In the fall of 1996, the Rose headed for the West Indies to spend the winter conducting Sail Training sessions from a base of English Harbour in Antigua. Following are excerpts from Captain Bailey's Log.
By 0915 we are made fast in the port of Bridgetown, Barbados after a decidedly speedy eighteen day crossing from Las Palmas. What a contrast to our arduous April-May passage from Boston to Bristol. There certainly is something to be said for sailing a square-rigged ship in the trade winds with a steady quartering breeze seldom exceeding twenty-five knots.
The topography of Barbados is not as dramatic as most other islands of the West Indies, the highest point is not much over 1100 feet. The tamer landscape lends itself to agriculture, particularly the sugar cane from which comes the ever popular Barbadan export Mt. Gay Rum. Fresh vegetables, too, are abundant: salad fixings had become a bit sparse aboard Rose after the second week of our crossing but now we have greens, tomatoes, huge avocados and christaphenes-crunchy pear-shaped vegetables tasting somewhat like a cross between a cucumber and a potato.
November is a month-long celebration here marking the island's thirtieth year of independence from Great Britain. Everywhere we see the blue and yellow bunting of the national flag.
All hands are ready for a run ashore, but everyone's first stop seems to be the huge bank of telephones in the delightfully air-conditioned cruise ship terminal just up the dock.
A day or two before our arrival Hannah, our youngest sail training participant of the voyage, launched a message from the ship in a shiny silver cylindrical tin of about eighteen inches height and diameter. On the outside she wrote "Message Inside" around its perimeter. Inside her message placed carefully in a ziplock bag gave the ship's particulars with latitude, longitude and distance east of Barbados-about 100 miles. On Saturday (the next day after we arrived) Hannah got a phone call through the Port Authority-her message had washed up on the east coast of Barbados and was found by a lady with the same last name as hers. We figure the can drifted with wind and current at about two knots. All hands were quite impressed.
Barbados has been pleasant but we have another week left to our current sail training session and there are too many places to go. We get underway in the late afternoon, firing a salute to Lady Ellen a Swedish square tops'l schooner who has just arrived. We last saw her in Las Palmas.
Once free from the concrete breakwater we set all our square sails and head west for our next chosen port-Mustique eighty miles away.
We drop anchor in Grand Bay, Mustique before lunch. The Sailors Guide to the Windward Islands by Chris Doyle describes Mustique:
"Mustique is unique among the Grenadines. It is a privately owned island that has been developed as an area of holiday homes for the ultra-rich. Mansions with tennis courts and swimming pools sit on rolling grassy hills and long lawns stretch to sandy beaches. Each house lies in spacious grounds; there are only about 80 on the whole island, plus one hotel, one beach bar, three boutiques, a small local village and a fishing camp. A roll call of property owners reveals some glamorous names, including Princess Margaret, Mick Jagger, David Bowie, and Raquel Welch. Parts of the island are wild; other areas are well tended. About half the houses are available for rent as holiday homes when the owners are not in residence. Many older homes were designed by Oliver Messel and are delightful to look at, with a showy but dignified appeal."
The ship's company enjoys an afternoon and evening ashore (some of us deriving more than our fair share of enjoyment!) and happily no celebrities or paparazzi badger us with questions about what undoubtedly is the biggest wooden sailing ship to visit Mustique's little harbor in generations.
We fire a gun at 0800 for morning colors and depart Mustique by 0900. Another perfect sailing day-can't beat the match of full-rigged ship and trade winds.
At 1330 we anchor in the Tobago Cays a group of small deserted islands protected from the sea by a reef. Beautiful beaches, water of astonishing clarity. Jeremy befriends the tiniest Portuguese man-o-war we've ever seen: a three-quarter inch bluish body trailing two inches of tiny tentacles. We pass a peaceful clear night blessedly far from any artificial light.
For several weeks now each night at sunset all forty or so of the ship's company have assembled to watch for the green flash at sunset. Our luck has not been good, there always seem to be a few faint last minute clouds interfering with an otherwise potentially clear horizon. After awhile we fear that many among us begin to think the green flash is a hoax, but this is not the case. We cite that esteemed authority The American Practical Navigator (aka Bowditch) Vol. 1 1984 edition, p. 923:
"The green flash. - As light from the sun passes through the atmosphere, it is refracted. Since the amount of bending is slightly different for each color, separate images of the sun are formed in each color of the spectrum. The effect is similar to that of imperfect color printing in which the various colors are slightly out of register. However, the difference is so slight that the effect is not usually noticeable. At the horizon, where refraction is maximum, the greatest difference which occurs between violet at one end of the spectrum and red at the other, is about 10 seconds of arc. At latitudes of the United States, about 0.7 second of time is needed for the sun to change altitude by this amount when it is near the horizon. The red image, being bent least by refraction, is first to set and last to rise. The shorter wave blue and violet colors are scattered most by the atmosphere, giving it its characteristic blue color. Thus, as the sun sets, the green image may be the last of the colored images to drop out of sight. If the red, orange, and yellow images are below the horizon, and the blue and violet light is scattered and absorbed, the upper rim of the green image is the only part seen, and the sun appears green. This is the green flash. The shade of green varies, and occasionally the blue image is seen, either separately or following the green flash (at sunset). On rare occasions the violet image is also seen. These colors may also be seen at sunrise, but in reverse order. They are occasionally seen when the sun disappears behind a cloud or other obstruction.
