February 29th – March 6th, 2016: White House Bay, St. Kitts
White House Bay is a far better anchorage than Basse Terre. The water is calm even when the wind is blowing, you don’t roll, it’s very scenic, and there is good snorkeling around the bay. There is a wreck in shallow water just off of the beach that makes for a good snorkel. There is a beach bar, Salt Plage, with a dinghy dock. All in all, White House Bay is a great place to relax as long as you want. There were around ten boats when we were there, but the anchorage is large enough to easily support fifty or more. Behind the beach in the lagoon, a new marina, Christophe Harbor, is just opening. We took the dinghy around to the marina and talked with one of their staff. It’s designed for superyachts, and they are selling the slips, but there will be transient docking.
One day we decided to take Little Blend up to Basse Terre to see the town. It was about four and a half miles, but not too bumpy. We could see the cruise ship dock from White House Bay, and some days there were two or three ships in port. We selected a day with only one ship for our excursion. We had a nice lunch at a place where we could get wifi, and we did a little shopping. We also stopped at the KFC to get Quincy a treat. The line was still long, but we weren’t in a hurry. The menu was strange: you could get a two piece meal, or fifteen pieces of chicken – nothing in between! We opted for the large order, but it was pretty expensive, at EC$78 (around $29). We have the most spoiled cat in the world!
I went snorkeling around the wreck and the bay. There are cruise ship excursions to the wreck, and both kayak and dinghy tours come through the bay. Fortunately, the day I went snorkeling, there were no cruise ship riff raff around. There weren’t too many fish, but the wreck was interesting.
After a few relaxing days, we had a good weather window, so we decided to head over to nearby Nevis. The anchorage there is very rolly, but with the calm forecast, we figured we would be okay.
March 6th: White House Bay – Nevis (Pinney’s Beach)
It was a little less than seven miles to Nevis over very flat seas. We decided to pick up a mooring off of Pinney’s Beach, which is not too far from Charleston, the capital where we would check in. The cruising guide implied that there were many moorings along the beach, but we didn’t find any until we got to the section where the old Four Seasons resort was located. Between there and the town, there were probably thirty or so moorings. We picked one up, and were relieved to find out that we weren’t rolling. Although it was Sunday, we took the dinghy into the port to see if we could check in. Once we got there and found the government offices just upstairs from the docks in the Cotton Ginnery building, we were told that the Port Authority wouldn’t be in until Monday, so we could return at that time. We took a quick look at the town, which was buttoned up very tight for Sunday, and headed back to the boat.
Position at destination: 17°09.216’ N, 62°37.851’ W
Air temp: 84°, Humidity: 59%, Water temp: 82°
Nautical miles for this leg: 6.83, Total: 9709
Departed at 9:30am, arrived at 10:45am
March 6th – 8th: Pinney’s Beach, Nevis
On the beach in front of us was Sunshine’s Beach Bar, home of the original Killer Bee cocktail. We took the dinghy to the beach, but we were surprised at the surf – it was too much to land on the beach. We anchored a little off shore and waded to the Sunshine Bar. We immediately ordered some Killer Bees – I’m not sure about the recipe (a closely guarded secret), but it is essentially a rum punch with honey – and a lot of rum. They are pretty strong, but you can’t taste the rum at the time. Two of them made Rosé very happy. During lunch, we got a visit from a local monkey. In the not-too distant past, someone brought in some green monkeys from Africa, and they have adapted well to life on the island.
On Monday, we officially checked in, and out – a strong norther was forecast for Wednesday, so we wanted to high-tail it to Antigua on Tuesday. We walked around Charleston, but there isn’t much there. Nevis is definitely more scenic than St. Kitts, but there are fewer shops. Still, we liked the vibe of the place a lot. For lunch, we went back to Sunshine’s and shared a grilled lobster – it was perfect! The beach was pretty busy, what with day trippers coming over from the St. Kitts cruise ships. The only downside to Nevis is the tendency to roll – despite the calm water, we were rolling a bit. Inside the harbor, the surge was pretty bad, making it tough to tie up and get off of the dinghy. Speaking of the dinghy, we decided to pull it up to the boat deck for our trip to Antigua. It had been in the water continuously since we got to Anguilla back on January 30th. It had remained in the water throughout our stay in Simpson Bay (St. Maarten), which has really dirty water. The growth on the bottom of the dinghy was amazing. We had hard growth on it that required scraping, and we spent three hours cleaning it up. The smell was really obnoxious, too.
March 8th: Nevis – Jolly Harbour Marina, Antigua
We left a little before dawn, negotiating the known mooring balls and searching for fish traps. It was very cloudy with sporadic rainfall, forcing us inside the pilothouse. The sea was at literally the calm before the storm, very flat and calm. On the way, we passed by the Kingdom of Redonda, an uninhabited mythical “kingdom” as part of Antigua and Barbuda.
