Sunday, February 26, 2012

Mountainous Guadeloupe

This land is mountainous, green, and beautiful. There are hundreds of rivers and waterfalls here in Guadeloupe. We had the opportunity to hike up one of the rivers all the way to the waterfall. Deshaies was the first port of entry for us. As we entered the anchorage in Anse Deshaies, we saw a Canadian sailboat waving and they looked like they knew us. It’s Easy Listening said Kelly! We met Michele and Al in St. Martin a couple of months ago. It is so exciting to see people you know even when you think you are far away from your friends. We rowed over to Easy listening right away to see them, since they were leaving the same evening to St. Kitts. As we approached their boat, our oar breaks in half! Luckily they offered to tow us back to Earthling before they set sail.

So far, the highlight in Guadeloupe was the hike in the Riviere de Deshaies. This river is full of small and big boulders. Stepping from one boulder to another, becoming tricky at times. Some were wet and slippery, so extra caution was necessary. It is fascinating to see how water finds its way through rocks and creates small creeks and pools. The sound of water running between these rocks was breathtaking and peaceful. The water was so clear and clean that I was thinking to bring our jerry cans and fill them up! :-) The four of us, Mike, Rebecca, Kelly, and I were as excited as little kids exploring this river. We hiked for 3.5 hours up 400 ft in the river till we got to the end, a gorgeous waterfall hidden behind 2 very large boulders. We got to take a fresh shower under unlimited high pressure water! If you ever get the chance to visit Deshaies, pack your backpack with snacks and lunch, put good shoes on and hike up this river, it’s certainly worth it!     

Sailing on the leeward side of Guadeloupe can be somewhat annoying and challenging. There are hills and mountains and the wind gets flukey by the time it hits your sails. Under the couple small passages we made here, there was no wind at times and within a few minutes the gusts were blowing 25 MPH. Our friends on “Zero to Cruising” broke a block during one of these gusts. You have to be careful to not get fooled by the weather prediction or light wind. The wind can tunnel its way between the hills and hit you much stronger than you expect it. I kept our genoa reefed and looked for the wind on the water rippling, before it hit us. Motor sailing would be best in these kind of conditions.

Right now we arrived in the capital of Guadeloupe, Basse Terre. Tomorrow, we are sailing to the other major city Pointe Pitre to pick up our friend Nick that is flying here to spend some time aboard Earthling.         

Love from Guadeloupe

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Farewell Antigua

Yacht Racing in Antigua
The last couple of days in Antigua ended with an anchorage in Falmouth Harbour, next to our friends on Equinox. It feels great to come across friends in different part of the Caribbean. We originally met Ron and Karyn in Turks and Caicos. Then, after six months we saw them in St. Croix, and now our paths have crossed again in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua. It’s also so exciting to hear friends calling you on the radio out of the blue. Our last night in Antigua, we heard Unicorn calling us, whom we met in Conception Island in the Bahamas almost a year ago. HÃ¥kan and Anna Karin, aboard Unicorn, sailed in from Dominica, going north-bound and we are going south-bound to Guadeloupe. We were going to be in the same place for less than 12 hours, so we had to get together. There was a full house aboard Earthling the last night in Antigua.
Full House Aboard Earthling

Our overall experience in Antigua was great except for one occurrence! A negative experience that is worth sharing with other cruisers who might visit Antigua. Our port of entry in Antigua was Jolly Harbour and the custom officers were very helpful and nice, which I wrote about in “Welcoming Antigua”. It cost $30EC ($11US) to check in and according to the official at Jolly Harbour, there would not be any other fees to checkout! Since we had to sail south to Guadeloupe, it was most convenient to check out from English Harbour by Nelson’s Dock. Our friends on Zero to Cruising told us that they had to pay $70EC ($26US) to checkout, which sounded like a lot. I remember reading and hearing horror stories about the immigration at English Harbour. But we didn’t have a choice and I was hoping for the best. At the counter in front of the Port Authority, I asked the lady who was checking us out, if there was going to be any charge to check out, she replied: “yes, but a very minimum charge, so I can get paid at the end of the week, you will be surprised”. Indeed, I was surprised when I had to pay a total of $117EC($43US) to check out! I know that it would not cost that much at Jolly Harbour. At English and Falmouth, they charge boaters for anchoring, garbage and some other fees even if you come here to just check in or out. I would not do any immigration process at English Harbour next time I visit Antigua!

