(7,435 Statute miles ; 13,384 Km)
Since our last update we have called at Nevis, St Kitts, St Barts, St Martin and Anguilla. All the passages between the islands were superb sails and we found some lovely, quiet anchorages. However, we are now at a turning point where the hurricane season approaches and already the temperature off the West African coast is spawning tropical waves. So far the jet stream winds have introduced enough upper level shear to prevent tropical storms developing.
Soon we set sail for the coast of South America to take shelter along the islands off Venezuela. This is a 500nM trip across the Caribbean Sea which should take us around four to five days. There is now a map of the Caribbean area in the ROUTE page so you can check the passage out there. Our landfall will be Aves de Barlovento or Los Roques, both are low reef strewn areas of crystal clear water with prolific marine and birdlife. We will probably be out of contact for some weeks until we reach the mainland or more developed islands like Margarita.
Without doubt, one of our most spectacular recent experiences has been the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta. So we must share with you some of the images of that delightful gathering of expensively preserved maritime heritage. Most were under the American flag, who else could afford the astronomical cost of cosseting these aging mistresses?
The Atantide below was an immaculately preserved motor yacht from the 1930's which bears the 'Little Ship' plaque from the Dunkerque evacuation of 1941. At night she had through hull, underwater illumination so one could enjoy watching the fish milling around her, as if in a magical unbounded tank.
Next the Endeavour, one of the three surviving J-Class sloops that were icons of racing in the 1930's. She lead the boats around the race course with the grace and poise that are unique to these open decked queens of the racing circuit. She is 130 feet long with a crew of around thirty. Her two surviving sisters are the Shamrock and Valsheda, the latter used to be seen frequently in Solent waters.
In all we spent nine weeks in and around Antigua, entertaining four sets of visitors and getting to know most of the shoreline intimately. We enjoyed having them all immensely and it was probably the best island to have done it on. The great thing about visitors to the boat is the 'quality time' contact, undiluted by the usual pressures and demands of meeting up for just evenings or weekends back home.
As we explore, our thoughts often wander to where we will eventually settle when the wanderlust is finally satiated. After the warm climates we are becoming accustomed to, perhaps some airy villa overlooking the azure sea of some tropical island will prove irresistable. We looked at this "des-res" on the outskirts of Charlestown on Nevis but thought that such high-tech features as the window catches might be rather demanding of maintenance!
We enjoyed being back in the French islands again, particularly for the range of food available. That feeling of wonder, standing in a supermarket in St Barts, after three months in the independent islands will be long remembered. We hired a car to see the island. It is a lovely, if not rather crowded place, with too many ex-pat retreats lining the steep hilsides.
Sint Maartens/St Martin is a joint Dutch/French island, famed for its duty free shopping and fabulous array of goods of every description. We went to Marigot on the northwest, French side to spend time sorting out a few boat jobs within reach of the excellent chandlers and re-stocking Amoenitas for the isolated anchorages of Venezuela. It was a hard week busing between the three main centres of Marigot, Simpson's Bay and Phillipsburg but we achieved all we had planned.
After such exertions we decided to chill out on Anguilla, definitely one of the quieter islands. It has superb beaches, exclusive exotic hotels, good snorkeling and diving but little else. There we again saw the devastation of recent hurricanes. Lenny caused immense problems last November when it came back on an eastward track, almost unheard of. Here you can see the section of the hull of this beached freighter is missing and the rest of the plates forward deeply buckled inward. The sandstone cliff behind was also undermined such that the villa atop looks to be in a precarious position. This is typical of scenes throughout the island chain. It is no wonder that the locals are all beginning to get a little edgy now and we mariners are all keeping a close watch to see how long we dare hang around the area.
It seems fitting to close this time with one of the many sunsets we have experienced on our trip up the islands. The sun goes down at a remarkably constant time of around six-thirty pm local time here in the tropics, so it makes the ideal backdrop for that pre-dinner drink in the cockpit, aft deck or restaurant balcony. With a clear horizon, it is possible on occasions to observe the elusive 'green flash', a fraction of a second of bright green as the sun's upper limb sinks under the horizon.
Where to next:-
Our next hard date in the diary is the 2nd October when we have booked to haul out in Trinidad (eat your heart out all of you on the treadmill!). We leave soon for Venezuela where there are lots of offshore islands to cruise eastwards along toward Trinidad. We may call in at the mainland to travel inland to the Andes or take up an invitation to visit a contact there. The security situation is less certain on the mainland so we will need to get local advice before straying too far.
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