Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Welcoming Antigua

Jolly Harbour
When you sail to a new country, your first step ashore should be towards Customs and Immigration, where you have to check-in. This is very important, especially in the current and former British Islands. You have to fly a Quarantine-flag (yellow flag) on the starboard side of your vessel every time you enter a country. Which lets people know your vessel has not cleared customs. In some countries like Antigua and Barbuda, it is recommended that you even fly the courtesy flag under the Q-flag. A courtesy flag is the country’s flag and you fly it out of respect to the country your are visiting. Antigua is known to be strict about their check-in laws, so make sure you have all documentation needed when you come here. Our experience with Immigration, Customs, and Port Authority here in Antigua could have been worse but it turned out quite pleasant. They all treated us warmly and we even got to stay on their dock overnight.
We entered Jolly Harbour anchorage at night, after a 16 hour passage from Nevis, but it is an open and clear cove which made it easy to come into. Otherwise, I dislike very much coming into new anchorages after dark. Jolly Harbour is well protected and it’s a port of entry. Many regattas are organized here and there is a strip of shops, many restaurants, bars, a supermarket, a boatyard, and a Budget Marine. We only purchased  some cheese and bread at the supermarket since prices were on the higher end for us. When entering Jolly Harbour it has a familiar feel to Florida, with all the houses right by the water along with docks for their boats.

Kelly, Amber, and Isabella
We have already gotten to know some friendly, generous locals in this area. The other day, we met Amber at her bar/restaurant “Miracles” right outside Jolly Harbor on the main road. After a cold refreshing Wadaldi (locally brewed beer), we were ready to go back to Earthling to make dinner, but Amber insisted that we stayed and invited us for another cold one. After discussing our passion for cooking, she offered to make one of her special dishes for us and we had to accept the offer. It makes me somewhat emotional to meet all these beautiful people around us.

It’s official, we are finally out of any alcoholic beverages, no rum or beer. We are debating if we should quit drinking, since that comes high on the expenditure sheet at the end of each month! Or maybe we make drinking a special occasion like we do with red meat!?
Love from Antigua  

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Donyaye Kuchak

The stay in St. Kitts and Nevis lasted 11 days and we had a great experience. All locals that we crossed paths with were nice and hospitable. They took care of us like we were one of them. Ultimately all humans are the same, we come from the same source and are returning to the same place. Helping and loving one another is one of our basic purposes in life.
Finding good calm anchorages can become difficult sometimes. Pinney’s Beach in Nevis is open, big and a relatively protected anchorage from swells. There are 30 moorings available free of charge for visiting yachts. The charge is included in the check  in with port authority, and only costs $3. Pinney’s beach stretches a few miles long and you rarely see anybody on it. Mostly yachties and guests from the four seasons resort are the only people enjoying it. The locals don’t lay down or sunbathe on the beach, they hang out at the beach bars and drink Skol (beer made in Kitts and Nevis). That’s how we met Chevy at Chevy’s bar and Pat at Pat’s bar along with their patrons. I certainly enjoy getting to know new people from different countries and cultures. We meet locals that have never been outside their own little island.
Von, Kelly & I by Pat's beach b
Many have only been as far as the closest neighboring island. Some have lived in different places like the U.K or the U.S. Most show an interest to know where we are from. That can mean a few different things, like, what was the last port, or where did the sailing journey start,  or where do “I” as a person come from? So I answer, with the places we have been, that I sailed from Chicago and my Persian-Swedish-American background. By this time we have covered half of the world and it all sounds like a dream! We come from worlds so diverse and far from each other but beyond everything, we are all Earthlings.
The cruising community is so small sometimes. If you’ve been in the Caribbean for a year or so, the chances of running into the same cruisers is very high. Especially when we do our best to exchange boat cards and/or emails. When we were in the rolly anchorage by Port Zante in Basseterre, a dinghy from a nearby cruiser stopped by. They remembered seeing us in George Town, Bahamas last year! Mike introduced himself and what a small world, he is on the catamaran “Zero To Cruising”. We have been following their blog since before we met and have many common “cruising” friends.
Currently, we are anchored in Hermitage Bay, in Antigua and just a couple hundred yards from us is Zero to Cruising. Last night we had drinks aboard ZTC and tonight Mike and Rebecca will join us for dinner on Earthling. Our dinner recipe will be posted in the Earthling Menu tomorrow.
So far Antigua looks like another piece of paradise and we can’t wait to explore it further in the next couple of weeks.