Antigua is the center for many yacht races and sailing mega yachts in the Caribbean. You see many beautiful, sleek, and fast racing yachts here. There are races taking place here quite often. Right before we left, there was a race that went from Antigua, around Guadeloupe, to and around Saba back to Antigua, a total of 600 miles. The Antigua race week is at the end of April and sail boats come from all over the world during that time. We could crew on a friend’s race boat if we chose to come back to Antigua during that time.
View from Shirley Heights
One of the highlights in Falmouth and English Harbour is to go up to Shirley Heights. You get one of the best views over the harbours at sunset. On Sundays, there is a steel drum band playing, there are food stands and hundreds of yachters and tourists  watching the sunset. We enjoyed this with our friends on Equinox and Zero to Cruising. 
Right now we are anchored in Anse Deshaies (pronounced Day-ay), Guadeloupe. Once again back to good wine, baguettes, and cheese, we are in France!!                   

Love from Deshaies

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Rocks and Reefs

Photo taken from Chris Doyle's Leeward Islands
A few weeks before Earthling sailed to Antigua, I went over the charts and saw a beautiful land, shaped with many nice coves and protected anchorages. At that time, we were anchored in an uncomfortable rolly anchorage somewhere else and could not wait to be in a calm and comfortable place. It has been 20 days since we got here to Antigua and we have almost sailed around the island and anchored in various places. Almost everywhere we anchored has been comfortable.

Right now we are in Nonsuch bay and this anchorage definitely exceeded my expectations. There is no land in front of us but we are protected by natural break walls, reefs.  As you surf in on the north entrance of Nonsuch bay on 8-10 ft swells, you see them breaking over a long line of reefs. Behind the reefs, the water is almost flat. This bay is very large and there is room for thousands of boats to anchor. In addition, there are mooring balls available free of charge.

Kelly Standing on the Devil's Bridge
Now that the outboard is working, exploring has less limitations. Yesterday, we took the dinghy to Devil’s Bridge on the north east side of Nonsuch bay. This is a place worth seeing. It’s a 25ft cliff where the rock on one side is divided from the other and the swells go underneath, like a bridge. According to Devon, a local we met there; in the old days, slaves tried to flee from the island and would come here, where they realized there was no more land and would fall off into the sea from the crashing waves. Which is how they got the name Devil’s Bridge.

Antigua’s northern and eastern coast is lined by reefs. Some of the channels bringing you through these reefs can be tricky and thrilling. On our way from Jumby Bay by Long Island to Nonsuch Bay we went through Bird Island Channel. Imagine, you are in 30-40ft of water and suddenly it drops down to 10ft and you have coral heads sticking out of the water a few feet from you. Now, the swells are coming against you, lifting you up and down and at one point the depth shows a foot below keel! That is nerve racking. I would not recommend this channel if you are on a larger boat and draw more than 6ft. I don’t know if I dare going through it again!!
Our visit in Antigua will last a few more days and the next Island waiting for us is Guadeloupe.

Love from Rocks and Reefs

Check out the photo album of Antigua on Earthling's fb page

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Hidden Paradise

Helicopter Landing by Palm Beach Hotel
It’s amazing to visit places that are so remote from the rest of the world. Barbuda and Antigua are one nation and only 25 miles from each other, yet so different. In Antigua there is an abundance of resorts, hotels, restarurants, and tourists. In Barbuda there are  only 3 resorts, one of which, has been closed for years. The other two, "Coco Point Lodge" and "Palm Beach Hotel" are very private and out of most people’s budget. Coco Point lodge won’t even serve to the cruising community and Palm Beach Hotel has a special pricing strategy, which in simple words, means don’t come here unless you have an endless supply of money. If there was a survey for the most expensive cheeseburger in the world, “Palm Beach Restaurant” would definitely make it in the top ten! A regular beer is priced at $19US and a chesseburger $49US, excluding the 20% tax. We see the same helicopter flying in and out everyday just to drop off guests.