"The phenomenon is not observed at each sunrise or sunset, but under suitable conditions is far more common than generally supposed. Conditions favorable to observation of the green flash are a sharp horizon, clear atmosphere, a temperature inversion, and an attentive observer. Since these conditions are more frequently met when the horizon is formed by the sea than by land, the phenomenon is more common at sea. With a sharp sea horizon and clear atmosphere, an attentive observer may see the green flash at as many as 50 percent of sunsets and sunrises, although a telescope may be needed for some of the observations.
"Duration of the green flash (including the time of blue and violet flashes) of as long as 10 seconds has been reported, but such length is rare. Usually it lasts for a period of about 1/2 second to 2 1/2 seconds with about 1 1/4 seconds being average. This variability is probably due primarily to changes in the index of refraction of the air near the horizon.
"Under favorable conditions, a momentary green flash has been observed at the setting of Venus and Jupiter. A telescope improves the chances of seeing such a flash from a planet, but is not a necessity."
Underway again by 0900. Another glorious sailing day. Where should we go today? John Paul Jones said that "a ship run by a committee is like a body without a head" but today the captain succumbs to crew acclamation: we sail for Bequia (pronounced Beh-kwee). By 1500 we are anchored in Admiralty Bay.
Again from Chris Doyle's Guide:
"Bequia is an island of sailors and boats. Linked to the outside world mainly by the sea, the old traditions still go on. Boats are built on the beach in the shade of palm trees. Everything from little "two bow" fishing boats to grand schooners are built by eye, using only simple hand tools. A big launching is always a festive occasion with rum flowing freely, music playing and hundreds of brightly dressed people helping to roll the boat down the beach into the sea. Bequians travel all over the world on cargo vessels and quite a few have ended up owning their own. Some are intrepid fishermen who venture all over the Grenadines in little open boats.
"The island used to be an active whaling station, and though the tradition is now dying out, Bequians still make an occasional foray during the whaling season, between February and April. At this time of year humpback and sperm whales leave their northern feeding grounds and head south to mate and bear young. Few people are left in Bequia with the skills necessary to hunt them - a daring feat in an open sailing boat, using hand thrown harpoons. On the rare occasions that they make a kill, the hunters tow the whale to Petit Nevis for butchering.
"Bequians are a proud people, descendants of settlers who came from North America on whaling boats, from farms in Scotland, from French freebooters and from Africa."
We'll have more to report about Bequia when we return there later in the winter.
We make an early start from Bequia and are bound north by 0715. We spend the day sailing along the west coast of St. Vincent, by 1530 we are anchored at Vieux Fort at the southern tip of St. Lucia. This is the last night underway for a sail training session that began in the Canaries so we celebrate with a rum punch, some song and one of Rose's famous shipboard auctions.
We arrive in Castries the capital city of St. Lucia by noon. Before entering port we crossed paths with the brig Unicorn and fired a salute. They were bound south for Soufriere on a daysail out of their home berth in Castries.
A weekend of sad farewells to eighteen sail training participants who have sailed with us for a month.
We lay at the Port Authority dock in Castries engaged in ship's work. Much cleaning, painting and repairing. We watch the cargo and cruise ships come and go. Of course Mr. Hunter the ship's cook prepares a feast of two fine turkeys for Thanksgiving Day. At the local open air market we buy the fabled spices of the West Indies: vanilla, nutmeg, chocolate, honey and more.
The film crew from Per Holst Films in Denmark has arrived. Today we begin shooting. The scenes we shoot this week will be superimposed by computer onto the previously made film of the Faroe Islands. We play the part of three French ships driven off course as they return from defeat in North America circa 1750. It's cold in the Faroes (well north of Scotland) so the crew is issued heavy wool uniforms. Too bad it's about 90 degrees in St. Lucia. The captain and mates are equally lucky, they get to wear the heavy coats, breeches, waistcoats and powdered wigs of French admirals, captains and officers... We work hard for the money....
We learn some axioms of the film business i.e. "That was perfect, can you do it one more time?" This is usually associated with some Herculean task like setting all of the ship's sails in record speed seven times in a row. We make up an axiom of our own: Movies mean danger! During the week we find ourselves sailing among coral heads, charging headlong toward the shore where the camera crew is stationed and working far harder than any mere sail training session ever required.