We approached Jolly Harbor under partly cloudy skies. As we entered the harbor we contacted the marina, and they said that we had to check in at Customs first. We found the Customs dock, which was not occupied at the time. We tied up stern-in on the finger, and despite there being six or seven officials watching us, not one came out to lend a hand. Check in was not nearly as cumbersome as some sailors claimed. They use a system called eseaclear.com, which I didn’t know about. I set up an account for us, and then it was on to immigration and the port authority before returning to customs for final clearance. The total time elapsed was about twenty minutes, and only XCD$40 for the cruising permit.
Once we left the customs dock, we called the marina. Although we had made a reservation, they acted as if they had never heard of us, and they asked about our vessel size. They then asked if we wanted to berth “alongside or stern-to”, which I didn’t recall from the website. The stern-to docking did not include any finger, so we elected for the “alongside”, which they said would cost more. When we went to the office to check in, we found out that the “alongside” berth cost double! We had guessed it might be 10% or 20% more. Since we were planning to be here for a month or more, we said we would switch to a stern-to berth after our first night.
Position at destination: 17°03.982’ N, 61°53.072’ W
Air temp: 80°, Humidity: 63%, Water temp: 81.5°
Nautical miles for this leg: 48.23, Total: 9757
Departed at 5:10am, arrived at 1:15pm
March 8th – April 17th: Jolly Harbour, Antigua
One of the first things we had to do was switch berths, which we did on our third day. Unfortunately, the norther that we had left Nevis to avoid had rolled in, so we had to dock in twenty to twenty-five knots of crosswinds. The bow thruster was not able to compensate, so William, the dockmaster, had to push the bow with his tender. The docking system at Jolly Harbour is complicated. There is just a single piling for each “berth”, although we had an open space next to us, which was bordered by a finger, where we could tie a long line. William had to tie up our bow to the piling, and we also had to use springlines to both the piling and the dock behind us. It took about forty-five minutes to complete the change.
Once we were secured, we checked out the area. Jolly Harbour is a commercial and residential complex. There are several restaurants and bars, a couple of real estate offices, and a very nice grocery store, Epicurean. The grocery store had a great service deli where we could get fried chicken for Quincy, on demand. Between the marina and the beach were villas, where our friends from Costa Rica (Steve and Joan) had a place. Just ten minutes away was Jolly Beach, a beautiful white sand beach with a few restaurants, bars, and shops on it.
Before we changed berths, we found a card from a couple of former Nordhavn owners, Henry and Janice from the U.K. They used to own an N55, but now they have a villa in Jolly Harbour. We made contact with them, and arranged to meet up with them at their place for drinks. We also met with Steve and Joan, and we found that their villa was in a great location. It had not been remodeled, but it was still very nice. They have a large deck that faces east, so they don’t get blasted by the afternoon sun. The breeze through their place is consistent, so they rarely have to use air conditioning. Henry and Janice had remodeled their villa, and it looked fabulous. We started to think about getting a villa in Jolly Harbour.
Steve needed to take their poodle Vivi to the groomers, so he had a rental car for a day, and offered to take us on an island tour. We quickly learned that both the roads and traffic on Antigua are bad! After dropping off Vivi, we went to an area on the north coast where Stingray City was located. This is a place where tourists can swim with stingrays. We had already done that, but we did take some pictures of the estuaries, and the place had some gorgeous parrots on site.
We next went to Devil’s Bridge. “Devil’s Bridge was called so because a lot of slaves from the neighboring estates use to go there and throw themselves overboard. That was an area of mass suicide, so people used to say the Devil had to be there. The waters around Devil’s Bridge is always rough and anyone falling over the bridge never came out alive”.
Leaving Devil’s Bridge, we visited the ruins of the Betty’s Hope sugar plantation. Sugar was the primary driver of the Antigua economy during the slave years, and afterwards. This plantation and mill is one of the best-preserved ones we have seen.
We next drove south to English Harbour for lunch. This is a large anchorage on the south side of Antigua.
We found Antigua to be a fairly diverse island, not nearly as mountainous as the others we had recently been to. There is a small rain forest on the southwestern side, but the primary attraction is beaches – they claim to have 365 of them.
Let’s go sailing!
Steve and Joan have their boat, Salty Dog, docked at their villa. They invited us for a short sail to Deep Bay, a few miles north of Jolly Harbor. It was a fairly nice day with just enough wind to put up the sails. We know very little about sailing, but just on this short trip we could see that it takes a lot more work than running a trawler, which basically involves using the autopilot to go to a waypoint – job done! Anyway, we do enjoy the peaceful feeling you get when sailing on a beam reach or downwind, and we had a great time.
Just about a ten minute walk from the marina is Jolly Beach, a large crescent-shaped white sand beach. We decided to spend a day at the beach. When we arrived, we were surprised to see that it was mobbed; on our previous walk to the beach, it was relatively uncrowded. We found out that there were five cruise ships in port that day – d’oh! We managed to get a couple of chairs and an umbrella for $10. We found out that because we were staying in Jolly Harbour, we got a discount – the cruise ship riff-raff pays $20. The water temperature was just about perfect, and the swells were gentle and small. The beach was really crowded, but it was a good day for watching people – especially if you like watching untanned, overweight British vacationers! There are a few clothing shops on the beach, and we found a place to get fairly cheap drinks and burgers.