Bonaire to Curacao

The 3 day sail from Grenada to Bonaire was an absolute pleasure. Good wind, calm seas, up to 3knots of current behind us, a full moon – what more could we ask for?

sunset

We were pleased to get one of the moorings in Bonaire, as some boats tend to stay a very long time. The dinghy dock at Karels bar was very convenient.

karelsBonaire is well known for its diving. The island has so many dive spots, with many sites accessible directly from the beach. Gooodive was a great choice of dive companies, with very professional staff and good gear.

DCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPRO

Bonaire has a beautiful, rather rugged coastline and lots of cactius bon

cactus1cactcact3cactus fenceSalt is a major export – the colourful salt pans were rather beautiful in the afternoon light.

salt1salt2The flamingos are numerous and very pink

flamingoWe needed to be on the lookout for wild donkeys, both on the roads and the paths leading to the beach

donk signDCIM100GOPROWindsurfing and kitesurfing are also big on Bonaire

windsurwindWe could have easily spent much longer in Bonaire, but needed to get Sea Cloud to Curacao for the hurricane season.

sign cur

Willemstad is such a pretty, colourful (World Heritage listed) town. The swing bridge opened and Sea Cloud passed through into the waterway up towards Curacao Marine where she will spend the next 6 months.

cura sail2cur3curac sailcur sailAfter a few frantic days of preparing Sea Cloud we moved her into the shallow slipway for hauling out. The process, as usual was very nerve wracking, but all went very smoothly and Sea Cloud is now propped on her cradle ready to be tied down for the next few months.

sc lift

sc lift2Knowing very little about Curacao, we were very pleasantly surprised. Willemstad is still very Dutch in appearance. It is a very cosmopolitan, vibrant town with beautifully restored historical areas, many good restaurants and bars and a floating vegetable market.

float

veg mk

float2

moj bar

We were really lucky to be in Curacao for the Harvest Festival (Seu) – an annual event. Having started in the outskirts of Willemstad in the middle of the day, no one seemed to know when the parade would reach the centre. For a while we hung around in the cool with the locals,

robbiesbefore moving to a restaurant close to town with a great view of the centre square

pre paradeand the cruise ship leaving Willemstad.

IMG_2271 After 5 hours of dancing in the summer heat, the colourful parade finally reached townparad1parade2parad5parade4parade6Curacao also has beautiful beaches, and apparently good diving.

IMG_5925

With Sea Cloud safe on the hardstand, we have headed back to Sydney for 6 months of catching up with family and friends and a little work.

Since leaving Corfu, Greece in May last year, we have travelled 8000+Nm in Sea Cloud and have visited 32 countries. The plan for the end of the year is to sail to Colombia, the San Blas Islands through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific.

Grenada

Carriacou was fun. The beautiful small Sandy Island had great snorkelling. The water was crystal clear and full of fish life.

IMG_2142

DCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPRO

A local had recommended we go to the Friday night party at the Lambi Queen in Tyrrell Bay to hear one of his church members, who “sings like an angel”. It was obviously the place to be, the small restaurant/bar was full to overflowing with locals and visitors. The band was great and the African drummers, a specialty of Carriacou were fantastic.

lambi

drummersWe toured the island on the local bus, particularly wanting to see Windward where they still make the traditional timber boats. There weren’t many boats to see, but the houses were very picturesque.

windward2.jpgThe buses are so much more casual than at home. There is no schedule, the bus leaves when full. Our driver did his shopping while doing a few loops of the town waiting for customers. Coming back from Windward, the bus driver was stopping off along the way to sell chicken rotis (with bones) to her regular customers.

roti.jpg

Tyrrell Bay is a favourite with cruisers. It has internet and you can even have your hair cut at the waterfront bar.

internet tyrr

barbershpGrenada, was our last stop in this island chain. We went into Clarkes Court Bay, then then the Marina so Mike at Palm Tree Marine could work on our generator. Not the pristine anchorage we’d been used to! The rum distillery is close by, so the water in the bay is the colour of stewed tea. We worked hard getting many jobs done.

jobsWe were very pleased to find Cardius, a local who restored Sea Cloud’s very sad looking timberwork. He was a pleasure to have around and did a beautiful job.

cardius

Like St Martin, the cruising community is very strong here, with many people sitting here permanently enjoying the many social activities and services organised by the cruisers advertised on the morning’s local net.