At 2100 Tuesday we are finished with Per Holst Films and underway for St. Thomas and film number two. We sail north westward leaving Martinique, Dominica, Marie Galante and Guadeloupe to starboard. Near midnight between Wednesday and Thursday we pass east of Montserrat where a dangerous volcano has threatened the region since July 1995. Low clouds shroud the caldera as we pass safely by. On Thursday we cross the shallow waters of Saba Bank and catch three sizable barracuda in a row but they are deemed unsafe for eating due to the risk of ciguatera poisoning so we set them free. In the afternoon we are visited by the US Coast Guard Cutter Matinicus, a routine boarding. On Friday morning we make a grand standing sail down Drake's Passage among the British Virgin Islands. At 1000 we bombard Soper's Hole in West End, Tortola. It's very important to let the locals know that Rose has arrived. From West End Shipyard someone calls on the radio hailing us as Bounty. Does Rose look like a collier? We ignore them. At 1500 we tie up at Crown Bay Marina on the western end of the harbor in Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas-our first US landfall since April.
We find that American movie making is way more sophisticated than our Danish experience. This week's film is a 3D IMAX film for a new Anhauser-Busch owned Seaworld opening in Ohio. The film Captain Lucky is a pirate spoof starring Leslie Nielson and Eric Idle (best known to Americans as Brave Sir Robin of Monty Python and the Holy Grail).
Much of the filming is done in the US National Park Service's Hawksnest Bay on St. John. Our nearest neighbor on site is the Caneel Bay Plantation where some of us enjoy a lovely dinner one night during the week. At night in Hawksnest Bay we hang a bright spotlight just over the crystal clear water. We can see the bottom thirty feet below and many fish are attracted to our light. Second Mate Deborah Hayes (an invertebrate biologist in another life) catches dozens of different small fish and other aquatic specimens in a five gallon bucket-needle fish among them.
Many of the crew are dressed as scurvy pirates for the film-garb is a bit less bulky for this project: no shirts, bandanas etc. Only problem is our crew looks a little too clean cut compared to some of the Hollywood pirates.
The on set caterer Buddy feeds something like 120 people per meal, for awhile this all takes place aboard Rose but eventually Buddy and his staff decamp to the nearby beach. The food is too good, too plentiful-we fear the crew will eat themselves to death.
Of course the weather does not cooperate. By midweek a storm blows in. A thirty-five foot yacht belonging to one of the art department and anchored a few hundred feet from us breaks free and is wrecked on the rocks. Anticipating trouble we had moved out earlier, but when we return the next day boat bits floating around the bay and awash among the rocks are all that remain.
We are done with films for awhile. By 1100 we are bound for our next port Nelson's Dockyard, English Harbour, Antigua. We had previously planned to return to St. Lucia but the captain has made alternative plans. We make an easy upwind passage once again passing near to Montserrat where we can see the plume of smoke rising from the volcano, a state of high alert continues with one-third of the island's population evacuated.
By Tuesday at 1500 we are alongside at Nelson's Dockyard. News about the dockyard's history and its life today will follow in a few days.
So much can be said about Nelson's Dockyard: the scale, charm and historical era of the place make it an ideal winter home for a frigate like Rose. An appropriate voice to start with might be that of Jolyon Byerly, Rose's first captain when she was new in 1970 and forty year resident of Antigua. In an article titled Nelson's Dockyard Remembers Jol writes in the Antigua & Barbuda Marine Guide:
[Note to American readers: we have not tampered with the English spelling or punctuation of any of the following material.]
It was a very still and beautiful night in November, 1957 when we first cast our eyes on English Harbour and Nelson's Dockyard. There were only five elderly yachts along the old stone walls, and in the glistening light of a full moon they appeared majestic and much bigger than they were. There was not a light to be seen anywhere, except for a paraffin lamp flickering in the window of the Pay Office where Commander and Mrs Nicholson lived in almost Robinson Crusoe like seclusion. Bemused, we stood on the balcony of the deserted Officer's Quarters and tried to absorb something of this magical place which was to become our home. No sound, no movement, no people. A few shutters creaked in the gentle wind and the waist high, sweet smelling grass swayed as seductively as any Tahitian vahine.
All around us history seemed to have stopped in its tracks that evening. We wandered along the stone walls to find a multitude of little red eyed sea creatures looking back at us. Lazy fish swirled and plopped, and somewhere in the shadows we heard the gentle chords from a calypso player. When we turned to look back at the Dockyard the roofs of the old naval buildings left us speechless. In that brilliant moonlight the bleached cedar shingles of the historic buildings looked for all the world as if they were covered in freshly fallen snow. Never in all our wanderings up to the present day has any other place created such a first impression. No wonder the Nicholson family were captivated when they sailed in on 'Mollihawk'. As one of the first cruising families to leave Europe after the second World War, they had been heading for the Pacific and Australia. But English Harbour in the 1950's was simply too peaceful, too beautiful to leave. Nowadays it is hard to remember those far off times. Except perhaps occasionally during the summer time, when most of the yachts have migrated back to Europe or the States. Then, once in a while, there may be a power cut in the island. Perhaps lit only by the moon and the stars and total silence, the Dockyard of days gone by quietly comes back to life. Even some of our old time resident ghosts may find time to stretch their legs. Do they perhaps wonder why the hundreds of boisterous yachtsmen with their Pop, Rock, and Reggae may have sailed off to other oceans? Or perhaps during the busy season, from their secret hiding places they might enjoy a surreptitious glance at the bikinis and mini-skirts. Certainly, around the time of the Classic Regatta there is a whiff of linseed oil, oakum, and natural fibre which might warm their lonely spirits.
