St. Barts was easy to navigate and everyone was very friendly. I was able to practice some very rusty French and my efforts were kindly received. Gustavia feels like a quaint, clean, upscale European city and everything we needed was easy to reach on foot.
An added bonus is that the French are very nice to dogs. The restaurants welcomed Captain when we stopped to eat. In fact in every restaurant the staff immediately brought Captain a bowl of water. She usually received her drink before we did!
Sunset in Gustavia, St. Barts.
We really enjoyed the remote and the city life on this island. St. Barts is definitely on our repeat list.
Fair or not, St. Martin will not be remembered as my favorite place, at least from this trip. While the island is beautiful, I was sick the whole time we were on St. Martin, thus my impressions are negatively colored.
This trip we really only experienced the French side of St. Martin. Still even when sick, this is a beautiful place and we did manage to see some rather lovely spots. I am certainly interested in stopping here again later this year as I am certain St. Martin will be even more fun when I am feeling better.
For now, here are some photos to show you some of the beauty of the areas we visited this time.
Leaving Virgin Gorda, BVI
Arriving in St. Martin at dawn….. Captain is ready for land!
Exploring pretty little ocean side towns by foot.
Stopping for lunch and watching the Ski School teach with LIB in the background.
How about the Pink Iguana – with the Texas flag to represent?!
A narrow and beautiful entry to Anse Marcel marina
There is so much more to share, but my internet is very limited and I had a hard time loading this much. With luck, we will have better internet and I can post more often.
Hope you enjoy the views!