Leewards

Saturday, 12/7/96
Now anchored in Marigot Harbor on the French side. Haven’t been ashore yet, but it looks like a beautiful town.  Last night’s sail was a little bumpy, as we were heading directly into the wind.  At one point the boat hit 9.3 knots, uphill! 

Gustavia Harbor

The highlight of the trip was the sunrise, during which I had my watch.  Nick was still asleep and Bill had just risen when the sun made it’s presence known.  It broke the horizon with a spectacular green flash. I thought that only occurred at sunset. Anyway, the sunlight illuminated the mountainous island of Saba off in the distance, just to our starboard. Though it was almost twice the distance of St. Martin, it rose out of the water like pinnacle reaching toward the sky, whereas we could hardly see St. Martin.  We’ll be going there next!!

Sunday, 12/8/96
Aside from an enormous lobster dinner last night we took it easy on the boat.  As we wondered through town we noticed an unusual commotion and a large contingent of people that looked out of place. Not exactly the touristy looking types.  Turns out what we were seeing was the filming crew for the upcoming movie, Speed II.  We had wondered why one half the town looked so pristine and was fenced off from the rest.  Apparently, they built a whole town out of plywood and papermachè, only to tear it down when they are done. And we didn’t even get to see Sandra Bullock…oh well.

Back on OOB we needed to get the boat ready for a short trip up to the northeast end of the island. The harbor is called Anse Marcel and it is location of the Swan repair yard.  It is also their base of operations for their Caribbean charters.  You might say there is a whole flock of Swans there. Just like with a new car, a new boat has it’s fair share of problems. Most of them are minor warranty items and should not be a problem to fix.

Monday, 12/9 - Saturday, 12/14/96
On Monday during our approach to the harbor, we were instructed by Oliver (the Swan yard manager) to contact him upon our arrival, which we did.  Only problem was that he was out to lunch and the harbormaster was not informed of our arrival and did not know where to put us.  As a result, we ended up doing circles around the harbor (which was not very big, nor very deep). In all the confusion, we tried to temporarily pull the boat alongside a dock in an area that could not accommodate our draft. After a little bump and a few expletives we found a slip stern-to between two Swans. This would be our home for the next week.

While we waited for the repairs to be completed it gave us time to complete some projects of our own.  The first order of business was to try and sort out the communications disaster.  Though we have only had our laptop back since Thanksgiving, it has still been a pain in the neck sending and receiving e-mail.  We gave up trying over the cell phone, the bills were killing us. We now try and find a landline.  It’s quicker, cheaper and it gets us off the boat.  It’s still not easy, however we have resolved ourselves to accepting the worst.

Since we knew we were going to be here for a while, we thought it would be a good idea to rent a car for a few days.  We didn’t want to be stuck on a remote part of the island with nothing to do. Taxis get expensive quickly. What we quickly found out was that except for a couple of beaches and a few bars/restaurants, St. Martin is pretty boring.

The highlight of our evenings was an outdoor concert of sorts. It consisted of several bands playing everything from Reggae to Southern Rock.  A great night that almost ended in disaster.  This was actually before we rented the car, so we took a cab out only to discover that there were no cabs coming home.  Had it not been for a small shuttle bus on it’s last route, we would have been walking until daybreak.

During the day when we weren’t working we usually went to the beach. Our favorite was Orient beach on the northwest side of the island. The first day we actually went down there we took a taxi.  The driver, Charlie told us to go to the right side of the beach as it would give us a “belly full of laughs”.  We told him to meet us later, grabbed some towels and found some lounge chairs.  It was just what we expected, but Charlie must have found this extremely amusing.  Except for topless women, nothing out of the ordinary.  It is lined with Tapas bars playing wild French music and serving drinks to half naked people.  The one that we settled in front of also had a large screen TV with ESPN on, which of course was the real reason we stayed.  

When Charlie picked us up again he inquired as to the time we had. We laughed and told him that those French people are certainly not shy. It would not be until two days later that we would understand what Charlie was talking about. I decided to walk down to the end of the point. As I approached a small stone divider I noticed a sign with a picture of a camera on it. It was a universal symbol with a red circle and a line through it. This I understood as NO CAMERAS. Ah ha! As I looked beyond, I was stunned for a moment.  Mon Dieu, these people had no clothes on at all!  I guess that would explain the occasional naked person walking down the beach.  The only funny thing about these people is that they are the ones that SHOULD have they clothes on. Ah, the French.

