On Dry Land

Friday 16th March 2019

We have just arrived at Sandy Island, a small half moon slice of sand just a mile off Carriacou. It’s nice after our time on passage to be at anchor again, just chilling, while being gently rocked, watching the sun go down. The view from the cockpit is a bit more crowded than we are use to but we are now in the Caribbean, the yachties playground

Today’s view from the cockpit.

Our week in the villa was fantastic, we ate, drank, talked and enjoyed the pretty pool. We lounged on the comfy sofas and put the world to right in the shade of the pagoda. And we slept, whole nights, in still beds. The sole disturbance being swarms of mosquitos that seemed to be everywhere, we all rapidly became covered in bites and the only fluid consumed faster than the wine was the DEET insect spray that was being applied liberally.

In the background of course Raya was still demanding our time. After three weeks at sea she was a mess, the decks covered in salt, the laundry basket full and the bottom of the fridge was supporting its very own eco system. She also needed some time on dry land, to fix the leaky through hull fitting and give the hull a once over before our trip back to Europe.

So just a few days after we arrived at St Louis Marina, Thursday morning, we, plus our villa crew, let go the lines and motored her around to Clark’s Court Boatyard. We had had the hull scrubbed by a diver in CapeTown but were still surprised how clean she looked.

Raya being lifted out of the water by the Hulk, a huge lift in Grenada.

While Rick supervised the cleaning of the hull, topsides and superstructure, replaced the through hull fitting and changed the engine impeller, I took a day off to join the others on a hike to a waterfall. When I say hike, stroll would be a better description of our pretty walk that took less than half an hour. Of course, as seems always to be the way when I visit waterfalls, the lack of recent rain had severely lessened the flow, the waterfall was still a pleasant site but the pools mentioned in the guide as swimming opportunities look uninviting.

Mount Carmel Falls

We drove back towards the coast, the small towns that line the road were full of Caribbean colour, with houses ranging from ramshackle purple and red huts to grand yellow and turquoise villas. And in keeping with the mood, the hotel we found for lunch that sat on the lovely beach at Sagresse Bay was bright pink.

Girls taking a cooling dip

Although all a bit of a rush, having Raya on the hard while we lived at the villa, was perfect timing and having the use of the car meant we could easily get back and forth and top up with provision. Penny and Stephen dropped us back on their way to the airport with just one day to cope with living on the hard. Yesterday a very shiny Raya was put back into the water.

Without a doubt one of the highlights of this cruising life is the people, not just the locals we meet all around the world or the pleasure of being able to get together with family and old friends in exotic places but also the comradery of our new cruising family.

In the bay next to Clark’s Court were our friends on Britican, Britican is also an Oyster 56 and we sailed across the Atlantic together. While we have been on the other side of the World they have explored the waters of the US and the Caribbean, we have stayed in contact, following each other on Facebook and via our blogs. It was great to catch up with them again in real life and we enjoyed a delicious Caribbean lunch swapping stories and comparing Oyster notes.

Revived from our spell on dry land and with more friends flying out to St Lucia next Saturday, we have a week to enjoy some quiet time and slowly sail the 120nm north to pick them up.

All the Way Round

Thursday 7th March 2019

We are circumnavigators, on Tuesday morning we sailed into Port Louis Marina on the Caribbean Island of Grenada, where 3 years and 45days ago we had set sail for the Panama Canal and the Pacific. We have been swamped by messages of congratulations and have been toasted with champagne but I’m not sure our achievement has really sunk in.

We are being very kindly treated to a week in a luxurious villa, with Jonathan our sail mate, his wife and my sister and husband. Slowly we are unwinding but the last few months of continuous sailing have taken its toll and we feel pretty tired.

The pool at our lovely villa in Grenada

The second half of the passage from Ascension was much windier than the first half. Having cleared the squalls the sea calmed down and for a day or two we enjoyed perfect trade wind sailing. With the sea flatter Jonathan put the rods out and we finally had some fishing success catching a small tuna and a few days later a Mahi Mahi.

