NLSC Trip Report

Eastern Caribbean Adventure Sailing Tour

Feb 1 thru 15 2003: Antigua—Montserrat—Dominica—Guadeloupe—Antigua

By Bob Cuerden, Trip Participant

The three keys to success of this trip were Planning, Planning and Planning. Kim Wright created an opportunity for all the members of this tour to meet three weeks beforehand to gain consensus and ideas for the successful planned sailing tour. The promise of warm eastern trade winds, sunny 75 degree-plus days, beaches, swimming, snorkeling, unique islands, new foods and good company already created a strong bond to make this trip successful for all.

Profuse details on upcoming trip were distributed and no detail was left unturned. Jackie and Gloria had all the necessary books and guidebooks needed. 5 days before trip we all received a suggested outline trip itinerary with finely detailed timing and way points for the full 15 days.

Then it was up to us individuals to make our plans to be in Antigua (pronounced an tee' ga) Feb 1, Day 1, and get on board. Everything worked out as planned with one exception. No suitcase for Kim Wright. Despite many pleas via telephone to many parties concerned, no satisfaction. Her frustration factor was slowly building. We settled into the Nimbus, a 45.6 ft Jeanneau, based at English Harbor (famous for boat repair from 16th century to present day).

Junior Sailing Training School -- Antigua.

It took us a while to get going the following day, Day 2, as we were worn out. However, sightseeing, provisioning and discussions for the next part of trip were resolved during the rest of the day. During the prep report by the charter company that morning, they allowed us to sail overnight, but did not allow us to sail and anchor in the vicinity of Montserrat (volcanic volatility).

So for Day 3 the crew split up. The majority elected to go to Montserrat with a 5.30 a.m. cab ride to catch the ferry. The rest slept on, two (Bob and Bill) went to practice their sailing skills at the Sunsail Colony Club. Practice makes perfect. They managed to capsize their Sport 24, righted it and continue to sail the rest of the day. One crew member (Jim) went exploring the English Harbor and its environs.

The Montserrat island visit was a big hit. The volcano was “awe inspiring”. The crew was mesmerized by the pyroclastic flows: two hours of spewing boulders and ash. Late night story telling later on stirred up envy in those who did not go.

Bad news for Kim — still no news of her missing suitcase.

It was decided that on DAY 4 we would set sail. English Harbor has an excellent series of facilities for getting ready for the day. Showers with warm Caribbean waters (Cold to you and me). The cost of the use of the facilities is US$2.00 plus you are given a receipt. Breakfast was available via a variety of restaurants, and a local bakery. A shakedown test sail was in order, crews assignments were made, a course logged, helmsman and other duties assigned and by midday we were off to Green Island.

Part of the crew of  eight relaxing after walking up and down from Scotts Head promontory: Jim Land, Paul Hinck, John Dahlmeier, Kim Wright.

High winds made sail-up tough, but it was done, and with a spanking breeze we were at last off. However, not with Kim’s suitcase or its contents — still not arrived. Through our co-skippers’ excellent computer and GPS, we reached Green Island. Snorkeling, swimming and hiking were the order of the rest of the day by the crew. Planning for the next day’s sail with overnight to Dominica was done with growing anticipation: watches assigned, questions answered (with lots of patience by Kim and Paul), dinner served on board.

At 9.30 a.m. on Day 5, we were off to Dominica. Longest stretch of sailing being planned. Strong winds tested our resolve and skills all day. No dolphins or other aquatic’s sighted. The setting sun brought us to reality that we would not be stopping. Lunch and dinner was served by hardy crewmembers. Sailing at night is never uneventful, strong gusts of wind forced us to reef sail area and provide a smoother ride for the sleepers. Cruise ships, fully lit, proved to us that we were not alone.

DAY 6 was greeted with relief by all as we sighted Dominica at dawn at approx 6.15am.With light winds we sailed for the port of Roesau. A river guide named Ronnie guided us to an anchorage. Stern to shore with lines to a palm tree and anchor out on the bow, we settled in. Provisioning party was organized, Documents to be settled and cleared. The rest of the day to be organized. Again, the diversity of the group allowed for multiple excursions. Hiking, swimming, shopping for new clothes, laundry, sightseeing and telephoning for news of missing suitcase. Not yet found.

Approx 6.00 am arriving at island of Dominica, after overnight sail from Antigua. Soufriere Bay Dominica. Perfect spot to relax and enjoy the view.

