Saturday, 1 February 2014

Sailing to the Windward Antilles and a holiday hiatus

Alaria in English Harbor clearing customs out of Antigua
We finished all of our priority sites of the “Leeward Antilles” (the northeast corner of the eastern Caribbean) on schedule.  So the next step was to sail 200 miles from Antigua to St. Lucia where we would take a holiday break.

Between Antigua and St. Lucia lie three islands.  Guadaloupe (French) Dominica (Independent country but part of the British Commonwealth) and Martinique (French).  If we wanted to sail to any of these islands for a day, we’d be required to clear customs.  So, the easiest way to do the run to St. Lucia is to go straight. 

To sail straight to St. Lucia takes about two days so I wanted a crew of four.  So, to get new crew, we posted a notice in a few places around Falmouth Harbor Antigua.

Notice board where we advertised for crew to help deliver Alaria to St. Lucia
Our call for crew (composed by Paul Calder)
We had several “applicants” for the delivery to St. Lucia.  Most were down and out and liked the idea of free room and board with a flight home to Antigua.  Some had some time off with little to do so … why not? 

We settled on two folks who seemed to have the right mix.  One fellow started his resume with the sentence: “Sailing is in my DNA”.  I wasn’t sure what that would look like in a human but it did appeal to me.  A young woman wants to be a skipper (rare for women) and she wanted the hours and experience.  We had our crew!

Alaria under full sail (Photo George Stoyle)

We fueled up and headed out of English Harbor about 3 pm with a stiff breeze.  We sailed quickly (reaching over 7 knots) to Guadaloupe.  The wind was on the beam and the seas were lumpy so it was nice sailing in the lee of Guadaloupe that evening.  However, I noticed one delivery-crew member (Mr. DNA we’ll call him) wasn’t looking so great.  When he went to the rail, I knew he wasn’t feeling that great.  Nevertheless, each time his watch came up, he was at the helm and did a terrific job.  Then he’d go below and lose some more of his lunch.  Clearly sailing was in his DNA but I don’t think anything was in his stomach the entire two days of the passage.
Our cruise path to date. South of Dominica is the beginning of the Windward Antilles
We arrived to Marigot Bay, St. Lucia at 5:30 am.  All the cruising guides said, don’t enter a harbor you don’t know in the dark so we sailed back and forth waiting for sunlight. 

Marigot Bay seen from the highest hill (photo George Stoyle)
Marigot Bay with Alaria the left-most sailboat in the photo.

James Mitchner once said that Marigot Bay is the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean.  I don’t know if that’s correct but it is beautiful!  It is narrow with a palm tree lined peninsula blocking your view to the end.  The high lush sides of the bay are a great backdrop and a good place for us to stay a while.

Alaria on the mooring in Marigot Bay.

We had reserved a slip at the marina but when we saw the crowded line of sailboats all stern to the dock (called a yacht ghetto), we opted to stay on the mooring.

The "yacht ghetto" at the Marina in Marigot Bay
We arrived mid December and soon George left to go home and Jo arrived to spend Christmas and New Years with me.  Christmas 2013 will be forever be remembered by St. Lucians for the massive rainstorm that hit unexpectedly.  No one was sure how much rain fell but roads, bridges and banana plantations were wiped out.  Sadly, six people died from the floods on this tiny 20 mile-long island.

The island lost its water pipes so the marina had to shut down their toilet and shower facilities.  Alaria, however, did fine since we were able to fill our water tanks from the rain so we could shower on board in comfort.  We celebrated Christmas aboard Alaria.
Christmas Eve on Alaria (note the festive clothes pins!)

Despite the floods (boy, you wouldn’t believe the muddy runoff), when it was over-- Jo and I were able to tour the island and see the beautiful island.  There are several wonderful botanical gardens, waterfalls, a volcano park and hikes with splendid views.

Gros Peton (left) and Petite Piton (right).
An amazing tropical rain forest.
Waterfall with unusual colors thanks to the active volcano in the region.
New Years Eve culminated at midnight with terrific fireworks from two competing hotels.  Jo and I went to the best restaurant and had a seven course meal starting with lionfish ceviche (lionfish is a non-native fish from the Pacific that eats baby reef fish so I encourage anyone who wants to spear fish, spear only lionfish!).

After the new year, George and his wife returned and Jo and I flew back to Maine for this, my only scheduled hiatus from the Caribbean odyssey.

My amuse bouche in Maine (view from our living room)


  1. They made a good trip there. I want to start something like this. i have recently started sailingTeam building New York

  2. Sailing Holidays Croatia you live every moment of, experiences you’ll love forever and areas that this fascinating country has to offer.