Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: March 2016

Why We Love/Hate Marina Life

We’ve been in Jolly Harbour marina for over a week now, completing odd jobs and waiting for Nick’s parents to arrive. After spending the last month at anchor, it’s given us ample opportunity to compare the two and I’ve come to the conclusion that I definitely have a love/hate relationship with marina life.

Why I love being in a marina:

  1. Electricity! Sweet, unlimited electricity, oh how I love you. This means as many episodes of True Blood per night as we like, I can use the bread machine every day if I want to, and we don’t have to run the engine whenever it becomes cloudy or there’s a drop in wind. Don’t get me wrong, I love that when we’re at anchor, we mainly live off renewable energy, but I also love being able to charge the laptop or have a movie marathon whenever I feel like it.
  2. Hot water! Oh yes, no matter how fully charged our batteries are at anchor, hot water only comes from one place: out of the kettle. At least it keeps our showers quick…
  3. Daily showers! No longer do I have to clean myself with scented wipes in an effort to conserve water! Okay, we have a watermaker, but it only produces 15 litres per hour, which really isn’t very much, and because it uses so much power we usually need to run the engine at the same time. No longer a problem in a marina! Just fill those water tanks right up from the tap!
  4. Internet. This is a double edged sword. It’s awesome to have relatively fast marina internet on board and we finally got around to booking all those flights we’ve been putting off because the internet’s always too slow to reliably load a page. But it also means that we end up positively binging on internet and hours can go by with us glued to our tablets. Photos and videos are actually loading on Instagram now! I can click a link on Facebook and not have to worry about spending 5 minutes of my time watching the page load only to find out that the article is rubbish and boring. It’s a heady sensation, having access to fast internet. And not always a good thing…
  5. A calm, still boat. Oh, it’s so nice to be able to walk down the companionway without having to suddenly grab the handrails because a ferry has just gone past making the boat tip and lurch, or spend a night swaying from side to side in bed because of annoying swell. I can even do yoga on board without constantly falling over! What luxury!

It’s not all perfect, though.

Why I hate living in a marina:

  1. The noise. Okay, sometimes anchorages are noisy too, but normally we’re far enough away from the action that a couple of earplugs successfully drowns out any music and we can still get a good night’s sleep. Here, the marina bars put on bands several times a week and there’s just no escaping the noise no matter how hard you squish those earplugs in. At least they stop playing at 11pm, but even that’s 2 hours past my usual bed time (hey, we do get up at 6am most mornings!).
  2. Hull slap. Yes, the marina is generally calmer than being at anchor- but when those high winds set in from a weird direction, suddenly the surface of the water is jumping around all over the place, creating a maddening slap against the hull. I was actually driven to the sofa in the saloon one night, where I slept until morning (the forecabin was full of sails and laundry, which I just didn’t have the energy to clean out at 2am).
  3. Lack of sea breeze. Actually, we’ve not been to bad the last week, although the first few nights here were still and muggy. Now the breeze is up, it comes straight into the cockpit and down the companionway into the boat. However, you never get as much breeze as you do at anchor, and keeping the boat cool (ish) can be a challenge.
  4. No personal space. Gone are the days where Nick can run around in the cockpit in naught but a sarong. He tried it the other day and apparently got some weird looks. I can’t even sit in the cockpit in my pyjamas anymore: too many people walking past. Our washboard is never in place when we’re on board, so any random passer-by can see straight into our saloon. Even going to the loo at night time, when the lights are on but the blinds are up, you’re taking a bit of a risk that your neighbours aren’t looking out of their windows just at the same time you’re baring your tush.
  5. No view. When we’re at anchor, I spend all day in the cockpit. Sometimes we have a view of a beach. Sometimes it’s mountains, or the ocean, or a township. Sometimes it’s all of the above. I love the peace and serenity that comes with getting up and enjoying a morning coffee with the sunrise as a beautiful anchorage slowly comes to life. In a marina, your only view is the cockpit of the boat opposite.

That all being said, we like Jolly Harbour very much. It’s not quite as polished as Rodney Bay in St Lucia, and it’s not as characterful as English and Falmouth Harbours on the south coast of Antigua. But we’ve decided that it’s the perfect place to leave the boat for hurricane season, and as a result we’re all booked in to be hauled out the first week of June. Our original plan was to continue north up to the east coast of the USA, but we’ve realised that we really don’t want to rush and miss out on half the places along the way. What’s the point? We’re not in a rush!

