Thought Iíd post some observations made during the last few months, Nov, 2014 - March, 2015, while in the Leeward Islands
. When I checked there was little on CF that was very current
except for SXM. I apologise if thereís tons and I somehow missed it and I know, that this too, will eventually be dated.
The other reason for wanting to post is to offer a different take on the general air that the E Caribbean
is so dangerous that you are taking life in hand to visit. This affected us so much as we were choosing to come here from Belize
that we almost didnít come. Weíve traveled along with several other boats who felt the same. Of course, I do know that you should take precautions but we take those at home, right?. Stay alert, lock up when you leave, avoid being in the wrong part of town after dark and secure your dinghy
(we have a 5/16ths cable and a heavy duty ABUS padlock).
Iíll also report on WiFi
as we found it. We have a Bullet Long Distance antennae and booster connected to a router so when available we can have WiFi
throughout the boat. We also carry a Hauwei Mobile Hotspot and planned to get a data sim in each island. That didnít work out too well as youíll see below. There is always Wifi in restaurants and bars so Iím reporting on WiFi on your boat while at anchor
or in a marina. Iíve included a little information on clearance and dinghy
docks. We didnít find getting rid of garbage or finding ATMs an issue so Iíll leave that out. Laundry
, however, was an issue so Iíll include some of that.
We found the islands safe. Slept with our companion way hatch
open and with no unusual arming of our bed
or boat. Canít say I went around and took a survey
but seemed the other boats were not on high alert either. We did mostly leave our VHF
on. So far the only ďBoat BoysĒ weíve encountered were last year back in Iles a Vache and the wonderful guys in Dominica
Island by Island
seemed fine but following what we read we lifted our dinghy each night. Most other boats did the same. If we went out to a happy hour or to dinner in Simpson Bay Lagoon
we chained the dinghy even though we were right there. Thatís what everyone did and we followed local custom. At night, if we went ashore for dinner in Marigot, we left the dingy at the Port Royale docks, approached from Simpson Bay Lagoon
. During the day we used the dinghy docks that were near the market and the ferry dock
. Didnít have a problem and never heard of a problem while we were there. We did hear of a dinghy theft from the town dock
after we left. It occurred at night to a locked dinghy. I donít see a report of this on Noonsite but we did hear of it from another cruising couple who were there right after us. We neither saw nor heard of any problems in the lagoon or in Grand Case. Also nothing bad in St Bartís or Anguilla
Clearance Ė Upon arrival from North Sound of Virgin Gorda we anchored in Simpson Bay, dinged ashore and cleared into Sint Maarten, Customs
is near the bridge with a dinghy dock. We paid to go through the bridge and anchored in front of Palapa Marina. In addition to WiFi info below. Palapa has free WiFi, it gives you about 15 min than you have to sign in again. You can go ashore and pay for full service
. Back to clearance. After a week in the Lagoon we wanted clearer water
so headed out the bridge and over to Marigot Bay. It was both windy (Christmas Winds were definitely blowing) and rolly but the holding was very good and we stayed put. We cleared into the French side at Fort Louis Marina. The Customs
dock at the ferry
was not operational. No one ever came to our boat and asked for anything and we were there about 6 weeks with short trips around the island and over to St Bartís and Anguilla
Ė The absolute best is at Shrimpyís. He runs the morning net Channel 10 at 7:30am. Catch him right after you listen to Chris Parker at 7am and before Coconut Telegraph at 8am.
Wifi Ė They have a system you can buy into with a box on your boat for WiFi. I think its from Scarlett. We didnít do this as I thought our unlocked Huawei mobile hotspot would be all we needed. HA! The idea of a data sim, though available, seemed not to be understood too well so I had to set it up on the mobile hotspot without help. I first bought a Digicel sim in Marigot but they spoke no English
and I speak so little French that the whole experience proved a frustration to both of us. I did get the Digicel sim to work but it only worked in town and on the French side of the island though not in Grand Case and rarely on the boat in Marigot Harbor. We then bought a Chippie. Chippie was definitely better and gets our vote here. But again no one will help you set it up and some configuring of the Huawei is required. The ďMailbox" in Simpson Bay Lagoon offers an instruction sheet for the Chippie sims but no verbal assistance. After days of frustrating deciphering, I was finally able to use that information to get the Chippie sim to work and it did work on the boat and pretty much throughout the island though again not in Grand Case. Luckily, in Grand Case the restaurants will give you their password so you can use it on your boat if you have a Long Distance antennae. I think phone
sims work as advertised. Here Iím talking about the data sim NOT the phone
In Marigot Bay sometimes there was an open WiFi AP from a condo. This was great when available so we anchored close to the condos. Marinas
also offer WiFi to their customers. Even though the Chippie is supposed to work in both St Bartís and Anguilla we never could get a connection. Between the two sims we spent a little over $110 for data sims for the 6 weeks we were there. Had we just bought the Chippie it would only have been $60 which I felt was reasonable for the amount of data and degree of service
available but alas I had invested in Digicel first.
