St Croix – St. Maarten – Antigua

Feb 7 – March 11, 2022

Maybe monthly is the right cadence for the blog.  I seem to be too busy having fun to keep up.  After ages (ok, 3 days) of rain, a day dawned bright and beautiful, and we realized we were impatient to get to St Martin.  We headed a little bit south of east this time and we thought it might be an easy overnight sail.  It turned out it was the usual upwind bash Thorny Path sail that we don’t really enjoy.  On this route we made a bit better progress, with a bit less violence from the wave angle, but I still fantasize about downwind, champagne sailing.  Patience is a virtue, I’m told.  Anyway, we left in the morning, and arrived mid morning the next day, so I shouldn’t complain.  The bay outside Marigot is like a small, rolly floating city.  There were easily 200 boats at anchor.  At night it seemed the mast lights were as numerous as the stars.  After check in at customs, we went to La Terrase and had a gorgeous French meal with some delightful French Champange.  “Not that Italian sheet”, as our waiter calls Prosecco.  The view over Port Louis, the ocean, the anchorage, the mountains… heaven.   We found the obligatory croissants, crepes and cappuccino for various breakfasts, and stocked up at Le Comptoire du Fromage.  Jeff is in love with an amazing hand made art work of a cheese, un Pyramide du Chevre.  It was cool and covered in the palest blue green mold.  Sounds gross, tastes good!  The culinary delights were not enough to keep us in that rolly harbor.  (My mom will remember that in those conditions, you have to sleep on your back, deploying the classic starfish position to avoid rolling off the bed.  I hate sleeping on my back.)

So we did all our paperwork to immigrate to the dutch side, and we were off.  It was so painless as neither side requires a COVID test now.  Just a vaccine with booster.  Yay!  Although they agree on stuff like that, there are still a lot of differences.  The food is different for sure, and prices on the Dutch side are guilders or dollars, not Euros.  Language is all English on the Dutch side, and maid bien sur, all French on the French side, until they hear my accent and start speaking English or my benefit (or theirs!)

We timed the bridge opening perfectly going around, and didn’t even have to wait a minute to go into the lagoon.  It is dead calm in there, but crowded, and the water is gross.  No using the water maker or swimming.  That was fine because our plan, which we executed, was to go into a marina for a couple weeks, while we got work done and Becky and Jake came to visit. 

We had such a good time with Becky and Jake.  They are big beach goers, so we hit a different beach every day.  We also did two very very cool tours, that we never would have done if Becky hadn’t motivated us.  Thanks Becky!  The first was a jeep tour with another jeep with a couple in it and our guide named Q on an ATV.  Q was very entertaining and showed us a good time.  We enjoyed the Lotterie Farm with it’s eco vibe, and ginormous yellow iguanas, wading out to an island in a cool cross break up to our thighs.  He showed us a soft white urchin we could hold.  We had lots of great views, and a little history.  A good mix.  The next tour was the highlight of the week for all of us  We spent all day on Boomerang, a bright turquoise power catamaran.  Boomerang circumnavigated the island with an open bar, stopping for various snorkel spots, a delicious barbecue shrimp and chicken curry lunch prepared by the captain, and generally had a great time.  The crew of three were all young and friendly and seemed to have a great time with us.  We snorkeled over a sunken helicopter, and the bartender jumped in too because she’d never seen it before.  It was that type of let’s see what happens and have fun kind of atmosphere.  Jake really got into it and did a flip off the roof of the boat. 

Watching the parade of boats in and out of the inlet was one thing that never got old.  We saw tiny skiffs up to some of the biggest yachts in the world.  We also saw boats of people we had met in Annapolis and the Bahamas, but they were never around when we passed by.  Oh well.

After Jake and Becky left, we were ready to get out of the marina.  It feels very limiting after awhile, always having the same view.  So it was out to Simpson Bay.  This turned out to be obnoxiously rolly, to the point were we even put on a swell bridle for the first time ever.  It worked well, but it was still not great.  We did have the guy in the boat behind us and ask us how we did it, because it was visibly better than all the other boats – even cats.  This really pleased the captain, deservedly so.