Aside from the “local” entertainment, the most fun we had was right at the marina in Anse Marcel.  There was a bar/restaurant there called Le Kiosque Marine and it became our favorite hangout and we made a lot of friends there.  We were even invited to the one-year anniversary of the restaurant. The celebration was to include a pig-roast, only the owner, Monique got stiffed on the pig at the last minute. No roast, but still a great party. We had such a fun time that we decided to reciprocate by inviting some of the people out for a day sail over to Anguilla. 

Sunday, 12/15/96
Around 11:00 we pushed of the dock in Anse Marcel and headed toward Anguilla under cloud cover and light rain. We had aboard Monique, Matouba, Skipper Bill from the Swan 68 “Red Sky” and two other French people whose names I will not even attempt to spell. After a light sail we anchored in Road Bay around 1:00 and went ashore.  Bill cleared us in and we went right to the beach bar.  Nothing else to do when the weather is bad.  After a few hours of the local scenery and a drunken, babbling Swede we decided to head back to St. Martin.  An uneventful trip except for the appearance of the stars on the way home. Now it clears up!

Monday, 12/16/96
We have decided that since the boat will be finished on Tuesday, we oughta get out of here and head for St. Barths.  Bill and I spend the day installing an automatic sump tank pump for the aft head. He does the plumbing and I do the electrical wiring. Apparently, he wanted to be able to push a button when he was done with his shower, instead of having to pump it out manually. I didn’t mind either, as we don’t even use the forward head for showers.  That is where the E-6 slide processing station resides. 

On our way to dinner at the Kioske the funniest thing happens, followed by a not so amusing thing. Bill, Nick and I were walking along when Nick steps off the side walk and proceeds to step into a hole.  The funny part is not watching him writhe in pain on the ground, but that there just happens to be a Swedish nurse standing right there.  What a stroke of luck!  She leans over him and tells him to lie back while she picks up his leg.  After a brief examination of the ankle in question, she declares that it is not broken and that he will be all right. As she walks away we assure Nick that she must know what she is talking about and that mouth-to-mouth recitation is not necessary for a sprained ankle.  He looked a little disappointed when we told him that he would live.

The not so funny part of the evening came later when we realized that during all the commotion with Nick’s foot, I left his new Nikon camera at the table. When we returned, it was nowhere to be found. The bag just happened to include both his lenses and all of our film from St. Martin. 

Tuesday, 12/17/96
The boat is finished!  Went provisioning, cleaned the boat and we’re ready to leave St. Martin. Off to Saba!

Wednesday, 12/18/96
We left St. Martin this morning around 9:30 and headed out under light air. We motored sailed most of the way, but seemed to forget the lack of wind as we approached Saba. The island seemed to literally grow out of the water the closer we got. Saba is only about 5 square miles in size, yet it reaches almost 3500 feet in height.  On a cloudy day the top 1/3 of the island is totally obscured.  The only words to describe the sight is breathtakingly beautiful!

We moored in Fort Baai (bay) and Bill cleared us in through customs. This is the one of two anchorages on the island, the other being on the west side and totally unbearable due to the wind and swells. Fort Baai is tolerable as we will only be here for a couple of day before departing for St. Barths for Christmas.

After settling in, we changed and decided to dine on the island for dinner.  We found a taxi and proceeded up the mountain.  The road we took to the restaurant is mentioned in our cruising guide. It is known as “the road that couldn’t be built” (due to the steepness of the terrain). The locals now call it “the road that shouldn’t have been built”. This is due in part to the fact that a taxi with a full load of passengers cannot make it up the side.

Rufus, our Taxi driver was great, he was kind of like a tour guide. As we ascended the island he rattled off the various buildings, landmarks and their history.  All he was missing was the loudspeaker. One of the more interesting pieces of information that he related to us was that when an islander gets hungry he may simply shoot any one of the many wild goats grazing about the island.  Free-range goat, anyone? 

The first part of the journey to the top was up a narrow ravine which ended at almost the half waypoint in a town called Bottom.  I’m thinking to myself, if this is the bottom, then where is the top?  Needless to say, I don’t like heights and the next few minutes did not cure my phobia, to say the least. I simply sat there quietly, palms sweating, as Nick and Bill marveled at the view.  I nonchalantly inquired from Rufus as to the present condition of his brakes. He replied that they were fine and that he’s never had a problem.  I promptly searched the entire taxi for a piece of wood, only to find nothing.

