Our Favorite Caribbean Vacations

caribbean island lookout point

Favorite Caribbean Vacations

Scott and I have many favorite Caribbean vacations. Though we live on the West Coast of the United States (where most folks go to Hawaii or Mexico), we only go to the Caribbean. There’s something about the smell of the tropical air, the warm breezes and the steel drum music that takes you away instantly.  Our love for the Caribbean started on our honeymoon, during our first trip to Antigua.  Antigua is located in the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean Sea and also the Atlantic Ocean, as you can see in the second image below.

caribbean lesser antilles barbados

barbados less antilles atlantic ocean

Antigua

For our honeymoon in 2003, we stayed at the Sandals Antigua Resort.  We picked Antigua because the resort was unique and looked romantic. Since then, the resort has doubled in size, but kept it’s quaint beach front. Now Antigua is one of our favorite Caribbean Islands.

swimming in the caribbean sea
March 2003

We returned to Sandals Grande Antigua in 2011 after their big remodel. During this trip, we took our first circumnavigation tour of the island on the Wadadli Catamaran.  The tour took about seven hours and was so fun!

catamaran tour caribbean island

In 2016, we came back to Antigua which I wrote about in my blog. We spent so much time touring the island, both on land and at sea, that I wrote four blogs about our trip. Click on the titles to links to the blogs.

Antigua sting ray city tourist

caribbean sea animal

M/Y Lady L
M/Y Lady L

antigua english harbor

antigua caribbean island view

caribbean island lookout point
Shirley Heights Lookout Point view of English Harbor
tourist spot antigua
This rock island has the Caribbean Sea on one side and the Atlantic Ocean on the other. Read our blog for more details.
tourist island excursion antigua
View from the top of Bird Island

sail boat washed ashore caribbean

antigua sunset

Bahamas

We have only been to Nassau, which is the capital of the Bahamas. Surprisingly, it is almost parallel with Miami. Be sure to keep that in mind if you visit the Bahamas (or Key West) in January, as it can be cold!

caribbean islands map

When Scott and I visited Nassau in 2008, Florida had a freeze and we had a few days where it did not get above 60º. However, it is a beautiful place and we hope to return and visit the Exumas and the swimming pigs someday.

 

tropical vacation sailing

caribbean cruising ports

tourist market Bahamas

tropical vacation nassau

Jamaica

Jamaica is located due west of Haiti & Dominican Republic. We have been to Jamaica five times over the past twelve years. The primary reason is that the island folks are extremely friendly and it’s affordable from Seattle. Again, we have always stayed at a Sandals Resort each time. We have been to Montego Bay, Negril, Ocho Rios and White House.

caribbean islands map

tourist towns caribbean

  • Montego Bay

Our first trip was to Montego Bay and Sandals resort, was located across the street from the main airport’s runway. I’m not joking! It turned out to be a cool thing and we didn’t have to drive for hours to get to our hotel. When the planes fly over, everyone waves!

jamaica resort beach

cat sailing jamaica

Unfortunately, a huge tropical storm came through during our trip so we did not do any water excursions.

  • White House

White House is located on the west side of the island and Sandals Resort is located in a 500 acre wildlife refuge park. There is nothing around it, but it is gorgeous! It has a great bay for Hobie Cat sailing and it is really peaceful. There is a bit of a drive to get there (about 2 hours) but the roads have improved. Scott and I have been to White House three times.

caribbean sea jamaica

One of our favorite things we have done, is visiting Floyd’s Pelican Bar, which is located on a sand bar. You take a small dinghy from your boat out to the bar. They sell (warm) drinks and cook up some food.

sand bar jamaica tourist

sand bar caribbean sea

sand bar jamaica

 

tropical sun caribbean sea

tropical beach caribbean

 

We have also taken a few cocktail cruises during our stay in Whitehouse.