We’d decided to rent a car for the weekend – a hint – don’t use Thomas and Sons car rental! Instead of the new car shown on their website, they gave us a wreck which died within the first half hour, so we resorted to the very good local bus system for the day. Saturday market in the main town of St Georges, was colourful and busy.

Klaus and Helene on Lusea (a HR46) joined us for a day tour of the island. It was much more relaxing to be driven and not to have to navigate the small winding roads. Grenada is lush and green with many hills and waterfalls.

falls2

 

fallsfalls3

 

walkThe tour of the Belmont Estate where they still process cocoa and grow many different types of fruit was well worthwhile.

cocoa

choc shopcocoa2We anchored in Prickly Bay for our last evening in Grenada – what a change from Clarke’s Court Bay! We could see why cruisers stay in this spot. The St George University Club was a great place for our last dinner in this part of the world and prepare Sea Cloud before our 3 day sail to Bonaire.

Bonaire

The Grenadines

Passing the Pitons of St Lucia  in the early morning, pitons1

we sailed past St Vincent to Bequia, the northernmost island of the Grenadines. The anchorage off Princess Margaret Beach was very pleasant.

beq1It is either a short dinghy ride to one of the many dinghy docks in the town, or a walk along the coastal path, past the picturesque restaurant and shops along the waterfront.

beq5

beq3The tropical fruit at the Rasta market was delicious, but of course ended up being overpriced as I’m not good at bargaining.

beq2

It was a hot walk across the island to visit Brother King’s turtle sanctuary.

beq turbeqtur1The Sugar Reef resort in the old plantation building was a delightful place for lunch.

beqsug2

beqsug3beqsugbeq sugar1beqwalk2Alik, the sail and canvas maker in Bequia had been recommended. His service was fast and very good.

beqsail

The islands are all so close in the Grenadines. A brisk sail took us to the island of Mustique, where we picked up a mooring. The bay has a reputation for very rolly, we were lucky and had a few very calm days.

must anchThe famous Basil’s Bar was being demolished, a disappointment as it was the place to go on Mustique.

P1040655

Other than that, Mustique quickly became one of our favourite islands. The beaches are beautiful and snorkelling good.

IMG_1961

must2

And you can get a really good coffee and croissant at Sweetie Pie bakery.

mustsweetie

Mustique is the only place we’ve seen where you need to reserve a picnic table for lunch. As we wandered past to find a snorkelling spot, tables were being decorated and set with white tablecloths in preparation for island guests. The old cotton plantations have been turned into exclusive resorts, such as the very beautiful Cottonhouse.mustdinner

Unlike peak periods, there were no restrictions as to where we could walk. We only saw two other people in our 4 hour hike along north and east coast track.

IMG_1989

IMG_1963mustwalkThe lunch time view over the bay from Firefly was beautiful, unfortunately the meal very ordinary and overpriced.

must fire

Navigating through the reefs into Tobago Cays takes plenty of concentration, but is well worth it. Turtles are everywhere, fish are plentiful and the colour of the water spectacular in this marine park.

tobago1

Having read John Caldwell’s book, Desperate Voyage we really wanted to see Palm Island. As a non sailor, he bought a boat and sailed from the US to Australia post WW2, almost killing himself numerous times along the way. He settled on what was initially called Prune Island, developing it into a small resort, which is now the beautiful Palm Island.

palm1

palm2

palm3Chatham Bay on the lee side of Union Island, was a wonderfully calm anchorage after days of sitting in the wind. Apart from the numerous small establishments offering beach barbeques, there is nothing much here, except, once again, the big Sea Cloud.

scloud chat

The people, the veggie market and the town of Clifton, the capital of Union Island are all very colourful.

clifton1

clifton4

clifton2clifton3Happy Island, a small island on the reef was built by a local out of conch shells. At sunset the bar was a very lively spot, with very interactive dancing staff and killer rum punches.

happy1

happy2

Antigua to Dominica

Nelsons Dockyard is the place to be in Antigua. Sea Cloud was docked next to Nina Too. It was good to catch up with Andy, her skipper, who we’d in Corfu at the beginning of last season.

ant scThe Dockyard has been beautifully restored.

ant nels2

ant pillarsSome of the beautiful old yachts are here – Antigua race week is less than a month away.

ant ships

ant ships2

The Sunday night BBQ at Shirley Heights was fun. The view of the anchorage at Freemans Bay, the Dockyard and Falmouth harbour was wonderful at sunset.