DAY 7 was a challenge. We all wanted to tour the island with a rental car. A van for 8 would have been ideal, but the cruise ship took all the available vans. So, we think we have the Guinness Book of records for the most people in a Mitsubishi Pajero SUV, eight persons of all sizes to be exact. Those with most flexible knees way in the back. Middle seats occupied by semi flexible and front seat by the lucky one. It took the diplomacy of our skipper, Kim to arrange. Paul was the driver, and he had to be told to drive on the left hand side of the road. The British Empire strikes back. Fast drivers and wandering pedestrians, goats, chickens, cyclists and children meandering to and from school were all new types of hazards encountered within the first hour. Fortunately, air conditioning in the car helped to cool things down. Paul is to be congratulated for not listening to 7 back/front seat drivers.

SITES visited were SCOTTS HEAD on the southernmost tip of Dominica’s west coast. The steaming sulphur springs of SOUFRIERE where bathing is allowed. Jackie tried it out, but with only her feet. Warm and tingly. Back into the car, squeezeville again.

Soufriere Bay Dominica. Perfect spot to relax and enjoy the view.

TRAFALGAR FALLS are spectacular in a verdant jungle setting.2 separate falls and at its bases is another hot sulfur spring. Good for lazy swimming and recuperating from the walk. The BOTANICAL GARDEN in Roseau provides a spectacular array of plants from this volcanic island. Lunch was appropriate here. The aviary housing the Jaco and Sisserou parrots, the two species found in the rain forests of Dominica, was located here. They were sleeping in the mid day sun.

Then on to EMERALD FALLS whose name is taken from its lush green setting, there is a pool at the base of a gentle 40ft waterfall. It was deep enough for a dip and was reached via a 5 minute walk through a rain forest of ferns and tall trees. Good planning again allowed us to bring our swim suits and bathe the days dust away. We were the last ones there at 4.30pm so we had the pool all to ourselves. Spectacular, now we know how Tarzan and Jane felt, only there were eight of us. Back to Roseau via twisty roads with thick jungle vegetation, mountain views and lots of beep-as-you-go hairpin turns. It was felt that the Dominican drivers only knew one way of driving, overtake at all costs and drive faster than the next driver. However, survival of the fittest worked out just fine, after dinner in Roseau we arrived safely back at NIMBUS anchored at the Anchorage Hotel mooring. On boarding, we realized that something was amiss. A new stern line had materialized and fenders were out. The answer came quickly from another river guide other than Ronny, who claimed that the stern line had come loose during high winds that day and we should be grateful to him for rescuing our boat. We made the appropriate thanks and he informed us that we owed him $200.00. Other nearby boat owners told us that they also helped to secure the boat. It was late and dark so we would resolve the next day.

Helmsman for the moment, Bill Patrick, off the coast of Guadeloupe.

At breakfast on DAY 8 it was decided to split up again and meet in PORTSMOUTH. One group would do another tour of the island and the second group would sail, the NIMBUS to Portsmouth further up the coast. Re-watering of boat saw the arrival again of the very abusive boat boy demanding money for services done yesterday, Kim told him in no uncertain terms that we would not be held hostage for that amount .A counter-offer was made. Still to no avail. Policeman was called upon to help and eventually we settled a sum that was more appropriate for his “help”. We left the dock and sailed for Portsmouth with a bad taste from this experience. Again helmsman duties were shared, plus deck scrubbing and lower deck cleaning. Ahhhh the joys of sailing. Arrived at Portsmouth guided by a boat guide named “Spaghetti Lover”. Catchy name and well remembered. Friendly and good manners. We were pleased to make use of his services. Anchored safely and dinghed to customs/immigration and went later to the INDIAN RIVER. He was also certified as a river guide rower so we made further use of his services. The entrance is to the south of the town .The river winds up the shady river through tall swamp Bloodwood trees, whose buttressed trunks rise out of the shallows, their roots stretching out along the river bank. It was a fascinating outing, taking us into an otherwise inaccessible habitat, and offering a close up view of the creatures that live at the water’s edge.

Reunited with the other set of crew, via modern day telecommunications (2 way VHF), we sat down to a large dinner at a beach side restaurant and shared our day’s adventures.

