Stay Tuned!

We may be back from the latest adventure, but there are plenty more tales to tell, and more trips ahead.   More Jewel of the Sea Sailing Adventures coming very soon!

At anchor. West End Tortola

Home of the Pirates of the Caribbean


The latest iteration of Disney’s franchise hits American theaters this week. We experienced many of the sets where it was filmed, including these moments. (Enjoy "Dead Men Tell No Tales". Sadly, we won't be seeing it, because nothing down here resembles a movie theater):

video
                        Watch as we make our way down the river where Witch Tia Dalma   resides!
Hampstead Beach where Jack Sparrow narrowly escapes the island cannibals

 
Joe and I overlook the Twin Peaks where the Black Pearl was stranded


Julianne 5/28

 


The Devils Bridge



 

The British like to pretend that slavery is a sordid chapter in human history whose cross we Americans must alone bear. The truth is they were complicit in its enterprise. British aristocracy became enamored by the West Indies. They enlisted and financed  ships to come to these islands amongst which we now sail. Their directive was  to procure the coveted tea and spices that are abundant here.   English and American schoolchildren hear of slave ships bringing the scourge of slavery to the American south, but  little about the routes  many British  ships made before embarking on their transatlantic passage to the Caribbean. These ships would first head south, where they would capture, enslave and transport, in horrific conditions, the people of West Africa. These people  would be put to work on the sugar plantations and in the tea and spice fields of places like Antigua, and serve their indentured lives under feudal lords, many of them Dutch, in plantations such as Bettys Hope. 
archeological remnants of the slave quarters at Bettys Hope Plantation
 

 The conditions were so horrid so that many slaves chose to run away and cast themselves into the nightmarish, crashing waters off a small outpost on the northeast corner of Antigua, rather than further endure their plight. This place has come to be known as the Devil’s Bridge. If you listen closely, the air blown through the holes in the rocks by the water sounds like screams. It is truly one of the most haunting, and most reverent, places of our journey.
 
See the torrent that is Devils Bridge: https://youtu.be/bUExHC9lNq8
Julianne from Antigua   May 2017

Not Barbados


Barbuda. Not Barbados
 

Barbados is a beautiful island in the Windwards that many winter weary sun cravers love to visit. The latest island in our travels is often mistaken for Barbados, but unlike Barbados, the tiny island of Barbuda is rarely visited by outsiders. Barbuda is in the Leewards, hundreds of miles north of Barbados, and is not a vacation spot for several reasons. It is completely inaccessible except by boats with very shallow drafts (bottoms), and most sailors (ourselves clearly not included) with shallow drafts would be foolish to venture this far into the remote part of the Caribbean Sea. No cruise boats will ever make it here.  It is also not on most travel itineraries because there is virtually no infrastructure here. Minimal power. No hotels. A couple thousand residents and a couple of makeshift lean-to’s where food might available…if you are here on the right day.

But if you want to see a Caribbean island that has not yet suffered the blight of mankind, Barbuda is the place for you. With no lack of effort we got here, found an anchorage where we prayed the boat would hold, and were taken on a “tour” by Claude. Claude was  a somewhat droll and unenthusiastic host, but was nonetheless fascinated that we had made the effort to visit his outpost. We pressed him to show us around his atoll, and he reluctantly accommodated. 
Claude and the intrepid crew

Basically, Barbuda is a gigantic pink sand beach. The waters around it are rough but absolutely pristine. Lobsters are everywhere, and there are almost no restrictions on taking them.
Gigantic Lobsters...$10 apiece!
So other than a visit to their national treasure, a protected giant frigate sanctuary, we spent the day consuming giant lobster and drinking Carib, the local brew.

The Frigate Birds on Barbuda have wingspans of 4 feet

We stayed up all night, fearing  the anchor would pull and strand us here like Gilligan and his cohorts. It held and we hightailed it back to Antiqua, proud  for having been among the few sailors to have  checked Barbuda off the bucket list.
 
Julianne   April 20th, 2017


Paradise Apocalypse


 
I have regaled you with story after story about paradise and what it looks like. Today I give you a small taste of the apocalypse.

Joe P. was born and raised on Montserrat, a small island about 40 miles southwest of Antigua. We had heard he gives tours of his island, and about his special ability to share its history. We knew we had to sail there, we knew we had to track down Joe, we knew we had to hear what happened.  In the two minute video below, I give you a first hand account of apocalypse in paradise....