ant shirley view

ant shir danc

The Dockyard seems to be the end of many great journeys. How people paddle across the Atlantic is a mind boggling concept for us. Sea Cloud seems small at sea, but these craft?

ant row

The horns of the large boats started blowing early one morning, heralding the arrival of Chris, a South African who had just arrived after paddling his stand up paddleboard across the Atlantic, in 93 days. he’s talking about continuing around the world…

ant sup4

ant sup2

He had arrived earlier than expected to a small, but enthusiastic crowd. Seeing the 3-4m seas off the coast to Antigua we could see why he didn’t linger to arrive later in the day.ant sup1Antigua was a good place to get jobs done, our hair cut, and enjoy the Dockyard.

The view out of the hairdressers window.

ant donk

It is always fun to see the items for sale in local supermarketsant drinkThe wind dropped below 30knots, and the seas below 3m, time for us to leave for Dominica.

We were met by at the mouth of Prince Rupert Bay by Cobra, who helped us with a mooring and tours. The bay is very well organised by the local group, PAYS who provide security, tours and services for the many yachts (60 in the anchorage) who visit this wonderful island.

dom 1 pays

dom cobraThe local town of Portsmouth is very colourful, the dogs friendly and the beach lovely.

dom truck

dom dog

dom drain

dom baeachA tour of the north of the island took us through small colourful villages, rainforests and fishing villages.

dom fish

dom raindom rainfOne village boast being the home of the oldest woman in the world.

dom old

We walked through the rainforest and jumped off the rocks into the Chaudiere pool

dom hike

dom chau

then were guided around the beautiful windswept red rock area by the resident caretaker.

dom red2

dom red rockDavid, one of Cobra’s team was our guide for an early morning tour along the Indian River, spotting many river birds, crabs and iguanas along the way.

dom david

dom ind3dom ind4

dom indDominica is so green – lots of  rainbows, and rain.

dom rainbow

dom rain copyAfter a few days of sun, the rain had set in. We left Portsmouth for Roseau, the capital of Dominica hoping to do some walks.rosea anch

Unfortunately, the unseasonably heavy rain made many of the walks we’d hoped to do unsafe. Our planned hiking tour out of Roseau abandoned, we pottered around the colourful town.

dom ros5

ros1

ros4

We’d hoped to do some walks in Guadeloupe as well, but as this was all we could see of Guadeloupe we moved on.

IMG_1939IMG_1902We thought we’d have plenty of time to explore the Caribbean slowly, but here we are with only a month before we need to be in Curacao. The sailing has been great, with Sea Cloud and crew speeding down through the Leeward Islands, with just short overnight stops before moving on to the next island. We’ll spend our last few weeks in the Grenadines and Grenada, hopefully relaxing, before our 4 day passage across to Bonaire in the ABC islands.

Anguilla to St Barths

The sail from Anegada to Anguilla was relatively pleasant, given we were crossing a dreaded piece of water and had to work to get there.

sail-to-ang

Anguilla

Anguilla looks beautiful, but more for land based tourists than yachties. We anchored in Road Harbour and found that to take Sea Cloud anywhere other than Road Bay (and there are lovely looking anchorages) we would have to pay US $56 per day, and double that if we wanted to anchor overnight. After a night of not much sleep, the thought of chilling out on an island was pretty appealing, so we left Sea Cloud at anchor and caught the water taxi out to Sandy Island. Good that we did, as the northerly swell would have made anchoring unpleasant and crossing the reef to the island via dinghy looked positively hairy!

sandycay7

The water taxi guys made it look easy, backing their boats to the beach so we could jump off without getting too wet.

sandy-cay1

sandy-cay8

Some needed a little help.