  • Negril

On one trip to Jamaica, we split up our vacation between Whitehouse and Negril. We drove north for about an hour and it was an easy trip. Negril is very cute and has many famous tourist attractions. We did not do any of them, as we simply relaxed by the pool. The resort offered a free glass boat tour in the bay, which was fun. But beware, because the resort at the end of the beach is nude and they also do boat tours!

shopping tourist caribbean island

tropical caribbean sailing cats

Negril Sandals boat snorkling

  • Ocho Rios

Ocho Rios is located on the northeast end of Jamaica and about two hours from the airport. Unlike many of the other cities we traveled to, the highway was paved and easy to drive on. However, this was not our favorite place at all. It might have been because we didn’t like the resort at Sandals or because it wasn’t as tropical as on the west side. The water is rougher and not as turquoise and clear.  We did take a catamaran cruise to the Dunn River Falls (we didn’t do the chain to the falls). Of course a squall showed up, so it wasn’t a great day on the water.

tourist excursion jamaica

rain squall caribbean sea

Dominican Republic

We visited the Dominican Republic in February 2017. I did write a blog about our trip and voyage. It is a beautiful island and it has cool caves. It just was not our favorite of all of the islands we have been to.

tropical island caribbean

As we visit more places, I will be sure to add them to our list!

Catching Up!

reef caribbean island sailing

Dominican Republic

Gosh, time flies! We vacationed in the Dominican Republic the last week in February. We stayed in Punta Cana on the northeast coast at the all-inclusive resort  Bahia Principe Ambar Blue.

We have been to many Caribbean islands and honestly this isn’t one we would go back to. Others love it, but it wasn’t our favorite. Yes, it is tropical and warm, but everyone we encountered was less than friendly. On top of that, they all wanted tips for doing nothing. Normally my blog would be full of photos and stories of the trip, but it just wasn’t that memorable.

However, we did spend some time on the water and their water is definitely Caribbean blue! We snorkeled, played on a sand bar and swam with reef sharks and sting rays. The boat excursions took us to the northern coast of the island.

 

 

 

 

Along the northeastern Bavaro coast of the island, a HUGE reef runs along the coast. Because of this, all boats travel between shore (very shallow waters) and the reef. I would hate to run into it in the middle of the night. I actually had just finished “Black Wave” on this trip and the reef freaked me out!

 

We decided to do an catamaran excursion and the first stop was swimming with reef sharks and sting rays. I was saddened to see they were caged up.

But the water was warm, stunning and gorgeous! After swimming with the sharks, they took us to a “natural pool” where you can actually stand chest deep in the water. Each excursion company then brings out cocktails for tourists to enjoy while in the water.

 

As you can see, I had plenty of reading materials by the pool!  My carry on bag must have weighed over 10 pounds with all of the magazines! Cruising World, Multi Hulls and Cruisers Outpost are three of my favorites!

 

Excursions

We did some other land excursions on this trip and the cave tours were probably the coolest thing. They have many many caves that will take you all under the island and out to the sea. Super cool!

We did take a two plus hour bus ride into Santo Domingo, which is the capital. One thing that is fascinating about this island, is that Christopher Columbus discovered it. He had a ship full of convicts and about a week before they landed, he nearly had a mutiny on board. Thinking about the reefs and the fact that they had no electronics, it’s amazing that he was able to navigate the tall ship.

Christopher Columbus Light House Memorial
Overlooking the Rio Ozama River

After ten days we were ready to come home. Again, the staff at the resort and many of the other people we met were not very friendly and they nickel and dime you for everything.

Boat Shopping

When Scott and I got back from vacation and we met with our boat broker, Eddie from NW Yacht. Finally, we have begun the process of looking for a boat. Yes, after six years it is finally happening!  Remember, we are no longer looking for a live-aboard, but rather a smaller older boat we can get comfortable with and get our sea legs (well, get my sea legs back).  We are looking at both sedans (motor yacht style) and sport cruisers (better for outdoor activities).  Most likely, we will go with a sport cruiser, as a newer model will be more affordable. Some of the most popular sport cruisers around here are Sea Ray, Bayliner, Four Winns and Larson.

One thing about the PNW, is we are the Bayliner capital. While they have a bad rap on the East Coast, they are everywhere here. In fact, I used to own a Bayliner Ciera years ago and it was a great boat. We know that the boat we buy, will not be long term for us – either we will hate it and get rid of it, or we will love it and want to upgrade to a larger boat. So we are not spending too much energy or resources on this boat. We want to make sure any boat we buy has a great engine and is structurally sound. Luckily I have a captain in my family to help us!

Now we are also starting to look for a slip for the boat (that we don’t own yet). We’ve had our eyes on Elliott Bay Marina and have walked their docks to see if we like it. So far, so good.

So stay tuned for the next update! Cheers, Scott and Ally

What I’m Reading in the Caribbean this Week!

Sailing Books to read on our long vacation!

