Gotta Smile!

Gotta Smile!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

St Martin - Sint Maarten and Anguilla

February 11 - 15, 2015

12 - Antigua, 13 - Barbuda, 14 - St Barts, 15 - St Martin, 16 - Anguilla

St Martin - Sint Maarten 
A - Marigot   
This is an island that peacefully divided it’s seven mile by seven mile land between two countries.  The French own the northern portion and the Dutch the southern.  Legend tells that rather than fighting over the land the two countries had a walk-off.  The Frenchman with a bottle of wine walked in one direction and the Dutchman with a flask of gin the other.  The French got a bigger section because the wine was not as strong as the gin.  

Today the island is a favorite destination for vacationing in the Leeward Islands.  It saw the potential of tourism early and used it’s beautiful water and beaches along with casinos, condos, hotels and restaurants to create a package that is difficult to match.  The icing on the cake is — the entire island is duty free.  

Most of the large yachts are on the Dutch side.
A flock of big boys, but wait -- the biggest one is
just coming into sight!

Just as we thought we had seen the greatest collection of mega yachts in Antigua we arrived here. They are easily out numbered in multiples.  The island was gearing up for the Heineken Regatta while we were visiting.  It is a world-famous international event that attracts many famous yachts.  A lot of them had already arrived.     

This is Limitless, owned by Wexler the founder of The Limited,
Victoria's Secret and several other successful retail chains.
Limitless is 297 feet long and every foot is sleek and beautiful.

We stuck around to watch it thread it's way through
the narrow bridge opening.  The inflatable was
another set of eyes for the captain.

Young sailors practicing their maneuvers.

Gondola passengers getting a close-up view of the
mega yachts.

Not all expensive yachts are sleek
and beautiful!

A floating restaurant - hotel in the lagoon.

Marigot's dingy dock was spacious.  Venders lined
 up in the market to greet guests.  Bonnie and I made
purchases until we ran out of cash.  No credit cards
accepted here. 

Leaving the lagoon at the French
bridge.  The lagoon is the large body
of water on the west side of the island.
See map.  Both the French and Dutch
have a bridge.

We had to stop at Brian's favorite French bakery
every day.  This is about 1/3 of the counter.

David and Jill from Sweet Chariot joined us for
pastries this morning. 

How did they know we were coming?
A red carpet AND our family crest!

Sorry, I know I've said it many times --
beautiful sunset and beautiful water.

Friday night as we were preparing to leave, Brian discovered that the water maker was not working!  We still had 200 gallons in our tanks, but with four people on board we have been using a lot.  Now, we all went into conservation mode.  The water maker has spoiled us as it provides all of the fresh water we need.  After five hours in the 99 degree engine room, he had it fixed!  Yea, Brian!!!       

Getting an early start to Anguilla.  The Tube Dude
leads us towards a double rainbow. 

A - Road Bay

Anguilla is one of the older islands in the Lesser Antilles.  Like St Martin and St Barts these are volcanic islands that have eroded to a flatter appearance than the younger ones.  Tourism is the main industry relying on it’s white sandy beaches and excellent restaurants to bring visitors.  It has recently become a luxury destination.  Some prefer it to St Barts because with fewer cars and people it is a more serene and discrete location.     

We arrived at Road Bay on Valentine’s Day with just enough time to check through customs and take a walk along the flat beach.  This was one of the best walking beaches we have found in the islands.  The sand was like pumas.  I was hoping it would work some magic on my calloused feet.  The locals told us it was their worst beach.  I’d come back for a week to see more of it.      

Just before going to shore on Sunday David and Jill dropped anchor.  They met us on shore for a walk and then a jazz concert at Johnno'S Beach Bar.  We sat down during the musician’s break and ordered drinks.  Sprocka, the lead guitar and vocalist, joined us to chat about life on the water.  When the second set started, he sang an impromptu song about our trip to the islands from Minnesota. What fun!  I wish I had a video of it.  

As we prepared for dinner back on the boat, Jill and David arrived with a bottle of champagne.  With plenty of food prepared, we invited them to join us for dinner.  A good time to swap travel stories.  They had the best tales since they are circumnavigating the world.  Their experiences in the middle east were fascinating, but a little too exciting for my dance card.  

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

St Barthelemy

February 10, 2015

9 - Dominica, 10 - Iles des Saintes, 11- Guadeloupe, 12 - Antigua, 13 - Barbuda
14 -  St Barthelemy 

A - Gustavia
St Barthelemy

St Barts is the Riviera of the Caribbean.  The picturesque port is  charming and draws many of the rich and famous to it’s beaches, shops and restaurants.  

You are going to have to take my word for it -- that's
a whale. The only one we have seen on our voyage.
He breeched five or six times for us as he swam next
to our boat and then he was gone.
Located in the middle of the Lesser Antilles it’s history includes ownership by the British, French, Spanish and Swedes.  In the 1600’s it prospered as a pirate base.  Captain Montbars became known as Montbars the Exterminator as he spread terror throughout the region.  The French gave St Barts to the Swedes in 1784.  It was made a free port at that time and remains so today.  In 1878 the French made it a commune of France.      