Love from Donyaye Kuchak

Donyaye Kuchak Farsi translation to English Small World
See photos of St. Kitts and Nevis on earthling sailors fb page

Monday, January 23, 2012

Monkey World

I was wondering to myself, wouldn’t it be crazy to have a monkey as a pet on the boat?  I’ve seen it in movies and that’s how the African Green Vervet monkeys originally came to St. Kitts and Nevis. There are more monkeys than human beings in these two islands. Everywhere we go, in the forest hiking or biking, we see monkeys. You don’t see many of them freely in town, Basseterre or Charlestown, but as soon as you enter the nature, there is no way to miss them. Many locals even have monkeys as pets and we have seen some in cages, but majority live freely. We get so excited every time we see monkey families out in the forest. They are fearful of humans, as soon as they see you are walking towards them, they run away and hide. The trick is to stand still as soon as you get sight of them, keep your voice down and move very slowly. It feels like being in an Indiana Jones movie.

Monkey’s are somehow taking over these islands, they are destroying crops and vegetables. This is a major problem and the representatives don’t know how to control the monkey population. Our good friend Christian in St. Kitts said; put them on the menu! Which is a joke but not completely! There are people that eat monkeys and I probably would too in a survival situation.
The Monkey jokes started the first day we got to Basseterre, St. Kitts at the check in. I said to the lady at the immigration, I’ve heard there are lots of monkey’s here! She replied, yes many, there is actually one in the office right now! I thought she had her pet with her but I realized she was referring to her colleague. So I said, there is a white and a brown monkey here too, referring to Kelly and myself! We all started laughing, calling each other monkeys. Since then we have been pointing out our monkey characteristics and gestures. Monkeys are very stubborn and funny, so is Kelly. They climb trees and are happy, and so am I!

Tangerine Tours
Everywhere we go, we find amazing people. Earthling has been in St. Kitts and Nevis the past week and we’ve met some great people, like Christian. We met him by the dinghy dock along White House Bay where we were taking pictures of the sunset. We found each other being at the same energy level and it didn’t take long before we made plans for the following day. Christian or “Trinny” is a hospitable person that was generous since the first sight. The next day, we biked from White House Bay to Basseterre, up and down the hills (75min) to go and meet Christian by the cruise ship dock. From there we started our tour around the Island along with 14 British tourists from the cruise ship. In Basseterre, there are enormous cruise ships coming in  every morning and leaving at sunset. During the day the Island is full of tourists and after sunset you see mostly just locals. Christian runs his own tour bus called Tangerine Tours. He is very knowledgeable of the Island. He is well spoken, kind and respectful. He offers all his passengers complimentary rum drinks, beer, and soda. We had an excellent tour of St. Kitts and Christian is the best guide you can have. Trinny is a very colorful man and can’t be missed. If you ever come here, try to see him. Our tour day ended with Christian and his friend Dr. Gonzales aboard Earthling for a perfect sunset and drinks. During the whole day, Christian did not allow us to pay for anything, including his tour, lunch, or all the beverages we consumed on his bus, he actually brought some goodies with him to the boat.         
Love from Monkey World

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Statia (St. Eustatius)

Statia is only 20 miles southeast of Saba. With the Easterly wind, it took us 7 hours to get here. As approaching this Island, we see barges, tugboats and a couple of tall ships on anchor. I felt an energy of industry and commercialization. St. Eustatius is still under Dutch influence and there use to be a lot of action in the mid 17th century. Apparently, it was the trade capital of the Indies during this time. Even today, Statia seems like it has more cargo traffic than most other Islands around this area. There is only one good anchorage outside of Oranjestad and there are moorings available free of charge when you check in with the marine park.
Every time we get to a new place, I take out the binoculars and check out what’s up on land. I look for where we can land the dinghy, and scope out the scene. It’s fun to look at a place that you have never been to from a distance by water. As I’m watching the shore, I capture a tree full of white-birds & Egrets. Suddenly, two larger Parrot-like birds fly out the tree and start to chase two Egrets away. The Parrot-like birds were green and red and just so unusual. I’ve never seen anything like it before! Later we learned that they are the national bird of Statia, called the “Nahamaya” or also known by the sound they make “Killy Killy”. Kelly was so excited to have a bird named after her!