Successful fishing day

The days rolled by, sleep, watch, eat, read, eat, sleep, crossword, eat sleep, watch……. We sailed on in our ever changing disc of blue, some days calm others a mess of conflicting waves, the oceans colour varying with the sky from deep ink blue to somber grey. The moon gradually reduced to a slither that rose later and later each night and as the nights grew darker we were treated to skies of a trillion stars.

We were mostly completely alone, the occasional brown booby flew close catching the flying fish we disturbed with our wake and a few AIS targets passed by on the chart plotter but too distant to appear on our horizon. So it was rather a shock when, with our waining vigilance, we spotted a fishing boat less than half a mile away. It had no AIS, in fact, covered in rust, it’s waterline thick with algae, for a moment we thought it may be abandoned but no, tossing wildly in the waves it’s crew valiantly fished on.

Ever since the equator we had been sailing through increasingly large patches of free floating, bright orange Sargassum seaweed. With no engine running it wasn’t a problem for the propellor, but we sat aghast trying to imagine how many acres of ocean it must cover, hoping that it was at least using up lots of carbon dioxide to help the atmosphere.

Masses of Sargassum seaweed covered the ocean

We were sailing fast which meant our eta had us arriving the morning before the arrival of our welcoming committee, who were flying in from the UK Tuesday afternoon. But after 15 days the thought of slowing up and spending an extra night at sea didn’t appeal to us, we pushed on. Until suddenly, and against every chart and source of information we had for this area of water, we encountered a negative current and for 36hrs we stared depressingly as our speed over the ground struggling to reach 7kts. Thankfully about 200nm from Grenada the current firstly went neutral and then positive, at times we screamed along at 10 knots towards the finish line.

The traffic had increased also, not only more fishing boats, with and without AIS but tankers and cargo boats, plying their way between the Americas and Africa or the Far East. The radio sparked into life with a large drilling platform calling up to ask us to leave them a minimum perimeter of two miles as we passed. On our final night we had to call up two cargo boats to ensure they were aware of our presence and as always they were happy to change course to give us plenty of space.

Tuesday morning we arrived off the SE corner of Grenada, land ahoy was excitedly written into the log. But we weren’t quite there yet, blackening skies and high winds built as we approached the island, overfalls tossed us about and we had to slow to let the rain pass so we could prepare the boat for docking. Then we faced the challenge of the complicated mooring system at Port Louis Marina, it was with a sigh of relief we secured the final line.

The ‘got here beer’ tasted good but not as good as the Champagne we shared with our friends that evening. We’d made it, we’d sailed all the way round.

Got here beer Grenada

Bonaire Bound

Wednesday 20th Jan
Jonathan and Sheridan flew out Saturday, they are sailing with us to Panama and through the canal with a few stops en route. After a morning provisioning and lunch at the beach we readied the boat to leave. Midmorning Monday we said a fond farewell to Grenada to sail westward. It is often hard to find a moment to look up from coiling the lines, stowing the fenders and checking the charts as we leave a marina or anchorage but I always try to make sure I say a quiet goodbye to places as we sail away.

For the first few hours the winds were light and directly behind us, add to that rather lumpy seas that rolled the boat and flogged the sails, it wasn’t comfortable. The 410 nm to our next destination, Bonaire, seemed like a long way away. Within a few hours however the sea settled, the wind increased and backed slightly to the north and a strong westward current appeared. For the next 48hrs that’s pretty much how it stayed. We were running a downwind rig with the genoa poled out to windward, the boom on the other side as far forward as the shrouds would allow and the stay sail pulled tight in the centre. With the favourable current we have been flying along often at over 8kts with the promise of arriving in Bonaire with an hour or two of daylight remaining. Today unfortunately the wind has dropped and is back in the east, so to keep us on schedule the engine is on.