We had a terrific time in St Martin, and it was chandlery heaven, so it was sad to leave, but with the rolling in Simpson Bay, and my idea that I wanted to be in a new country for my birthday, we left St. Martin on March 3rd.  It was a beautiful easy afternoon sail to the close end of St Barts.  We arrived at sunset, grabbed a mooring ball, had a great dinner, and slept soundly.  This is how sailing is supposed to go!.  At dawn, I rousted the captain out of bed and sailed around the island, passing Gustavia, the capitol, at sunrise.  It was so beautiful.  The anchorage was packed with boats, and the outer roadstead was packed with mega yachts.  We went right by Jeff Bezos’s yacht, and I wondered how many fenders I’d purchased for him with all my Amazon packages over the years.  It didn’t even look that crazy big in that neighbor hood. 

We chose a small quiet harbor in Antigua for our arrival at about 10PM on the 4th.  We slid in past two super yachts way out, and then glided by two catamarans our size along the beach at Hermitage.  It was dark and silent, with nothing to hit.  Perfect for a night arrival.  Just based on looking at the Hermitage in the binoculars, it looks like a great place to stay.  The sun loungers were even plusher than at Amanera! 

Check in at Jolly Harbor was a two mile dink ride around the point, and was straight forward and bureaucratic.  The dinghy dock was brand new and we waited for all the steps under a big sun awning in front of the customs house.  See the nurse, fill forms, back to the nurse.  See customs, verify with nurse that she’s ok.  Back to customs.  See immigration.  Fill out the forms that are almost but not exactly the same as the health forms and the immigration form.  (ps – none of the forms can be obtained in advance.)  They are slightly different than the forms I did on ESea Clear in advance for Crew, Boat, Weapons (none, but you need the form) and Arrival info.  A couple times, they printed these forms, had the captain sign them, and then ignored them to whip out their own forms.  Oh, don’t forget the port captain.  He was lonely, so had each captain sit alone with him in his office to fill out his forms (see notes about all other forms above).  Oh, and everyone had their fee to charge.  Anyway, it only took about an hour and 20 minutes.  We’re IN!

We rewarded ourselves with a self guided tour of Jolly Harbor, a walk on the beach, and a nice lunch.

I couldn’t stand to stay in Five Mile Harbor (by the Hermitage) more than 2 days, because I was so curious to get over to Falmouth and English Harbor to see touristy Nelson’s Dockyard.  I also needed to be near good restaurant – because Birthday Dinner!  We anchored up at the back of the pack in Falmouth, with great views of all the giant sailing yachts going in and out to practice for the race that starts on the 8th – the Antigua Superyacht Challenge.  You have to be over 3o meters long to enter, so that leaves Renegadeout by a factor of two. 

Birthday dinner at the Yacht Club with an awesome jazz band and a sushi love boat for two was heaven.  They were out of champagne, so I almost fainted, but Jeff and the waitress revived me with a bottle of Prosecco.

The next day it was Nelsons dockyard, a hike around the harbor to a restaurant overlooking the dockyard for lunch, and a water taxi back.  Jeff did NOT enjoy the hike – he was promised no hills, and that was a despicable lie.  Oops.

I almost forgot – the WIFI at Lucky Eddi’s Irish Bar was great for my birthday zoom with my college girlfriends.  Our friend Dan, who we ran into in the anchorage (small world) said Itchy Feet is a great band we have to go back to hear on a Friday night.

So a little provisioning, laundry, and it was time to leave the crowds behind.  We motored up wind passed English harbor and saw three super yachts sail by on the Around Antigua part of the Challenge.  Beautiful.  Renegade is a bit smaller, so we felt the wind and waves on the nose quite a bit.  It took us two and a half hours to motor less than 12 miles.  Green Island is totally protected from big surf just outside the reef.  We arrived to one other boat, and a catamaran full of tourists on a snorkel trip who politely left right away.

We’re on our third day here, and each day more boats come.  We are currently up to 11 boats!  No longer the deserted feel of the Bahamas, but the beach is white, the hills are green, the turtles are curious, and everyone turns of the lights and goes to sleep by nine, so cool. 

We have no idea when we will leave, but our plan is to circumnavigate before our next guests get here in less than two weeks.  Snorkeling, paddle boarding, and dinghy adventures are all happening now, just like back in the Bahamas.  Civilization is over rated.