In Oranjestad, there seems to be an underlying theme of Orange. You see an orange church in the middle of the town. Also, if you pay enough attention, people like to dress in orange, you see orange houses and even their curtains in that color.  We didn’t see  many orange fruit trees though! Orange is such a popular color here because it is said to be a royal color for the Dutch.
Just up the hill from Oranjestad is the Quill. Like most of the other Caribbean Islands, Statia is volcanic. The Quill is an extinct volcano with a large crater. As adventurous as we are, we just had to hike up to the crater. Along the hiking trail, we saw a couple of  snakes (Red Bellied Racers) that were a few feet long. They’re not known to be of any danger, but we still didn’t try to pet them! On the Quill, most of the vegetation is bushy and just a few feet tall, but we did come across some huge trees that must have been a few hundred years old. In addition, we saw many tropical plants, with flowers that have natural medicinal qualities for different kinds of diseases. The Periwinkle, (Catharanthus Roseus) makes medicine that cures diabetes and malaria. I wish I could have collected more of their flowers for some of my dearest friends and family that have diabetes.
Moreover, there were many wild chickens and roosters up on the rim of the Quill crater. When we got there, one of the chickens fell in love with Kelly and followed us around and almost came down to the boat with us. Maybe the chicken misunderstood Kelly with Killy Killy!                 

Love from Statia

View photos of Statia on EarthlingSailor’s page on Facebook

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The Island of Saba

When I was looking at the charts of the Caribbean a few years ago, I saw a Little Island named “Saba”. In my mind I knew I was going to visit this Island when I get there. The name has a familiarity in my world. Saba is a word in Farsi that means a gentle breeze, and I also have dear friends of mine like Dr. Saba. All that is a good reason to visit this Land.

You can see Saba 30 to 50 miles away since it’s so elevated. Saba has been on the horizon since we were approaching St. Martin from St. Croix almost a month ago. This Island is very steep for the amount of land it’s on. It’s 3000 feet on a 5.5 square miles of land. Most cruiser’s don’t bother visiting Saba because of the unprotected anchorage and is slightly difficult to get to (big northerly swells makes it an uncomfortable passage). But Earthling style is to visit and go to distant places that are untouched and unspoiled.
We are on a mooring in a hundred feet of water and the vertical mountain looks like a tall wall. It’s a surreal feeling to experience this. It makes you feel small and subconsciously scared. We would not even be able to anchor right here, since 100 feet of water needs at least 400 to 500 feet of chain. Big thanks to the Sabans that put these moorings here.
Saba is also a marine park and if you like to scuba dive or snorkel, here is one good place for that. Every time we come to a new place, it’s like a wonderland. We have never been on this land and there is so much to see and explore. 
Before entering this wonderland, we had a surprise visit by the Dutch coastguard. Two gentlemen came aboard, checked all the documents, recorded information, searched the boat and left. Anytime you deal with officials, you have to be nice, polite, and courteous and give them whatever information they need. Even though I dislike to have a random person come aboard my home and search through my belongings, I don’t have a choice! We thanked the coastguard for giving us a visit and keeping these waters secure! 
Since a while ago we already had decided to camp out on Saba. We put Earthling on a mooring by Fort Bay, packed a tent, sleeping bag, and enough food for 24 hours and rowed ashore. At the check in we were informed that you are not allowed to put up a tent and camp overnight or have a bonfire on the island, which was a bummer. The few roads on Saba are almost vertical. The first road from Fort Bay up the hill to the to the town “Bottom” almost broke my back. I wish I could put the tent on one of the many goats on the roadside to carry it up for me. Within a short time we were 1000 feet up in the skies. As you get up on Saba, you get into a rainforest and the view becomes more and more magnificent. You see trees, plants, flowers and fruits that you have never seen. And when you pass another person, you definitely must greet. Vehicles pass by and wave and it seems like everyone knows each other. At least everyone respects one another. As we are hiking the trails up the mountain into the jungle at higher elevation, I’m concerned about where we are going to sleep tonight. There is not enough time to get back to the boat before dark and we have to find somewhere to settle down. Along the trail toward the “Windward” we sighted an Ecolodge. Just as I’m picking up a tropical fruit underneath a tree, a four wheeler approaches and the owner Ben greets us. What kind of fruit is this, I asked him. It’s a Golden Apple, Ben replied. A Golden Apple is something between a mango and an apple. It’s very juicy and sweet, and its seed looks something like a blowfish. We connected with Ben and he offered us to set up the tent on his property right by a small pond. He also pointed out a fire pit that was covered in big banana leafs. He said, if you clean it up, you can use it. I started chopping the plants and leafs around the fire pit with a machete. Thereafter, we laid all the leaves  underneath the tent for more cushioning. Ben has made a little utopia here, and named it Rendez-Vous. There are 12 or so private lodges and all are solar powered. He grows most of his vegetables and has a restaurant, where some locals hike to for dinner. It didn’t take long before the tent was up and the fire was going under the full moon. In the fire we wrapped potatoes in foil and some left over pasta from the night before in banana leafs. Dinner was just about ready and Ben came over and to give us a bottle of Merlot as a belated Christmas gift. It can’t be better than this. 
The next day we hiked to the “Windward”, which is the other town on Saba. We met and talked to some locals that have been living on Saba all their life. People here are so welcoming and hospitable. This adventure on Saba was the first and might be the last time we visit this pretty island. The memories of it will be a part of our lives forever. 
Love from Saba     
To view photos of Saba, go to Earthlingsailor’s page on facebook.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

