Friday, March 16, 2007

Off to Antigua

March 14, 2007  Wednesday
Jolly Harbour, Antigua
17.04.555N; 061.53.742W           Sailed 75NM

Anchor was up at 4:00 a.m. today in St. Barths and we arrived in Antigua at 4:00 p.m.; average speed 6.25 knots in drizzly rain and heavy clouds, but very calm seas.  The sun shone for a whopping one hour today.  This is most unusual for the Caribbean; usually rainstorms move though quickly.  This must be a large weather front because it encompasses a large portion of the Leewards and has made for a very gray day. 

Winds were from 15 knots from ENE 050 so we enjoyed a beautiful sail for the first six hours.  Then the wind stopped totally for about half-hour.  When it started again, the wind was from SSW 185 – practically on our nose.  So we had to motor the last six hours.

Caught one fish.  As Bill was pulling it in, a larger fish bit our baited fish in half just behind the gills. All Bill hauled out of the water was a fish head attached to our hook.  Hard to identify a fish from just its head, but it possibly was a mackerel. 

Had another one of those odd coincidences at sea today.  We cross paths with another sailboat heading from Antigua to St. Barths on exactly the opposite course of us.  We passed within 75 meters of one another, so it was easy to read the name on that boat’s stern.  It was S/V Wasabi!   Wasabi was berthed at the same marina with us down in Trinidad last summer.  This is the boat that had 2 sisters aboard who decided one night that they would leave with a Moorings delivery crew headed to the Panama Canal on a delivery to La Paz, Mexico.  It was a spur-of-the-moment decision and left the owner aboard all by himself.  We hailed Wasabi on the VHF radio and spoke with the newest woman now sailing with the owner.  They were on their way to St. Barths for a few days and then on to Anguilla for the Jimmy Buffet concert to be played there on March 26.  This will be a small venue concert, with only 3500 tickets.  We thought about going to that concert but decided that we had seen Buffet so many times already that it just wasn’t worth the $108 per ticket plus the exorbitant costs of clearing in at Anguilla.  What a coincidence to sail so close on opposite paths to a boat we haven’t seen since September. 

March 15, 2007  Thursday
Jolly Harbour, Antigua

We chose Jolly Harbour for our port of entry for Antigua for several reasons. 

  1. We had no interest in visiting St. Johns, the major port of entry.  We were last there about 20 years ago and didn’t particularly care for the large city.
  2. Jolly Harbour is a small port so clearing in should be less crowded and likely with easier access to the official offices.
  3. The other 2 ports of entry are Falmouth Harbour and English Harbour, from which we will depart when it is time to move on to Guadeloupe; so didn’t want to start there on the southernmost part of Antigua.
  4. Jolly Harbour is touted to be the safest harbor in the Caribbean for storms.  It is tucked away with a couple of dog-legs behind land so it is really protected from the seas.  Plus it is on the western side of the island, which puts it well away from the “dirty side” of a hurricane coming off the Atlantic.  Our insurance company allows boats to be stored in Jolly Harbour during hurricane season for a 10% surcharge.  We don’t plan to ever do this, but we wanted to check it out just for future knowledge.

Well, reason number 2 is definitely not true!  We arrived at the Immigration office in Jolly Harbour before 9:00 this morning.  Bill walked to the nearest commercial area in search of an ATM to get some local currency (EC) while Judy stood in line waiting to clear in.  Judy is listed as captain or master of the boat, so she is the one required to visit the official offices.  There were 4 people (appeared to be all one group) inside at the counter of the Immigration office.  There were 3 more people waiting outside, all of whom had obtained the clearance forms from the officer inside the Immigration office so that their paperwork would be ready when it was their turn to see the officer.  Judy stepped inside and requested the clearance forms for this same reason, but the officer told her that she would have to wait outside and refused to give her the forms.  Off to a good start!