Sociable Cruising in Antigua

Our beloved cruising guide says of Antigua that “It can be harder to survive the English Harbour social scene than the offshore reefs,” which I read a week ago with an audible snort. In order to enjoy some kind of social life, you need to have actual friends, or so I vaguely remember from the good old days when I lived in London. Nick and I do enjoy a night out (well, as long as we’re in bed by 9pm… I’m only half kidding), but the thing about this cruising lifestyle is that you’re moving around all the time and it’s very easy to not have contact with any other sailors. However, our past week cruising in Antigua has probably seen us with more social commitments than any other point since our impromptu ARC reunion in Bequia all those weeks ago.

Falmouth and English Harbours. Not bad...!

Falmouth and English Harbours. Not bad…!

We arrived after an unpleasant sail on the Friday, which I’ve already whinged about, so I’ll leave it at that. After clearing in and cleaning up we felt absolutely knackered, but we also had no food on board (apart from the omnipresent whole frozen chicken in our freezer baskets) so we summoned our remaining energy and headed to shore for an early dinner. The only place that looked open was a bar on the corner, so we sat down and I went up to order from the British owner, who informed me that they actually weren’t open yet. When I apologised automatically (I must have spent too long in the UK; why should I say sorry for assuming a bar is open when there’s music being played and signs out the front advertising their food and drinks?), she laughed and said don’t worry, they should have opened two hours ago! Then she reached over and plucked a joint from the fingers of another bloke sitting at the bar, took a content drag, and handed me a couple of beers.

The following day we went for a walk around Nelson’s Dockyard to perve at all the superyachts in English Harbour, then we wandered back to Falmouth Harbour to perve at all the superyachts there. We had a little mooch around the superyacht pontoons and stopped to drool over a 100 foot carbon fibre racing yacht. Someone was sitting in the cockpit, working on something, and Nick called out a greeting. This guy- an amicable Aussie- seemed more than happy to take a break to chat with us and answer our dumb questions, and in the course of a conversation with him he told us that the yacht in question held the record for the fastest 24 hours of 500 miles. Since then I’ve Googled this for ratification and it seems that the fastest 24 hour sail is actually 620 miles so maybe they held the old record. That would NOT be a comfy sail!

While we were at the dinghy dock and bumped into Anna and Alex from Pantalimon who we met doing the ARC and hadn’t seen since St Lucia. They invited us for drinks that night with another couple they had met at the dinghy dock (it’s quite the social hub, the dinghy dock!) and so, quite unusually, we had two nights out in a row.

Zipping around in our dinghy!

Zipping around in our dinghy!

The following day was a Sunday and apparently it’s an Antiguan institution to head up to Shirley Heights and enjoy the sunset and a steel band at their weekly ‘jump-up’. Anna and Alex suggested we walk, Google informed me it would take an hour which even Nick and I are reasonably capable of, and so it was agreed. However, when the time came for us to actually set off, they suggested that perhaps we ought to just get the ferry across English Harbour and then hike up the hill from there- save ourselves walking all the way around the two harbours. Phew!

So we got dropped off at the bottom of the trail and clambered our way to the top of the lookout. It was only half a mile, and had some stunning views over the harbour. The dry vegetation was in distinct contrast to the rainforests of the islands further south. Lots of cactuses and… okay so I don’t actually know the names of any of the plants, but there were definitely cactuses. Cacti?

Nick admiring the sunset amongst the cactus plants

Nick admiring the sunset amongst the cactus plants

We got to the top, absolutely dripping with sweat and gasping for a beer. The steel band was playing (I especially appreciated their rendition of Men at Work’s Down Under!) and hoards of sunburnt tourists in their ‘smart’ holiday clothes were milling around. We had a couple of beers, then escaped back to the trail and it’s many viewing spots for the actual sunset, then headed back to Falmouth Harbour for dinner. It really wasn’t our scene at all, unfortunately. After the jump ups in St Lucia, which were frequented by tourists but mainly a local affair, this felt very forced and touristy. We were glad to leave.

Great sunset though!

Great sunset though!

And it’s a good thing we did too, because having decided to eat in Falmouth Harbour, there were only a couple of places open, it being a Sunday night and all. Nick was gravitating towards a little hut on the side of the road that sold BBQ’d chicken, but thankfully Anna and Alex suggested Cap Horn, an restaurant that had actual table cloths, and I was quick to agree. Nick and I tend to steer clear of table cloths these days and I was keen for a treat.

