Fall, 2010 - Antigua and the Slow Sail South

We had a long wonderful three month stay in Antigua. Our trip on the east coast was so cold and rainy that we unable to varnish. So we were really behind on our varnishing schedule. For years now we were hoping to get our masts stripped and varnished. The last they were stripped was soon after we bought ASTOR 23 years ago. Of course we have them varnished every 8 months to a year. This is the only varnishing that we do not do ourselves. We knew that it was going to be a horrible job and it was. We had an Antiguian man & his son on board almost every day from 9-6 for 3 ½ weeks. We had varnish shreds 2 inches deep & in every nook & cranny on deck and a lot below. It was a mess. They never swept up one shred of varnish or sand paper and insisted on eating long branches of sugar cane which added to the mess. Good news for me was that they did not like our perfect r/o water or my food so that gave me more time to sweep up the mess. In the end the masts turned out good with 7 coats of varnish. Now they look even better as the color has evened out.

By the time they finished it was the middle of March and we wanted to be back the first week in April for the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. We decided to extend our visa and just stay at anchor in Falmouth Harbor. That gave us time to varnish everything on the top sides including the booms, passerelle, boarding ladder, all the houses, waterways, bullworks, caprails – everything.

We wanted Astor’s performance to match her shiny appearance so we even ordered new mainsail and 2 staysails from Skip Elliot and had them shipped in from California. So we really looked great for the regatta.

The Antiqua Classic Regatta: was once again a wonderful affair. The number of yachts was down this year from 68 in 2009 to 52 this year. The yachts that entered were spectacular. The fleet included 2 J boats “Ranger” and “Valsheda”. “Hanuman” another J was there but at the last minute withdrew as he thought there was no way that he could win – so he packed up and went back to Newport RI. The vintage class this year had only 4 big boat entries. We were in the class with boats that had won the overall award in previous years. We did well though in spite of nasty weather. We had a wonderful crew including our returning friends David & Jenny Lovell and Ross MacDonald who flew in from Australia. Also, returning from last year was Chris & Dale Frost from San Diego. They brought mutual friends, Paul & Susan Mitchell who owned the schooner “White Cloud”. We were also happy to have Skip & Stephanie Elliott (our favorite sail maker) who were celebrating their 40th wedding anniversary. Colin & Deanna Emsley flew in from Seattle. Colin had sailed with us a long time ago as well as helping us deliver ASTOR to Panama from Costa Rica. Of Course, our daughter Mariah & Daniel were back for the fun. Local talent & local knowledge was once again supplied by the wonderful Canter de Jagar. We were lucky this year to have the help of Larry Pringle and his brother & (virtual son-in-law)??? Larry is a cruiser that we met here in the Caribbean. He is normally sailing his own boat “Pasha” a lovely neo-classic 55 foot custom sloop. The end results of the 4 races were that we took 1st Concours d’Elegance Vintage Class, 3rd Vintage Class, and the Award for Fastest Schooner. A wonderful time was had by all.

After all of this we were exhausted and spent a week cruising around Antigua’s west coast with Mariah, Daniel, Skip & Stephanie Elliot.

Finally on May 7 we found crew (Steve & Pat from NYC more about them later) and started our slow sail south. Keep in mind that we have from May to November to cruise these southern Caribbean waters as we are in hurricane season. So there is no reason to rush.

Last year the French islands (Guadalupe & Martinique) were having labor strikes so we did not spend much time on them. This year we were able to linger a little longer. Our first port of call was Deshaies on Guadalupe. It turned out to be a lovely little fishing village and we where there for a few days. Then on to the Iles Saints which is on the southern end of Guadalupe. It is a perfect little French village with a lovely bay, delicious food and excellent affordable French wine.

We finally moved on to Dominica. Our first stop was Portsmouth where I celebrated my birthday 5/21 at a lovely seaside restaurant dining on Lobster. We spent quite bit of time in Dominica last year so we moved along only spending 1 night in the capital Roseau.