After dinner (the menu consisted of a verbal explanation from the waitress, chicken, beef or goat. I think the choices were pretty clear) and a few beers watching the sun set, we descended back to sea level. Phew!! Tomorrow we will do some diving.

Friday, 12/20/96
Absolutely incredible is the only way to describe the diving!  Saba has taken steps to ensure that diving in the surrounding waters remains excellent by creating a marine park.  You have to pay a fee for each dive, but it is worth it because it allows them to maintain a pristine environment. They oversee every aspect of  the waters from maintenance of the moorings (you are not allowed to anchor at any of the dive sites) to the growth of a particular species of sea life.  They also helped put together a complete guide to all the dive sites.

The tourism industry is very small on Saba, but they want to keep it that way, and rightfully so, it is a beautiful island and they don’t want to spoil it. If you are a diver, I would recommend it to anyone.  Sad to leave, but we must move on.

Saturday, 12/21/96
Anchored in Gustavia Harbor. Wow, tons of boats!  Looks like this is the place to be for Christmas.  Our trip over from Saba was less than enjoyable.  We had 20 knots of wind directly on the nose!  Only choice was to motor into the chop and weather a small squall.  We could, however see seven islands at one time, Saba, St. Martin, Five Island, St. Barths, St Eustacius, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Four Days until Christmas, I can’t believe it!

Sunday, 12/22/96
Spent the day trying to find a sports bar, any bar that had a TV and was showing football.  Nick spent the last 4 years living in Wisconsin and he needed desperately to see the Green Bay Packers game.  These damn French have no idea what they are missing! (they also have no idea how to drive)  Sorry Nick, a lot satellite dishes, but no game.

Uh oh, have to go Christmas shopping tomorrow.

Wednesday, 12/23/96
Boy, this is getting strange.  Doesn’t look like Christmas, doesn’t feel like Christmas…..wait a minute, what’s that in the shrouds. It’s a bird, it’s a plane, no wait, it’s Nick and he’s got a string of lights in his hands. If I’m not mistaken, he intends to hang them in the shape of a Christmas tree. Now we’re talkin’.

Tuesday, 12/24/96
O.K., now it’s starting to feel a little like Christmas. Bill finally pulled out some X-mas CD’s and thankfully brought the true Christmas spirit to the boat.  I hung some stockings that my mother had sent us and put a little stuffed Santa over the clock. All that was missing was the SNOW!!  Ain’t gonna find that here!

Once the boat was successfully decorated, I set about the task of preparing our Christmas dinner. The appetizer was a fine Scottish smoked salmon with garnishes. The salad was of the tossed green variety (with Neuman’s Own).  And the entrée was pork tenderloin marinated in my own special sauce and cooked to a perfect medium rare. It also included a rice pilaf and steamed broccoli (George Bush, eat your heart out).  The crew ate it and loved it!! Bill also brought out his last bottle of good red wine for the occasion.  Last but not least, for desert we had some excellent chocolate courtesy of a fine market in town.

I must say, I am now in the Christmas mood.  Being from New England, however it is still difficult to celebrate in the warmth of the Caribbean.  Nonetheless, in keeping with German and our family’s tradition, we decided to open a few presents, one each.

After a thoroughly satisfying dinner and a few meaningful gifts from home, we decided to call it a night.  Aside from being Christmas day tomorrow we have decided to leave for Antigua in the afternoon.

Christmas Day 1996
Merry Christmas everyone!  It’s definitely not snowing out.  However, I think Santa paid us a visit.  We don’t have a tree, but we do have a mast. I want to know how he managed to squeeze his way through.  

Before anything happens for me in the morning I gotta have my coffee (Christmas is no exception). Once this ritual has been performed then the day may begin. Bill and Nick have their tea, but it does not seem to be as critical in nature as coffee to a coffee drinker.  As long as it’s in hand, I’m ready.

The first presents to get hit are the ones in the stockings. Mom always stuffs them full of all kinds of goodies, and useful stuff too. This year I got a nylon belt, a hat, a mini tripod for my camera and some cool looking round things the size of Ping-Pong balls. You’re supposed to give them a half turn and drop them in a pair of shoes to whisk away the smelly odor.  First of all, my feet do not smell and second, what the heck am I going to do with those things when I don’t have any shoes to put them in? 

