44' Luxury Catamaran Mustang Sally

Doug, Wendy and Mustang Sally cruise the Virgin Islands. Follow along on their adventures meeting funky local characters and visiting hot spots and hidden treasures with links to our favorites websites and additional interesting information.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Antigua Classic Yacht Week

March 23rd, St Martin – April 25th, Antigua

Our wonderful guests have left us and now we have until April 16th before we have other guests who will be arriving in Antigua. So, we had some time to get some tasks done on the boat, (St Martin is the perfect place to do this). But first on my list of priorities was dinner at our most favourite restaurant, Tropicana. We must go to Tropicana every time we are in St Martin. The food is very French, meaning decadent and the service is surprisingly good for a French restaurant :) and so far our favourite in all of the Caribbean.

We were able to catch up with some friends we had not seen in awhile while we were in St Martin. Seems like everyone was in the lagoon waiting for the swell to subside before heading further south, so, it was like a reunion of cruisers. There were many potlucks and cocktail parties on each other’s boat. In fact, we met up with one lady, Joanne, and met her man Dave, who was aboard her yacht “Walkabout”. We last saw Joanne on the Alligator River while transiting north thru North Carolina headed for Canada last spring on our monohull, “L’Attitude”. We waited out a gale with Joanne back then for 3 days and now we were waiting out high winds again combined with this incredible swell, which was then followed by another swell. Everyone was wearing foul weather gear everywhere they went. So much for tropical weather! Sad to say, that due to the poor weather this past winter a lot of cruisers packed it in and headed home for good.

While eating ribs one nite, one of Doug’s molars cracked. The next morning we were referred to a dentist who fixed him up. We figured that we should also get our teeth cleaned. I was first for my cleaning and the dentist was a wonderful man, although he doesn’t have the equipment I was used to at home…. we are spoiled at home and don’t know it. He kept trying to jam his big ham hock of a hand in my mouth all the while telling me that I needed to open my mouth wider (I know a lot of people would differ with me but I actually have a small mouth!) . All this was going on while I was holding the saliva sucker thingie, and choking on my own saliva because I didn’t know where the puddle in my mouth was forming. There was also a loud, sharp pinging in my ear and I couldn’t figure out what it was….I thot my ear drum would explode. I figured it out…. the dentist’s watch alarm was going off right beside my ear and he couldn’t hear it because of the dental machinery running….oh and the gagging. Oh well, my teeth got cleaned, no fluoride or polishing but just the basics. What was I expecting? Doug didn’t fare much better.

Cap’n Doug was very busy the 2 ½ weeks we stayed in St Martin, waiting for weather. He installed a water maker, which now means unlimited fresh water!! WooHoo! He also worked on numerous other projects. We had our mechanic, Pedro, fine tune our engines, took the dogs to the vet for a checkup, more dog grooming, did a big provisioning to stock the boat right up, and then fueled up. We sailed to Tintamarre which is an island at the north end of St. Martin, enjoyed a nite and day of rest and relaxation and then lifted anchor at 4 p.m. to sail overnite to Antigua. We were both excited as we had not sailed that far south yet and Antigua would be a whole new experience for the two of us and our two small dogs, Willis and Rollie.

The weather was predicted to be 6’ seas, and winds 10-12 knots beam reach. Ha! Try very rough seas, more like 10’ and winds right on the nose. Made for a very lumpy nite, motor sailing for the first half until we past St. Barths and then we were able to shut off the engines and sail her which is a much faster option for us. Mustang Sally is fast when sailing but slogs along when motoring in lumpy seas. All in all it was a good nite and we landed at Jolly Harbour, Antigua at 7 a.m. Customs didn’t open until 8 a.m. so we hovered around the harbor eating breakfast, waiting to get checked in. We both really liked the looks of Antigua, so far. The properties were cared for, with beautiful palm trees, hibiscus, flamboyance, etc., and it seemed that there was some real infrastructure here…..and no garbage everywhere like some other islands.