Our next stop in late May was St. Pierre on northern Martinique. St. Pierre was a lovely town who has survived a massive volcano eruption in the early 1900 is now a sweet French city with delicious food, Cathedral and play house ruins. From there we sailed to Fort-a-France, now the capital, it is a busy city with fabric stores, good marine & auto parts stores not to mention great French provisions (cheese, coffee, baguettes, and of course wine). In early June we sailed to Marin on the south part of Martinique. We were there for 10 days while our crew flew to NYC for legal reasons. Marin was nice as it is a maritime center with great hardware stores and a wonderful anchorage.

When our crew returned we sail the short 30 miles trip to Rodney Bay on St. Lucia. We were happy to back at Rodney Bay. It is a very up-scale with expensive resorts, large & beautiful waterfront homes and lots of development going on. We made a quick outing to Castries the capitol of St. Lucia where we anchored overnight. We shopped the local market and found a very nice mask for our on going collection.

Then we sailed south to St. Vincent & the Grenadines. Our first stop was to overnight in the lovely little bay named Cumberland. It was well protected and reminded us of the South Pacific as it was beautiful and unspoiled. We then headed out for Bequia which is a small island 12 miles off the St. Vincent coast. It is a yachtie hangout. Usually loaded with cruising boats but it is late in the cruising season. So it was quite lovely.

At this point we were quite south so we took the opportunity to get rid of the worst crew we have ever had. Steve & Pat from NYC. They lied to us from the start about being 39 years old when in truth Steve was 50 & Pat was 51, stated that they were married – NOT & we require no smoking and Pat was a smoker. He claimed to have been on the water for 25+ years but did not know a halyard from a sheet. Pat did not know what a boat hook was. To say the least having them aboard was unpleasant and extremely dangerous.

So we were anchored in Bequia for 5 weeks until we were able to get new crew in the form of Michael from Scotland who is “mustard keen” to be on ASTOR. We loved Bequia as it was beautiful with a lovely bay and lots of great restaurants so we could have lunch out. No problem spending 5 weeks at anchor. Once Michael arrived we sailed off to Canaoun then on to Carriacou. The islands are 20 miles apart and the wind is 12-20 knots usually on the beam so the sailing is spectacular. Michael is wonderful crew as he has sailed with his family since he was a “wee boy”.

On July28 we arrived in Carriacou which is part of Grenada. It is a lovely island that builds “Carriacou “ boats right on the beach. These boats are quite famous in the Caribbean. In the Antigua Classic Regatta they have their own class. They are fun sail with and fun to watch. We were fortunate enough to arrive in time to watch the Carriacou annual regatta. It was a wonderful event with 50+ sail boats participating in all sizes. Not long after the regatta we had our first hurricane threat so we decided to go further south to Grenada. The hurricane died but we are happy to be in a place that is wonderful for many reasons and an easy out if another hurricane should threaten. Grenada does not get many hurricanes one every 50 years or so but everyone here remembers “Ivan” that wiped out Grenada in 2003 followed by “Emily” in 2004 that did serious damage to Carriacou. We watch the internet twice daily so we are well advised of the weather situation.

We are currently anchored on the south side in Prickly Bay. Grenada is so nice. It has great marine services including hardware stores and an authorized Fisher Panda generator service/repair company. Our generator needed some repair and since it was still under warranty we got it taken care of within 2 hours of calling them. Could not have done better in Newport Beach. Grenada has good grocery stores and 3 fabric stores. So we are set. We will be here until hurricane season is over in November unless we have to go south to Trinidad if a hurricane should head our way. The weather here is wonderful not too hot with high 80 degrees in the day and low 80 degrees in the night. No need for a top sheet. Of course there is most always a lovely breeze. I have a new note in my daily journal. It is a notation that says ‘abcd’ day which means a beautiful cloud day. The clouds here are so big, white & puffy. I don’t remember ever seeing more beautiful cloud formations. Those clouds do bring us quite a bit of rain. Since we have arrived the Grenadian drought is over. The island is green. In the past we have been drought busters in other places including Tasmania, Fiji, Vanuatu & Hawaii.

So now we are getting projects done on ASTOR. Richard is stripping the varnish in the middle berth. A job he has wanted to do for 22 years. Michael is sanding our deck chairs. Lani is getting a lot of reading in & keeps the bronze polished. We are enjoying paradise.