In our last blog we were preparing to leave Martinique, and head further north up the island chain. We left St Pierre, and made the long sail 80 miles north to Iles des Saintes, where we dropped anchor in the beautiful Terre de Haut.
This small group of islands are part of the French island of Guadeloupe, so we were only too happy to continue our love affair with fresh baguettes and pain au chocolat each day. The tiny island had plenty for us to see and do, and my land loving legs were delighted to have the opportunity to do lots of walks and exploring. Fort Napoleon sits up one of the hills on the island, and we walked up there for an explore. The old fort is really impressive, and has a great little museum inside, with exhibits on island life, and the history of the building. Other highlights included renting some golf buggies with 8 other cruisers, and exploring the entire island, and a long, hot hike up the largest hill, Shameaux, for the best views of the anchorage. Perhaps the most entertaining part of our stay here was the daily fight for mooring balls, which were in high demand. Each day new boats would circle the anchorage waiting for a departing boat, and then a hunger games style battle would ensue until one boat managed to secure their lines. For the boats remaining, this provided some entertainment over our breakfast each day.
After a week or so in the Saintes, it was time to move on, and we sailed up to Guadeloupe, and our first stop in Pigeon Island. This pretty anchorage is a marine reserve, and is well known for some of the best snorkelling in the Eastern Caribbean. We spent a brilliant couple of days swimming with turtles, and snorkelling the coral reefs, however the bay was a little too rolly for a comfortable nights sleep, so we upped anchor, and sailed to Deshaies, in the north of the island.
Deshaies was a great spot, and is well known as the setting for the BBC TV series Death in Paradise. They have a number of free mooring balls, so we managed to find one close to shore, and settled in for a few days. We had decided to sign up to complete our Open Water PADI scuba dive course, so for the next week or so, we alternated our days between diving, and exploring Guadeloupe. Our dive course was done over three mornings with the wonderful Eric from Sub tropical Diving, with 2 dives each morning, every second day. We were treated to an outstanding array of marine wildlife, and each dive we saw something new – we were totally hooked!
When we weren’t diving, we hired a car, and went to see the many beautiful sights on the island of Guadeloupe. We visited the waterfalls at Carbet, swam in the very cold pool at the bottom of Saut D’Acomat falls, and found the hot springs at Bouillante, where the islands geothermal plant spills the natural hot water into the bay. Another reason we enjoyed our time in Deshaies so much was that we were in great company – several other boats we’d met along the way were also there, so we spent plenty of time socialising, and enjoyed some excellent pizza during our stay!
After we passed the PADI course, we booked in with our dive shop to do another dive, back at Pigeon Island. Some of our cruising buddies also signed up so it was really fun to do our first qualified dive with friends, where we saw turtles, eels, baracuda, pufferfish, and a whole host of other colourful sea life.
Eventually, the “itchy feet” set in, and we decided to move on up to Antigua. Our first port of call was to Jolly Harbour on the east coast, where we found the most incredible supermarket! First things first, we stocked up the boat with all manner of treats and goodies!
We quickly fell in love with Antigua – the water is crystal clear and the most amazing blues. As Antigua is not part of the volcanic chain, the beaches are soft white sand, and beautifully clean. We had friends arriving into the Island for the Caribbean 600 race, so after we had checked in and re-provisioned, we sailed around to Falmouth Harbour, where most of the yachts for the race where based. Falmouth and English Harbours are wishing walking distance of each other, and tucked away between the two is the beautiful Nelsons Dockyard. The old dockyard was built in Admiral Nelsons time during the 1700s, and for a small fee, you an explore the old sail loft, visit the little museum, and wander around the old fort. We hiked up the very scenic Middle Ground trail between the two harbours, and we thoroughly enjoyed an afternoon and evening at the 600 opening party with friends, and wished them all good luck for the race. With slightly sore heads the following morning, we pulled up the anchor, and sailed around the east coast of Antigua, to Green Island. This large lagoon faces the Atlantic Ocean, but is protected by a huge reef, which provides a stunning view each morning, with the added bonus of a peaceful nights sleep! We spent a wonderful 5 days there with our buddies on Adrenaline. There isn’t much going on out there, and it’s the perfect place to unwind with some kitesurfing, beach BBQs and lots of snorkelling!