Our next two islands were St. Kitts and Nevis
. We arrived St. Kitts in time for their Carnival and stayed in the Port Zante Marina for over a week as the winds were howling and it was fun to be there. Certainly no safety
issues here though we were out in the streets at all hours of the day and night. Nevis
was wonderful except for the lack of dinghy docks. We took a mooring
at Pinney Beach for about 10 days. Used the town docks and locked our dinghy as thatís what everyone else was doing. In both St Kitts
and Nevis we used taxis and local buses to get around and see the sights. From here on we didnít lift
the dinghy every night.
Clearance into St Kitts and Nevis
is done all in one. We were in Port Zante marina so did it there. You go to Customs in the yellow marina building than over to Immigration in the cruise
terminal. It took a lot to figure out that we had cleared in for a month, we where told variously that it was 1 week, 2 weeks, no one seemed to know. But we eventually got it figured out.. We got the clearance to anchor
in the Southern Peninsular with no problem.
In Nevis we checked in with Customs and Immigration to let them know we were there and paid for our mooring
. We also cleared out from there. The office is right near the town dock.
Laundry Ė We only found laundry at the marina. The helpful guy, Ras, mentioned in Doyleís Guide offered to have his mother do it. This was by far the most expensive weíve ever encountered at $80US for 2 large loads. Plus our clothes had other cruisers clothes mixed with them when they were returned. Luckily weíd all become friends and we were able to return them. We didnít do laundry in Nevis.
WiFi Ė there was no WiFi at the Port Zante Marina though itís advertised and you can see the AP when looking. It wasnít working. I bought a Digicel Data Sim which worked well in town, except it was Carnival so probably too many users for it to be very fast. It didnít work at all in the marina. Orange seemed to be offering a free hotspot during Carnival as I was able to connect to that from the boat until Carnival ended. So here we spent $70 for a sim that didnít work and swore off trying to get data sim in each island. We ended up adding an International Plan on our regular phone service with 300 mb of data/ month, .50/min calls and free texting. Decided to only get onboat WiFi only when available for free or nearly so. In Nevis at Pinney Beach the Four Seasons Hotel
had a open AP which we could pickup most days. It worked pretty well. The lack of a good dinghy dock for the three wonderful beach bars at Pinneyís Beach is a boor and the town dock had a bad surge while we were there so our only complaint about Nevis was the dinghy dock issue. Everything else we really loved.
Next stop, Montserrat
for a weekend stop. Again no safety
issues, there where about 15 boats at anchor. We were told it was the most boats in the harbour at one time.
We had a SE wind
which is good there as anything N of E gives a rolly nightís sleep. Great free WiFi in the harbour. If you have the option donít go on a weekend as everything closes down. We were able to do an island tour but no museum and no observatory as they were closed Sat & Sun.
Clearance was no problem but donít be late. They charge a steep fee for overtime, we found out later they also use SailClear.
On to Antigua
Ė and a two week stay in Falmouth. Canít imagine anyone would be interested in anything off of a 1992 42ft Hunter Passage
when there where sooooo many fabulous sailing ships around. But we felt safe and regularly left our dinghy at the dock. Following custom there, we locked her up every time but it seemed unnecessary. We spent a few days over by Bird Island but we never left the boat and we felt and were safe at anchorage. There were lots of boats coming and going from these free moorings.
Clearance is in English
Harbor in Nelsonís dockyard. They use SailClear.
Laundry Ė Great laundry right behind the dinghy dock/restaurant/grocery thatís near the Antigua
WiFi Ė Falmouth was the first place we ran in to HotHotHotSpot. They offer harbor WiFi for a reasonable fee. $10/24 hrs, $50/week, $200/5 months and its available in various places down to the Grenadines. We bought a day to see how it was and liked it fine but as we were still reeling from the unused $70 in St Kitts
we mostly just used WiFi ashore. It was sloooooow everywhere. Everyone complained so we mostly did without.