What followed was one of the best meals we’ve had in the Caribbean. We all chose lobster, which was so big I couldn’t eat all mine (Nick helped, don’t worry- nothing went to waste!), and it was superb. I hope we get a chance to go back before leaving Antigua.

Look at this beauty!

Look at this beauty!

The following day, having seen pretty much all Falmouth and English Harbours had to offer we walked back over to Nelson’s Dockyard to pay our fees- yes we had to pay to anchor and Nick was not happy about it! But it gave us another chance to admire this fully restored Georgian dockyard which was built by the British Navy in the eighteenth century and named after Britain’s favourite maritime hero, Horatio Nelson. It’s like a little piece of Britain in the Caribbean, and quite bizarre for it. You could almost be somewhere in Devon!

Nelson's Dockyard

Nelson’s Dockyard

We then motor-sailed to Jolly Harbour where we will be based for the next few weeks. As we entered Morris Bay the water changed to the most incredible opaque turquoise colour. Our wonder was short-lived as we entered the channel to get to the marina- we called several times but kept being told to wait, wait, just a moment! We ended up circling around the marina entrance until someone came out in a rib to escort us into our berth. It was an interesting manoeuvre involving reversing down a very narrow channel, around a pile into our berth and then attaching bow lines to the pile on one side and our neighbour’s boat on the other, a spring on starboard side between our mid-cleat and the pile, and stern lines. Haven’t done that before!

Within minutes we were connected to shore power, had our water tanks all filled up, and were connected to the marina wifi which actually isn’t too bad. Oh, how we do appreciate a bit of marina life every now and again! Hot water! Nespresso coffee! Unlimited power! What luxury!

On the hammerhead of our pontoon was a familiar looking ARC yacht: Braveheart, a modern classic, all wood and carbon fibre, modelled after the J classes and about 100 foot long. It is absolutely beautiful, needless to say. Nick spotted someone on board and, shamelessly hoping for a tour, struck up a conversation. This does seem to be a habit of his, doesn’t it? An hour later we were sitting in Braveheart’s cockpit with the friendly skipper and his wife who live on board permanently (the owner is currently enjoying a perishing cold Norwegian winter… why?!) and the skipper of Pisces, a Contessa 32, another ARC boat. Talk revolved around sailing as usual and we had a lovely evening watching the sun go down from the cockpit of this immaculate classic yacht. Life is very strange sometimes!

We got our tour, and were very careful not to drool all over the expensive upholstery and glossy mahogany. Actually, what I envied more than anything was the AC on board! I’d almost forgotten what air-conditioning feels like!

We slouched back to our little Southerly 38 (aww, we still love you!) and had a couple of nights bumming around eating pizza and watching True Blood before chatting up our neighbours, an Aussie/Norwegian couple on sabbatical. We managed to score an invite for dinner and spent several happy hours munching on fresh tuna fish, drinking rum and playing some kind of scrabble-type game which I somehow managed to win (ahem, three times). Good old ‘Qi’. What does it even mean!?

Anyway, to continue our run of being the social butterflies we have suddenly turned in to, we’ve got our neighbours back tonight and Nick’s planning an extravaganza of pork, apples and plantain… just as soon as he recovers from his hangover.

 

 

 

More Upwind Sailing in the Caribbean

We really thought that sailing in the Caribbean would be easy. But we’ve had more upwind sailing over the past few months than we ever had in Europe! And, quite frankly, we’re a little sick of it.

We probably would have been quite happy whiling away another week or more in Les Saintes, it was so perfect, but all good things must come to an end and we had Guadeloupe to explore.

We made our way to Deshaies which is apparently where Death in Paradise is filmed. We spent many cold winter evenings watching this slightly lame detective show, mainly so we could fantasise about one day being in the Caribbean ourselves. However, when we arrived in Deshaies, it certainly didn’t resemble the island paradise depicted on the screen.

The view from the boat was very pretty- when it finally stopped raining!

The view from the boat was very pretty- when it finally stopped raining!

 

Deshaies is a little bit dilapidated and run down, but it’s got it’s positives: lots of bars and restaurants hanging over the water and it’s another french island which is a big plus already. However, we just weren’t feeling it. There weren’t many people around and there wasn’t a vibrant atmosphere despite the anchorage being full and cruise ships in the harbour.

