We awoke to our last Sunday lazily at bright and warn Caribbean 8 o’clock in “da mornin.” Speeding off in the Red Rocket after a couple French Presses of delicious Coffee, as Natty M said fast on her anchor in Simpson Bai, St. Maarten. Ben going to Shrimpy’s to hawk some of our excess parts and the Commonwealth kidz and I heading to Grand Marchet to do some last minute shopping at the best stocked market since the States.
After loading up on cruising galley essentials like fresh veggies and fruit, gnocchi, pasta sauce, bread milk and good French salami. Kahlil and myself briskly headed out to the boat to stow the quick to spoil food and Dizzy joined the hadn’t sold anything yet Ben at Shrimpy’s to perform some wireless Internet hotspot chores. The Natty M crew had gotten up too early, as swapmeets don’t start in the Caribbean all that bright and early.
Kahlil and myself stowed our wares and performed some boat readying chores and routines, which he is still in the process of learning. With Kahlil’s new grasp on stowage we headed back to Shrimpy’s, in the lagoon on the water. For those not acquainted with St. Maarten, Shrimpy’s is a little bit of everything, restaurant and bar, dinghy dock, laundry service, swapmeet location, internet hotspot and also one of the easier ways to import hard to get goods to the islands, but you got to know who to ask.
On arrival Ben had liquidated an outboard motor mount we didn’t need for $40 bucks, which we then quickly and wisely invested in four of the best BBQ’ed cheeseburgers I have ever had in the islands, but finding the extra ketchup was the hard part. With the cheeseburgers safely stowed in our bellies we struggled to sell our remaining heavy as hell dingy seat and ended up giving it away to a needy looking, hair encrusted cruiser in the end.
We finished rigging the boat, putting on her jacklines, a safety network of lines you hook into at night or under rough weather that prevent you from being swept/falling overboard, putting on the man overboard equipment and rigging her sails.
Our weather forecast was for an E breeze of 10 to 13 Knots slowly diminishing to the SE as the evening wore on. We figured a 4 pm departure would put us there bright and early in the morning and after a brief nap, covered with my appropriate placed energy crystals and a last minute swim we weighed anchor and headed off at 4:30pm, almost due south, bound for Montserrat.
It was the first time for Kahlil the new First Mate going for a sail on the Natty M. After learning how everything operated and quickly grasping all her workings, we hoisted her sails and quickly she jumped up to 9.5 knots of boat speed in the 12 to 15 knot winds, headed up wind at 30 degrees to the apparent wind angle. We were headed perfectly for Montserrat, the sea condition was absolutely beautiful with 2 to 3 ft. seas, and we glided by St. Maarten quickly leaving it behind us in our wake. In the sea conditions Kahlil was amazed and I was too at how well our boat handled, she is effortless to sail, quick and comfortable and one of the best sailing boats I have ever had the chance to command.
We then all engaged in various forms of picture taking activities or filmmaking. The sun was setting over the deep blue tanzanite colored 83 degree Caribbean Sea, volcanic islands of Saba and St. Barts provided the backdrop, the breeze was fresh and warm and it was picturesque.
One of the more interesting aspects of our journey was our new KISS Wind Generator. The passage was all up wind and with 15 to 20 knots of apparent wind blowing over our bow; the wind generator was pumping out 15 amps of power. This covered all our electronics and refrigeration needs for most of the trip and we barley lost any battery power at all. Really cool, as for all our previous passages we watched our batteries, loose over 20% capacity overnight and we are helping to reduce our dependence on diesel fuel.
For dinner Kahlil whipped up some gnocchi with an oven roasted garlic sauce, as I stood the first evening’s watch. Dinner was served just as the full moon was rising out of the clouds and was another incredible sight to behold. The wind was still great, we were making fantastic time and loving every minute of the sail.
Kahlil and I traded off watches all night and under a dying breeze we sailed right up to the lee of Montserrat, started up the engines and dropped anchor in Little Bay, the new home of customs and immigration since the destruction of Plymouth by the Soufriere Hills Volcano.
Clearing Customs was a breeze and the people were super friendly and genuine. The island is truly quaint and picturesque. On returning to the ship the trade winds had stopped and there was a rare west breeze blowing in the Caribbean. We took advantage of this, weighing anchor to motor down to abandoned Plymouth town and check out the destruction first hand, as the wind was uncharacteristically blowing all the smoke and steam away from the town.
Plymouth was quite a sight to behold, a real ghost town, a modern day Pompay. Buildings buried under feet of ash and rock with only their roofs protruding, trees looked like charred match sticks still standing, victims of pyroclastic flows, a giant crevasse running through the middle of town, swallowing up buildings and homes. All the while the Volcano still smoldered in the heights up above the town.