We had an uncomfortable bit of dealing with customs when it came to declaring our two dogs, Willis and Rollie. Even tho all of our paperwork was in order for both boys (this paperwork cost a lot of $$, ask my vet who is a wealthy man), customs informed me (which I knew already but was unable to comply) that I should have emailed them 24 hours in advance to notify the federal vet of our exact time of arrival, so the federal vet could come and “inspect” the boys and make sure they were fit to “land”. Excuse me? Did I fail to mention that we just sailed over nite from St Martin, where email and phones are out of the question? It was a Saturday and the fed vet had better things to do with her personal time than to come and inspect two dogs right then. So both boys were not able to “land” until Monday, which thanks goodness they have some experience in and we managed just fine on the cat until Monday.

Our friends on “Gypsy Blues”, Rene and Cheryl, were anchored in Jolly Harbour so we enjoyed some of their wonderful hospitality again and had dinner and drinks and lots of laughs, as always. They were heading off the next day for Falmouth Harbour, Antigua, as the Classic Yacht Race Week was about to start. Quite a few of our good friends would be there, Joel and Kathy on “Triumph”, and Mike and Kylie on “Meggie”. We hadn’t seen Mike and Kylie in over one year so we were really excited to see them and catch up. Classic Race Week means lots of after race parties, a chance to race on one of the yachts as crew (kewl) and see these beautiful historical yachts in action. In fact, we were excited that “Meggie” would be racing in the vintage division for her size. We would be joining everybody as soon as the vet had inspected the dogs.

Monday morning came, and so did the vet, she came, she took our money and she looked at the dogs and left. Off we went to join the gang in Falmouth. We had a pretty rough sail there as the seas were coming round the headland and were quite lumpy with big steep waves, but we got to Falmouth just the same. We had dinner with “Triumph” that nite which was great. Then as we were heading back to the dinghy dock we ran in to Mike and Kylie from “Meggie” on the street outside the popular local hang out “The Mad Mongoose”. There were lots hugs with everyone talking over each other as it had been so long since we had last seen each other and there was lot’s to catch up on. Paul and Leanne were friends of Mike and Kylie’s from home (Thornbury, Ontario), which was also very close to our home port, and they were down visiting and also to help as crew for race week onboard “Meggie”. Everyone loaded into our dinghy and we headed back to Mustang Sally to show her off as Mike and Kylie had not yet seen her. Needless to say, the night went quite late as we got each other caught up on everything happening in our lives and all of the adventures everyone had been on and the kewl places that they had been to.

The next nite we hosted dinner aboard “Mustang Sally” with “Gypsy Blues”, whom we owed many dinners too and were playing catch up with, and “Triumph” too. It was another great nite getting caught up with friends.

The next day Doug’s Dad, Ron, and his wife, Allyson, were flying in and we were excited to have them stay with us for 9 days, especially throughout the Classic Race Week, as Ron is a Classic Yacht nut, and also because we had not seen them since the past summer and we were really looking forward to hanging out with them two of them.

Once Ron and Ally arrived, we got them settled on the cat, enjoyed a cold drink and then headed back to the walk docks and admire all of the beautiful yachts. The historical yachts “Ranger”, “Velsheda”, “Ellinora” and “Adela” (all of varying length but 135’ and longer) were all present and shined to a high polish not to mention countless other classics in their various classes. “Meggie” lovingly restored, by Mike and Kylie (see cruising World’s article entitled “Meggie’s Youthful Makeover”, November 2007 issue) is a 30’ Bermuda Choy Lee and she was at the dock as well, looking bright and perky beside all of the big guys. The 4 of us enjoyed a wonderful meal ashore at a lovely, elegant restaurant (a real treat for Doug and me) and wrapped up the evening with night caps on board the cat.

