Pinneys Beach, Nevis: paradise found    
West Indies EUROPE 2005
Northbound from Martinique to St Kitts
St Lucia / Martinique 14th February - 17th March 2006
Les Saintes & Guadeloupe 18th - 24th March 2006
Antigua / St Kitts & Nevis / Antigua 24th March - 24th April 2006

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27th February - 22nd March 2006: St Lucia, Martinique, Les Saints, Guadeloupe

We spent a few days quietly swinging at anchor in our new inshore location in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia before sailing north to Martinique on the 27th February. On the way we saw our first whale - a breathtaking and awesome experience. We think it was a humpback and looked no shorter than our boat.


We spent some time in Ste Anne reading and walking during the day, and sitting on the foredeck watching the sunset drink-in-hand each evening. During this time we cultivated our new hobby - not spending money - a pastime in which we indulge at every opportunity. Several days were spent anchored near the town of Marin; re-provisioning at the good supermarkets, maintenance of the boat using the good chandleries and making new friends of Will and Alyssa from 'Ragtime' and Paul and Ute from 'Damairi'.


Throughout these weeks we had plenty of adventures (although not always fun at the time) like almost going aground during dinner, defending the anchorage from a cat burglar with our spotlight, nearly fitting leaky pipe to our toilet, being searched by customs at night and finding our dinghy ('Dude') trapped under a pier by the tide.


The time came to head north to meet Tristan and Emma (Nat's brother and wife) in Antigua, and so low in the water with provisions and sporting a highly efficient new loo, we sailed north into new territory (for us) on the 16th March. The weather had settled at last after a long period of unseasonally windy and swelly weather (prolonged – like since we arrived) and our sail north was pure joy. Day after day we sailed effortless across the wind in the sunshine. During the mornings Free Spirit proudly shouldered her way through the water at hull speed (max. speed) sending rainbows of spray and by afternoon she sat quietly in a new anchorage while we explored ashore. St Pierre - Martinique, Portsmouth - Dominica, Bourg des Saintes - Les Saintes, and finally Deshaies - Guadaloupe where we now sit within striking distance of Antigua.


Daily we have experiences to test us; frustrations, surprises, mistakes. Each day we learn a little and with each day we are reassured to find ourselves managing things a little better.

Approaching Dominica in the rain

Approaching Dominica in the rain


St Pierre, Martinique

St Pierre, Martinique


St Pierre, Martinique: anchored just off the pier

Anchored off the pier, St Pierre

23rd - 29th March 2006: Antigua

Another fine passage north found us in English Harbour, Antigua ("Land of Sun and Sea") exploring the manicured lawns and tea shops of the restored Nelson's Dockyard. We were here to meet Tristan and Emma (Nat's brother and wife) - something we had been looking forward to for the past month. They arrived the following day looking pale and hot in their jeans. Before long though, they’d cooled down nicely in the Caribbean waters, and it was good to catch up with what they’d been up to over rum punches.


With the company of a lone dolphin, we had a pleasant sail to a small cove called Rickett Bay on the uninhabited Green Island, on the east coast of Antigua. We tucked in very close to one of the tiny beaches and later, after snorkelling and viewing the rapidly shelving sea bed, we placed a second anchor for the first time.  Mark laid the Danforth out by dinghy at approx 45 degrees to the main anchor to hold us off the beach if the wind should shift around to the south.  Happily anchored now, we went ashore with cold beers and enjoyed a beautiful sunset.


Part of the reason for Tristan’s and Emma’s trip was to visit Emma’s relatives on Nevis; 50 miles to the west of Antigua. After a couple of starry, peaceful nights at Rickett Bay, we moved around to Jolly Harbour on the west coast of Antigua so as to be well placed for the passage to Nevis the following day.