I love to read sailing books about true stories of adventurers around the world. We leave for Punta Cana, Dominican Republic tomorrow and I will be taking a few things to read on the beach. We have never been before and we’re excited to visit the third largest Caribbean Island.  This will be one of our longest vacations we have had in a very long time – 9 nights and 10 days.  We are staying at a new resort to us, Bahia Principe Ambar Blue on the northeast coast of the island.

punta cana map
We have booked four excursions, including a couple sailing trips, swimming with the sharks & stingrays, rum factory, caves and a trip into Santa Domingo. Stay tuned for all of the great photos to come!

 With this long of a trip, I have to take a stack of magazines and books to read on the beach and by the pool. Of course magazine favorites will be Cruising World, Passage Maker, Sea…to name a few. But I’m excited about the new books I got this Christmas!

First up, is The Box Wine Sailors: Misadventures of a Broke Young Couple at Sea

sailing books adventures
This is yet another true story of a young couple from Portland, OR with zero sailing experience, decide to go sail the Pacific Coast for a year. Their journey is comical and also very educational. Especially since it involves the Pacific Northwest. We have some of the most treacherous bodies of water between Seattle and San Francisco. With their annual budget of only $12,000, they set off in a 27′ sail boat from Portland down to Mexico. I just started this book, so I  can’t wait to finish it while laying by the pool!

Favorite Author – Wendy Hinman

One of my favorite sailing books I’ve read is Tightwads on the Loose: A Seven Year Pacific Odyssey.
wendy hinman sailing books
Wendy and her husband Garth, live right here in the Puget Sound. Years ago, they too, traveled on a 27′ sailing boat around the world!  I have run into Wendy each year at the Seattle Boat Show. This year I was thrilled that she has a new book out Sea Trials: Around the World with Duct Tape and Bailing Wire . This book tells the gripping story of a family in a tireless quest to sail around the world despite daunting challenges including a shipwreck, rebuilding a boat on a remote island, and threats from wild weather, pirates, gun boats, mines and thieves, a broken rig, scurvy and starvation. Sea Trials is a timeless story of struggle in the pursuit of a dream, filled with incredible challenges, glimpses of the fascinating cultures they encounter and enough levity to keep readers of all ages hooked to a suspenseful, satisfying ending.

 

sailing books adventures

It’s a BIG book, so we’ll see if I finish it while on vacation!

So stay tuned for our return and report on Dominican Republic!  Scott & Ally

Quick trip to the Caribbean!

Belize Tour in 48 hours

Last month, I literally went to the Caribbean for 3 days…..yes only 3 days! It really was a whirlwind trip and I’m so glad I was able to check it out.  I was considering moving to Placencia, Belize on the Caribbean side to help open a resort.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite come to terms and we went our different ways. With that said, I still loved the resort and what they are building, which is why I want to share this great place with you.

 

Placencia is a peninsula on the Caribbean side of Belize, which is a country just south of the Yucatan Peninsula and north of Guatemala. It is a very quiet and laid back community with very friendly people.  Let’s start with my journey getting there!
I left Seattle at 5am and arrived in Dallas, only to find out that my next flight was delayed by over an hour. Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal, but I still had to catch a flight from Belize City to Placencia via an island hopper (Cesna). That flight was scheduled for 4:25pm  and I was now due in at 4:10p. Yikes! That would mean I would have to get through customs, security and on another plane in 15 minutes. Sure enough, we land at 4:15p and I was panicked. Belize City airport is not a big airport, in fact, you step onto the tarmac, then into customs and turn left and you are through security to the next airline. I flew threw customs and security in about 3 minutes. As I approached Maya Island Air, they were so friendly and assured me I still had plenty of time! Whew.  My airplane held about 12 people. Never have I flown on one of these, so I took lots of photos!

 

Placencia, Belize

One thing you will notice immediately is the warm sun and humidity. Good thing I have naturally curly hair! The resort (called Naia) will be a destination spa resort which is located in the Coco Plum Development. This is a master planned community and they are selling gorgeous beach front lots and lagoon front lots. This is the place to retire, especially if you have a boat! Then they are building Naia within the community, which will feature 30 beach front units, along with a pool, two restaurants, a bar and a first class spa. The spa has a gorgeous yoga studio, 6 individual day treatment rooms, activity center, fitness center and spa cafe. This is where you will want to spend your day!  The resort is scheduled to open officially sometime in October/November.
If you are interested in touring the property to purchase a lot, ask for Stewart and be sure to tell him I referred you.
I stayed in one of the “Tree Top Villas” that are on the property of CocoPlum. This was a really cool setup, with one unit downstairs, kitchen/living in the middle and the second unit at the very top.
I was able to get a full property tour with the management team. Trying to dress for this trip was certainly a challenge, as I was touring a construction sight in 85 degree weather with a team I had not met in person yet. But it all worked out just fine!
This is one of the two bedroom beach houses that is part of the Coco Plum Community.