But it has been a pleasant sail, conditions have been relatively benign, with little rain, sparkling sea and moonlit nights. The watch system has worked well and with Jonathan, an experienced sailor, onboard, Rick has got much more sleep than normal. We have been entertained by shoals of flying fish and flocks of fishing birds. We saw again the elusive green flash as the sun dipped below a crisp horizon and at night we have whiled away the hours identifying the stars using a clever star guide app on my iPad.

It is amazing how far the flying fish can fly, a few feet above the waves they swoop and glide, looking much like a swarm of giant dragon flies. For some reason at night they fly much higher, sometimes high enough to strand themselves on our decks, as Sheridan can attest to. During her early morning watch she was startled as one flew straight into the cockpit and hit her on the head!

We are sailing less than a hundred miles from the Venezuelan mainland so we have had plenty of bird life around the boat as well. Our favourites were the masked Boobies, largish white birds with black around their faces, on their tails and under their wings. They dive spectacularly, vertically straight down, to catch small fish which they eat on the surface before taking off and diving again.

Not too much luck however with the fishing this trip, there was the ‘one that got away’, a 3ft Dorado that escaped as Rick attempted to haul him onboard and a Spanish mackerel too small to bother with, otherwise the rods have been quiet. We have noticed one odd thing, all our catches on the boat so far have been with the starboard rod, whichever lure is put on the port side nothing happens?

Landing the ‘fish that got away’

Friday 22nd January 

Bonaire is the B of the ABC islands, three islands that lie north of Venezuela and are part of the Netherlands Antilles. The coast off Bonaire is very deep and the water crystal clear, the National Park to the north is home to the rare yellow shouldered parrot and many of the beaches are turtle nesting sites. The authorities are making a big effort to preserve this pristine environment, imposing strict rules, there is no anchoring anywhere around the Island, large sections of beach are off limits and to dive or even snorkel you need a permit. Yachtsmen are asked to dispose of their rubbish correctly, use their black tanks at all times and be careful not to allow anything to end up overboard. A couple times a year the local population don thier scuba gear and take to the harbour to clean the sea bed.

We approached around the south of the island past the salt lakes, used still, to provide salt for export. We pass three coloured obelisks along the shoreline, spaced about half a mile apart, that years ago were used to indicate the location of varying grades of salt available to the ships arriving to take salt around the world.

The main island is kidney shaped with a small island lying to the west, providing a well protected natural harbour at its centre. We sail in as the sun sits low in the sky and pick up a mooring bouy off the main town. Kralendrjk is an interesting place, which we are finding as hard to describe as to pronounce. It stretches long and thin along the sea front, the buildings architecturally unremarkable but solid and colourful with their orange roofs and yellow and blue walls. The traffic moves along the streets at a snails pace and the locals, a mix of Caribbean, Dutch and American, are happy and helpful, there is a definite feeling of a place stuck, pleasantly, in the past.

After checking in at customs and immigration and wandering around, we pop into one of the numerous dive centres to buy our snorkel permits and get the low down on the best spots to visit. The island of Kliene Bonaire, an easy dingy ride away, is one of the spots recommended, so we collected our stuff and motor across. 

A wet crossing in a very full dingy

As we approach, the white sand and turquoise sea is breathtaking and when we put our heads underwater the clarity of the water is amazing. We are surrounded by hundreds of fish, of dozens of species, large dazzling Parrot Fish, inquisitive Sargent Major’s and large silver Bermudan Chub, yellow and blue Scrawled Filefish, two foot long Trumpetfish and tiny iridescent blue Angel Fish. The corals seem to sparkle in the sunlight. Bonaire, our guide book tells us, is one of the top three of the Worlds scuba diving areas, we were sceptical, could it really compete with the Maldives or the Red Sea, after our first rate snorkel we decide to stay another day and take a dive trip to investigate.