Anyway, nearly having drowned myself in 'the good old days' it must be said that had we earlier charter skippers stayed in the Mediterranean, English Harbour may have taken much longer to have been discovered. Then you good readers might even have had an experience similar to ours way back in 1957. But I think it's true to say that most modern day yachtsmen still find English Harbour and the Dockyard to be rather special. The season opens with the Nicholson Yacht Charter Show early in December. From only a handful of yachts, and in the space of a few days, Nelson's Dockyard is transformed by the arrival of many of the largest and finest charter yachts in the world. Their crews work frantically to outdo each other and their vessels positively gleam. Hundreds of charter agents do the rounds so that their clients have the latest and best information on the yachts they will subsequently charter.
Then over the Christmas season, cruising and charter yachtsmen deck out their yachts with lights and Christmas trees, sing carols, and everybody gets together for a champagne party around the capstans on Christmas Day itself. Only to repeat the same sort of thing on New Year's Eve, with the addition of several local bands led by a regulation Scotsman with his kilt and pipes.
Before you know it there's the wondrous Classic Regatta. That's when yachts of a traditional nature strut their stuff in the Trade Winds like a bunch of two year olds on Derby Day. Antigua Sailing Week is next and by the time that fabulous water borne Mardi Gras is over, the peace and quiet of the summer is actually rather welcome.
And here's another article from the same Antigua & Barbuda Marine Guide, this one is simply called English Harbour:
Throughout the length and breadth of the Empire there is no more romantic place than the beautiful English Harbour, and the historic Nelson's Dockyard.
This Dockyard better than a score of books can tell its vivid story of the British Navy exactly as it was when Nelson, Hood and Rodney brought in their wounded frigates and sloops to its sheltered protection.
A tour of Nelson's Dockyard and its surroundings should stir the imagination of all who venerate the past.
On reaching the present day village of English Harbour, the visitor will see stone foundations scattered around some are the former quarters for officers, petty officers and craftsmen. In some cases the villagers of the present day have built their own houses on these old foundations. On leaving the village the road skirts the waters of Falmouth Harbour. The visitor will see on the left the foundations of Stanley's Tavern. Today marine offices have been built on it, housing Boatphone and other businesses. The foundations are also a water cistern, still in use today. Just beyond this building on the right hand side of the road is a stone water catchment and tanks, built in 1733, to provide water for the local inhabitants. The low surrounding wall of the catchment is carved with the names of hundreds of 18th century sailors, often with the names of the ships, their home towns and dates. One can picture them sitting out in the evenings or by the light of a full tropic moon gossiping or chewing tobacco 'pigtail' (named after the pigtails they wore all the time) carving their names like school boys for undreamed of generations to wonder at in the distant future.
Beyond the catchment on the right is a fresh water pond, known as the mast pond, in which spars were soaked for seasoning.
On approaching the entrance of Nelson's Dockyard, the visitor will notice an old ship's bell mounted at the top of the gates which was presented by HMS Tartar towards the end of the last century. Entering the gates on the right is the Guard House, and on the left the Porter's Lodge. The regulations for the gate porter are well worth reading and a notice board giving them can be found in the museum.
Turning to the left inside the main gates, and passing along the inside of the dockyard wall, the visitor will pass a store which was used as a sick house in the eighteenth century before the Naval Hospital was built outside the Dockyard. It was later used as a store for paint and condemned articles, and it has now been converted into five bedrooms for guests of the Admiral's Inn. Next to this stood the Boat House the remains of which today consist merely of huge stone pillars twelve feet in circumference. The Boat House was formerly a vast two story building, of which the ground floor was used for the storage and repair of ship's boats, and the upper floor was a sail loft where sails were made and repaired. The sail loft was destroyed by the earthquake of 1843 and round cement caps were then placed on top of the pillars to preserve them from decay. On the far side of the Boat House, and originally lying under its roof, is a small wet dock with ring bolts in the walls for mooring boats, from which the sails were hoisted by tackle to the sail loft.
Proceeding further left a three story building can be found, the upper floors of which were the Engineer's Office, while the ground floor was known as the Lead Cellar. This building, like others in the Dockyard, is made of brick, these having been brought from England at the time of the original construction. It has now been converted into a hotel, the Admiral's Inn.
Retracing his steps to the main gate, and passing the Guard House on the right, the visitor will see other historical buildings such as the Masthouse, and Joiner's Loft, the Master Shipwright's House, the Working Mast House, the stately Admiral's House, the ground floor of which contains the Dockyard Museum. The offices of the National Park Authority are upstairs. Inside the house will be found two gracious arches of the kind that adorned so many of the houses built in Antigua in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. There was a garden beside the Admiral's House, but only the old 'Sand-Box' tree still stands. The seed pods were used as receptacles for sand which was dusted over documents in place of blotting paper.