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
The effort to dig through the pyroclastic flow
 
 
Thanks to Joe for showing us the resilience
of the people of Montsterrat
 

Julianne  April 10th, 2017

 

 

Sacre Bleu


 

What if you could sail up to the shore of Nice, but nicer? We accidentally encountered a tiny archipelago of islands south of Guadelope that are firmly and fastly French, and phenomenally out of sync with the third world island genre. The Isle de Saintes aspire to be anything but third world. 
Sailing north from Dominica in light winds, we pulled in to the islands hoping to nurse  a gaping hole in our jib. Using rusty high school French and ample sign language, we found a sailmaker-- Phillipe-- who graciously put us back in business within a day.

Phillipe spoke no English but saved our butts
This tiny series of 4 islands has upon its main isle the small town of Bourges de Sainte. The narrow streets are filled in the morning with vendors sitting on chairs dispensing hot, freshly baked croissants and baguettes from a bag in their lap.
Every other store front is a small restaurant trying to outdo its adjacent neighbor in culinary artistry.  

 

When you are not partaking in the cuisine, you are hiking 1000 feet to the top of Chemeaux, the highest peak on the largest island, Terre de Haute. There the French erected a lookout, which would have served them no purpose other than to predict their doom, as it is too high for cannons to mount a useful defense. Fortunately for them, the islands were strategically useless to the naval powers of the time, so they, the Brits and the Spaniards,  just sailed on by, and left the Saintians to fait le pain and boissez le cafĂ© au lait.  
the fortress atop Chemeaux

We stayed three days. Gained a pound a day.

julianne  3/25/17

Black Gold


 
I cannot help myself. I have to keep expounding on the magic that is Dominica, so here I go again. Today, I am talking about its geology.

Dominica, though approximately the size of Martha’s Vineyard,  has  nine main volcanic areas, the highest concentration of “live” volcanoes in the world. It also has 26 mountain tops, one of which climbs to over 5000 feet, and each of which is covered with dense rainforest. The Dominicans are highly protective of their ecostructure and have successfully fought against any large scale development intrusion. There are no Hyatts, Marriots, Omnis or any other big box hotels, and any building at all is highly regulated.

Because it is so highly volcanic, it is the youngest island in the Lesser Antilles. One of the great tourist things to do is to visit one of the thermal spas, small operations cut into the forests by individuals who have owned that spot for generations, and bath in their beautiful hot springs.  The island itself is  still being formed by geothermal  activity, and has earth’s second-largest hot spring, Boiling Lake.  


Most fascinating to me is the sand.

It is black volcanic pulverized pumice, as fine as baby powder and specked with flecks of gold. I exfoliated with it, washing it off in the beautiful turquoise waters abutting the beach, and my skin felt as if had regenerated. We could not help but to scoop up a bagful, one of the few ‘souvenirs’ we have ever removed from our island hosts. I will be returning it to the states, and those of you who are worthy shall share in a sample of this remarkable natural beauty product. Add a couple drops of  Dominican coconut oil, and I challenge you to find  better skin care in even the finest resort spas.


Julianne   March 18th, 2017

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

 
 
 

Dominica offered us so many wonderful experiences. At the top of a mountain near the town of Calabishie, we encountered the Pointe Baptiste Chocolate Estate, courtesy of our guide Charlie. I share with you our experience in the video below.

 

Julianne   March 1st, 2017

The Last of the Kalinago


 
When  James Fenimore Coooper penned “The Last of the Mohicans”, he said this:

“…there was no recess of the woods so dark, nor any secret place so lovely, that it might claim exemption from the inroads of those who had pledged their blood…to uphold the cold and selfish policy of the distant monarchs of Europe..”

While he was writing of the exploit by Europeans of north american Indians, his words could equally apply to the history of the Kalinago Indians of Dominica. They are the last surviving descendants of the native peoples that made their way from South American up the island chain of the Caribbean, settling in islands as far north as the Bahamas. In our travels throughout the islands over the years, we  heard time and  time again about these  original inhabitants, typically  referred to  as the Caribs. Until we got to Dominica, we assumed they were a long  extinct sect. We were wrong.

Christopher Columbus and his 17 ships made his 1494 second voyage to the new world, and he and his crews were the first whites to lay eyes on Dominica. They never touched its soil due to the rocky bottom of the shoreline.  Later Spanish expeditions did, however, and immediately laid waste to the population they encountered. Those they did not kill with flu and small pox, they killed for their refusal to allow exploitation.