St. Barthelemy

Who knew that for a certain period in the past, St. Barth or St. Barts has been a Swedish Colony. The Capital, Gustavia, is named after of the Kings. Street signs in St. Barts are still posted in Swedish along with their French name. The yellow and blue flag is seen more frequently and the French are proud to keep some of the influence here. It feels great to be in the Caribbean and experience the Swedish spirit. As a Swedish Citizen, I feel honored to be exposed to this Island. 

Since we arrived, the inboard has been out of order. It took a few days in the engine room, trouble shooting, reading, and talking to Alf Andersson at 2SWEDES boat yard to get the engine running properly. I finally got it started!! Now, I’m definitely more knowledgeable when it comes to engines. As a boat operator you have to keep your fuel clean, change filters regularly and once every year or so, flush the tank. I found one of the hoses that comes out from the tank totally clogged. Currently, she has been running for a few hours and sounds excellent.

St. Barts is such a clean and safe island. The locals are more civilized than many other places. The dogs are unleashed and behave like humans. The only dogs on leashes are the visitors’. The cats act as if they are queens and don’t even react when you pass or call on them, and they are everywhere. People leave their keys on their motor bikes and cars are left open. The crime is low and you don’t have to worry about locking down your dinghy or boat. Just like the way it should be in an enlightened world. The beaches are beautiful and you see many wealthy people and celebrities walking around. I’m not big on fame and don’t know many names, however, Kelly pointed out Simon Cowell from American Idol yesterday. Locals greet each other when you make eye contact and we’ve learned to say "Bonjour" or “Bonsoir”. It’s assumed that we speak French. Over and over we kindly smile as though we understand the language. Tourists usually think that we are locals and ask us for directions. Most of the people visiting on these big yachts got here very easily, although for us, it has been an extreme adventure with a lot of effort to get here. Therefore, I feel more appreciative and happy! 