The next day, the four of us joined Joel and Kathy aboard “Triumph” and with picnic lunch in hand we motored out to watch the races. This was fantastic as most people don’t actually get to see the whole race because it is outside the very protected harbour. Even then, if people came out on their boats to watch they would only see the start and finish. “Triumph” has two big powerful engines and we were able to motor alongside the yachts at 10-12 knots and see all of the action. Even at that speed we still could not stay caught up but it sure gave us the best seats in the house. Everyone was very excited but no one more than Ron who would intermittently shout out, “Can you believe we are here watching this? This is once in a life time stuff!” After the race there was a party with free rum drinks and had a fabulous local band, “Itchy Feet” which had everyone up dancing. What a great nite dancing amongst these beautiful boats. We went to bed pretty tired but happy that nite, replaying portions of the race thru our head.

Next day, Ally and I headed to the local grocery store which is always an interesting event. You can ever plan what you are going to buy; you just buy whatever is available and think up what to do with it all back at the boat. This makes it fun and interesting. We bought some local lamb chops and a variety of good stuff and lugged it all back to the dinghy, so that we were set for the rest of their stay with us. We spent the rest of the day hanging out, reading, sunning and resting up after our big nite and in anticipation of another party at the Antigua Yacht Club that nite. What a tough life!

Next day we were on “Triumph” again to watch the races but with a whole slew of people aboard this time as everyone realized that this was the place to be. It as another incredibly exciting day of racing and just the thrill of seeing these magnificent yachts with their crews of 45 or more running around like mad, racing against each other was overwhelming.

After the end of the races a few days later, we sailed to Green Isle for a relaxing evening at this gorgeous anchorage. This is where we saw a Wharram (James Wharram is famous for designing a certain type of catamaran, think Polynesian boat) catamaran that Doug and I had seen many times in our travels but most recently in the lagoon in St Martin. Sadly, she was hard aground on top of a reef that was on the windward side of the island and although the winds were down significantly that day it was not hard to see that she was getting damaged already, but when the winds came back up she would be broken to bits. What a sad shame.

The next day was Ron and Ally’s last full day with us so we sailed to Jumby Bay on beautiful Long Island. This anchorage was spectacular and we thoroughly enjoyed the pleasure of spending our last day there with Ron and Ally.

We were very sad to see Ron and Ally leave as we loved their easy going relaxed company and the many laughs we had over dinners.

Till next time......


The Big Swell

The Big Swell

After the Barrie gang left us we had 10 days to relax and get ourselves to St. Martin where we would provision the cat again for our next guests, which would be a gang of 6 coming to enjoy beautiful St. Martin and St. Barths from various parts of north east US.

We thought we would have lots of time to get some tasks done in St Martin prior to our guest’s arrival but the weather this winter in the Caribbean has been rough. High winds (30-40 knots regularly) with lots of rain, torrential rain. As a result, we waited for a weather window to cross the Anegada passage(passage between British Virgins and St Martin, a.k.a. the “O My Godda” passage, as it can be very rough) for 6 days before we felt it would be comfortable passage to sail to St Martin from the BVI. The Anegada passage is only a 90 nautical miles crossing from the most northerly island of the British Virgin Islands, Virgin Gorda, which is usually a 12 hour trip depending on winds and how fast a boat can sail/motor. However, the prevailing winds are out of the east here in the Caribbean and we are also heading east, so the wind is right on our nose, making sailing pretty much impossible. Because the winds had been so strong for so long, the waves also out of the east were pretty sizable at 10- 12’, and to add to this, there was a large swell (8’) running out of the north. These things on their own are not so bad but together are a recipe for a miserable crossing with very confused seas….something I personally am not fond of. So we waited……finally, when we left, the seas had lied down and the winds dropped to 12-15 knots. We had an uneventful crossing but, unfortunately, it was a motor the whole way.

We arrived in Philipsburg harbor on the Dutch side and spent the next few days enjoying the fabulous shopping and the great bars. What fun to behave like a tourist! We also provisioned the boat for our guests with fresh fish, thick slabs of meat and lots and LOTS of wine and French cheeses and baguette. Yum!