These "Caribs" were in fact the  Kalinago, and they did not go easily into the night. They were warfaring and territorial and while some assimilated, most refused and rebelled violently. Spain decided that obliteration was appropriate. They  massacred hundreds on a site whose town is to this day known as Massacre.
A mural on a building in the town of Massacre ,depicting the event
 
The Spanish and later French invaders could not eliminate the Kalinago, however, because the remaining Kalinago  had retreated to the verdant rain forested mountains where their would-be  exploiters dared not venture and where they continued to perpetuate their unique culture.
Inside the Kalinago territory
 
Finally, in 1904, England, who by then had control of Dominica, gave to the Kalinago their own territory, consisting of 3700 acres on the west coast. Today, it is home to the last 3000 of these native peoples, who continue to foster their heritage, including building boats of remarkable workmanship.  We had the good fortune of accompanying our guide, Charlie, into the heartland of the Kalinago, where we learned of their history and shared a taste of their rich bounty.
 
The Kalinago infuse their rum with...everything around them
 

Ponce and his Wrong Turn



In what has been  almost three months in the West Indies, we have visited 11 diffferent islands[1]. Each has its particular charms to offer, and there are those to which we will return and those where once is enough. Of these, though, none has captivated us in quite the manner as has Dominica. It is green, serene and placid yet filled with wonders. Volcanic black soil beaches are bountiful,  isolated and unsullied, lapped by  cerulean waters.
Fresh water is abundant, which is almost miraculous in the Caribbean.
The air smells of nutmeg. Blooming Birds of Paradise are everywhere, and the parrot, which  appears on the national flag, soars majestically.  There are no mosquitoes to speak of. The island is free of predatory animals including snakes. Waterfalls are everywhere, pouring from the mountains, which are almost always mired in rain clouds while the rest of the island bathes in sun.

Disney chose this island to film many  of the scenes in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, clearly because it offered vistas that even the best CG artists  couldn’t replicate.
Look familiar? Watch Pirates of the Caribbean II
 
As I write this it is mid February. We arrived at the end of January and each time we think to pull anchor, we awake to the incredible sights and  sounds of this paradise, and ask ourselves, “why?”.  Where could we possibly go next that would present a more glorious setting in which to  experience our retirement? Forgive me, then, if many of the posts to follow are about Dominica.
We hired several  locals on the advice of sailors we met along the way. The first of these, Martin, introduced us to some of the treasures that comprise this magical place.
Martin Carrietere, botanist and guide and now, dear friend

Martin, a native Dominican , obtained a botany degree in Trinidad and returned to his home to become a guide and share his knowledge of  the miraculous curative bounty that is the flora and fauna on this island. As he took us on mountain hikes, he would pull plants and describe for us the manner in which they are used: for healing  wounds, stopping fevers, reducing arthritic conditions, soothing burns, curing migraines and incidentally, providing  longevity.  The longest living human being on record, Dominican Elizabeth “Ma Pampo” Israel, died at 128.  During our stay, we have repeatedly run into people who proudly tell us their age, and we are aghast at their state of preservation and vitality. The lifespan in Dominica is in fact, longer than in the United States, and they have more centenarians than anywhere in the western hemisphere. (see: http://www.avirtualdominica.com/project/dominica-centenarians/) It is clear to us that  Ponce De Leon landed on the wrong shore. His fountain was here, within these shores.  
Atop Red Rocks (800 feet above the bay below)
 
 



[1] St Thomas, Tortola, Norman Island, Peter Island, Cooper Island, Jost Van Dyke, Virgin Gorda, Anegada, Marina Cay, Antigua, Dominica

Eden Redux



 
At the south end of the Leewards there is an island of such great wealth, it  mesmerizes you  to the point of paralysis; it takes hold of you and will not let go. Its wealth  is not in gold; it is in green. Dominica (‘dom-en-ICA’) is known as the nature island. It is said that if Colombus returned today, this would be the only island he would recognize as it has remained unsullied since he first pulled into what is now Prince Rupert Bay in 1493, and where we are now anchored. There is nothing to do on this island but to experience its beauty: endless rainforests, cascading waterfalls, hot springs, tiny towns tucked into valleys between volcanic peaks, fresh water rivers running through vistas that take your breath away, gorgeous  beaches upon which human feet rarely trod. I have not been to Hawaii, but I imagine this place would give it a good run for its money. Our sail here was long and  the winds cooperated, but  after a mishap with a shredded jib, we were glad to make landfall. Once we realized what we had found, we knew this is where we will be keeping our anchor planted for a long time. In the posts to follow, I will share some history and our experiences. For now, I share some of the sights.
Julianne  January 30th, 2017

The Calibishie coast

 
The town of Trafalgar
Joe at Milton falls in Syndicate Park

The formations at Red Rocks

 



Photo Ops




If you have not already visited "Journeys Present", you can share some of our moments if you

 

Island Customs






While the cultures of the various islands we visit are diverse, what  seems consistent throughout the Caribbean are their customs. I am not referring to cultural traditions. I am talking about the administrative  process of ingress or egress from these nations. You think of the customs process as waiting in line and approaching an officer in a booth to hand him your passport and to tell him the purpose of your visit. The process of clearing customs when you are sailing the Caribbean is a vastly different, and  remarkably patience-testing experience. 