Four more people arrived and got in line behind Judy.  She waited there for about an hour and not one person had come out of the Immigration office.  Oh, this officer is S-L-O-W!  Bill returned with the news that the ATM machine states that it will work only with ATM cards issued by local banks.  Since we didn’t have EC currency and since the line wasn’t progressing at all, we decided to leave.  It was too darned hot to wait outside so long.  We dinghied down to the commercial area and found a local bank, where we exchanged US cash for EC currency. 

The bank was celebrating its birthday and they served us some tasty punch and a small plate of snacks.  Well, these snacks were way different from one would receive from any business back in the states celebrating its birthday.  In the states you would get a piece of cake or a few cookies with the punch or fruit juice.    Here we were served pomello juice (tastes like sweet grapefruit and is red) and our snack plate consisted of:  tiny piece of fried fish, tiny baked meat pie (like a miniature empanada), a dry meatball strongly flavored with sage, and a miniature cherry turnover.

We also checked with an internet café in attempt to find the prepaid cards required for WiFi service so we can have internet access on the boat while in Antigua.  The clerk said we would have to go all the way to St. Johns in order to purchase the prepaid cards.  Well, that is definitely not going to happen!  Also found out that to use this internet café would cost $15 USD per hour!  And that also is definitely not going to happen! 

Then we dinghied back to the Immigration office to again attempt clearing in.  There were still 2 people waiting, filling out their forms outside the office.  We entered and the officer told us to stand at the counter and complete the forms (6 copies).  Took him about 40 minutes to clear us in!!!!  Have no idea what was taking him so long to read and process these standard forms.  Then we walked to the Customs office next door.  That took another 10 minutes.  Then we went to the Port Authority office next door to obtain our cruising permit; another 15 minutes and 40 EC.  Nice that all three office are in one complex.  We were finally finished at 11:55. 

Three hours to clear into this place!  And this is the “simple and easy” port of entry for Antigua.   OTOH, Jolly Harbour is very nice if somewhat expensive.  We checked out a few restaurant menus and decided that they are out of our normal price range.  Good thing we don’t plan to stay here very long.

When we returned to the boat we sent an email via our satellite phone to the WiFi company in St. Johns asking where and how we can purchase WiFi access.  It is now 6:00 p.m. and still no answer to our email inquiry.  We are receiving a strong WiFi signal for this company where we are currently anchored; just can’t seem to buy their service.

March 16, 2007 Friday
Five Island Harbour, Antigua
17.05.290N; 61.53.857W            Motored 2 NM

Whenever we do laundry we also make more water.  Since the generator is required to operate the washing machine we always try to find another job to also use the generator, and that job is usually to make more water.  Seems logical to us.  The water in the anchorage at Jolly Harbour was full of silt because the depth is so shallow and over sandy bottom.   We did not want to foul our watermaker pre-filter membranes, so we moved to the next harbor which is considerably deeper and no silt.
The sailing guide states that there is a garbage dump at the head of Five Island Harbour.  We figured we could always just move back to Jolly Harbour before dusk if the garbage dump was a problem to us.  This sailing guide was published in 2005 and it is usually accurate.  Not this time.  There is no garbage dump at the head of Five Island Harbour.  But there is a very nice resort hotel built on Hermitage Bay beach tucked in on the southeast side.  We are the only boat in the entire harbor and the view is gorgeous.

We had a bit of good news today.  We had purchased 1800 minutes of air time from Globalstar before we moved aboard last year.  But we haven’t been able to obtain and retain a signal from Globalstar long enough to use very many of those minutes.  To make up to us for their poor signal, Globalstar gave us an additional 700 minutes several months ago --- isn’t that great; can’t use the phone so they give us even more minutes that we can’t use.  So as of today we still had a total of 1700 minutes, which expire on April 16, 2007.  Today Bill contacted Globalstar and they agreed that their service has been inadequate for the past year.  They claim that new satellites will be put into use very soon.  And, this is the good news, they agreed to extend the expiration date for our 1700 minutes until December 31, 2007.  So now we have until the end of the year to use up these prepaid minutes.  Sounds good to us.

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