  

About 30m off the beach a change in colour from turquoise to dark blue marks where the sea bed drops away to hundreds of meters deep, creating what’s termed in scuba speak as a wall. These walls are brilliant to dive as they are covered in coral and fish and importantly to us, without a guide, you can’t get lost. The coral was extremely petty, hundreds of different varieties of hard and soft corals, the branches swaying in the current. The small fish weave in and out and the larger ones patrol up and down the sides. A shoal of bright blue Chromis rush past us, we peer warily into the never ending blue to see what might be chasing them. After 40mins we come to the top feeling exhilarated, but top three, well perhaps at other spots on the island.

Jonathan and I diving the wall

Calm, Colourful Days

Sitting on deck we watch a deep red sun set dramatically beneath the horizon and as the resulting flaming sky fades it reveals the smallest slither of a moon, that following the suns path, sets itself a few hours later. The last couple of days have been good days, I can’t remember the last time we have really relaxed and soaked up our life afloat. The weather has improved, we have calm, blue seas, blue skies and a soft cooling breeze. Caribbean weather at last.

At anchor in True Blue Bay

We left the marina still with grey skies, more squally showers and battled against a strong head wind around the bottom of Grenada and into Clark Court Bay. The entry to the bay was through a pass in the coral but the charts were accurate and the channel buoys in place so the lack of sun to show up the depth of water wasn’t a problem. Once inside it opened up to a large, deep and protected harbour and with surprisingly few boats inside we found a quiet space to anchor. I don’t know whether it was coming from the noise of the town surrounding the marina but it seemed incredibly quiet, the wind dropped and we relaxed.

We had been drawn to this spot by the promise of sausages. On the opposite side of the bay was Whisper Cove and a small marina, the guide book told us of a butcher that sells good quality local meat and home made sausages, looking out at the jungly green hills surrounding the bay this seemed unlikely but we took the dingy across to explore. We entered behind the few boats moored at the pontoon and hemmed in by mangroves it was shady and a little spooky. As we tied up to a neat and tidy dock we realised that the undergrowth was in fact managed, a pretty tropical garden. We climbed the hill to a veranda and an extremely welcoming restaurant, “Steak, Chips and a Beer for £8” said the blackboard, it tasted as good as it sounded. And sure enough through a door at the back of the restaurant was the butchers, having sampled the produce we stocked up with sausages and enough meat to get us to Panama and headed back to the boat.

Our next stop was a few bays down, we sailed past the crowds in Prickly Bay, around a small headland into the near deserted True Blue Bay. On shore The True Blue resort is a muddle of dark pink, blue and orange buildings nestled in the undergrowth. It has an equally colourful waterside restaurant the Dodgy Dock. 

I wonder why it’s called the Dodgy Dock Restaurant?

The bay lived up to its name, with the improved weather the sea is true blue. We haven’t done much, Rick filled some dents in the swim deck, I scrubbed around the waterline of the hull, we have read, explored in the dingy and foraged ashore for Internet. This we have found in the restaurants, so each day we have logged in and lunched.

After a day alone, we were joined in the bay by first one, then two other Oysters. One of the things we are really enjoying is meeting so many new people. It is rare in life to meet and make so many new friends but everyone has so much in common with each other that friendship within the cruising world is easy. 

Over the last week we have enjoyed a glass of gin or two with a couple from Tasmania, Bill and Naomi who are cruising the Carribean before sailing back to Hobart. A young couple, Charles and Zoe, with a beautiful, 1984, 37ft Oyster who like us have upped and left to sail around the world. Finally a lovely family from Cork, we first met during the ARC, on thier Oyster 53 Crackerjack, Sully, Joey and the kids, who are enjoying the Caribbean for a few months. 

People are extremely generous with their knowledge and time, happy to help each other out, freely swapping experience, information and discoveries. We discuss past adventures, future plans and the continual lists of maintainance to complete.They tend to be brief encounters but there is a real sense of community and with trackers, blogs and social media we can all follow each others progress and no doubt will bump into many of them again elsewhere in he world.