Love from Gustavia 

Sunday, January 1, 2012

A Passage to Remember

The time for our stay in Sint Maarten was up and we decided to sail to St. Barth for New Years Eve. Rumors state that St. Barthelemy is the top spot for the New Year’s celebration in the Caribbean. The distance from Sint Maarten to St. Barth is only 17 Nautical Miles and it shouldn’t take more than a few hours to do this passage... NOT! This passage was one of the most memorable passages ever. Let’s put it this way, we never made it to St. Barth on the same day!
The wind is blowing 20 to 25 miles per hour from the east. The main sail is double reefed and only 1/3 of the genoa is furled out. We are beating into short steep 8-10 ft waves with 1-2 knots current against us. In 5 hours we sailed only 10 miles toward the destination. In addition we are towing two dinghies, our regular Earthling 8.8 ft hard dinghy and the newly acquired 11 ft inflatable dinghy. We tacked a handful of times and it felt like sailing in a washing machine. This is not a pleasant sailing experience! The boat is heeling over and getting washed over again and again.
St. Barthelemy Channel is known for high steep seas because it’s so shallow. The waves build up easy and on top of that it is windy! Many sailors don’t have the patience to sail all the way so they motor sail, but we are eager and stubborn to make this passage under sail. Having said that, we would not have made it to our anchorage in St. Barth before sunset strictly under sail so we had to turn the engine on. The engine was on for about an hour before it stopped working and shut down. It reminded me of the passage from Key Largo to Miami when the system got air in it because I was heeling over on a low tank (read Engine Failure). I thought the engine sucked in air so while Kelly is behind helm I’m trying to bleed the air out of the system. This is not our lucky day, the inboard is not cooperating. Now we don’t have any other option than to use the wind and anchor under sail.
New Year’s Eve is the busiest time in St. Barth for yachts and any many visit Gustavia. I’m thinking, how am I going to maneuver around all these boats and find a good anchorage under sail after dark! I’m nervous, stressed and concentrated. Well, we can’t go to St. Barth and the closest anchorage on the current tack is Ile Fourchue. That’s where we are going, I told Kelly, since it’s not crowded and we can make it before dark. Luckily, there was a big spot between 2 sailboats and a mega yacht. As we are approaching you can tell the few boat around are looking at us wondering why we are sailing into an anchorage. I drop the anchor, we furled in the jib and dropped the main all in less than 10 seconds. The boat is drifting back and I’m just praying that the anchor is going to set. The anchor line gets tight and the boat stops. The gentlemen on the boat  next to us start clapping with a thumbs up, like we did this out of choice! I take a deep breath and feel a little more relieved.
I spend most of the next day in the engine room, changing primary and secondary fuel filters, checking for fuel flow, bleeding air, checking for air flow, cleaning the air filter, inspecting fuel hoses, inspecting the water flow, cleaning the raw water strainer, and so forth. Still, we are out of luck. This Yanmar 3GM inboard is taking a break and it’s not running. I don’t know what else to do, we don’t have the engine owner’s manual since it was stolen in Puerto Rico 7 months ago (Read We've been robbed). Plus, there is no internet or phone  on this little uninhabited island. We have to get to St. Barth, and this time we have to pull up the anchor under sail. Fortunately, all the boats were gone and there was plenty of room to navigate. Two hours later, here we are sailing toward a new anchorage in a very tight and crowded area without an engine. We are tacking between mega yachts. St. Barth is such a beautiful place and the view of hundreds of bigs yachts is exceptional. I have never seen so many gathered in one place. After all, it’s nerve racking not to have an engine going into an anchorage. I’m very anxious and nervous. Before leaving Ile Fourchue, we located Shell Beach on the charts, a site that is relatively idle with a good holding sandy bottom. Furthermore, the entrance to Shell Beach is considerably narrow. As we are approach, there are many boats with people on them partying and it literally seems impossible to sail through all them. The only thing I can do is pray and hope for the best. After 7-8 tacks in a half a mile distance, our angels nust have heard us and began to blow a breeze on our beam and bring the boat as close as possible to the beach in 10 ft of water. The people are swimming away from us, the people on the boats and beach are watching and pointing at us. We drop anchor 150 feet from the beach and 200 feet from a rocky cliff. We must have put on a show dropping anchor, main, and furling the jib all in no time. We drift back and we are set. Hoooooooahhh is all I can say!

Last night we walked to the board walk in St. Barth, intermingled with billionaires, danced, and celebrated the New Years.
Engine is still underpowered
Happy New Year 2012

Love from a Passage to Remember