For the past few years we have chartered monohulls and catamarans in the Caribbean for the usual week or, sometimes, 10 days. We savored every moment of those brief charters, but invariably felt pressed for time and regretfully passed by anchorages we knew would be more perfect than all the rest. If only we had two weeks, or better yet, a whole month, we could ease into our vacation, explore less-crowded bays, see more of the islands beyond the harbor towns, worry less about being held up by foul weather or mechanical issues, and further refine our rum cocktail recipes. We weren’t getting any younger, we thought, so we finally decided we had to splurge on a month-long charter.
Our dream was to sail in only one direction; we opted for north to south, so we could enjoy the most favorable winds. The first challenge was to identify a charter company with bases situated so that we could avoid ever having to sail upwind. We chose Sunsail, which has bases in St. Martin, Antigua, Guadeloupe, Martinique, and St. Vincent. During our one-month charter we sailed approximately 450 miles, heading south from St. Martin to St. Barts, Statia, St. Kitts, Nevis, Monserrat, Antigua, Guadeloupe and Les Saintes, Dominica, Martinique, St. Lucia, and finally St. Vincent. I have to admit that we sometimes had to skip a desirable anchorage or two. We’re also probably too spoiled now to enjoy the one-week charters we used to take.
Our charter boat was a one-year-old Jeanneau 362, whose many worthwhile features included decent saloon space and a roomy forward cabin. On the down side, we found the boat to be quite tender, and the heavy dinghy outboard was sometimes awkward to handle.
Our first run, from St. Martin’s Oyster Bay to Anse Colombier, on St. Barts, was short, but not for the fainthearted; the wind was building from the start, peaking briefly at 48 knots. Of course, the seas were also active. For the first time in our sailing careers, we took Bonine, though neither of us is prone to seasickness. We survived that and many more windy days and were happy to stay at anchor an extra day or two when the wind and waves were especially daunting.
We weren’t surprised to have our share of mechanical problems during our month-long cruise, but having time to spare made them less frustrating. Still, having to cope with weak batteries was sometimes aggravating. We originally planned to go directly to Guadeloupe from Monserrat, but without an anchor light or instruments, we decided to go to Sunsail’s base in Antigua instead.
The west-to-east passage was slow; we were sailing directly into 30-plus-knot winds, and half a dozen brief squalls slowed us down considerably. But, hey, what’s the hurry? So what if we have to spend two nights in Antigua instead of one? We had plenty of time, and Sunsail’s base in English Harbour put us just where we needed to be to explore Nelson’s Dockyard, to say nothing of doing laundry and stocking up for the run to Guadeloupe. Our next stop for repairs was in St. Anne, Martinique, where the fresh water pump received a new part and we received excellent tips about anchorages to the south.
We had our first “anchor challenge” at Les Saintes, a group of small islands to the south of Guadeloupe, where Bourg des Saintes, on the island of Terre d’en Haut, is considered to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Caribbean. Dale dove down to confirm that the anchor was holding and saw that it was caught on a rock. Next morning we paid an eager diver from the Pisquetts Dive Shop to free us before we happily went on our way to Portsmouth, Dominica’s main harbor.
Dale’s big adventure occurred soon after, while we were securely anchored in the southernmost part of Roseau harbor. On our second night the blasting music coming from the bar directly in front of us ended early, and we prepared for a long night’s sleep. Around 0345 Dale got up to use the head, glimpsed a pair of legs on the companionway steps, and gave a startled yelp. The legs belonged to a completely naked intruder who seemed just as startled as Dale. He dove into the water without so much as an audible splash and, fortunately, without any of our money or computers.