Holed up in Grenada

Before we left experienced cruiser told us that sailing around the world was just carrying out boat maintenance in exotic places. And so it is we find ourselves in Grenada, an island of wooded mountains, white sandy beaches, reggae, spices and rum, tied up to the dock of Port Louis marina, a marina much like any other, with spanner and cloth in hand and little or no time to explore. We are very aware that not only are the places we are about to visit even more exotic they are also more remote, so we are working hard here, in relative civilisation, to get the boat in as good a condition as possible. Doing anything is hard work in this heat, everything taking more time than normal, our clothes are soaked with sweat. We have to stop frequently to try and cool off and however much water, tea or beer we drink, it’s hard not to get dehydrated and tired, never the less, we are pleased with what we have achieved.

Rick has managed to fix the wiring problem on the “up” mechanism on the anchor and with help of the rigging company here, Turbulence and Harry back in Southampton the main sail furler is also fixed. He has been through all 26 of the through hull fittings that are below the water line and checked they are in good condition, repaired a leaky lid to the watermaker oil reservoir, got the boom lights, that have never really worked, working and almost sorted a problem with the gas supply to the cooker. 

Repairing the furler

Raya has been scrubbed and polished  inside and out and the provisions left over from the Atlantic crossing have been sorted and re-catalogued. Spares have been ordered and the charts for the next passage to Panama have replaced the windward Islands on the table.

While we have decent internet I have been battling with all the paperwork required for our transit of the Panama Canal and our visit to Galapagos. This has required dozens of emails to the agents that we have had to engage to help with this process and numerous forms, copies of passports and crew lists have been sent. 

Luckily the marina is very well placed with most of our requirements within a dingy ride. The chandlers, a supermarket, even the main town of St George’s all have dingy docks. St George’s, the small capital is surrounded by steep hills that run right down to the protected harbour. The waterfront is lined with rather incongruous Georgian style buildings, a legacy of times when the harbour was busy with Clipper yachts exporting spices particularly nutmeg to Europe, now the Clippers mostly carry tourists.

Yesterday feeling that we deserved a break we took a cab to a beach restaurant that had been recommended as one of the best on the island – The Aquarium. It lived up to its reputation, the location was picture perfect with tables right on a stunning beach, we played in the waves, ate lunch under the palm trees and drank too much rum. 

The beach at the Aquarium Restaurant

Today it was back to work but we had some help. One of the poles that support the Bimini had taken a bash during the Atlantic crossing and was proving hard to fix. We seem to be making a habit out of bumping into people even though we are half way around the world and bizarrely Rick’s brother and wife, who are on a proper cruise arrived into Grenada for the day today and with thier friends Bob and Yvonne, popped over to see us. Between the three boys they applied their combined engineering knowledge and a couple of hours and plenty of tea later we had a workable Bimini pole. 

Most of the jobs done, tomorrow we plan to leave the marina for a few days and anchor ina quiet  bay somewhere and catch our breath ready for the next leg of the journey.

Visitors, Tony, Brenda, Bob and Yvonne

Happy New Year

Well here we are at the dawn of 2016, time marches on relentlessly. We have achieved so much in 2015 but this new life is a continuous succession of challenges. This year we set off into the Pacific and waters unknown. Rick points out that when we swapped our house for a boat, as we set off from Southampton for Plymouth, did our first night sail, spent time at anchor, crossed our first ocean, it was all unknown and this is just another step. However as we waved goodbye to Rachael, Matt and Robyn for a moment our links to home and our comfort zone seemed stretched thin.

Rachael and Matt re-enacting Pirates of the Caribbean where it was filmed on Petit Tabac

Boxing Day brought yet another day of squalls, we were headed for the reef studded bay at Clifton on Union Island, with the hope of being able to snorkel straight off the boat. But with the weather being so stormy and the reefs so close we decided we should stay for as short a time as possible. 