But, despite the devastation the majority of the island is still beautiful and green, with the population living happily and safely away from the volcano. Not quite how the media and articles I have seen and read would lead you to believe about the island.
We returned back to little bay, but decided to anchor in the calmer, vacant and dramatically more beautiful Rendezvous bay just north of Little Bay. This was a great call as the wind was from the west and Little Bay was turned into a washing machine.
We contemplated doing a land tour of the island, but as we had just seen the volcano much closer than you could by land we opted for a more Natty M style activity. Little Bay held a giant wrecked, rusty, mangled steel barge in Little Bay anchorage that we turned into a skate park for the afternoon. Camera angles were set up, lines discussed and I was selected to test out the submerged jagged steel waters for the first runs. I skated on the barge, jibbing little tricks her and there, before I went for the big drop into the treacherous water.
Our skateboards on the Natty M are made by myself out of carbon fiber and are impervious to water, so launching into the drink poses no real threat to the board assuming you can find it. After trying a kickflip into the water, surviving it and coming up with my board. The stunt was deemed safe and super fun and the boys were all on it, early grabbing to glory off our rusted launch ramp.
Our fun was almost cut short as the Red Rocket’s pull cord decided to fail in a critical spot, so I quickly deployed the anchor, saving her from washing up on the beach and Kahlil and I then tried to flag down a couple of dinghies passing by to no avail, so we got out the oars and rowed to the nearest boat for some assistance. They were some strange birds on that one, with Speedo styled reluctance they let us borrow a crescent wrench and I had the engine once again purring in no time. The day was saved and the Red Rocket returned to the Natty M.
But, after all that Natty M’s hot water tank decided to spring a leak and with out a valve to isolate the tank it was not an easy problem to fix. So we went to bed after a great little dinner of spicy beef stir-fry flavored with Caribbean Scotch Bonnet Peppers and headed to bed worn out from our long night and long day.
We awoke to bugs covering the decks, hoards of the critters had decided to make a one way trip out to us and be disposed of at sea, on our way to Antigua for the parts to fix our pesky leaky tank.
The sail to Antigua was directly into the wind and we opted to power the whole 29 miles across the channel. Arriving in time to try to clear customs, but with one little problem. You were supposed to apply for an import permit for any animals prior to arriving (brand new regulations) and we were told we would have to leave, as we had not done this. But, with some smooth talk, I was able to get the local vet’s # and promised I would try to get P Kiddy checked out manana. As we were illegal in Antiguan waters that evening, I asked if we could still go to shore and got the great answer of, “Your going to go any way, so why should I tell you no.” Got to love the attitude in the Caribbean, truly island style.
Antigua is beautiful, it is how I imagined the Caribbean to be, the area between Falmouth Harbor and English Harbor is straight out of Pirates of the Caribbean old English styled buildings, cannons, forts, it is historically charming and makes you feel like your living in the time of pirates and buccaneers. Except the docks are filled with some of the most amazing sail boats you have ever seen, giant varnished covered J Boats sit perfectly polished, Stienlager 2 the famous Whitbread winner, majestic Swans, and crazy 100ft plus streamlined racing boats sit poised to kick some ass in the upcoming Antigua Race Week. The coolest thing is that unlike Santa Barbara’s historical buildings, the building here many of which were build in the late 1700’s are still operating in their designed functions. The sail loft is still that, carpenters work shop still that, metal work shop still going, and they are all just servicing the modern boats of today. Historical, but functional and not just a boring dead museum.
We ran into all kinds of people we knew from our time in the Caribbean and the decision was made to go out for our first night on the town with the new crew. It was destruction wherever we went, all the boys were tearing up the dance floor, making empty floors where ever we went start poppin, and Ben even managed to get “served” in a breakdance battle with someone who had better skills, but much less enthusiasm. The party lasted into the wee hours of the morning and we awoke to another perfect Caribbean day, a little tired, but all in great spirits.
I spent the day dealing with immigration and customs, and trying to buy parts to fix the boat. I found the parts, but the taxes here are super high, however if you have your boat papers everything is duty free. So, I needed to get the papers to buy the parts, I had set up an appointment with the vet and he told me to go tell customs everything would be ok and check in. Customs then told me no clearance until you get the vet papers, so I waited for the vet, who proclaimed P Kiddy to be in perfect health and cleared him, then back to customs for another hour plus of paperwork and by that time the chandlery was closed for the day and life goes on.
So, we are now legally in Antigua, P Kiddy has a Rabies shot scheduled dockside for tomorrow and I still don’t have the parts to fix the water heater. Oh well, were on Island time and just as long as we don’t get stuck here for two months I’ll be happy in this throwback, laidback Caribbean town. Cheers- Kyber