Unfortunately the weather wasn’t brilliant- it was often cloudy and grey and we spent one long, boring day stuck on the boat because it was bucketing down all day long. At least we ended the day with a lovely clean boat again!

At least we got a lovely rainbow out of it!

Gorgeous!

We did make an effort to go and explore. We spent a pleasant morning in the botanic gardens up a nearby hill, which was steeper than it looked. We walked there and were absolutely drenched in sweat by the time we arrived. We also baulked at the €15 entry, but there was no way we were leaving after going to all the effort of getting here, so we paid up and spent a couple of hours wandering around and admiring the gardens. I’m not much of a garden person- I can’t even keep our basil plant alive- but it was very peaceful and beautiful being amongst so many colourful flowers and plants. We finished off the morning with an iced tea and some kind of local snack which was like fried pita bread (except way yummier) stuffed with sausages, ham and salad and enjoyed the view back to the harbour. We could just make out our little boat, which is always a reassuring sight. It hadn’t floated away yet!

Not a bad view! Our boat's down there somewhere...

Not a bad view! Our boat’s down there somewhere…

Botanic Garden

Botanic Garden

Ooh, pretty tree! Too bad that little kid photobombed my pic!

Ooh, pretty tree! Too bad that little kid photobombed my pic!

There was a beach just to the north of Deshaies that we wanted to check out, but there was no point in trekking down there when it was raining, so we gave it a miss- and, quite frankly, we’ve seen plenty of gorgeous beaches while we’ve been sailing the Caribbean this year. In an effort to find something positive about the anchorage, we jumped into the water for a snorkel by the rocks, but the visibility was really poor so abandoned that almost immediately.

It was time to go, it seemed. The forecast wasn’t particularly amazing, but we’d already lingered a day longer than planned due to strong north-easterly winds and rain, so we were keen to head off. Always a bad reason to leave a port! You’d think we would have learned by now, but apparently not. We woke up to wind howling through the anchorage, but our guide book said that Deshaies acts like a wind scoop and you often get very windy conditions in the anchorage which are far worse than what is actually going on outside. So we brought up the anchor and got the heck out of there.

It wasn’t the best decision we ever made, and we got a 6 hour kicking for it. There’s a saying, which is so true: you either get a comfortable sail or a fast sail. Well, we got a very fast sail and it was one of our least comfortable this season. The seas were lumpy and we had 20 knots in front of the beam for the whole journey. So much for the beam reach we’d been hoping for. I went downstairs for a lie down, but my stomach rebelled so back up to the cockpit I went. A couple of heavy downpours temporarily washed the salt off the boat, and Nick huddled under the sprayhood while I once again braved going downstairs while the rain lasted, coming back up as soon as it stopped. This is not what I imagined sailing in the Caribbean to be like!

I hardly ever feel sick when sailing, but today we were both looking a little green. I just stared at the miles ticking down, waiting for it all to be over. We hadn’t made anything to eat (another mistake- one day we’ll learn!) so made do with a stale baguette and a jar of peanut butter. No ham and salad sandwiches today!

We could see Antigua from about 20 miles out and on closer approach the difference between Guadeloupe and the islands south of it, and the landscape and topography in front of us became clear. Antigua is much lower and drier than any island we’ve visited so far, covered in low scrub rather than the lush greenery of most of the islands to the south. Les Saintes were similar, but Guadeloupe was mountainous and forested. It made for a pleasant change.

We motored into Falmouth Harbour, relieved to be out of the wind at last. We couldn’t believe how much room there was to anchor and felt very indecisive about exactly where to drop our hook- usually it’s just a matter of squeezing ourselves into whatever small space is available! So we went around in circles a couple of times before settling on a spot right in the middle of the harbour. The anchor held immediately- oh, happy days- and we could finally sit back and turn our attention to admiring the superyachts looming nearby. We were finally in Antigua, where we will remain until the end of the month.

Better Than Television

We’ve just spent an idyllic 5 days at anchor in the archipelago of Les Saintes, just south of Guadeloupe, and it was very close to perfect- however, we didn’t get off to the best start.

Quick pic of our anchorage to keep you interested!

Quick pic of our anchorage to keep you interested!

