OCC RoRC Report from the Caribbean

OCC RoRC Report from the Caribbean

When we last reported shortly after Christmas we could not believe our good fortune with an imminent good weather opportunity ...

By Simon & Hilda Julien - 27/04/2019

It was about to allow an easy passage from Dominica to Marie Galante. The latter a less visited small French Island, perhaps because getting there often means an upwind struggle especially when coming from the south. In the event, sailing in company with “Infinity B” (Frank & Mandy Hatfull), we had a glorious close reach to find a fairly well sheltered anchorage in the lee of the small town of St Louis along with about 25 other boats - so not a secret place! And you can now check in there. In fact it was so calm that we had an evening invasion of flying ants - not so welcome!

This small circular island is ripe for exploration and while hiring a car with “Infinity B” we gained some contrasting views of a place which is quite different to any other. The rustic agricultural landscape with an abundance of sugar cane fields, a myriad of windmill stumps, near empty roads and some spectacular beaches contrast with the abandoned feeling of some former resort areas to the east. The lingering effects of the 2009 extended general strike in the French islands, when many businesses were forced to close, remain evident here, as in other French islands. And like so many other Caribbean islands with exposed beach areas, Marie Galante is having to deal with a massive build up of sargassum weed which has made some formerly popular east side beaches unusable - and very odiferous! Anyway, an interesting visit which led us to understand why the Leonard family in “Solan” who have frequently checked in from there on the OCC net appear to have made the island their second home!

Our good fortune weather wise then continued allowing further easy passages to Ile des Saintes, Guadeloupe and then Antigua. From there we were able to make a visit to Barbuda. We were relieved to find that the colony of frigate birds has survived despite the hurricane onslaught some 16 months earlier. What remains to be seen is how quickly the long breach in the sand bank hitherto separating Low Bay from Codrington fills in.

In the south of the island, the double-reef-protected Gravenor Bay between Cocoa Point and Spanish Point is a truly deserted but very attractive area for those prepared to feel their way carefully into sandy “pockets” between reefs with about 8 ft depth. And the fishermen, if you intercept them, will have an ample supply of very good lobster ready for you.

Considerable uncertainty remains with regard to getting Barbuda fully up and running again - some hotels are being rebuilt, the phone system is not yet fully restored and the Antigua & Barbuda government are at loggerheads with residents with regard to further development and land ownership. But as a get away from it all, superb and beautiful anchorage Barbuda should not be missed.

Helpfully, Customs and Immigration allow post date checking out from Antigua enabling an easy stop when proceeding north west.

Antigua was our final destination of the season where our trusty Cape Dory 33 after seven seasons is now up for sale.

For those with SSB, the OCC Net continues to prosper and has been instrumental in bringing many folk together for a variety of social activities ranging from attendance at a cricket test match, gathering 'round a TV to watch rugby internationals, planning countryside hikes to a range of sundowner gatherings and dinners. Technical and navigational advice plus practical assistance (& many are grateful to Frank in “Infinity B” - aka Mr Fixit) has been freely given. All this despite this season being very difficult for propagation. Apparently we have reached the nadir of the sun spot cycle. A dedicated team of net hosts has kept the net going often with some complex relaying.

For those planning a Caribbean season or beyond, can we emphasize yet again that SSB remains very useful. The social and safety benefits are enormous and many will attest to the pleasure they have had from meeting and staying in touch with like minded members. With so many choices with regard to fitting ‘essential’ cruising kit, HF radio is frequently discounted at the outset as expensive and obsolete, only later to be found much missed. There are a number of cheap but effective alternatives, such as use of a opened up ham radio with a rope antenna, which can combine to bring the SSB costs right down. Our non-marinised HF radio has typically continued to operate well for 19 years!

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