Early up anchor on DAY 9 the wind provided excellent light and variable strengths. This allowed everyone a turn at the wheel and lots of sail changes gave everyone a chance at multiple tasks. Very enjoyable. Reached a bay on the south side of TERRE-DE-HAUT, one of the LES SAINTES islands, south east of Guadeloupe. Snorkeling, swimming and boat cleaning were accomplished in the afternoon. Then we sailed to LE BOURG and anchored in a sheltered spot. High and variable winds caused us to change anchorage 3 times.75’ anchorage chain ensured a safe position. This BOURG DES SAINTES is home to most of island’s residents and is a picturesque village with a decidedly Norman accent. Its narrow streets are lined with whitewashed red-roofed houses with shuttered windows and yards of flowering hibiscus. The decidedly French connection provided us great opportunities for excellent dining. The “La Saladerie” and “Le Jardin Creole” restaurants proved to be the case. Kim still did not know the whereabouts of her suitcase. The telephone companies have been the winners so far, not her, sad to say.

Skipper KIM WRIGHT relaxing at anchor at Terre-De-Haut,Guadeloupe.

Still at anchor on DAY 10 sightseeing was in order. Scooters (Eur 20.00 per day) proved to be a hit for some. Hiking, photography and sightseeing around town was for the rest of us. In the afternoon, some slipped away by boat and did some snorkeling in a bay at ILET CABRI. Via telecommunications we met again in the early evening. Big debate on whether to go to POINT-A-PITRE or BASSE TERRE both towns located on GUADELOUPE.

Nimbus at sea off the coast of Guadeloupe.

DAY 11 we voted for Basse Terre, this would allow us to clear French customs and immigration and take on water and provisions. We needed to continue to taste the Baguettes and fresh fruits and vegetables, plus essentials like Cornflakes etc. Sailing to this destination was tough with 5’ plus high waves and strong winds, helmsman’s duties and sail minders jobs were not taken by all. The entrance to this town’s marina was very badly marked and signed. However, skilled navigation and strong eyes finally found it. A full marina, but we found the last spot for visiting boats. The boats navigation on the blink, lots of international help to fix it, but Paul finally managed a fix himself that would give us depth and speed. Not a very prepossessing town .Not recommended for touring, only basics for boat.

DAY 12 saw us on our way to DESHAIES with a snorkeling stop at world famous PIGEON ISLAND. This is where Jacques Cousteau helped to establish RESERVE COUSTEAU, as a top dive site and underwater park. The waters surrounding the island are now protected. Snorkeling was the order of the day. Coral reef, swarms of multihued fishes were happy to see us. Kim saw three turtles, Paul snorkled around the whole island, and the not so adventurous stayed within the vicinity of our anchorage. Then onto DESHAIES. It has a deep sheltered bay and its village is surrounded by lush green hills. Must be all that rain. Many yacht’s from different parts of the world. We counted 9 countries. Again we enjoyed the delights of French cuisine both nights.

Sunset at Deshaies, Guadeloupe.

Fresh baguettes also helped the breakfast crowd on DAY 13.Again a consensus was reached that some members of the boat would go ashore to hike, shop, sightsee and telephone (Yes, Kim still did not where her suitcase was.) and others would go for a half day sail. The wind was perfect for a Jib only sail. Bill and Bob received additional training on wind and sail utilization. Afternoon sail to nearby bay for snorkeling and swimming. Perfect half moon bay near Deshaies. Dinner at world famous harbor side PIANO PIANO restaurant provided perfect view of harbor. Highly recommended for romantics. Evening winds dropped to zero so decision is made to make an early start for ANTIGUA in case this situation continued.

DAY 14 5.30am wake up.6.15 am up anchor with skeleton crew. Light winds up to POINT ALLEGRE. Lots of multiple rainbows. Dark clouds appear and we are on a fast course back to Antigua. With reefed sail still hit speeds of 8 to 9 knots. Outstanding sailing with near deck washing scenario. Arrived in record time back in Antigua. Refueled and were guided by Sunsail reps to our dockside mooring. The end of the trip. No the suitcase still had not arrived. Caught up on sleep, shower’s , paperwork and found our land legs again. Farewell photos taken and plans for dinner were made.

Rainbows are a very frequent feature in the Eastern Caribbean.

Day 15 dawned and the Taxi was waiting to take us back to reality. I know that I echo all other crew-members in thanking Kim and Paul for a job very well done. Happy future sailing.