Monday, April 25, 2011


If you love ladies with a past, you’ve come to the right place.
Welcome to English and Falmouth Harbours
and the Antigua Classic Yacht Regatta.

These classic ladies fall into three race categories – genuine classic yachts built in the 20s and 30s - modern yachts built to honour the craftsmanship of yesterday’s beauties - and traditional wooden workboats from the islands. An additional class was added in recent years, the Spirit of Tradition Class, that accepts yachts built along ‘classic’ lines but with modern additions.

Visitors were welcome to walk the docks and chat with the crews as they cleaned and polished their boats for Elegance Day – it’s not enough to be a fast boat, you must also be beautifully maintained.
And then it rained.
And the crews started drying and polishing again – every inch.

Velsheda is a beautiful J-class yacht.
She arrived in Antigua with her mother ship, a motor boat to house the owners of the racing yacht and their guests. Meet Bystander. Just how do you spell “$$$$$”?

Ranger is a crowd favourite and has fun loving crew members.
Looks like it's possible that a little Mount Gay loosens everyone up. “The rum that invented rum” may have generated a few rum squalls during the week.

Marie was our favourite racing yacht. We checked her out from every angle. A crew member joked, “If you have $5000 in your pocket right now, she’s yours.” Maybe a safe bet we weren’t carrying the cash?

In addition to the big boats, there were beautiful ladies of a more modest size.

And the wooden Carriacou sloops are in a class of their own. These traditional island work boats are built by hand and by eye - no blueprints and no hull molds. They’re sturdy but elegant, hardy but fast.

In addition to dock walking and gawking, we spent some fun times volunteering at the Antigua Yacht Club. Geoff went to AYC every morning during race week to help with the morning clean up and tent changeovers – these tents down, those tents up, depending on that day’s sponsor.

I spent a shift in the yacht club office and another day bartending in the members lounge with Moe, a new friend and fellow cruiser volunteer.
We enjoyed the experience and the opportunity to meet people, 
both other cruisers and local yacht club members.

On several of the race days, Geoff dinghied out to the start/finish line with his camera. The light winds that plagued the entrants meant lots of canvas being added and great viewing - the pictures say it all.

And here’s a favourite classic that's well-known
on the race circuit, Old Bob. 

Three other vessels caught our eye. They weren’t here to race but they attracted a lot of well-deserved attention. And they couldn’t be more different from each other.

First up, The Maltese Falcon, all 289 feet of her. Her beam is 42.2 feet - that's the length of Beach House 
Her revolutionary sail system is apparently under consideration for use on smaller and more attainable boats.

Leander was also here for a visit. At 246 feet, she’s one of the largest yachts in the world available for private charter. Rumour has it that Leander has been chartered by the royal family in the past, and that when she left Antigua a few days ago, she was headed to England to arrive in time for the royal wedding. Inquiring minds are wondering where William and Kate are honeymooning and how they're getting there. 

We happened to be visiting friends when Leander left the harbour.
Check her out and say hi to Sandy and Leslie.

And the third non-racing ship that bears mentioning is the tall ship Picton Castle, based out of Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
She’s on her fifth circumnavigation as a teaching vessel and spent Classics race week here, welcoming visitors aboard for tours. What a thrill to check her out.

The piece de resistance of race week was the Sunday Parade of Classics through English Harbour. We were fortunate to score reservations through friends at Catherine’s CafĂ© – the premiere place to be on the premiere day of Classics. Thank you, Bob!
Lunch was pricy but excellent and the view even better as we cheered our appreciation for these classy ladies with a past. It's possible that the crews were having as good a time as the spectators.

Will we come to Antigua next April for Classics?

Just ask these Rum Gay smiles.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


Guadeloupe's two main islands
look like a lopsided butterfly.
The ‘wings’are separated by a naviagable river
and we had a plan.

But wait. Getting there is half the fun. Right?
So let’s slow down a bit.

We couldn’t come to Guadeloupe without spending
some time in The Saintes, a collection of islands
off the southwest corner of  the main islands.
Bourg des Saintes, the only town there, 
is colourful and charming.

And in addition to bistros and baguettes,
there are beaches to enjoy.

Plage de Pompierre ……

Plage de Figuier ……

And the beach at Marigot Bay ……

The next stop was Pointe a Pitre,
the largest city in Guadeloupe.
We hadn’t seen high rises like these since Florida, in fact the whole experience coming into Pointe a Pitre was very reminiscent of the ICW heading into Miami.

Having a little walkabout is always part of the experience.
There were house and garden moments ……

The inevitable big city road construction ......

And MacDonald’s the French way …… ooh la la.

Geoff found some unexpected art
outside a restaurant men’s room.
Whoever placed those chairs had a good eye
for colour, shape and form.
Or did the artist work around them?

But enough sightseeing. It’s time for a ‘jungle cruise’ up the river.

The Riviere Salee is a natural saltwater channel through mangroves rich with bird life. But there are drawbacks to this passage - shallow depths in some areas and two bridges that open once a day on a set schedule. Traveling north, the first bridge opens at 5am and the second bridge at 520. Many cruisers avoid the river.

The day before our planned passage through Salt River and on to Antigua, we moved Beach House from the city anchorage to the staging anchorage
within sight of the first bridge.
And then we took a little dinghy ride
to check out the Riviere Salee in daylight.

The first bridge, Pont de la Gabarre, is a combination road
and pedestrian bridge that open in tandem.

The second bridge is Pont d’Alliance
with a sharp dogleg to port right past it.

The guidebooks promised flying friends
and we weren’t disappointed.

It was 5pm – roosting time for the night.

But this silver bird surprised us.
It appeared so quickly that we were lucky to get a picture at all. What’s missing is a size reference to us and the dinghy, but this shot is not zoomed in. The airport runway is just over the fence to the left and this big bird was seconds to touch down.

We were up at 415 the next morning, sipping caffeine in the cockpit while watching cabin lights come on in the other three boats in the anchorage. We would have company along the river. We changed the ASA on the camera to try for shots in the dark, but we ended up with some unplanned ‘arty’ shots.

The catamaran just ahead of us was first through the bridge. As Beach House passed through Pont de la Gabarre, I called up “Bon jour!” to the bridge tender. His response? “Allez! Allez!” We do wonder how he filled the rest of a work shift after his half hour here.

Twenty-five minutes later we approached the Pont de l’Alliance.
The light was measurably better.

Ahead? No more bridges,
just a well marked channel to follow
with mosquitoes for company.
Beaucoup de mozzies.

Sunrise is always a welcome sight on these early starts.

We cleared the north end of the river and followed
the rest of the channel towards the reefs
that fringe the exit to open water.

There was a small surf along the eastern reef,
just enough to make an Aussie boy a little homesick.

Will we do the Riviere Salee again? Maybe, but there are so many other possible adventures. Our research has convinced us that Beach House will be back to Guadeloupe. The interior beckons with its rain forest, cloud forest and waterfalls.
The Carib Indian word for Guadeloupe is Karukera,
meaning ‘island of lovely waters’. Who could resist?