Proceeding further into the yard, the visitor will pass the vast Copper and Lumber store, a three story building with four water cisterns, capable of holding fifty tons of water, which are still in use today. The Cordage, Sail, Canvas and Clothing Store stands opposite, consisting only of walls, the roof having collapsed during the 1950 hurricane. Inside the shell of the building storage sheds for yachtsmen have been constructed, On the opposite side is the most impressive building in the Dockyard, the Naval Officer's Quarters. Built over an enormous water cistern with a capacity of 450 tons. In this building officers from ships in the harbour lived during the hurricane months. Its rooms now provide space for various businesses.
A few yards away is the Galley, the cookhouse which was used by crews of ships being 'careened'. It is now used as a boutique, restaurant and bar. Near the Galley is an immense anchor alongside a big stone block for securing the ring bolt used for careening the ships. On the right of the Galley is the site of the Capstans House, now reduced to a low wall, which shows the original size of the building. In the eighteenth century this was a double story building, the top floor of which was used to accommodate the sailors of the ships which were uninhabitable while being careened. The last building on the right is the Commissioner's Room and Pay Office. Close by is a fine old sundial surrounded by iron railings.
Around the Dockyard you will see scattered relics of the old days, the cauldrons used for boiling the pitch for caulking, anchors and ring bolts, old cannons sunk into the ground and used as bollards all dating from 1755.
Here ends our tour of this dreamlike scene of ancient history, over which still breaths the spirit of the British Navy. Sometimes on moonlight nights one can half imagine it alive once more, and also persuade oneself that you can hear the faint echoes of happy voices echoing along the quayside.
Today this monument is a living one, not only reflecting the existing history of the West Indies of 200 years ago, but also is a yachting centre, where yachts from all corners of the world come to make their pilgrimage and base themselves for charter. It is a place of great beauty and architectural symmetry which visitors to Antigua find gratifying.
We get underway from Nelson's Dockyard with the first winter program of the year. A few rain showers accompanied by some lively breeze helps to enliven our morning as we ease the ship away from the dock and win the anchor. All hands not otherwise occupied turn to in pushing the capstan around. In the 18th century as many as a dozen frigates like Rose might have found sanctuary in this English Harbour but we face one challenge they did not: scores of million dollar yachts, damage to any of which would make our underwriters very unhappy. We make our way seaward with caution and care.
A steady easterly breeze greets us outside and we shape our course to the west leaving Montserrat and the pinnacle rock islands of Redonda to port by mid-afternoon.
The US Coast Guard's NAVTEX (printed weather) broadcast from Puerto Rico continues to transmit the following notification:
The government of Montserrat has requested that the following warning be issued: Soufriere Hill volcano, Montserrat, position 16-42.4 N, 062-10.5 W, has developed a weakness in the southwestern wall which may collapse without warning. Geologists recommend all shipping transiting to the west of Montserrat stay at least 10 nautical miles from the coast until they are satisfied they are clear of the danger area. Additionally, the collapsing wall may cause a tidal wave farther out.
But from our vantage point eight or so miles upwind the volcano's cone is capped with clouds and nothing particularly alarming is apparent. In the afternoon we conduct the weekly drills: man-overboard; fire; and abandon ship. Just after dark we pass to the south of Nevis (birthplace of Alexander Hamilton, if you happen to have a ten dollar bill in your pocket) and turn north for St. Kitts. Another clear and starry night. As we pass the small round buoys of fixed fishing gear (baited traps somewhat like New England lobster pots) new deck hand Nat Wilson asks if 'they always fish with glow sticks' - what Nat sees is incredibly bright bioluminescent organisms lighting up the water around the traps' buoys. By ten p.m. we anchor in Ballast Bay at the southern end of St. Kitts.
We rise at 0600 and up anchor, all hands to the capstan?everyone's favorite morning exercise makes Hunter's breakfast all the sweeter. We sail north along the coast of St. Kitts passing Basseterre, lush plantations of sugar in the lowlands, rain forest on the mountain side and the impregnable Brimstone Fortress - Gibraltar of the West Indies - further north. Late in the morning we turn northeast and leave Stasia and Saba islands to port as we make a course for St. Bart's.
Sometimes it seems like St. Bart's is the elegant winter destination of every wealthy celebrity in the western world. As we approach the port of Gustavia it seems that they have all arrived in their enormous yachts for New Year's partying. We are not to be disappointed. Rumors abound: one yacht belongs to Sylvester Stallone; Claudia Shiffer is in the villa on the hill - on and on. We don't care, the town is alive with festivity. We launch the ship's cutter Thorne, a 24 foot custom built wooden lapstrake rowing/sailing ship's tender. The locals applaud enthusiastically when she arrives in town under eight oars. The French have a special appreciation for wooden watercraft. At midnight, to the accompaniment of the town's fireworks we fire the ship's guns. Happy 1997.
We sleep late and enjoy a mid-morning brunch and a final visit ashore. By mid-afternoon we sail off the hook and plan a night underway to the southward. On the way out of the harbor we cross under the stern of the anchored three-masted schooner Polynesia and fire a gun at them.