What a great place to spend a day! Pina Coladas, music, beautiful water for swimming, a yummy lunch and friendly guests.

sandycay-beach

I enjoyed watching the boats coming in and out of the ‘lagoon’.

sandy-cay3

sandycay5

Ian had his eyes elsewhere…

St Maarten

Relaxation over, we sailed the short hop to St Maarten, where we anchored in Simpson Bay, before navigating our way into the lagoon to a berth at Simpson Bay Marina.

simpson-bay

simpson-br

We settled into a frantic pace of trying to get jobs done – sails tweaked, rigging and steering tightened and most importantly, sourcing a new dinghy to replace our leaky one. We were so pleased to find a home for our old one – two Aussies Ben and Chloe.

dingy-ownersThe daily 7.30am net on Channel 10 was a great source of information. There is a real cruising community here – it seems many cruisers settle in here, stay for weeks and I think some never leave. We settled into a routine of shopping at the great chandleries, the inevitable sitting around waiting for service people to come and meeting other cruisers at the Lagoonies happy hour. It was wonderful to meet up with Karen and Dave Bowes almost a year to the day since they stayed with us in Sydney. We’d last seen them in Gibraltar, so had so much catching up to do. Ian and Dave didn’t stop discussing boats and widgets..

karen-dave

Saba

Jobs finally done we set sail for Saba, an island we’d been really hoping to visit.

sabaSaba can be a tricky place for yachts, as it has limited shelter in a number of winds and can be affected by swell. What it does have is good, secure mooring buoys on the west and south coasts and a safe dinghy dock in the harbour at Fort Bay. With relatively calm conditions and Sea Cloud secured to a mooring buoy off Fort Bay we had the opportunity to explore this gem of an island.

saba-top2

saba-igua

Saba is tiny, but has so much to offer. It is so beautiful, lush and green with picture postcard villages. The locals (population of less than 2000) are extremely friendly offering lifts up the very steep hills and around the island. They are all very proud of and committed to their wonderful safe island. We were so lucky, Glen, the head of tourism picked us up at port and gave us a mini guided tour and potted history of the island.

saba-townsabahouses1

You have to love a place with a capital named The Bottom that is actually at the top of an incredibly steep hill, but is also at the bottom of other steep hills.

sabaroad

The main town is Windwardside, and yes, it is on the windward side of the island. The main road between the two main towns was built by the locals after all the experts deemed it was impossible.

img_1570

Saba is known as a top dive spot. The water is crystal clear, blue and pristine. An afternoon dive with Saba Divers was fantastic. The colours of the corals, the geography of the rock ledges and the fish life were the best we’ve seen.

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRO

DCIM100GOPRODCIM100GOPROUnfortunately we only had time for one of the many walks on the island.

sabasign

The climb up 1064 steps through the rainforest to the top of Mt Scenery was rewarded by magnificent views of the island towns and the surrounding islands.saba-walk

sabatop1

Windwardside

sabatop3

St Maarten in the distance

Saba’s peak is the highest point in the Netherlands.

sabahighest

You had to access this point via a very steep climb.

saba-climb

Saba’s other claim to fame is that its airport runway is the shortest in the world.

saba-airport

sabaairport2

The walk ended back in Windwardside, with lunch at Juliana’s, one of the small boutique hotels of Saba.

As the northerly swell had calmed down, we moved around to a mooring off Ladder Bay on the west coast. For many years this steep series of steps was the only way to access the island. Everything had to be brought in this way.

saba-wells2

It was a beautiful anchorage. Currently there are 7 yacht moorings, with more planned.

sabawells

sabawells2

After a last snorkel in Wells Bay, we reluctantly moved on. It would have been very easy to settle in and stay longer so there were so many more walks, diving and snorkel sites to be enjoyed. Saba was well worth the visit. It has definitely been a highlight of our time in the Caribbean.

St Barths

What a contrast to Saba! Where very few make it to Saba, it seems everyone gets to St Barths, the home of the superyachts and beautiful people.

barths1barths-boats

That said, our stay has been great. Apparently the anchorage off the main town of Gustavia can be very rolly, but in the strong easterly winds it has been very pleasant anchored off Anse Corossol.

img_5194Our timing was impeccable, we arrived the day before Carnivale. Gustavia town closes completely and everyone dresses up whether or not they are part of the main parade. Lots of fun, colour and movement and music.

barths-par13

barths-par12barths-par11

barths-par7barths-par9

 

 

Gustavia, with its Swedish heritage is an attractive town. It is very French, full of designer shops, good restaurants and bars. The port is always busy, but has great secure dinghy docks for cruisers.

img_5189Driving the winding roads is the only way to explore the island which has no public transport. The views are spectacular and the island and beaches very beautiful.

img_5199img_5204img_5209img_5216

Strong easterly winds and nasty seas meant that our planned 2 days here has turned into 5 while we wait for calmer conditions for our 80Nm sail to Antigua. Not a bad place to be stuck!