Next, Bill, Nick and I exchange gifts. They have pitched in to buy me a stainless steel band for my watch. I love Christmas!  For Bill, Nick and I have picked out a cool silver money clip with a little Roman coin it. We decided to have it engraved with his initials and “Out of Bounds” on it. However, when were go to pick it up, it says “Out of Bonds”. Silly French, he’s on a boat not getting out of jail.  Finally for Nick, Bill has given him a really nice silver lighter (he is always losing his other ones, hope he hangs on to this one). From me, he gets a gift that I cannot give him immediately. I promised him to help him out with the cost of a new Nikon camera. He’ll have to wait a while for that one.  I always said it’s the thought that counts.

What a great Christmas.  Off to Antigua this afternoon.

Thursday, 12/26/96
Arrived in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua this morning at 11:00. The sail over was uneventful, except for an impromptu sail change in the middle of the night. Seems Bill was having a tough time dealing with the light winds, so we pulled down our storm jib and raised our 140% Genoa. Finally, the boat started to move a little. 

We docked the boat stern-to at the Catamaran Club and proceeded to completely clean the boat.  It really needed it and Bill’s girlfriend, Tracy was coming to visit.  We also had to pull down the Genoa again, it seems the tack ripped out and needs to be sewn back in. 

Sunday, 12/29/96
Left Antigua this morning for Barbuda with Bill, Tracy, Nick and me.  Terrible weather, squalls all the way there. Tracy not feeling so good.  Nick and I stand on deck and bear the sting of rain pounding our bare chests. Yahoo!!

We are actually heading to Barbuda to meet my family who are staying at a resort there called Coco Point Lodge. It is an all inclusive resort

Picture

Spitting out rain in a squall

that is managed by Martin and Caroline Price who are the parents of our good friend Julia (Price) Kern. They have very kindly arranged for us to be able to spend New Years Eve at the resort.  Boats are able to anchor off of the beach, however because it is an all-inclusive resort, they don’t normally welcome yachters.

It is a picturesque anchorage off of an absolutely beautiful beach. We will definitely enjoy staying here for a few days!

Wednesday, 1/1/97
Ouch!! What else can you say the morning after New Years. A good time was definitely had by all! Thank you Martin and Caroline.

Bill and Tracy will be headed back to Antigua in the morning.  I am going to stay on with my family for a few days. I won’t be seeing them for a while. I will be updating the journal again when I get back to Antigua. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, 1/7/97
Back from Barbuda. Had a wonderful time with my family (but, it’s good to be back on the boat). I think they would like to meet us in Tahiti. Wouldn’t that be cool!

The boat is now anchored in Deep Bay and everything is finally getting back to normal.  Jeff is arriving tomorrow….and then there were three.

Alex Ercklentz 1997

Wednesday, 1/8/97
I arrived in Antigua on the late flight out of Newark at 11:30 p.m.  As I checked through customs, I thought that the guys might be a tad upset at my late arrival. On reaching the curb, there was no sign of anyone. I waited about 20 minutes. Out of the night came Bill, Alex, and their friend Mark. Hi-fives and pats on the back soon ensued.

Alex and Bill

After getting all my gear loaded into the small Toyota that the guys had rented, I heard the story that had made me wait at the airport. It seems Bill was driving the rental car to the airport when the low gas light came on.  Alex informed Bill, who promptly told Alex to pipe down, and that he knew exactly how much gas was left in the tank. A small verbal battle ensued. Bill decided to prove his point to Alex by slamming on the brakes while doing around 50 mph.  Alex responded by bouncing his head off the windshield. This made Bill and Mark start to laugh so much, that Bill couldn’t drive. Alex then started a small squirmish with Bill. 15 minutes later, the car was going again and calm somewhat restored.

We dropped Mark off at his hotel to rejoin his wife Carinne and his 11 month old daughter Emily. We continued on to Deep Bay where the boat was anchored.  We took the dinghy (the “dink”) out with all my gear and opened a couple of beers.  In the cabin light, I could see that I was ghostly pale when compared to Bill and Alex. Oh well, time to catch up later.  We went to bed around 2 a.m. and made plans to sail to Jolly Harbor around 9 AM.