We did have to go ashore however, as Union Island is the most southey island of the Grenidines to have customs and immigration and before we could enter Grenada we had to check out. This is one of the downsides of island hoping in the Caribbean, each island or group of islands is a new country and requires you to fill out a huge form in quintuplicate or whatever five copies is, on entering and again when you leave. This process takes place in a variety of drab offices, manned by stern and bored custom officers. You are advised to treat these formalities with due respect and to be smartly dressed, not so easy when you have arrived by dingy, are soaking wet and are  protectively clutching all your precious documentation. You are often required to queue at three different offices that each take money from you for various unknown reasons and to get your five forms stamped, they do this with such relish you wonder how long thier rickety desks will last.

Paperwork all correctly completed we stopped for a beer, Union Island was quite different from the islands we had visited so far. Between the small town of Clifton and customs at the airport, a five minute stroll, was a goat farm. The town was sleepy and friendly, the locals proudly announced it was the Caribbean of the 1960’s. We would have liked to stay but the straining of the anchor against yet another squall persuaded us otherwise and we sailed on to the Island of Caraicou, part of Grenada and another customs office.

Papers again stamped we settled at anchor in Tyrel Bay where we spent a pleasant couple of days dodging the rain showers and relaxing. There was a nice beach, yet another good beach bar and a mangrove swamp to explore in the dingy. The visibility for snorkelling hasn’t been brilliant but we did have a final swim at the marine park just north of us here in St Georges on Grenada. Statues have been placed on the sea bed and make for an interesting sight amongst the fish and the coral.

  

We are now moored up in the very plush – great showers and Internet cabled to the dock, Port Louis Marina, St George’s where except for a few days to explore we are based until Jonathan and Sheridan arrive and we head to Panama. Tonight there is a big New Years Eve party, at lunch time we sat and listened to the band setting up, they were brilliant so we have bought some tickets, have put on our dancing shoes and are heading across to join in. Here’s hoping our ears can take it. Happy New Year.

Christmas in the Cays.

Early on Christmas Eve we left Bequia with a succession of squalls battering us. The squalls first appear on the horizon as forbidding dark clouds and as they carry high winds and torrential rain when spotted we leap into action, reefing the sails, clearing the decks and then if possible hiding below. The rain reduces visibility to almost nothing and the winds rattle through the rigging. The high winds, in or out of the squalls are common at this time of year, locally called the Christmas Winds, we have been trying to concentrate on the Christmas rather than the Winds. Alas, the winds and squalls have continued, at times it’s a bit like we are holidaying in Devon, all huddled below reading, writing or playing scrabble. Of course it is still hot and when the sun comes out to play our surroundings are magnificent.

We arrived in the Tobago Cays at midday and Christmas really started when Rachael produced, Mary Poppins like, a five foot tree from her bag, Matt and Robyn brought baubles, Rick and I provided some fairy lights, which Matt strung around the cockpit and we played Chrismas songs on the stereo. The boat was transformed within minutes. 
  

 

Christmas Day started as normal with scrabbled eggs and smoked salmon for breakfast, followed by present opening, at eleven our neighbors came over for a glass of champagne, we ate a large lunch and took a little exercise. However, it was very much a Chrismas with a difference, our few presents were constricted by luggage restrictions, the neighbours came over by dingy from their Oyster yachts and the champagne was the bottle we had won from the ARC. The excercise consisted of snorkelling with turtles and strolling with iguanas and our lunch was of huge BBQ lobsters that we ate at the beach.

    

 

When the sun comes out the Tobago Cays are a mass of amazing colours, the small islands, as we have witnessed, get plenty of rain and are a rich green, the coral reefs from above the water are a pale brown and the sea a kaleidoscope of turquoise and blues. 

  
  
The area is a national park and the snorkelling although challenging in these windy conditions rewarded us with lots of fish and much to our delight a turtle. The islands are uninhabited by humans but home to large, 3ft nose to tail, iguanas, which, use to the tourists stroll past you nonchalantly.
   