Notice the amazing woodwork in the ceiling and continue to watch for this in my upcoming photos. The wood in Belize is absolutely beautiful!

The Fitness Room & Yoga Studio of Naia Resort

Now we are headed to the fitness room and yoga studio. Imagine doing yoga here with a lush lawn, palm trees swaying over head with a slight breeze. Heavenly is the perfect word!

From the yoga studio, you’ll take a bridge over to the spa center, treatment rooms and cafe’.

 

This is the view as you are getting your pedicure!

This is the spa cafe’ overlooking the lagoon.

Beach front villas

I got a quick sneak peak at the beach front units for the resort. They are not finished yet, but these photos give you an idea of the tranquility they will offer. Also, every unit has an outdoor shower – super cool!

Naia Resort & Restaurants under construction

From here we checked out the hotel and restaurants. It’s so amazing how their construction is so different than what we see here in the states. Notice the roof on the hotel and how gorgeous it is already!

Now we are upstairs in the restaurant overlooking the Caribbean and the pool. I’m already relaxed, how about you?

One thing I will tell you about Placencia is the food is amazing and probably some of the best food I have ever had. My first night, they took me to RumFish y Vino and I had the Yucatan Chicken. Wow! I’m still trying to recreate the dish! They make everything from scratch.

 

The second day we went to lunch at Mango’s and we had the best view for lunch! Another must eat at spot in Placencia!

 

Looking for a place to live

While I was there I looked at a condo for rent at an adjacent property (also called Coco Plum) and took a walk along the beach to get there. Can’t beat this commute everyday!


Of course, I can’t travel half way around the world and not find a cute fur friend!

Ironically, I didn’t take the job, so I didn’t move, BUT my condo ended up being featured on House Hunter’s International. The broker is Boris Mansfield and he was very helpful during my process.

Can you smell the ocean air and feel the breeze?

On my last night, they took us to a fabulous restaurant called Maya Beach Hotel Bistro. The food was amazing and they have a jaw dropping wine cellar! Ellen the owner, took me back to show me their collection and it was far better than some of our high end restaurants here in Seattle. Be sure to check this place out or you’ll be sorry. I had the pecan crusted fish, but many had the pork chop – this is a serious meal. Their desserts are all made by the owner and are to die for.
In the end, I’m grateful I had the opportunity to see such a great project from it’s beginning. It will definitely draw world class attention from travelers throughout the world and I can’t wait to see the finished product!

Maybe our BoatingJourney will take us to Belize some day!

Antigua – Part 4 Fun Beach Photos

sunset caribbean beach sailing

Antigua Beach Photos

Part 4 of our vacation blog, includes fun beach photos of Antigua. There’s something about being in the Caribbean that makes you want to take tons and tons of beach photos. Perhaps it’s because we can look at them at home on days that it’s wet and rainy?  During our stay, we walked the beach during the day and also during a few sunsets (well we have to get our steps in!).

So along the way, we snapped away. Enjoy!

 

Do you see a dog in this photo??

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, sadly this sail boat washed ashore. It still had plates, etc on the inside 🙁

 

 

As Kenny Chesney’s song “It’s That Time of Day” says ……(of course we’re in Antigua not BVI)

It’s that time of day
That we all knew would come
To pay for all the rum
And pull up anchor cause we’re done
It’s that time of day
I see a cotton candy sky
So many colors in my eyes
Proof again God’s aliveThis ain’t a goodbye
It’s a “till I see you again”
What a wonderful time
We’ve all shared my friends
Another day at sea
Has come and gone away
So adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
Adios to Jost
It’s that time of day

Thanks for following our blog! The Seattle Boat Show is this weekend, there will be a new update on that soon, along with a “new reads” blog. Stay tuned!