A clear night provides good star viewing and another impressive display of bioluminescence both in our wake and bow waves. At 0445 on Thursday we are abeam of Montserrat again when we see flaming plumes of lava flowing down hill into the sea. Because there is no related radio traffic we decide that this still isn't Montserrat's 'big one' - still, the display is very impressive.
A fine day of sailing. We sight the barkentine Antigua, a converted motor vessel from Holland, off to the southward coming up on us with only a few sails up. We continue on under a press of sail and eventually Antigua passes a mile or so upwind seemingly under power and uninterested in match racing with us. Late in the afternoon we sail into Falmouth Harbour, Antigua under tops'ls and anchor just under the lee of St. Anne's point by Pigeon Beach.
Falmouth Harbour is separated from English Harbour by a narrow margin of land but Falmouth is the deeper more expansive harbour. The bigger vessels seem to favor it and development in the last ten years has added a number of deepwater docks for the mega-yachts. Consequently there is a captive audience for our Friday morning performance. We start by firing a gun for colors at 0800 as our battle flags are hoisted, especially our 40 foot St. George pennant. After a quick field day to tidy up the ship's interior (a Friday ritual) we motor upwind to the innermost corner of the harbor as we loose out all square sails, whereupon we turn, shut down the ship's engines and fire a couple more guns to insure that no one ashore misses this 'Kodak moment.' As we sail out of Falmouth Harbour we are satisfied to know that we are probably the first frigate to execute this maneuver in about 150 years. A pleasant day of sailing follows as we head south about twelve miles and then gracefully tack (always a satisfying experience in a full-rigged ship) and head back to English Harbour for a late afternoon arrival. Our special daysail guest is James Fuller, chairman of the Antigua & Barbuda National Parks Authority.
Some of us rent a car for the weekend to visit around Antigua. The island is not particularly big (roughly ten by fifteen miles), although sometimes the hurricane damaged roads can be challenging. An outdoor lunch of flying fish at Harmony Hall, a restored sugar mill/art gallery, is memorable. At one point we are startled by a sparrow hawk (or American kestrel) who hurls himself into the vines winding up the side of the sugar mill - his quarry, an eight inch lizard, is seen making a speedy escape while the kestrel hastens to extricate himself from the vines and tendrils.
Kestrels aren't the only creatures who can capture lizards, humans may afford themselves hours of amusement and challenge by hunting the ubiquitous lizards of the West Indies, too. Only a little skill and a minimum of equipment is required - and the only harm done to the lizard is to his pride. Equipment needs are satisfied by finding a long piece of round wheat-like grass, a length in the vicinity of four or five feet is ideal. The perpendicular parts of the grass at the upper end are stripped away until something like a slender buggy whip results. By drawing it between forefinger and thumbnail it is made limber enough to tie a small noose with an overhand knot in the end. seek out a lizard (they're everywhere), adjust the noose to his neck size and gently place it over his head. Bigger lizards will occasionally bite the noose, sometimes even snapping the end right off; smaller ones roll their eyes wondering when grass began to behave so strangely, but lizards simply aren't afraid of grass, so once you collar him you gently reel him in. Realizing that something weird is happening the lizard will grasp your snare with all four feet. You need only hold his body firmly while you liberate him from the snare and then you're free to make friends. Needless to say, Mr. Lizard will initially be very angry which he will communicate by snapping his powerful little jaws, let him bite your fingers for a while - it doesn't really hurt and he feels so much better for the fight, try stroking his belly and speaking kindly to him. Before you set him free see if you can get him to bite your ear lobe and hang on, it makes for a great fashion statement and a much better picture than any postcard you can buy.
Another interesting stop on any Antigua road trip is the island's first large sugar plantation Betty's Hope founded in 1674. Sir Christopher Codrington who came to Antigua from Barbados named his venture after his daughter. Today one of the plantation's sugar mills is restored to working order with sails and ample explanation for the visitor.
We start the day with an orientation for new hands. By late morning we are southbound for Guadeloupe. After lunch the weekly safety drills are conducted. Throughout the day the mountainous northwestern coast of Guadeloupe looms up toward us. Just after dark we anchor in the harbor of Deshaies (pronounced De hay), a deep but fairly well protected little anchorage with its small village on the nearby beach. As darkness deepens we hang our 500 watt searchlight a few feet above the water under the stern. Soon schools of small fish are drawn to the circle of light: needle fish, small juvenile marlin and others unknown to us, but the big surprise is the bats that circle and wheel around the perimeter of our light, most of them more than two feet across.
We start the day with a visit ashore. Sophie, the only native French speaker in the crew, is delighted to lead us on a mission to purchase warm bread, pastries, christophenes and two pound avocados. By 1030 we are raising anchor to continue our voyage south along the west coast of Guadeloupe.