  
It was difficult to feel too Christmassy with the sun beating down and sand between our toes, we pinch ourselves to realise not just that we are here but that we sailed here, all the way from Southampton.

Blowy Bequia 

We are anchored off the small Island of Bequia in the Grenadines, half way accross the world but we are continually bumping in to people we know. Half the crews of the ARC seem to be here and in a villa on the other side of the island are our old friends Laurie and Ian enjoying a Christmas break with friends and family.

Talk about a room with a view, their villa, perched high in the hills, looks out to the Atlantic Ocean. We joined them for the evening yesterday, not only did they serve us a fantastic fish curry, they gave us a few hours on firm ground to relax.

   

The high winds came as forecast and Monday night there was pandemonium as gale force gusts screamed across the bay. Anchors and even moorings were dragging, we spent all night watching out for problems, our anchor held firm but the catamaran in front of us was not so lucky. Rick spent a few tense hours on deck as they, fast asleep, slowly but inexorably drifted in our direction. Eventually he managed to wake them, flashing a high powered torch through their hatches and they turned their engine on with only 3m to spare. As we chatted with others the next morning nobody had had much sleep and all had there own tale of near misses to tell. Thankfully today – Wednseday – the winds have finally eased but the bay is still quite rolly.

The dingy has been a feature of our stay here, it is our only means of getting from the boat to shore. Riding into the high winds, especially with all five of us onboard has been very wet, protecting the paper wrapped baguettes an impossibility. However, it is vital and tying it securely to the boat imperative but today it has “escaped” twice, we are lucky to still have it! The first time Matt dived in to get it back, the second time a passing water taxi rescued it for us, I think there needs to be some serious knotting lessons for the crew tomorrow.

Despite the rather lively anchorage, we like Bequia it has a small town feel to it, everybody is very friendly and it lacks that feeling of intimidation we felt in St Lucia and St Vincent. As we wandered around the few streets that make up the main town, buying bits and pieces for our Christmas celebrations, there was a happy mix of boaties, tourists and locals. The interior is made up of lush, tree covered hills and the coast is rugged. Where we are in Admiralty Bay, there are two great beaches, one of which has a fun restaurant/bar, there are plenty of jetties for dingies  and good snorkelling.

Rachael, Matt and I swam around the small, rocky headland that devides the two beaches and saw a good variety of fish, including a small, black and white moray eel that was swimming in the open instead, as is normal, hiding amongst the crevices of the rocks and a shoal of Caribbean Reef Squid that look much like cuttle fish, rather strange creatures but fascinating to watch. Rach and Matt also went for a dive on a reef further out where they saw many more and much bigger fish.

We plan to leave early in the morning tomorrow and sail to Tobago Cays, a few low islands and a horse shoe reef with stunning turquoise seas, where better to spend Christmas Day.

Laurie, Ian and the boys join us for a beer in Admiralty Bay , Bequia

Goodbye to ARC World

Yesterday we left Rodney Bay and ARC World with a mixture of emotions. Excited to be getting on with the next part of the journey, sailing through the Grenadines with the Kids over Christmas, sadness at saying goodbye to our ARC family – all the friends we have met over the past couple of months and slight trepidation at emerging back out into the real world from the ARC’s protective bubble.

Rodney Bay from the top of the mast

The final night in St Lucia was prize giving night. The World Cruising Club, organisers of the ARC, do a great job at including everybody in the prizes and everybody enjoyed the evening. We are still surprised at how well we did to win cruising class C and were especially pleased to win the a Oyster cup for the first placed Oyster in all the cruising classes, particularly as it was accompanied by a magnum of Moët.

We cast off from the dock at eight thirty for the fifty four mile trip to Walilabou bay on the Island of St Vincent. It’s funny how your perspective changes, a few months ago a 54nm trip would have seemed a long way but now it seemed like a quick hop. It was quite quick, we were anchored by four thirty, but it was also a rough trip, the channel between the bottom of St Lucia and the top of St Vincent was horrible – 3 metre swell on the beam, overlaid with messy waves and 40kts of wind. 

