Friday, January 31, 2014

Can You Get Insurance For Doing This Job?

En route from Antigua to Barbuda, we shifted course to avoid the Costa Magica cruise ship heading into St. John’s, Antigua. Annoying, but it gave us a good view of the pilot-boarding process. Out from the harbor comes the pilot boat, heading toward the cruise ship.  Upon reaching the ship, it turns 180 degrees so the two vessels are travelling side by side, the pilot boat now matching the ship’s speed. Amidships on Costa Magica is an open door, which the pilot boat maneuvers under. Then…the pilot steps from the pilot boat to the ship. We were too far to see the actual transfer, but the pilot boat hung under the open door for a bit, then swung off to starboard, gunned the engines, and headed back to town. The cruise ship, door now closed, followed at a slightly more leisurely pace, which is to say, still too freaking fast for me to want to be anywhere close to it, much less close enough to step onto a boarding ladder or platform. Those pilots earn their money.
Pilot boat is the little black thing near the bow of the ship
Pilot boat is now directly beneath the open door, depositing the pilot aboard the ship

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Hermitage Resort, Antigua

Anchorage off of the Hermitage resort
On the west coast of Antigua is Five Island Harbour, a large bay bereft of all the hustle and bustle that characterizes Jolly Harbour, just around the corner to the south. Aside from the ruins of an old stone sugar mill, the only buildings are those of the Hermitage resort. And boy, is it adorable. Fewer than two dozen dark-wood accommodations—larger and fancier than cabins, but smaller than what I’d consider a villa—climb the green hillside overlooking the turquoise water. The restaurant fronts the long, white-sand beach. Pretty during the day, they look so cozy after dark, their golden lights shining in the tropical night. Every night a different kind of music wafted across the water to us. This is the kind of place we’d like to go if money was no concern. But since it is, we’ll enjoy it second-hand while anchored offshore in our own snug Mr Mac.
Closeup of the cozy hillside accomodations

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Kigelia africana: The Sausage Tree

Too bad they're not real sausages
New fruit growing on the top of the flower stem
This tree was just too cool. We had hauled out in Jolly Harbour, Antigua, for an unexpected repair, and while Chris worked, I was out roaming the area around the boatyard. I came upon these trees hung with what looked like large sausages, except they were REALLY heavy. I grabbed one on the ground to take back so I could look it up, and had locals stopping me to ask what it was. One guy actually said “No one in Antigua can tell you what they are,” and practically dared me to figure it out. So, back on the boat, I Googled “sausage tree” because that was what it looked like, and what did I find? It’s a sausage tree, scientific name Kigelia africana. Though eaten by elephants, hippos, and other species in its native Africa, the raw fruit is poisonous to humans, though apparently benign when cooked. The fruit, roots, and leaves have purported medicinal uses. Slices of raw fruit, when applied to certain body parts, allegedly lead to increased growth. I’ll leave it to you to figure out which body parts are most widely fruited by young men and women.


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

English Harbour, Antigua

Chris entering the spiked gates of Nelson's Dockyard
Of course, now Chris wants a figurehead on Mr Mac
When we previously visited Antigua, we were on the northern end of the island. This time, we specifically checked in at English Harbour, on the south coast, so we could visit Nelson’s Dockyard. We were already in the mood, having just listened to the 14th book in the Patrick O’Brian nautical fiction series about the British navy during the Napoleonic War era. (The books are terrific, but the audiobooks narrated by Patrick Tull are even better!) I also just finished reading a biography of Nelson who, despite his naval achievements, seemed to have been a bit of a dick when it came to being unfaithful to his wife and flaunting his relationship with his mistress. Although the name was only adopted in the 1950s, Nelson did actually serve here from 1784-1787. Anyway, they’ve beautifully restored many of the buildings. Customs, immigration, and the port authority occupy one long, low building. Others house shops, a small grocery and coffee shop, and restaurants. The Admiral’s Inn, along with its restaurant and pretty grounds, is tucked behind brick walls, overlooking the harbor. Along with a newer wooden dock, a stone wharf edges the little peninsula on which the dockyard sits, with mega- and not-so-mega-but-still-beautiful yachts docked stern-to. There’s also a museum chock full of historical info. It was nice to walk around and picture how it must have looked when square-rigged warships were anchored in the harbor.

Seating outside the building where you clear in
Formerly the kitchen, currently a bakery

Pretty restored building turned restaurant
Oh, just think of the money wrapped up in these megayachts!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Snokeling Saint-Pierre, Martinique

Tube worm and filefish
The shelf in the area descends precipitously right off of shore. We tried to snorkel anyway, since the water was beautifully clear, and we were anchored within swimming distance of a dive mooring that we presumed was over one of the shipwrecks from the volcanic eruption (see my last blog). It was too deep at the mooring, though the buoy itself supported some great sea life. In toward the beach, we came upon some artwork on the bottom, an kind of creepy face that was made creepier by the TEN lionfish on and about it. We would have had a great dinner if we could have speared them, but no spears allowed.

Great shot of the actual tubes of the Christmas tree tube worms - the tubes are usually hidden in coral

Chris couldn't find the bottom

Can you spot the lionfish?