However, after a few days of peace and quiet, I was longing for a big of land life, so we sailed back to Falmouth Harbour. Here, we did the stunning hike along the cliff up to Shirley Heights, and treated ourselves to lunch and an afternoon by the pool at the Boom Restaurant.
We greeted a few pals as they finished the Caribbean 600 race, and indulged in a delicious pizza with a good friend from home, before heading back to Jolly Harbour, where we were leaving Ealu for a few days while we flew to Miami for the Bacardi Cup in the Melges 24.
We took advantage of having a marina berth and ticked off a few boat jobs including a rig check, and a full clean and polish. With Ealu gleaming in the sun, we took off for Miami, and as always, we had an absolute blast with Team Barbarians. This event was particularly great for us, as there were so many of our friends from home there, and we made sure to spend time catching up on all the news from home, and spending time with people we hadn’t seen for nearly a year. I felt a bit deflated when it was time to leave, and we had to fly back to the boat while every one else was heading for home, and the homesickness kicked in for a couple of days.
When we arrived back to Antigua, the realties of the ongoing Coronavirus were becoming apparent, so we decided to wait a few days before we left the island, to see how things played out. While we were here, we sailed up to the absolutely stunning island of Barbuda, 20 miles off the north coast of Antigua, and anchored off the prettiest beach I’ve ever seen! 17 miles long, with a very slight pink colour in the sand, it looked like something from a postcard. We were delighted to drop the anchor next to our buddies on Music and Life of Reilly, and it looked like the perfect place to catch up on sleep and recover from the last few days of travelling and racing in Miami.
We had a very leisurely time in Barbuda, and the first couple of days were spent reading, walking for miles on the gorgeous beach, and swimming in the bluest water we’ve see in the Caribbean! We helped friends to recover their anchor after the chain broke a few days previously, and caught up with a few small admin tasks. We also booked a tour to the other end of the island to climb the caves at Two Foot bay, and to visit the Frigate Bird Colony. Our guide Chris showed us around the island – Barbuda was hit very hard by Hurricane Irma in 2017, and is still recovering. The tiny island is very flat, so what ever wasn’t damaged by the high winds was inevitably destroyed by the storm surge that followed. The short hike up to the caves was excellent, we started on the white sand beach, and climbed up through the cave, eventually emerging on the top of the small cliffs, know as the “highlands”. The views across the Atlantic coast were great, and we took lots of excellent photos!
After a morning exploring the caves, we drove on to the tiny harbour in Codrington (the islands only town) to meet our guide “Straight”, who would take us by boat to see the Frigate bird colony. The colony on Barbuda is the largest in the world, and these strange looking birds take up residence in the lagoon each mating season. We were lucky enough to visit when there were loads of tiny baby birds in their nests, so although the visit was short, we were really glad to have been able to make the trip. After a tasty lunch in Uncle Roddy’s we went back to the boat to prepare for our sail back to Antigua in the morning.
By this stage, it had become apparent that the Coronavirus wasn’t going anywhere soon, and we needed to rethink our plans for the coming weeks. After much deliberation, and with some islands closing their borders, we decided that the safest thing would be to cancel our plans to visit Monserrat and Kitts and Nevis for the time being. We had to weigh up where would be the best place to stay, in the event that we got stuck somewhere for a few weeks should travel bans come into effect, and Antigua seemed like our best option. For now, we’ve committed to spending the next couple of weeks here to see how things evolve, and will keep our plans very flexible for the coming weeks.
We’re thinking of everyone at home, and sending all the good vibes and positive thoughts to family and friends everywhere – stay safe, and we’ll see you soon.
Until next time…..
Well Rachel and Marty, that was a wonderful read certainly cheered me up in these strange times here at home. We will all get through this together…wash those hands and enjoy your time in a beautiful part of the world.
Lots of love. Mam and Dad O’LEARY xxx
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