We arrived into a beautiful bay with a sigh of relief, unfortunately this was short lived, having crossed an Ocean with hardly a breakage, we arrived in St Vincent to discover the mainsail wouldn’t furl and the up button on the anchor wasn’t working. Tired from the difficult crossing this was the last thing we needed, but finally with the sail furled away by hand, the anchor set at the bows and the stern attached by rope to a tree, we dinged ashore for dinner. We would face these problems tomorrow.

Walilabou bay was used for the filming of the Pirates of the Caribbean and the ramshackle restaurant was full of props, including a dozen coffins, a huge water wheel and a model of Captain Jack Sparrow  clinging onto the top of a mast, as seen at the start of the first movie. The food to our tied and hungry tummies tasted excellent despite our rather alternative surroundings.

We woke to a freshening breeze and we felt uneasy about the position of the boat, it sat awkwardly between the anchor and the stern line, the rocks seemed uncomfortably close. The forecast was for the winds to increase so we decided to make a break for it and sail to our next stop, Bequia, a day early. This, of course, first entailed raising 1/2 ton of anchor and anchor chain by hand, well done Rick, Matt, Rachael and Thomas the boat boy. St Vincent we’ll have to visit you properly next time around.

Reflections on an Island

We have left ARC World, in Rodney Bay, for a few days to take Roz B, who flew out to greet us, for a couple of days sailing. It feels great to have escaped the heat and intense activity of the Marina and fantastic to finally be swimming in the warm Carribbean sea but we sit in a place of contrast. 

Anse Chastanet is a beautiful bay surrounded by steep wooded cliffs that drop right down to th sea. In the foreground is a pretty resort that sits nestled in the vegetation and where we had a very nice lunch yesterday. The background is dominated by Petit Piton – the pitons are the symbol of St Lucia, volcanic conical peaks that create a very dramatic landscape. The sunlight twinkles off a green sea reflecting the trees that enclose it, we are tied to a mooring bouy with just two other boats, it should be extremely tranquil.

    

Unfortunately our relaxation is tempered, there is a small swell that is rocking the boat just a little too much and we have been plagued by a swarm of tiny flies that has found us and our food. 

The real tension however comes from the boat boys that aggressively insisted on helping us pick up a mooring, demanding money for their service. They have been followed by others that continually buzz past us in a selection of rickety craft showing more interest in our boat than feels comfortable. Last week we were visited by the General Manager at Rodney Bay Marina, the day before Eric, Roz and I had dragged one of the security guards from the water, he was completely out of it, not having a clue where he was or what was happening, had we not been passing when he wandered oblivious off the end of the pontoon I’m not sure he would be with us now. I felt obliged to report the incident not just for the security of the boats he is meant to be protecting but for his own safety. So it was that the English marina head came onboard for a cup of tea and we discussed amongst other things the perception of crime on St Lucia that is damaging the tourist trade. Sitting in this lovely bay, although nothing untoward has happened, that perception is unfortunately being re-enforced. 

For the first few days after our arrival, life past in a daze of exhaustion and  excitement. We revelled in our achievements and the congratulations of others, as all our fellow competitors, sorry participants, began to arrive and the emails and messages from home flooded in. Our smugness only increased, when wandering the dock we discovered Pixel, the boat and that had pushed us the most, was a full on, open cockpit racing boat, with eleven professional crew hot bunking and surviving on a minuscule ration of water to save weight. Bonkers!

In quiet moments we reflect on the crossing, we all agreed the ‘racing’ had added to the fun, but overall that the whole experience had been more straightforward than expected. It seems we had very few breakages or problems compared to most and that most boats had used much more complicated routing than ourselves. Our success seems to be down somewhat to our ignorance, a lot to our meticulous preparation but mostly to the brilliant boat we have in Raya.