About five miles south of Guadeloupe lay the Iles des Saintes where England's Admiral Rodney demolished the French fleet under DeGrasse in 1782. We set our course for the easternmost of the Saintes, the island of Terre d'en Haut, and its small port of Bourg des Saintes which has been recommended as a pleasant stop by Captain Shannon of Sea Cloud. Chris Doyle describes the town in his Cruising Guide to the Leeward Islands:
This is an irresistible group of islands, with an idyllic Gallic charm. They are small, dry and steep with red and brown cliffs. Mountains to over 1000 feet and white beaches abound
the Saintes have been French since shortly after they were colonized, and have long supported a small community which relies on fishing. There is a strong link to the north of France, especially Brittany, and up to a few years ago you could see the most beautiful open Breton style fishing boats. Boats are now designed to take the larger outboards. Since the islands were never agricultural, no slaves were imported, and the one or two black inhabitants are of recent origin.
We spend some time ashore and are not disappointed.
After morning visits ashore we are underway again by 1100. We make our course southward between the Saintes through the Passe du Sud Ouest steering for Dominica. By 1600 we are anchored in Prince Rupert Bay off the town of Portsmouth. The results of September 1995's hurricane Marilyn are much in evidence: at least a half dozen shipwrecks line the two mile long beach, mostly cargo vessels, the biggest nearly 250 feet long - all victims of the hurricanes violent wind shift to the west. The village is small, friendly though not particularly prosperous.
Again from Chris Doyle's Cruising Guide:
Dominica has about 80,000 inhabitants who have a natural curiosity about outsiders and enjoy meeting visitors.
There are several major attractions easily accessible from Portsmouth. The Indian River is quite an experience. It quickly narrows and gets completely overhung by huge swamp bloodwood trees on either side. Their massive roots spread out above the soil and down into the water. They twist, knot, and tangle into interesting wavy designs. Here and there long vines dangle down into the river and as you glide along you see fish below crabs on both banks
We spend the morning ashore, most of us explore the Indian River. Our boatman is friendly and knowledgeable.
By 1300 we are underway bound north past Guadeloupe again and making for the west coast of Montserrat where we hope to take a closer look at the volcano.
We sail through the night and by 0830 or so we are approaching the southwest corner of Montserrat. When the town of Plymouth comes into view it is strangely grey and monochromatic from fallen volcanic ash. Most of the area's formerly emerald green vegetation in a long plume down from the volcanic peak is dead or dust covered. This once prosperous small West Indian town is desolate and only entered by special permission now. All the island's major businesses once situated here have relocated to other parts of the island.
As we pass under the lee of Montserrat the prevailing east wind carries a sampling of the gritty fine pale gray volcanic ash over the ship, our first encounter with the volcano. For a few hours we sail northward and by later in the morning we have made the northern corner of the island and turned to make our easting back toward Antigua about 28 miles away. By 1700 we are once again secured at Nelson's Dockyard.
Another weekend devoted to the exploration of Antigua. We put the rental car to the test and set out to conquer Boggy Peak, the curiously named highest point on Antigua. There is certainly no bog anywhere in sight as our little automatic transmission car strains its way up the 1330 feet to the summit of Boggy Peak. An occasional mongoose scurries across our path. The summit of the peak is occupied by the fenced in buildings and antennas of Cable and Wireless but a walk around the perimeter affords breathtaking views of all Antigua as well as Guadeloupe, Montserrat, Barbuda, Redonda, St. Kitts and Nevis.
For dinner we choose the lovely Argentinean/Italian Cap Horn restaurant along the road between English and Falmouth Harbours. We are especially pleased to find the walls decorated with the photographs of our French friend Philip Plisson [see his extraordinary maritime photographs at: www.plisson.com]. During dinner a tiny tree frog sings his cricket-like melody near our table, but search as we may we cannot catch a glimpse of him. Judging from their constant night time chorus, tree frogs seem to be as ubiquitous as lizards in Antigua. As we walk back to the ship we decide to get a flashlight and try to see just one of them. Our search is fruitless, each time we stop to shine our light where we hear a frog song it stops. Perhaps the lizards have warned them about us.
Late afternoon a train of vans arrives from the airport lead by our regular taxi driver Devlyn Adams of Red Rose Taxi. Twenty-four students from Hollins College (it's a women's college not a girl's school!) arrive for a two week accredited program. Energy levels are high as we begin our first formal college program.
We have many prearranged stops scheduled for the next two weeks so we depart Antigua just after midnight sailing first west and then north around Antigua's westerly shoals for Barbuda. We arrive at 'Palm Beach' on the west side of Barbuda at 1300 where we are met by two island boats which take our students into the inland salt pond to visit the frigate bird colonies. We also launch our cutter Thorne for some exercise under oars. Barbuda is rather flat in comparison to Antigua. Its coastal waters are ringed with coral reefs and coral sand. The eleven mile long western beach is said to be the most beautiful in the Caribbean, and we have it all to ourselves. We depart by 2200 shaping a course for Montserrat.
At ten o'clock in the morning we drop our anchor in Old Road Bay about half way up the western shore of Montserrat. Once again the ship's boats are launched and after lunch nearly everyone sets off for a rendezvous with one of the scientists at the Montserrat Volcano Observatory on St. George's Hill about two miles west of the volcano's summit. The ground is very dusty where we meet on the hill and the view of the nearby volcano is impressive to all.