Our guests came aboard Mustang Sally at noon on Saturday, tucked their bags into their cabins, got comfortable and we enjoyed a lovely lunch before we lifted the anchor and set sail (motor sail, we were heading east again!) to the beautiful Anse de Columbier (Columbier Bay)western side of the island of St Barths. After a few hours of enjoying the sail we took a mooring ball and our guests were more than happy to have a swim, take advantage of our water toys, relax, and enjoy themselves.

The next day after a big breakfast we sailed to Grande Saline beach. Just another incredibly beautiful beach, where the sand is white and the water azure blue….and some people are NAKED!! Oh the French!! LOL! Everyone took the opportunity to walk the beach, enjoy a swim and snorkel and then lunch before we had a lovely downwind sail to Gustavia Harbour, the charming little main town of St. Barths.

Next day after a quick stroll of Gustavia and the millionaire’s row of mega yachts tied stern to along the quay we sailed to Ile de Forchue, one of my favourite places. Once we were securely tied to the mooring ball everyone enjoyed a refreshing snorkel and some kayaking while Fred, the local barracuda kept an eye on us and begged for scraps from the back of the cat, just like a neighbourhood dog. Not much later 3 of our guests, the adventurous, Eric, his lovely bride, Judy and their good friend, Jobie, decided to hike to the top of one of the large hills on the island (in the hot baking sun!), while Greg, his better half, Mary Beth and Jobie’s husband Mike stayed behind to enjoy cocktails and play Scrabble. We stayed at Ile de Forchue over nite and enjoyed the isolation and “Marslike” desolation of the island, caused by goats which ate all of the vegetation and then starved to death, leaving only red rubble in their wake.

We set sail early the next morning to sail around the southern tip of St. Martin headed for the French side of island to the capital of Marigot where we checked back in to the country and then head up the northwest coast of St Martin, planning stops at Friars Bay, Grand Case, the secluded Tintamarre, Ile de Pinel and finally Orient Beach.

After checking in with customs, we anchored in Friars Bay, looking forward to a fun nite with our guests…. that is until the French coast guard pulled alongside our cat with a strong suggestion (not really a suggestion if you’re readin’ my mail) to move into the lagoon for protection due to a 20 foot swell out of the north which was to arrive that nite and would steadily build over the course of the next 3-4 days. A swell of that magnitude is similar to a small tsunami and could cause severe damage to shorelines and any buildings, boats or people near the coast. There had never been a swell this size in 42 years! Swells are caused by large storms on the eastern seaboard of the United States. Large waves form and roll unheeded to the south, getting bigger as they go. Once they reach more shallow waters, such as the coastlines of the Caribbean islands they become huge as they no longer have the depth of the water to roll in. The French bridge, which is on a schedule to open, was opened early and often to let boat traffic into the lagoon regardless of the delay to car traffic. All boats were directed to the lagoon and all water activities were banned, coastal roads were closed and buildings all along the beaches and coasts were boarded up with some low lying areas completely evacuated. We considered ourselves very lucky to have been in St. Martin when this occurred as the lagoon is considered one of the safest places to be in all of the Caribbean in severe weather.

Unfortunately tho, this meant that the remainder of our guests stay aboard Mustang Sally would be in the lagoon. Not a great place to swim due to the great number of anchored boats and certainly not a very pretty place with more of an industrial feel, as there are many rusted out hulks of work boats. For safety reasons tho, we had to make the best of situation, which we did, by listening to music, playing Scrabble, reading books, engaging in some serious discussion and some not so serious, soaking up sun on the trampolines and eating lots of good food, not to mention imbibing in some of that wine mentioned earlier. We never felt the effects of the swell in the lagoon other than murkier water than normal, but instead, heard and read about the damage. The swell peaked at 13’ in St. Martin which was significant enough to cause some damage but thankfully not as much as was feared if the swell had reached 20’. Other more northerly islands suffered more damage than St. Martin.

We felt sad to see our guests go at the end of their stay with us and although our travel plans to show them all of the beautiful sites were scuttled we still had a great time with them and hope to see them back again so we can show them more than just the lagoon or perhaps other islands.

Till next time….. fair winds.