 

Antigua Part 3

tourist spot antigua

Antigua Eco Excursion

We love Antigua eco excursions! When we booked our trip to Antigua, we knew we didn’t want to spend everyday sitting by the pool. Since our life long goal is to end up in the Caribbean splashing in the waters, we wanted to have a few water excursions. We had another circumnavigation tour booked on a very very large power cat for the middle of the week, but it got cancelled. In some ways, we were relieved after we saw how many people were crammed on it. We had just done the Xtreme tour around the island on Monday, so we really didn’t need another.

 

On Friday, we had booked another tour with Adventures Antigua , called the “Eco Tour”. This boat was a bit bigger than the extreme, but much smoother. It held again about 20 people. The boat had two 250 hp engines with a turbo booster.

This tour began at the cruise docks and headed north to Long Island and then to Hell’s Gate.

Long Island is the only island that has residents on it (of the 22 small islands surrounding it). It is very very exclusive  and has a high end resort on it called Jumby Bay. We were told that rooms run $8000-$15,000 per night and are used primarily for celebrities. No we didn’t see Mariah or J Lo. In fact, it looked a bit sleepy.

Mangroves of Antigua

From Long Island, we went to see an island, completely made up of mangrove trees. Mangroves are key to the sea life, as many live in and around their root system for protection. China purchased the island below, but locals protested and insisted the island remain untouched or developed. Supposedly, they have agreed.

 

 

From here we went to Rabbit Island and ironically, there are no rabbits on the island, only birds – lots of them! The entire hillside was covered with pelicans.

 

Hells Gate Island

From here we went to one of the main attractions – Hells Gate Island. This small piece of land is located between the Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. It also has a cave that you climb up to and through and come out on the Atlantic side.


Video of Hells Gate Island

Facing the Caribbean side

 

 

 

 

 

Down below is where the Atlantic meets the Caribbean. You COULD swim to the other side via an underwater cave…but who would do that?!! Instead, we climbed back up towards the guy in the orange shorts to get on top of the island.

Now on top of the island

 

 

The rocks are limestone and extremely jagged. You had to be very careful, finding the perfect “step” and “handle” to climb up into the cave and then go carefully back down. Here’s where you can put one foot on the Atlantic side and the other on the Caribbean side, but the water was gushing so hard, all I wanted to do was get out of there! We then swam back to the boat and off to Bird Island for lunch.

Bird Island Tour

Bird Island has a short hike to the top of the island to give you great vistas. It also is home to the The Antiguan racer (Alsophis antiguae)  which is a harmless rear-fanged (opisthoglyphous) grey-brown snake that was until recently found only on Great Bird Island off the coast of Antigua, in the Eastern Caribbean. It is among the rarest snakes in the world. Ironically, one crossed our path on our hike!!

 

 

 

Facing the Atlantic Ocean

Turned around and now this is the Caribbean Sea

We finished the day snorkeling just a few yards away from Bird Island (about where you see that island in the background).

The boat then returned back to the Cruise terminal to drop us all off. It was such a fun day and again, I highly recommend www.adventureantigua.com.

Stay tuned for Part 4, a collection of fun beach photos!

 

Antigua Part 2 (land based tour)

atlantic & caribbean ocean view

Antigua Land Tour

Taking an Antigua Land Tour. Our blog is primarily all about boating and boating and more boating. But there was so much to see and do in Antigua, that I wanted to share what we did on land. All boaters have to disembark some time, so here’s what we did on Antigua.

In my previous blog, I shared the photos of Nelson Dockyard, which we saw both by boat and on foot. We did a land tour with a cab driver named “Wall”, which Sandals arranged for us.  Our first stop was Jolly Harbor. We knew it had some condos on the canal and beach and wondered what it looked like. So that was our first stop.

We took a few photos on the beach and also with Wall before heading off to our next stop.

 

 

 

From there we drove south towards Falmouth Harbor and onto English Harbor. Follow the yellow line on the map from Jolly Harbor .

 

Nelson’s Dockyard

We did the full tour of Nelson’s Dockyard with a guide (see photos in previous blog). The buildings are still all original as they were in the 1700’s.  From there we went up to Fort Shirley, where there is a museum (and quick history movie) and Admiral Nelson’s former home. From the vantage point, the British could watch out from all directions for intruders.

This view is overlooking the Caribbean and Nelson’s dockyard down below.

 

 

 

This is one of the fort buildings.

This is what is left of Admiral Nelson’s home.

 

This view is behind his home, facing the Atlantic Ocean.