When you arrive in a Caribbean country by boat,  you have to go to customs to check in. Let me offer you some  flavor for the process  as it exists universally throughout these islands. First, as you drop anchor, you must raise a yellow flag on your yardarm. This signifies that your boat is under quarantine:  no member of your crew may leave the boat except the captain. The captain must take the dinghy to shore and find the customs office. If the captain is lucky, the office is open. If the captain is luckier still, the customs officer speaks English. Without exception, however, this officer is cantankerous. He is  annoyed that you deign to enter his  country, and is  quick to inform you that the  paperwork evidencing your departure from the previous country (a country a  few miles away across the sea, but which might as well be on the opposite side of the planet) is defective.

 Eventually, he ushers you away  from the counter instructing you to fill out forms or to complete them  on  non-user friendly software glowing from a computer that went out of vogue in the late 1980’s. In Antigua, the customs officer walks around with a two foot long bamboo stick and if you are not moving through the application quickly enough for his tastes, he taps your screen with this stick and admonishes you how to answer the questions.   Assuming his printer works and he can slowly dot matrix his approval form, he  stamps the form with annoyed fanfare and directs  you to Immigration.
Custom, Immigration and Port Authority are all located in the same little building in Jolly Harbour, Antigua...a rarity in the Caribbean



If you are lucky, Immigration is somewhere in the geographic vicinity of  Customs. This is rare. For example, in Union Island in the Grenadines, it is a mile away down   a rugged road. At Immigration, they look at your passport  and  interview you about your crew and the contents of your boat. They also check your indentity against their database; a database  on a computer that makes the customs computer look like HAL 9000.  Assuming you are not on their list of offenders (anyone you might have pissed off on your last visit is probably related to the immigration agent ), you are given clearance…to go to the Port Authority. Again, an office that may or not be within shouting distance, and may or may not be open. Here is where you pay for a permit to anchor in their fair waters and tread upon their sacred ground. Only with this permit  in hand may you return to the customs office, where Mr. Bamboo Stick will now give you and your crew an entrance visa. For an additional fee of course.

All the while, your crew remains imprisoned on the boat wondering if and when they will ever see their captain, or touch dirt,  again. The customs process ends with the mandatory raising of the flag of the host island on your mainstay, signifying that from wherever you have come, you are now a conquest of this beautiful  island off your bow.
You are in fact so much a part of this island, you may not  now leave the island until you check out,  a process no less entertaining than the arrival routine. In between, you get to play in paradise, so when it comes to customs, you simply learn to stay island calm. 

 

 

Coffee with a View


We ran out of coffee. That is not necessarily a bad  thing in the Caribbean, because opportunity for fresh, indigenous coffee abounds here. On this occasion, we were anchored in Falmouth Harbour and heard about a coffee roaster high in the hills that surrounded us. It was Sunday, so the “bus” ( actually a guy with a van who circles the area) was not running. The beanery, we were told, was at the top of the highest peak we could see. I suggested we hike it.
This  sounded like a good idea at the time, but less so  two hours in, about 700 feet up, the sun  high and scorching, no beanery in sight.  No sign of civilization. We were told the beanery roasts their beans every day, and that we would smell the aroma as we got close. We  kept our sweaty noses glued to the air, sniffing, hoping. .


Finally, a clearing, and there it was. Except that it was Sunday. No aroma. No roasting. No coffee. Locked door. I don’t drink it, but Joe does not do well without his morning joe, so I knew the walk down was to be cheerless. The consolation:  the view from the top.   


The next day, the bus was running, and back we went. The beans had been brought in from the plantation that morning and were still roasting so we waited. As we waited, boat chefs from the monster yachts poured in to procure their pre-ordered bags of coffee specially roasted to their owner’s taste. The beanery proprietor  gave us a private tour of the small facility.  Joe’s patience was  rewarded with coffee he  has been enjoying for days and will continue to do so as we head south for several weeks.


Toasting our persistence

The Beanery, all alone at the top of a mountain


 
 




Julianne
January 15th, 2017