We have anchored in three different places during the 7 day visit to Barbuda. The most scenic anchorage is by 11 mile beach. The sand on this beach has a pinkish color and is absolutely magnificent and reserved for a very few people. The stingrays here are not shy to jump out of the water, gliding over it so elegantly. I wish it could have been captured on camera. We feel very fortunate and lucky to be one of those few people visiting this hidden paradise. There is not a single soul on this beach. What’s even better, is that we setup a bonfire on the night of the full moon. Our friends and us gathered wood for the fire and set up our tent just a few feet from the clashing waves on this long stretched beach. Hotdogs and baked potatoes were made for dinner. We collected enough wood for the fire to last until midnight, then we all crashed in the tent.      

The only town and the capital of Barbuda is Codrington and most of the Island’s population live here. Codrington is named after the family that originally came to the Island in the 1600’s. It’s not even that easy to get to this town. We had to take our dinghy to the beach, pull it across the beach over to Codrington lagoon, and dinghy 1.3 miles to the town. There are taxi services that take people across the lagoon so you don’t have to drag your dinghy, but taxis are out of our budget. Our taxi is the dinghy and the 2  Dahon foldable bikes. We did the trip across the lagoon twice and the second time, the folding bikes were with us on the dinghy. These bikes have carried us to many places and are great transportation. The four of us biked 3-4 miles on a dirt road to get to the windward side of the island to explore some caves.
Why do we like to explore caves? Is it because mankind originally lived in caves? It’s fun to go in caves, and some advice, consider wearing proper shoes to be able to climb up rocks to even get into them. Furthermore, once you get into a cave, beware... there might be creatures living there. As I am stepping into one of these grottos, some kind of  animal started screaming loudly, just a few feet away! It surprised and scared the hell out of me. On top of that, as I am trying to walk away, Mike points out a huge bat hanging on the ceiling of the cave just above me! We later realized that there was no bat and the animal that screamed was just a bird!
Locals Commenting on Charlene
One of the Barbudan's Sunday events is horse racing and bike racing. We happened to experience a bit of each of these events. This Island has a bicycle culture, since it’s so flat. Everybody rides bikes and people are very enthusiastic about them. The few locals we connected with, admired our fold-up bikes so much they gave them names, Charlene and Maxene! The horse race was scheduled for 3:30pm and we were there till 5:30pm. They kept saying the race will start soon, and in the the Caribbean, that’s island time. For us cruisers, there are two times, it’s either day-time or night-time. When night-time approaches we have to get going home. Unfortunately, we never got to see the horse races because the night-time was approaching.
If we had spent another day in this town, everybody would have known us by name and we would have seen most of the townsfolk.

Love from a Hidden Paradise

Check out the Antigua photo album on Earthling's fb page

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


If you are looking to visit a place deserted, quiet, with beautiful beaches and without many resorts, restaurants, and shops, then you should come to Barbuda. It’s difficult to get here on a Boeing 747, but you can sail here on a boat or take a small airplane from Antigua. Our friends on “Zero to Cruising” and us, sailed from Antigua to Barbuda on one tack and made a 26 mile distance in less than 5 hours. This passage was fast and pleasant. Additionally, we trolled in 2 delicious fish, which we are still not sure what kind they are. It is always delightful to make passages and cruise with another boat.
Mike and Rebecca are really fun to cruise with. They areadventurous and in tip-top shape for hiking and other activities. Last time we cruised with another couple, it was with our friends Scott and Brittany, on Rasmus (Windtraveler) in the D.R., April of last year. 