 

This is the view from the 2nd floor of his home, again overlooking English Harbor.

Just down the road from Fort Shirley, is Lookout Point. The views here were absolutely stunning. To give you an idea of where we were, here’s a map. Look out point overlooks both the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

 

A closeup view of the “hook” you will see a house on top. That belongs to Eric Clapton.

looking towards Africa if you turn left and then South America if you straighten out.

Yes, it was straight down, no fence!

 

This one was of the original fort buildings still standing at Lookout Point.

Shirley Heights Lookout

From here, we drove down the road to Shirley Heights Lookout. This houses the original Guard House. This spot is famous for it’s sunset party they throw every Sunday with a steel drum band. We didn’t make the party (so we didn’t take this photo), but you get the idea.

Instead, we took in the views and enjoyed the scenery. Photos don’t do it justice – so make time to go visit this famous site!

 

 

Again, looking down on English Harbor and Falmouth Harbor

 

It too, was treacherous on the edge with no fence. Beware.

 

In all, it was one of the best tours we’ve taken! There is so much history on Antigua dating back to the early 1700’s. You won’t regret visiting the sights of this island!  Part 3 coming soon!

Antigua Part 1

English Harbor Caribbean Island

Antigua Boating Excursion

Scott and I arrived in Saint John’s, Antigua on Friday January 15, 2016, for a 10 day stay. This was our 3rd visit to the island and was one of the best vacations we have ever had.   The following day, we found out that the weather earlier in the week was rainy and cloudy, but we had nothing but sunshine our entire stay.  We stayed at Sandals Resort and the first few days, we simply relaxed by the pool and went sailing on the Hobie Cat.

 

Then on Monday, we had our first boating excursion with Antigua Adventures on their “Adventure Xtreme Antigua” boat, which went around the entire island. This took us from the Caribbean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and back to the Caribbean. It had three 250 hp Yamaha engines on it, so it was fast! We stopped many times for different activities.  This was one of our favorite trips we’ve taken and the crew Sean, Trevis and David were fantastic!

We started at the north end of the island at Dickenson’s Bay and stopped at Long Island for a quick history lesson. There are a number of small islands between reefs that line the northern eastern part of the island.

First stop was Hell’s Gate (more on that for our next excursion).

Then we stopped at Sting Ray city, which is southwest from Hells Gate.

We were not in the waist high section, but almost neck deep (for those of us only 5′ 3″). Figures our GoPro HERO5 Camera  had a dead battery and we didn’t know it, since it’s new to us.  The key was to shuffle your feet in the sand, so they knew you were present. They would then swim past you touching your legs. I admit, it was a bit weird and creepy, yet cool. Friends we met, Tony & Nicole took a bunch of photos with their Go Pro, so once they send us some, we’ll post some photos. Instead, this is what I took from the boat.

 

 

Then the folks at Sting Ray City also took photos of each of the guests holding a sting ray.

From here we traveled to a small island and had a wonderful lunch with great views of some catamarans anchored in the bay.

 

 

 

This cat had a cute german shepherd on board, but I couldn’t get it in the photo

After lunch to traveled south to Nelson’s Dockyard, located on the south end of the island in English Harbor. First we passed by Eric Clapton’s home, situated up on the cliff’s of the island. I will tell you that the swells were very large as we turned the south east corner of the island. Luckily our boat was fast, but it certainly went up and down, getting through them.

 

 

Nelson’s Dockyard still has all of the original buildings and now houses many large yachts. According to Wikipedia, English Harbour quickly became a focal point for the establishment of a naval base in Antigua. Its position on the south side of the island meant it was well positioned to monitor the neighboring French island of Guadeloupe. Additionally, the harbour is naturally well-suited to protect ships and cargo from hurricanes. The first reference to the defense of English Harbour occurs in 1704 when Fort Berkeley was listed as one of the twenty forts established around the coast of Antigua. By 1707 naval ships used English Harbour as a station, but no facilities had yet been built for ship maintenance or repair. By 1723 English Harbour was in regular use by British naval ships.

 

 

(The following land based photos were taken on our land tour with our guide a few days later).

 

 

 

 

 

 

  
From Nelson’s Dockyard, we snorkeled at the Pillar’s of Hercules just outside of the harbor.
From here, we stopped at Rendezvous Bay, to relax and enjoy some rum punch!

