On April 3rd, we said goodbye to Charlotte Amalie and motored over to Christmas Cove. We spent two nights there, and then moved to Francis Bay, stopping along the way at Caneel to briefly moor the boat while we dinghied in to Cruz Bay for a final pickup of mail and some grocery shopping. When we arrived at Francis we provided Hunter and Devi (Arctic Tern) and Paul and Susan (Island Roamer) dinghy transportation to the Maho Bay Resort for our last-ever Friday-night partake of prime rib at the resort, not because we expect never to return to Francis, but because the resort has lost its lease and must vacate by May 1. Horrible news. It will be sad to see the little tent-cabins replaced by upscale private housing; it will be sad to no longer have the prime rib; it will be sad to no longer be able to watch the fascinating glass blowing that was hosted every Friday night after the meal.
Saturday I finally got over to Francis Pond to attempt to photograph the White-cheeked Pintails that I had seen there much earlier in our stay in the Virgins. Procrastination is a strategy that I have often employed with considerable success, but it failed miserably on this occasion. We have had very little rain, and the pond had shrunk both in circumference and in depth. There were wading birds out in the middle, but at first no pintails. Finally I noticed movement WAY off on the other side, where presumably the water was deeper. See the disappointing pictures, below.
Early Sunday morning (at 3:08 am) we set out for St. Martin. We had been watching closely the weather forecasts, since the howling winds had been predicted to slack only slightly for two days in the near future. Originally we planned on moving up to Virgin Gorda on Sunday in order to shorten the distance to St. Martin, but when a last-minute weather check indicated that Sunday looked as good as the predicted lull of Monday/Tuesday, we decided to strike out between Salt and Peter Islands of BVI toward St. Martin. It was a lumpy ride, all the more so since one of the stabilizers failed only a couple of hours into the trip. We disabled that side and continued. Midday we were passed by Maltese Falcon, also heading toward St. Martin, but making considerably better time, their retracted sails notwithstanding.
I was able to replace the hydraulic arm when we reached St. Martin after a 96-nm trip of 15 hours and 25 minutes. Next morning the wind/waves were still higher than is completely comfortable, so instead of getting up super early and slogging directly to Antigua, we opted to head to St. Kitts. That added about 10 nm to the overall distance to Antigua, but meant that we would only be out in the washing machine conditions for about 64 nm, arriving at our intended anchorage in St. Kitts after 9 hours and 40 minutes. We anchored in White House Bay, one among 16 vessels. Next morning, on our way to Antigua and out about one hour from the anchorage, we heard Arctic Tern unsuccessfully hailing Unicorn. We hailed Arctic Tern, and learned they were just outside Basseterre, several miles up the western coast of St. Kitts. Their intention was to check in to St. Kitts and wait for better conditions to proceed to Montserrat, and to get some rest, since they had motored directly from North Sound, BVI, having departed sometime in the darkness early Sunday and just arriving in St. Kitts shortly after daylight on Monday. We learned later that Unicorn had opted to sail instead of motor, and when wind angle had not cooperated, had diverted to St. Martin.
Our trip to Antigua was uneventful, if once again a bit uncomfortable. 48 nm in just under 8 hours. We anchored in Five Island Bay, nestled up close to the resort – close enough to get gratis wifi using just our computers’ antennas, a “good thing”, since our external wifi antenna failed this season. Next morning we moved around to the outside approach to Jolly Harbour and took the dinghy in to check in. Yes, we took the dinghy. The customs nazi “lady” infamous for being a – um, I cannot use that word in our blog – has been transferred elsewhere and replaced with a thoroughly friendly gentleman. So, no more silly requirement that the vessel has to be within sight of the customs dock in order to check in. There were quite a few folks ahead of me in the line; apparently Antigua is attempting to use eSeaClear again, and there was some kind of problem with the computer or its data so we were all reduced to filling out umpteen copies by hand. But we learned from the gathering that cruisers planned to assemble that night for dinner at the adjacent restaurant Port Afina. Bill (Dolce Vita) made the arrangements. About 26 of us, arranged in tables for six. Each table received three pizzas: pepperoni, cheese and veggie. Two types of pasta and salad served buffet style. Quite good food, and quite a party.
In other news, the dredging of the channel into Jolly Harbour appeared to finally be getting started on our last day there. We had read that it would start on March 25, and then that it would start on April 2. So actually starting on April 12 was something of an accomplishment. There also appeared to be a lot of construction going on in the area; there were backhoes on tracks working on the hills both to the north and to the south of the channel.
On Friday, we moved into Falmouth Harbour, where we anchored near many cruising friends, all here for the approaching Classic Yacht Regatta. We joined many of those friends at The Mad Mangoose, the venue for the first of many rum parties at which a ticket is given for each rum drink ordered. When enough have been collected, they can be redeemed for a coveted red cap sporting the notations “Mount Gay Rum” and “Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta”, and the year of the event. Redemption occurs on Friday, April 26, at a party entitled, naturally enough, “Mount Gay Rum Red Cap Party”.