This Island reminds me of the Bahamas because it is flat and has a low population. Only 1,300 people live on approx. 80-100 square miles with the highest point of the Island, just 125 feet. In a four hour hike from Cocoa point to Spanish point, we did not see any human beings. The only earthlings we crossed paths with, were a donkey, flocks of frigate birds, and lizards. Barbuda is known to have many donkeys, horses, and deer, free roaming and their poop and tracks are evident everywhere. Frigate birds have the greatest wing span in proportion to their body weight compared to any other bird, but they can not walk or can’t take off if submerged.

The land on Barbuda is the common wealth of its inhabitants and there is no personal land ownership. Just the way it should be for the rest of the world. The land on our planet belongs to the people of earth and no human should claim ownership by possessing it. Possessions come from ego, control, and greed. We all must cleanse ourselves from those values and characteristics in order to be able to go further in civilization. We are only borrowing this land and we are responsible to take care of it during our life cycle. With the right values, we all should be able to visit or live wherever we desire and no government should be allowed to stop us from that. I am fortunate to live that way and I am hoping that everyone would be able to live freely in any part of the world one day.

Love from Barbuda

Check out the Antigua and Barbuda photo album on Earthling's fb page

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Sweet Tooth

It was about time to do some provisioning. Provisioning; stocking up food on a boat for a longer period of time. We do large provisioning every 4-6 weeks on Earthling. Last time we provision was in St. Croix, 7 weeks ago. Many items like Mayo and vegetable oil lasted until a few days ago. The fridge and the pantry were almost empty. We came here for this purpose. St. John is the capital of Antigua and most trades happen here. There are many small shops and street vendors. Cruise lines come in and out of this port everyday. Tourists are swarming the streets of St. John during the day and after sunset there are pretty much only locals.

The closest anchorage is right by the Cruise line dock. We pushed it a little further and came inside the bay right near the city in 8-10 ft of water. It can’t be more protected than this, the water is as flat as glass even though it’s blowing 15 mph.
We bought groceries from 2 super markets here in St. John. Bargain center is walking distance from town and First Choice is about $1US ($2.25 Eastern Caribbean) bus ride and 10 min away. Prices on both of the stores are similar, but there is more selection at First Choice, like cheese and lunch meat. In the middle of town, there is also a Fish and Meat Market, but make sure you get there early in the morning for the freshest meat and fish.

Local Vegetable Market
Most vegetables aboard are purchased at the local farmer’s market. Almost all the vegetables are grown locally and many of them I’ve never cooked with before. I’m getting creative making dishes with these island grown vegetables, such as Eddoes, Yams, and Christophines.  Check out the Earthling Menu to see what we cook aboard!        

Furthermore, I was not expecting to see a Middle Eastern Rasta mon. In St. John many store fronts and businesses are owned by Syrians and Palestinians and many of them are run/operated by the second generation. We met a few of them and they were so excited to have us visiting their Island. They were all very helpful and even gave us deals on some items purchased from their stores. A few of them have brought to our attention that we have nothing to worry about here in St. John. If there is anything we need help with, we should not hesitate to ask them. Who knew there would be a Middle Eastern spirit here in Antigua.

The Caribbean Islands have been known for their sugar cane production. You see sugar mill ruins in almost every Island. There is no sugar cane mass production and export any more. However, you still see people sucking on and chewing sugar cane. If you have a sweet tooth, like me, this is the best natural snack you can have. A few days ago in Hermitage Bay, we were walking on a muddy road and a pick-up truck stopped and offered us ride. We didn’t take advantage of the offer since we were not going that far. The following day we came across the same pick up truck in St. John. The gentleman was shaving sugar cane skins and selling them on the road side. We were excited to see him and bought some of the sweet sticks. The sugar cane has a fiber in them that you can’t eat but you can chew and suck out the sweet juice, then spit out the fibers. Since we’ve had this sweet snack aboard, we have been sucking more than ever and I have cured some of my sugar fix!
Love from Sweet Tooth