 

 

We then made the journey back north towards our resort, but first stopping at Saint John’s where the cruise ships are located, dropping off some passengers. Wouldn’t want to run into one of these in the middle of the night in the ocean!!

 

 

In the end, it was a fantastic day! Small group (about 18 of us or so) and a great crew! I would definitely recommend it! Check them out on http://www.adventureantigua.com/.
Part 2 will feature our Eco Adventure with this same company, coming soon!

The Dream and Where Did it Come From?

Boating in the Caribbean

Sailing the Caribbean

Sailing the Caribbean is our dream. Many might ask, what’s with the dream of exploring the world on water and why? Where did it come from?  Honestly, that dream has been with me for many many years (probably longer than Scott). First of all, I grew up on boats. While they were only fishing and water skiing boats, we spent our summers on the water. It doesn’t matter what you are doing, being on the water just brings a sense of peace and adventure.

 

America's II Sailing Boat

 

Back in the 80’s and 90’s my mom and I would vacation in Hawaii and one year we were lucky to sail on the America II Sailboat. The America II was a 1987 America’s Cup Challenger. This prestigious yacht was custom designed and built, at the cost of $10 million, for the sole purpose of competing in world-class racing. After completing her transpacific race she was retired from racing to do sailing tours out of Lahaina Harbor on Maui. Because it was a racing boat, it was bare bones….barely had a head (bathroom).

 

my mom on America II sail boat

 

 

We sailed it to Molokini and that was the trip that hooked me. The serenity of flying over blue waters with dolphins next to us and then arriving to a location where sea turtles and tropical fish surrounded you is so unreal. I wanted to turn the boat around and go back when we got home!
Later in my adult life, I owned a 27′ “weekender” and spent many weekends up at the San Juan Islands. I remember exploring the islands one day and decided to go north and out of the blue, a pod of Orca whales surrounded our boat. They literally were just feet off of our anchor platform. I took a ton of photos (but this one is not mine). It was one of the coolest experiences I have had.

 

Scott and I were married in 2003 and we spent our honeymoon in Antigua. We booked two sailing excursions on that trip and soon he was hooked too! We took a catamaran snorkeling trip and then finished it on a sunset sailing cruise. What a honeymoon to remember!

Sandals Antigua Beach
Scott Ally Sailing Caribbean

 

Back to Antigua & Jamaica

We decided after that trip, that we would always include the water on our future trips to the Caribbean. And any chance we had to be on the water, we took advantage of it. It’s the best therapy you can find! We returned to Antigua in 2010 and took those same two trips again.

Antingua sailing excursion

 

 

snorkling antigua

 

 

The following year, during our visit to Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica we had one of the most memorable trips on a Catamaran as we visited Floyd’s Pelican Bar….a bar on a sandbar!

Sandals Whitehouse Jamaica

 

 

Floy'd Pelican Bar

 

On another visit to Jamaica we took another sailing trip and just our luck, the skies turned dark and stormy. It was still a very cool experience and the S/V was huge! It had 2 Cummins engines and it had a capacity of 100ppl!

 

 

 

 

Looking for Water

No matter what the situation is, we still love being on the water and forgetting all about the rest of the world. It’s not always a bed of roses, in fact, more often than not it’s work. Scott and I are willing to take that challenge and explore. For now, it might only be a boat show or a day on a family’s boat, but we’re still on the water! We hope to buy a boat in the next few years!

 

 

 

 

I guess in the end, the water has more meaning to us than we know and everyday it’s a new experience and a new memory. The photo above of my mom, she had so much fun….it was about a year before she died.  We also chose to sprinkle Maggie’s ashes (our golden retriever) in Port Susan at Camano Island. It was one of the most spiritual and memorable experience regarding a death…..very peaceful.

 

When days get me down, I just look back on the journeys we had and remind myself that new ones on the water are just around the corner. Cheers, Ally

Today it’s simply a dream

caribbean island beach

Boating Dream – Living on a Catamaran in the Caribbean

Our boating dream would be to retire in the Caribbean and live on a catamaran. How did this even come about? I started a personal blog back in 2009 when I was struggling to have children and was in my early 40’s. I wanted our kids to know the journey we had experienced, but we never had kids and after a few years I stopped updating it. It was a private blog, so it was really more of a diary for me.

Scott and I have always loved the sea and during every vacation to the Caribbean, we would plan at least one (usually two) catamaran excursions. I grew up with boats, had one as an adult and really missed boating. After spending time on the Caribbean Sea, we fell in love with the islands and the laid back life. We always pictured ourselves working or retiring in the Caribbean.