Virgin Islands revisited

Our sail back into the USVI was upwind, something we hadn’t done for a long time. So instead of usual downwind sailing-set and almost forget the sails, we actually had to tack our way back to St Thomas, entering the bay followed by a cruise ship.

cruise-ship

We had a few days of shopping while anchored in the huge calm bay of Charlotte Amalie close to the cruise ships and superyachts. Apparently this one has 60 staff, 2 teams of 30!

big-ship

big-ship2

Francis Bay was a wonderful base for walks, with beautiful views over Cinnamon, Maho and Francis Bays.

cinn-bay

cinnbay2

Ian had been keen to get to the Soggy Dollar bar, so we left Sea Cloud at anchor in Great Harbour

gt-harb-sc

fozy-dock

gr-harb-viewand walked around to the beautiful White Beach,

white-boats

white-boats2where we (as one does) drank our painkillers in the water.

soggy-drink-waterthen relaxed on the beach – something we never do

soggy-ussoggy-dollarBenures Bay on Norman Island was beautiful, close to ‘the Indians’ for a morning snorkel.

benuresAfter an anniversary dinner on Cooper Island (where it all began), we sailed to Anegada, the northernmost island in the BVI. We had hesitated about coming here as it is shallow! As the conditions were so calm we decided to try as it made a logical spot from which to sail to St Maarten. With a maximum height of only about 6metres, from a distance all you can see is a long spit of sand, beautiful blue water and a few trees.

aneg-scBy the look of the charts, with Sea Cloud’s draft of 2.35m, we should have been able to get into the anchorage (just). But as the depth gauge read 2.1m, we made a hasty retreat, fortunately without touching bottom. aneg

The anchorage at Pomato Point was a little rolly, but not too far to head into town for Anegada’s famous lobster. Excitement during our dinghy ride – a stingray launched itself into the air in front of us…. amazing site!

aneg-bay

I had vowed never to get on a scooter with Ian – he’s not great even on a pushbike. But Anegada is so flat, there are almost no cars, just the odd goat and cow on the road and I really wanted to snorkel on the other side of the island.

aneg1aneg-bike

cow-wreck-bay

Cow Wreck Bay

loblolly-aneg

Loblolly Bay

loblolly-snorkel

Spanish Virgin Islands

We had heard that the Spanish Virgin Islands were well worth visiting, lovely uncrowded bays, and towns a little like the other Virgin Islands 30 years ago. The thought of some Spanish food and culture was also enticing. What we hadn’t realised before we arrived, was that the islands were actually part of Puerto Rico and has been under American control since the 1890’s. So although Spanish was widely spoken, the food was good, but far more American than we’d expected.

Culebra, the northern island was a pleasant downwind sail from Jost Van Dyke. Navigating through the tricky shoals at the entrance to Ensanada Honda, the main bay, we were surprised at how many cruising yachts have discovered the place. Many were anchored in the Dikity anchorage, just behind the reef at the entrance to the bay.

dikity-anchorAs we’d had gusts of 30knots just outside, anchoring further into the bay was a better option for us.

culebra-bay

We’d read the information on formalities in the pilot books and on Noonsite, but hadn’t realised it is mandatory to call before your arrival. The very pleasant Customs officer at the airport helped us through the process and provided us with a 12 month cruising permit for US waters. We ended up spending the morning at the airport – great wifi and coffee, difficult to find in the Virgin Islands. Flamingo Bay on the north of the island was well worth the walk.

flamingo-beach

Culebra town is small, with friendly inhabitants,

culeb-brid

iguanaand a good sense of humour.

culeb

Cruisers centre around the appropriately named Dinghy Dock restaurant, a good place for happy hour.

dinghy-dock1

dinghy-dockBahia de Tortuga on Culebrita island was a picture perfect Caribbean anchorage. You would not want to be here in northerly swells. Although the bay was calm overnight the relatively small breaking swell on the way out through the gap in the reef was nasty. It would be treacherous in big seas.

culebrita

We sailed down to the southern island, Vieques, and were pleased to find a mooring buoy off Esperanza, its southern town where we could leave Sea Cloud for a few hours to explore the island. On the local public (van) we met Luis, who was born on the island but has spent most of his life in Puerto Rico. He walked us around Isabela, the capital and gave us potted history of the islands. Vieques had been used as a target for naval and aerial bombardment for many decades, sucking the life out of the island. Although the bombing stopped in 2003, many land and sea areas still remain off limits.