Deshaies was next, then Pigeon, Basse Terre, Point a Pitre and the Saintes. All in Guadeloupe
. Again no safety issues but we followed local custom and locked our dinghy. We read on Noonsite and also heard about some thievery on boats at the marina in Pointe a Pitre. They have docks with tall locked gates that need a key to get through. But there is no other security
. Seems its easy to go over or around the gate if youíre limber enough, not to mention pulling up to a boat from the water
. We anchored outside of the marina and where told by local friends that it was perfectly safe there. There was a boat that went adrift with the owners ashore and it banged into two other boats but thatís a different kind of problem.
Clearance - The French are very laid back about clearing in. In Deshaies you clear in by computer in a souvenir shop. In the Saintes we cleared out, by computer, in a Internet
Laundry Ė We did laundry in Basse Terre, thereís a laundromat near the marina and again in the Saintes, where you clear in/out. Both had issues but we did end up with clean clothes.
WiFi Ė Again I bought a 24 hrs of WiFi in Deshaies from HotHotHot Spot and it was pretty good but we mostly used what we found ashore. This little town is so delightful that we were frequently ashore. We were in Pigeon and Basse Terre briefly so again we did without or used our International Data plan from AT&T. In Pointe a Pitre the marina offered free WiFi which we could get on the boat at anchor. Friends who had been in the marina two weeks prior to our arrival had found the WiFi so good that they could stream a movie! When we all gathered back there to celebrate Carnival and New Orleansí Mardi Gras we could only get email
. :-( Nothing else would come in either in the marina or out at anchor.
Once in the Saintes we found HotHotHot Spot and as it was offered there and in both the anchorages
we planned to visit in Dominica
we bought a month for $50. We find that HotSpot works good when itís been cycled on but if it goes out the place where itís installed isnít necessarily paying attention and it can be a day before itís cycled back on. Sometimes we can see it from the Bullet and it looks fine but we canít connect. Still it eventually comes back on.
We are now in Dominica
, which together with St Lucia
, gets a bad rap. Weíve been here nearly a month and absolutely love it!. We spent 2 weeks+ in Portsmouth and 1week+ in Roseau. This is one of the most delightful places weíve been and we loved most of the places weíve been so thatís saying a lot. The PAYS boat boys are incredible and the guys in Roseau are good, though not as organised, also. We were told weíd be spoiled while here and believe me we have been. In Portsmouth we used, Titus, with Lawrence of Arabia, and he took care of getting us moored, getting us to the water buoy, arranged tours, gave advice on hikes, arranged to get our bottom cleaned and on and on. But not only Titus, all of the PAYS boats that whiz around look over, wave and ask if all is well. WE DONíT EVEN LOCK OUT DINGHY HERE! In Point a Pitre we met a man traveling with his wife and two small sons who felt threatened here. Iím saying this because even though I canít understand that feeling, it was real to him. From what he said they had not contracted with PAYS but that doesnít seem to be a prerequisite as a boat weíve traveled with on and off also hasn't and seems to be just find. The Sunday night PAYS BBQ funds security
in the harbor for everyone. Iíve seen PAYS rescue
boats who drifted while at anchor or go out at night to help late arrivals. Portsmouth appears a poor town but looking around it seems industrious and we find the locals ashore very friendly and happy you are visiting their island.
*Donít miss the Saturday market Ė all your fruits and veggies have been coming from Dominica anyway so go and have a look at this incredible selection.
Weíre now in Roseau and using Seacatís moorings. Desmond is our guy and like Titus he has arranged for water, laundry and tours plus given us advice and directions.
Clearance in Portmouth is over by the Customs dock to the right of town. an easy dinghy ride with a concrete dock to tie to. Clear in anytime but youíll pay a fee if itís after hours. Even though we were told we needed a Coastal Cruising Permit
when we left Portsmouth, on arrival in Roseau, Customs told us not to bother until we were clearing out. If you are only staying 2 weeks you can clear in and out at the same time from either anchorage.
Laundry Ė there are several houses that offer laundry service in Portsmouth or you can give it to one of PAYS guys. In Roseau, Desmond picked up and delivered our laundry.
Wifi Ė We have bought into the HotHotHotSpot. See above for the way it acts. It was very good in both Portsmouth and Roseau except for one 2 day period in Porstmouth, I think heavy rain must have caused some problem. We donít get too excited as WiFi while at anchor in the Caribbean
is pretty exciting even if it isnít perfect.
A little more in-depth reporting can be found on our blog.