 

caribbean island beach

Fast forward to the January of 2011 when we attended the Seattle Boat Show, which included the floating show on Lake Union. It was a cold, wet and dreary day, but we were going to have fun anyways!

That is when we looked at our first (liveaboard) Catamaran, the Lagoon 350. The broker was trying to convince us to get into the charter business in the PNW as it was a great way to buy our dream boat. Suddenly, we were hooked and couldn’t stop thinking about that boat. There was another cat at the show and it wasn’t nearly as roomy or comfortable. From that point on, we knew we needed to do our research and read everything we could.

Magazines & Blogs

I started buying Multi-Hulls Magazine and other Sailing magazines to read up on sailing and cruising lifestyles. I also started following blogs of other catamaran sailors and their adventures. One that hooked me like a novel was the blog for Tritons At Sea. This guy was so particular and I couldn’t wait to read the next blog he posted. It was from 2005, but he had great advice, including lists and requirements that are still great today. When our journey finally starts, we’ll be referencing his blog. Then we found other blogs on sailblogs.com. This was a great site and eventually I was emailing some of the boats and congratulating them on their adventures. It was a great way to erase the dulldrums of the rainy days of the PNW, especially on a slow work day.

See, I don’t have a regular job, but instead own a local wine shop, The Wine Alley and I work here every day. During the week, we don’t get a ton of daytime shoppers, so I would pass the time following many of the sailing blogs down in the Caribbean and Pacific Ocean. But that can also simply be adding “salt to the wound”. Reading about their tropical adventures at sea and then looking at the 3″ of cold rain falling didn’t always make life better.

A Trip to Antigua

Every January, we close our wine shop for a week and visit the Caribbean. In 2010 we went to Antigua and during our trip we took a day trip on a catamaran, “Wadadli Cats” that sailed us all around the island. We started on the north end and traveled west into the Atlantic Ocean and then back around to the Caribbean side. What a thrill and for me, at that moment, I forgot all about our problems back home. We were in paradise!
Antingua sailing excursion
 Boating in the Caribbean

What’s Next?

When we returned home, we again attended the 2012 boat show and collected so much information ranging from toilets to electronics. This was actually a bit silly, considering we knew we wouldn’t “launch” for many years, unless we won the lottery! But it was still fun to look, touch and dream.
Caribbean sea beaches

 Books, Books & More Books!

A few months later, I noticed all kinds of “real life” books on sailing and one that caught my eye was A Sail of Two Idiots . This was a great story about another couple, our age, who sold everything, bought a catamaran and sailed the Caribbean and with no sailing experience! Well, if they can do it, so could Scott and I and we both read that book fast! The author, Renee Petrillo has been so gracious answering all of my emails and answering our questions over the past two years. It’s a great book, so this is a must buy!

The funny thing about me, is that I am not a reader. My mom would read a book in a few days, but books have always bored me. But I love all real life books about sailing the Caribbean and other tropical adventures. I soon found myself reading: The Motion of the Ocean  (a book about a local PNW couple), Sail Away: How to Escape the Rat Race and Live the Dream and A Trip to the Beach: Living on Island Time in the Caribbean. For birthdays & Christmas, we found ourselves giving each other books about Catamarans, Nautical References and Galley Recipes. Currently, I’m reading An Embarrassment of Mangoes: A Caribbean Interlude, a story about a Toronto couple that heads down the ICW to the Caribbean. So many people have done it and so many are doing it, that we know in our hearts we’ll be there soon too.

In addition to all of the books, blogs, etc. that I started reading, local neighbors of ours, John & Kelly W. started their dream and trip in August 2012 from Seattle. They left everything and headed south on their sailboat. They made it to Mexico by the end of 2012 and have been enjoying the tropical Mexican life ever since. It’s been fun to follow their trip on Facebook and see where they are headed next. Since then, most of my Twitter & Instagram accounts follow mostly cruisers too.

So we began 2013 year, dreaming of our trip and trying to figure out how we will get there. Owning a business and having debt, doesn’t make the challenge easy. But we know with determination, we’ll get there in a few years. In the meantime, I wanted to share the little adventures, research and events with you so we can reflect on everything we went through to get to our dream. If we can do it, everyone else can too. Cheers, Scott & Ally

 

Scott Ally Caribbean Tourists