Rickett Bay, Antigua: sundowners with Tris & Emma

Sundowners, Rickett Bay, Antigua

30th March - 5th April 2006: Nevis

Departing at dawn in calm, and with our guests fast asleep, we motored across to Nevis, anchoring late afternoon off the long, clean, sandy and palm-fringed Pinney’s Beach. Emma and Tris swam ashore to make their first landfall under their own steam.


Nevis is neat and friendly – we quickly felt at home and before long we found ourselves at the annual Agricultural Fair.  Alarmingly the admission fee of 2 EC dollars (about 50p) entered us into the raffle, in which the first prize was a piglet. We enjoyed wandering around the stalls, eating local food of rice and peas, corn cake, macaroni cheese and barbecued chicken, meeting the local characters, and with relief leaving empty-handed.


Back at Pinney’s Beach we met Lindetta and Mark who live in Nevis and own ‘Pearl of Nevis’, a Vancouver 32. As you can imagine we had plenty to talk about. They also run the relaxed beach bar ‘Double Deuce’ serving delicious food, Lindetta’s Tania Fritters being a favourite. Our friends on Wild Alliance also arrived unexpectedly and we enjoyed seeing them one last time before our ways parted for good as they are heading back to the UK.  After three too many ‘Killer Bees’ at Sunshine’s beach shack, we tried to remember to which palm tree on the three mile long, star-lit Pinney’s Beach we had tied our dinghy, and, sometime later, rowed back to a lonely boat.


The previous day Tris and Emma had moved ashore to stay with her relatives in Bricklin. We were kindly invited to visit the Pemberton household one day. The obvious form of transport was the ubiquitous local buses found throughout the Caribbean. These are small, straight sided vans about the size of a family car, with rather small looking wheels, and always a loud stereo usually blasting out reggae. Inside sit as many people as possible and in the front a racing driver. The journey is a mixture of hurtling at top speed along the roads with the occasional stop en route, sometimes to chat to other drivers going the other way, other times for the driver just to grab a spot of lunch at home. Thankfully we arrived in one piece, and were rewarded with a delicious lunch and a lovely afternoon chatting on the porch with Emma’s Grandmother Georgina, Aunt Elrika and friend Loretta.


Sadly the time came for Tristan and Emma to leave and after saying goodbye we decided to move 10 miles north to the marina at St Kitts as we were totally out of water.

Tris on Pinney's Beach, Nevis

Tris on Pinney's Beach, Nevis


Sunshine's Bar, Nevis: catching up with Wild Alliance

Punches with Wild Alliance, Nevis



6th - 11th April 2006: St Kitts

Although St Kitts and Nevis are part of the same country they feel quite different. Basseterre, the capital of St Kitts, is run down and poor and sat unhappily behind a glitzy, new cruise ship dock and duty-free mall built on reclaimed land. The town had an unfriendly, city feel. Nevertheless, we enjoyed our time here. We met new friends, explored, gave Free Spirit a greatly needed clean and polish, and frequented as much as possible the marina showers, which we consider to be the best in the Caribbean (even though there is no hot water.)

Keen to integrate into local culture we ate where the locals ate – Kentucky Fried Chicken and Subway – and on Palm Sunday went to church. At the end of mass we were asked to stand while the whole congregation sang ‘Welcome, We Love You No Matter Where You Are From’. We smiled back inanely but felt quite special.

11th - 14th April 2006: Nevis

We eventually left St Kitts with the intention of a brief stop at Pinney’s Beach in Nevis before going south to Guadeloupe. Here the conditions conspired against us; we would pay for those extra nights spent at St Kitts with a good forecast. The winds came around from the south preventing us from moving on, making the anchorage very rolly, and finally covering us with ash from Montserrat.  The island of Montserrat sits halfway between Nevis and Guadeloupe and is home to a real-life volcano, which happened to be very active while we were in its vicinity. We were in a pickle - if we opened the hatches the boat filled with ash, if we closed them we baked.

