After changing anchorages every couple of days with JP and Kellen, we decided to stay put in Point-à-Pitre for a while. It was a good spot to get some laundry done and work on a couple of projects, like getting our Aries wind vane up and running. A wind vane is essentially an auto-pilot that drives the boat without using any power, leveraging the power of the wind and the waves instead. We had purchased it at the end of last season for a case of beer, and all the bearings had seized from sitting in saltwater and lack of use, so David had his work cut out for him. We had ordered a rebuild kit from the UK in early December, but it had only arrived the week before we left St. Martin, so we hadn’t had a chance to get to it. But in just one day sitting in the anchorage in PàP, David took the whole thing apart and put it back together again with all the new bearings, and just like that it was good as new! We christened it “PHIL”, in honour of the guy who had found it for us, a familiar face from the boatyard, who sadly passed away suddenly earlier this year.
With that big rebuild project out of the way, we no longer needed to stay in an anchorage with convenient proximity to chandleries. So we weighed anchor and sailed for 8 hours around to Pigeon Island on the leeward coast of Guadeloupe, home of the Cousteau Marine Reserve. Here we experienced some spectacular snorkeling, swimming through giant schools of yellow snapper as soon as we hopped out of the dinghy. In the reef, we spotted huge parrotfish, pufferfish, black triggerfish, squirrelfish, angelfish, and many more whose names we still don’t know. We highly recommend this spot for snorkeling and diving enthusiasts.
After a brief stop in Deshaies to stock up on delicious French food, clear out, and get one last meal in at a French restaurant (see photo above *drool*), we set off on our crossing to independent-yet-still-so-British Antigua. This crossing was memorable for many reasons. For one thing, it was the most hands-off sail we’ve ever done, thanks to Phil. Mel was even a bit bored, which is pretty rare while sailing. Phil allowed us both to just sit around the cockpit and stare out at the ocean. About 16 nautical miles into our 45-mile crossing, Mel spotted something in the water up ahead. “WHOA!!! WHALE!!! HUMPBACK!!!” She grabbed her phone and started filming the giant humpback fin waving at us. As we approached, we noticed smaller dorsal fins—the humpback wasn’t alone. There were pilot whales swimming with her! We must have stumbled on a fantastic feeding spot. As if that wasn’t awe-inspiring enough, all of a sudden we were surrounded by dolphins! With Phil driving, David was able to head to the bow, the best seat in the house for dolphin-watching. To say it was an amazing three minutes would be an understatement. In the past two seasons we had only seen marine wildlife twice before, and always in that same spot! When seeing the video, many of our sailing friends who had also done the crossing that week were a bit jealous that they’d missed it.
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We very rarely see marine wildlife while we are sailing. But when we do, it always seems to be in the same spot in the Antigua Channel, about 16 miles north of Guadeloupe. Last year we saw the sleeping whale while we were sailing south, then on the way back north a few weeks later we saw our first Atlantic dolphins. But this year, we hit the frickin' jackpot. Watch the video!! #dolphins #pilotwhales #humpback #sooverwhelming #sogiddy #filmingonaboatishard #sailing #caribbeanadventures #Guadeloupe #antiguachannel #woohoo #wishinstawouldletmepostlongervideo #wherethewindtakesus
We arrived in Falmouth Harbour, Antigua at 4 p.m. after just under 8 hours of sailing. We were greeted by our friends on Harmonium, fellow Canadians whose boat was laid up next to ours during Irma. They invited us over for sundowners with the crews from Haven and Lost Loon. With such great food, drink and conversation, the evening got away on us, and it ended up being quite a late night considering we had woken up with the sun.
The next morning we cleared into Antigua then went for a hike in the hills surrounding neighbouring English Harbour, admiring the super yachts, remarking on the white caps in the section of the Caribbean Sea we had crossed just the day before, as we clambered over goat paths in the midday sun. The hike ended at Pigeon Beach, where we walked back to Falmouth and rewarded ourselves with a delicious roti lunch at Roti Sue’s. As we sipped on refreshing Presidente beers, we all discussed heading to Green Island the next day, which is supposed to be an idyllic spot on the windward side of Antigua.
The next morning, Harmonium headed out at the crack of dawn, blazing a trail for the rest of us who preferred to sleep in a little. However, after a few radio relays between crews, it was decided that the wind and waves would not allow for a pleasant sail to Green Island that day, so Harmonium turned around while the rest of us thanked them for being the guinea pigs.
Disappointed that Green Island wasn’t in the cards, we consoled ourselves with sundowners at 2Six8, Antigua’s only microbrewery, which just happens to be run by an Antiguan-Canadian who also has a bike shop in Ottawa (driving home the conclusion that it really is a small world). Their beer offerings were such a refreshing change from pilsners, which seem to be the only type of beer available in the Caribbean. After tasting their wares, we moved down the road to Mauro’s for authentic Italian wood-fire pizza. It was delicious! You should definitely go if you are ever in the area.
By this point, Mel had received a translation job so got into the habit of locking herself in the boat every morning to sit at her computer. David decided to get out of her hair and join our friends on an epic hike to Shirley Heights. The next afternoon we found ourselves back there with our friends Norm and Elaine for the weekly Sunday sundowner event, featuring an amazing bbq, spectacular sunset views over the harbour and an astounding steel drum band.
The next Morning, Norm and Elaine came back to Falmouth for a sail to Jolly Harbour where they live. We were planning to clear out and head to Barbuda the next day, but in the end decided to stay put so Mel could finish up her translation. We were on a bit of a timeline because we had friends flying into St. Martin on March 10, and it was already the 4th.
We were disappointed that we would miss Barbuda, which was one of our favourite islands from last season, but we strongly believe that everything happens for a reason. And when SV Delos posted that they were doing sundowners on the beach back in Falmouth and everyone was invited, that reason became very clear. Anyone who knows us knows that we are big fans of this sailing vlog, so Mel finished her translation in the morning, and that afternoon we took the bus back to the anchorage we had left just days before.
Meeting the crew of Delos was pretty cool, to say the least. They are all such genuine, warm, and down-to-earth people. Talking to them was like talking to any other cruiser we meet, covering all sorts of boater subjects, from insurance to favourite anchorages to exploding toilets. After the sun went down, they invited the stragglers to join them for dinner at Flatties, a Portuguese grill just up the road, so about a dozen of us ate dinner with Brian, Karin, Brady, and Alex. The whole thing was very surreal, and in the cab back to Jolly, we sat, a little buzzed, holding hands, smiles on our faces, feeling like this lifestyle we have chosen is pretty darned neat.
Where the wind takes us next: back to SXM!