Bottoms Up, Caribbean Style (Part II)
It’s 7 a.m., I just got off watch and its 8 degrees outside. We are 30 miles from Gibraltar after a 1,600-mile trip from Turkey. I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am going to be to get south into the warmer climate and then west to the Caribbean. I’m sure many of you were thinking the same as you set sail from the Med.
Starting off from where I left off: Dominica. As this is an article about my favorite spots, I’m not going to discuss the south end of Dominica any more than I already have. I always make for one spot that over the years has developed and is now close to the top of my list for good anchorages. It’s close to the northern tip of the island and is called Prince Rupert Bay, harboring the town of Portsmouth. I always anchor close to the beach in the northeast corner of the bay in sand, and I have found the holding to be exceptional even in strong storms. It rains a lot there, which is why the island is so green, but don’t let that dissuade you from stopping there. Dominica is a very exciting island with loads to do.
Good restaurants are springing up all over the place due to the amount of foreigners that have settled there, and within a stone’s throw of the anchorage there are several attractions like the Indian River and the fort. Relics from the movie Pirates of the Caribbean are scattered all over the island, and if you take a tour in a minivan (I always use Cobra Tours) you’ll surely fall in love with the place. I’ve taken many tours there, but my favorites are Spanny Falls, Emerald Falls, the Trios Pitons and the Indian village.
For the photographers among you, take a lot of flash card space or film because you’ll use it. We once did a photography road trip, and it took us seven hours to go 12 miles in 7 hours — that’s how many things there are there to shoot! A two-mile walk through the forest to Spanny Falls can take three hours, as there seems to be a photograph with every step. June or July is probably the best time to go to see the flora and fauna and wildlife at its very best.
Heading north from Dominica is Le Saintes, a lovely little cluster of islands about 10 miles south of Guadeloupe. The islands are French and have that St.-Barths–20-years-ago charm about them. There are dozens of places to anchor about these islands, but I always go for Bourg Des Saintes, the island’s sole town. It’s well protected unless there’s a northerly swell and then there’s another two spots just to the west behind a stunning rock formation that looks like a tidal wave called Pain De Sucre and on the islet of Cabrit.
Bourg Des Saintes is lovely and chilled out, and the people are very friendly. On a nice day, you can walk over the hill to the east and find a magnificent lagoon shaped bay called Baie De Pompierre. It’s worth the effort!
Heading north from Le Saintes is Guadeloupe, and in my opinion, one of the best dive sites in the Caribbean. (The Cousteau National Parks’ Pigeon Island is an amazing place. It’s like someone planted an underwater garden there.) You can anchor in a large bay on Guadeloupe just to the east if you want to stay overnight, as anchoring in the park is strictly forbidden. I always head up to Deshaies at the northern end of Guadeloupe, another great anchorage that offers good protection. I especially like the local bakery, which has a delivery service to the boat. There’s nothing like fresh baguettes and croissants for breakfast before heading out on a screaming reach to Antigua, where after a daylong sail, Falmouth Harbor is the perfect spot to make for if the winds slightly south of east. If the wind is northerly, I head for Johnson Point on the southwest corner of the island. It’s almost always calm there, and if you get in early enough, you can go to the 3 Martini beach bar for an aperitif.
Once you’ve cleared customs in Antigua, you have what is probably the biggest concentration of anchorages available to you on any one island in the Caribbean. The windward side is home to hundreds of beaches and bays, and once you’re inside the reef between Long Island and Guiana Island, you have a whole wilderness of places to drop the hook and appreciate the Caribbean’s finest. Short walks open your eyes to wildlife and scenery you’ll never forget. My favorite spot is between Great Bird and Galley Island in about eight feet of the clearest water you’ll ever see. Deeper-keeled yachts need not go in so far to stay in calm water, as the reef and islands seem to deaden even the biggest waves. I think this year you’ll see SV Wonderful around there a lot.
Another great spot in Antigua is Green Island. I like to use the two anchorages on the south side of the island during the day and then go deeper into Nonsuch Bay and spend the night in the lee. There’s a beautiful beach on which to sit and watch the sunset or have a BBQ. Harmony Hall is only a dinghy ride away, and that’s a great place to go out for dinner.
I hope Christmas hasn’t passed by the time you read this, but if it has, I hope you had a great one. If it hasn’t…MERRY CHRISTMAS and safe sailing!