After a sleepless night baking and rolling, we escaped with the rising sun in an unprecedented moment of forecasting genius. Leaving just as the wind kicked south we managed to make Antigua to the East. It was a glorious sail hard on the wind but fast and we arrived in Jolly before the sun set, perfectly timed to celebrate our one year anniversary of living aboard Free Spirit.

15th - 23rd April 2006: Antigua
Early the following morning, still feeling tender from the anniversary celebrations the night before, I set off to find a local bus. I was required to visit the port authority over the far side of the island in English Harbour.

Procedure varies but normally on arrival at an island we are required to visit three separate departments: customs, immigration and port authority. Unfortunately on our arrival the previous day, after visiting customs and immigration, I found that the port authority was closed. Since the procedure requires all three departments sense would suggest that they synchronise their opening hours – but heck what do I know! Awkwardly we were now trapped in the middle of an administrative process; neither in nor out. Initially customs were intent on holding our papers until Tuesday when the office opened again, so trapping us in Jolly Harbour (and of course rendering us without documentation should the customs launch board and search us). Eventually we convinced them to allow us to keep our papers and visit an open branch of the port authority in English Harbour.   

In the event my trip across Antigua was an enjoyable and memorable experience rather than the chore I expected and I wished Nat had come with me. The journey took me to the capital St. Johns, a place buzzing with life on a Sat morning. Unsteady tables lined the roadside piled with exotic fruits and vegetables. Sugar cane was stripped and crushed or coconuts split to make refreshing drinks. Horns blared, music throbbed and over it all a gospel singer wailed again and again "The Lord Our Saviour". The buses here run to their own timetable – they leave when they’re full. Believe me it was getting full! Each person seemed to bring another 20kilos of vegetables packed into numerous thin plastic bags. Soon the inevitable happened and a bag ripped sending yams rolling in all directions. As we all ducked under seats retrieving them their owner started laughing, “dees yam not want to come ‘ome today!”. She sat next to me and after shepherding the yams between our feet and the chair in front assumed the role of tour guide telling me the names of villages as we swept through with all doors and windows open. The warm climate and simple houses allowed me to catch glimpses of lives as people sat on small verandas or under trees in groups – chatting, eating, braiding hair or simply watching. I vowed to take more trips on these local island buses, to strike inland and see beyond the beaches and boat boys.

For now though we just wanted to relax. We spent most of the bank holiday weekend in the marina strolling along the wooden pontoons looking at the other boats and enjoying limitless showers. When it got too hot we would wander the aisles of the smartest and most thoroughly air-conditioned supermarket in the Caribbean, situated close to the boat. Nat studied the magazines to catch up on important current affairs (apparently Tom is trying to cramp Katie’s career) and I studied the frozen vegetables. After 30mins or so we would emerge with goose bumps and chattering teeth – it was glorious.  Late afternoon would find us sitting by the swimming pool with ice cold Tings (fizzy grapefruit drink) feeling like holidaymakers.

We moved north to Deep Bay for a few days. Small, protected and quiet with tropical blue water, a white sandy beach and a soft clean bottom that the anchor burrowed into quickly. Not especially deep though. We cleaned the bottom of the boat, swam a lot and explored the wreck of a large iron boat which had conveniently sunk nearby. The Andes, carrying pitch from Trinidad, caught fire and sank in 1905. Now as we peered down from the surface it resembled an aquatic metropolis – numerous colourful fish hurried this way and that, out of one hole and into another, as if travelling with direction and intent. A turtle spotted us and eyed us warily.

We had, again, really enjoyed our time in Antigua but felt it was time to start moving south toward our haul-out due mid-June in Grenada. However on return to Jolly Harbour to check-out we found the port authority closed again. It closed every weekend not just the bank holidays as I had assumed. Frustrated with the delay and feeling stupid we decided if we checked out on Monday morning as soon as the office opened we could just make it south to Guadeloupe before darkness (rather than wait until Tues). This was to prove to be a mistake.

















Deep Bay, Antigua: Mark snorkelling

Snorkelling in Deep Bay, Antigua



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