Gustavia from the fort.  It must be a covenant in the
city that all buildings have red roofs and white

Our first night at anchor in St Barts was horrible.  The swells got larger as the night went on and everything in the boat seemed to be in continuous motion sliding and clanking.  We got off early the next morning and had a great day walking Gustavia, the main city.  As we headed back to the boat we realized that the swells were much closer together and larger than they had been earlier in the day.  By the time we got to the boat, we all knew we were facing a very dangerous situation.  The swim platform (where we needed to enter the boat) would drop three to four feet like a guillotine heading for our dingy.  Each surge would draw the dingy toward that
The turbulent coastline
raised platform wanting to pull it under.  We had to fight to get close enough to step off the dingy without letting the platform slam down on us.  Jon, the most agile, was the first to jump.  While Brian maneuvered the dingy with the motor, Jon held it’s lines to help control it.  We all put on our life jackets.  Bonnie and I watched the wave cycle and called out when the rhythm gave us the best opportunity to make the jump.  One by one we made it to the safety of the boat and celebrated with a group hug and a prayer of thanks.  There was no way we were going to spend a second night in that bubbling cauldron. 
Time to relax and enjoy a beverage.
We left St Barts like thieves in the night.  Even though we wouldn't arrive in St Martin until well after dark.  We were in full agreement.  This is not where we wanted to spend another night. 
We can't help ourselves -- put us on a beach and
not even topless sunbathers can distract us from
Le Select -- the oldest restaurant in town.  

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!
One of my favorite restaurant signs!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Antigua and Barbuda

February 6 - 9, 2015 

9  - Dominica, 10 - Iles des Saintes, 11 - Guaeloupe, 12 - Antigua, 13 - Barbuda
A - Jolly Harbour, C - Falmouth Harbour
This beauty was on a dock near us in the harbor.
Nero at 296 feet is the 40th largest yacht in the world.

Antigua is one of the yachting capitals of the Caribbean.  Many of the popular regattas originate here drawing entries from all over the world.  While we were visiting we saw over 20 mega yachts.  The largest was a whopping 280 feet! 

I didn't know anyone still put mastheads on boats and then we
saw these two: an American Indian and a dragon.
Fantastic works of art on these mega yachts!

The entrance to the fort and a cannon
guarding the entrance

English Harbour and Falmouth Harbour attract 100’s of cruising yachts each year.  It’s success began in 1745 when the harbors (that almost touch) became Britain’s main navel station in the Lesser Antilles.  Both harbors met the trifecta for secure ports.  They were easily defendable, with immediate access to the trade winds and they afforded excellent protection in a hurricane. The English Harbour Dockyard was completed in 1789 and thanks to restoration work it looks very much the same today.  The dockyard is now known as Nelson’s Dockyard.  Named after one of Britain’s favorite heroes in spite of the fact that he was not popular during his stay as naval commander and he didn’t like living in Antigua.  

These old forts never run out of
cannons or ways to use them.

Not exactly an original part of the fort,
but certainly British.  

Harry Potter fans - Brian thought 
this might be a portal to Hogwarts.

Restored buildings are now used for restaurants
and shops.
No erectile disfunction here---
The pillars were built in 1797 to support
the sail loft where the British Navy's
  sails were re

We walked to the dockyard and enjoyed poking around the old buildings.  However, arriving by boat the next day gave us a genuine understanding of what an exceptional harbor it is.  The narrow mouth has three forts protecting it.  Once an unwanted ship began to enter, their destiny was guaranteed….  With no way to retreat they were an easy target for the cannons on the hills.       

Forts on both sides of the narrow opening to the bay.

A good view of the narrow entrance and forts.

The last glimpse of Antigua.
Reefs, atolls and small islands make electronic
charts imperative.

A - Cocoa Point

Leaving Barbuda at dawn.  It's difficult to see the
island.  It is so flat.
Barbuda is the least populated, flattest and most natural of the islands we visited.  The island is only 62 square miles with an elevation at it’s highest point of 125 feet.  Most of the island is only twelve feet above sea level.  The 1500 residents are descendants of slaves that were brought to the island by the Codrington family.  The Codrington’s leased the island from England for one fat sheep beginning in 1685.  Barbuda was used mainly for growing livestock and root crops for the family’s estates in Antigua. 

Pulling the anchor.  We're on to our next island!

We were looking forward to walking the beach, but arrived to find rough water with continuous swells.  It was impossible to download our dingy.  As we discussed our options a neighbor came by in his dingy to see if we would like to join them for a ride to the beach.  He and his wife couldn’t manage their dingy in this wild surf alone.  Perfect!  We piled in, rode a wave up to the beach, had a great walk and made some new friends.  David and Jill on Sweet Chariot are from Australia.  They have  traveled around the world and are on their way home.  Back on Gotta Smile we convinced them (over a glass of wine) to go to St Barths instead of heading directly to St Martin.             

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Two French Islands: Iles des Saintes and Guadeloupe

February 2 - 6, 2015

7 - St Lucia, 8 - Martinique, 9 - Dominica, 10 - Iles des Saintes, 11 - Gradeloupe
One thing that we love about the French islands — the food!  We made quick stops in both Iles de Saintes and Guadeloupe, but there was definitely time to sample their restaurants and bakeries.  

Iles de Saintes  
This restaurant caught our attention
 the bow of a boat attached to a building.

Main street Bourg Des Saintes.

Every town has a church in a
prominent location.
Dinner at Au bon Vare


We found a beautiful anchorage late afternoon at Deshshaies.  It was cloudy and the rain came down just as we were secure.  You know what that means -- free boat wash!  The next morning we enjoyed breakfast at the French bakery and then a visit to the botanical gardens, which were amazing.

As we were anchoring this ship put up all 14 sails 
and left the harbor. So beautiful!

All of the sleeping flamingos had their
head tucked under a wing and were
standing on one leg.
Is that a yoga pose?

Bananas at the very beginning.

Gotta smile -- we're lovin the ride!

February 6th was the 50th anniversary of our first date.
Who knew we would wind up living the native life?