The day is given over entirely to the exploration of Montserrat. Most of the ship's company spends the day ashore hiking, biking and meeting the friendly people of Montserrat. We learn that tourism on the island is down due to the sensationalist doom and gloom reports in North American and European press suggesting that the end is nigh on the island. While it is true that portions of the island cannot be safely inhabited at present, much of this lush and verdant island may still be safely visited. One islander lends us a videotape of a recent CNN/National Geographic special about the island's volcano: Terror in Paradise or some such prose in the title. He tells us that he's glad we were visiting the island before we had seen the tape or we never would have come. It's true: too many people believe that it is either not possible or not safe to visit Montserrat.
If you are interested in obtaining more information about the Montserrat volcano try looking at some of the websites listed below:
An early start is planned for the morning. We call all hands at 0545 in anticipation of hauling back the anchor at 0600 but before we can begin the volcano lets go and sends a cloud of ash, gas and lightening more than 20,000 feet in the air. Of course what goes up must come down and about twenty minutes later the same ash is wafting toward us on the east wind as we work feverishly to raise the anchor and escape. Our timing is a little off and before we can move out of the anchorage a visible coating of ash has covered all the ship's exterior surfaces, but no harm is done and once underway we turn everyone to and extra thorough deck wash.
Once north of Montserrat we head off to the east and by 1430 we are again at anchor in Falmouth harbour by Pigeon Beach. The afternoon is spent swimming and snorkeling followed by dinner and a boisterous evening of song aboard.
We are underway by 1000 duplicating our grandstanding departure from Falmouth Harbour of two weeks earlier. Kodak makes another small fortune. We sail with two additional guests for the daysail: Desmond and Lisa Nicholson. Desmond is the spark plug of the Museum of Antigua & Barbuda. He arrived in Antigua from England with his father in 1947 and has lived there ever since. He probably knows more about the history and various cultures of Antigua than anyone. He is a keen observer of the day's events. We tack the ship for him in light airs but she goes around as handily as always. By just after 1400 we are secure at Nelson's Dockyard.
This will be a slightly foreshortened weekend with a Sunday departure rather than a Monday one: we have far to go. A general melee ensues as all hands jockey for position in the line for the washing machine. Work continues on shaping the new fore tops'l and mizzen tops'l yards. Desmond Nicholson leads a Saturday morning hike to Fort Berkeley and One Gun Battery high above the Dockyard and also shows us around the Dockyard Museum.
We depart at 1600, sailing into the sunset while the revelers at the weekly sunset ritual high above us at Shirley Heights probably send that Kodak stock spiraling upward. We can imagine how majestic Rose must look as she sails off to the westward. We clear Antigua and sail off to the northwest for the next twenty-four hours leaving the islands of Montserrat, Redonda, Nevis, St. Kitts, Statia and Saba to port.
By late afternoon we sail under Norman Island which is said to have been the model for Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island. We turn north and pass between the US and British Virgin Islands. By 1830 we are anchored in Francis Bay, St. John. The fish light is deployed and once again a variety of wildlife is drawn to it: a variety of small fish, more bats, a manta shrimp and, most noteworthy, a spotted Eagle ray of about 4 - 5 feet wingspan who makes lazy laps around the ship seeming more to fly than swim through the water.
Another early wake-up as we hasten to our 0730 rendezvous with Paul Knapp and his underwater microphone. Paul has spent fifteen winter's listening to and recording the songs of the humpback whale. Our mission of the day is to position Rose in known whale waters just east of Jost van Dyke and deploy Paul's microphone. And so we do, but with mixed success. Only faint singing is heard. Paul writes of his work:
Current worldwide population is estimated at 10 - 15,000 individuals, about 10% of pre-whaling estimates. Adults average approximately 45' and weigh 30 - 40 tons. They often sing in a stationary position, facing towards the bottom at about a 45 degree angle. They are also reported to 'dance' somewhat to their song, moving their 15' long pectoral fins slowly to the rhythm. It is not known how these sounds are produced but they have not been associated with the release of air bubbles.
Late in the afternoon we sail down Pillsbury Sound and just after sunset we anchor in Christmas Cove by Current Cut between the islands of St. John and St. Thomas.
At 0230 the weather has freshened and the current turned so we up anchor and make for Christiansted, St. Croix. By mid-morning the wind and seas are up considerably and the serpentine entrance among the breaking reefs outside Christiansted make for an exciting entry into the harbor. We are alongside at 1220. After loading fuel we decide to wait till morning to depart hoping that the wind and seas will subside.
An afternoon and evening of free time ashore is much appreciated by all.
Not much improvement in the weather picture, we get underway at 0700 - our departure through the reefs is only slightly less exciting than our arrival.
We pound our way back to Antigua motorsailing hard on the wind. There are squalls and rain throughout the next two days and nights. The anemometer is temporarily out of service, but gusts to 40 knots seem not uncommon. Speed sometimes drops as low as 2 knots. For a while we wonder if the students will make their Saturday afternoon flight but all works out in the end and we arrive in English Harbour at 0730 Saturday morning.
The Rose will be returning to the West Indies in the fall of 1999. Watch the schedule for details.