Thursday, 1/9/97
My first morning in the Caribbean couldn’t have been better. Alex made some coffee (my New Years Resolution was to stop downing Diet Cokes) and I enjoyed a beautiful  view of Deep Bay. I took a quick dip and as I was toweling off, Bill came over and gave me a good morning Benny Hill slap on my head.  I should explain here. Prior to rejoining the guys, I had discarded the rug I wore on my head for 10 years.  I then proceeded to shave all the remaining hair down to the scalp. I was the text book definition of “bald”.  Talk about a low maintenance do’ for our trip.  Just gotta be careful of the sun (does sunblock go to 100?).

I took Alex ashore in the dink and picked up Mark. Alex was going to get some materials to make screens for the boat as flies and mosquitos attacked us at random during the night.  Bill, Mark, and I pulled up the anchor and set off for Jolly Harbor and a space on the dock.  We needed to bring the boat up to a dock so we could do some maintenance, reprovision, and clean. We also had three visitors from home joining us on Friday.

We arrived in Jolly Harbor about 90 minutes later. Damn, it was good being back on the boat! A quick beam reach with the wind in my now non-existent hair.  Bill handed Mark and I some small cigars as we entered the channel. We made our way up to our dock slip and made all the lines fast.

Spent the evening cleaning up and sorting things out.  Went to bed early as Bill Noble and his fiancé Karen along with our friend Scot Sabella where coming the next day.

Friday, 1/10/97
Alex is hard at work making screens with some teak strips and nylon screen material. A quick note here. Bill goes crazy when we get flies down below.  He swings his arms wildly trying to kill any small, buzzing insects. Unfortunately, he also has bad aim. Alex’s toes, head, etc. all bear the small welts of Bill “almost” getting his quarry.  Alex and I now just drop to the floor when Bill gets that bug killing look in his eyes. Safer and remarkably becoming second nature to us.

Bill is heading out to do some quick errands and to do an airport run. He has to drop off Mark & Carinne and pick up Bill, Karen, and Scott.  Alex and I sit on the dock and clean. Something I am becoming quickly indoctrinated in.  It seems that keeping a boat clean is a nonstop task. Things come out and don’t get put back.  Since our main cabin is around 15x10, things tend to look cluttered real quick.

At around 4 p.m., Bill and guests arrive on the dock.  We spend about an hour going over things and seeing what we want to do for dinner that evening.  Scott admires the lack of hair on both my and Alex’s heads.  Up pops the small beard trimmer we use for the trimming the do’s.  I take a quick pass through Scott’s hair with the length set at “4”(a very arbitrary length measurement system, I don’t know what it stands for). Scott doesn’t notice any difference. He then asks me to go down to “3”. Alex and I caution Scott that “3” is the setting for Alex’s hair (very short 50’s crewcut length).  Scott waves away the inferences and signals me to “shave away”.  On the first pass, everyone on the dock gasps and a hunk of hair falls at Scott’s feet. Oh well, too late now. That is unless reverse mohawks are making a comeback. Thirty minutes later, Scott is suitably “de-haired”.  There is much merriment, until Scott actually sees himself in the mirror.

One last little episode. On the way back from our night out carousing the local pub, Cap’n Bill jumps on Bill Noble’s back as we make our way back down the dock. Bill Noble mumbles something about having a big bug on his back and the only way to rid one’s self of bugs is to jump in the water. With a look of disbelief on his face, Cap’n Bill still on Bill N’s back, ends up in the water.  Bill Noble simply walks off the dock and into the water.  We all find this remarkably funny.

Saturday, 1/11/97
We spend the day vegging out. Highlights of the day include:

Scott and I sneak into Club Antigua (an all inclusive club) and commandeer 2 hot dogs, 2 hamburgers, and 2 beers before making a hasty exit in the dink which we had pulled up on the beach.

Picture

Alex grinding off Montserrat

Scott and I follow the local yacht club weekly regatta around in the dink screaming encouragement to trim faster and “win one for the Gipper”. We also get some pretty cool shots of crew on the rail.  Later, at the bar with our new found buddies, we find that the owner of the marina won on corrected time by 1/100 of a second. Right!

Bill swipes some extra teak left over from Al who has worked on the screens all day and makes a teak handled fly swatter. Bill runs around the main cabin swatting and yelling “Got ya”. He nicknames the fly swatter “Sting” and writes it in big letters right on the teak handle.  Alex and I cringe as we know we will soon be getting bug juice across the face with Bill’s wild swings.

Rounding the corner of what they call a road down here, we come screeching to a halt in the rental car.  Right in front of us is this huge cow butt.  They just let the animals graze freely in Antigua.

Jeff Johnson 1997

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