Our sail north from Dominica was only 18 miles, and quite frankly, we were glad to get in. This constant inter-island swell is getting on my nerves! It was also blowing about 20 knots, but did we have any reefs in? Of course not! So we were heeling over like crazy, holding on for dear life and lamenting that after that morning’s downpour which had left our boat happily salt-free, she was being subjected to regular waves crashing over her bow and coach roof- and yes, even occasionally into the cockpit. Nick and I got pretty good at dodging them- you get about a second’s warning, so if you’re already in a good position under the sprayhood, it’s enough time to duck behind it, if you’re paying attention. Like coiled springs, we were. Alas, we were unable to avoid a couple of particularly big waves, which left us both absolutely drenched from head to toe. We are at nature’s mercy, after all!

So we arrived in the little anchorage called Pain du Sucre. We made a beeline here because Eupraxia had been there for a couple of days and assured us it was borderline perfection. Well, it looked good as we rounded the headland, but we could see on our chart that it was pretty deep unless you were fairly close to shore. So that’s where we headed- it was a little crowded, but with our lifting keel, we’re usually able to nudge our way in. We lowered the anchor in a perfect spot off the beach, but it didn’t seem to be holding. Nick snorkelled on it and confirmed that our anchor was nestled between two rocks! Eek! It was too deep to snorkel on, so we crossed our fingers and toes and hoped it wasn’t snagged. We breathed a sigh of relief when it came up without a hitch, but then we had to re-anchor. We chose a spot further out, where it seemed to be less rocky, but then the anchor wouldn’t hold at all, we were slowly backing into the boat behind, who’s french owner also informed us that we were over his anchor. Fed up, we waved goodbye to Sandra, who was hanging out of her cockpit holding up coffee and cake for us and motored over to the main anchorage.

Les Saintes, from Fort Napoleon. Stunning, no? This is also the main anchoring area.

Les Saintes, from Fort Napoleon. Stunning, no? This is also the main anchoring area.

There are, according to the cruising guide, 80 mooring buoys here, and every one was taken. The designated anchorage (the french, I’ve realised, just love putting out strings of yellow buoys to mark no-anchor zones. Why!?) was far too deep for our 40 metres of chain and it was pretty unprotected. So back to the first place. Nick asked me what our plan was if we couldn’t anchor here. I offered an eloquent shrug. There was nowhere else, unless we were to continue to Guadeloupe. Uh, no thanks.

So, freshly determined, we picked a third spot, made sure we were over sand (oh, how we love a seabed of beautiful sand!) and lowered the anchor. This time it held. Nick snorkelled on it again and gave the thumbs up. Phew! Only problem was that we were a liiiiittle bit to close to a Norwegian catamaran, but frankly, there was no way I was moving. So I just put some fenders out and hoped for the best.

There's always some catamaran spoiling my shot!

There’s always some catamaran spoiling my shot!

That evening we went over to John and Sandra’s for dinner again (Nick taking over the cooking… again! Sandra is proving to be an excellent sous chef, she assures us!) and had a wonderful meal of pork and veggies washed down with some rosé wine. We were back in France after all!

The next day Nick and I jumped in the dinghy and made our way over to the main town, Bourg des Saintes. It was a bloody long dinghy ride and the wind was still causing enough chop for the occasional splash, but we were just congratulating ourselves on remaining largely dry when a inter-island ferry crossed our path and we were confronted with their wake. Nick yelled, “What do I do!” I yelled, “Slow down, slow down!” We both yelled, “ARGH!” as we got drenched yet again. Good thing it was a sunny day.

I have to say though, that we were suddenly very fond of our new outboard and it’s external fuel tank. We exchanged our little 3.5 horsepower engine in Rodney Bay a couple of weeks ago for a 6 horsepower one, complete with an external fuel tank (Nick was getting mightily sick of re-fueling every 5 minutes… literally). We’d talked about it for ages and, fortuitously, found a guy on a our pontoon who wanted a swap, so a deal was struck, and here we are!

So, Bourg des Saintes. Wow. What a fantastic place. We wandered around and all we could say was, “It’s just like Brittany! It’s literally just like Brittany!!” It really was. It’s quite bizarre to find a town in the Caribbean that so closely resembles a region of northern France, but it has very strong historical and cultural ties to Brittany (for reason’s I never found out), which explains the similarity.

A park in the middle of town, the town hall behind it.

A park in the middle of town, the town hall behind it.

Nick and I were completely charmed and celebrated by having lunch in the most ‘french’ restaurant we could find, called Au Bon Vivre. We splashed out and went for 3 courses, a glass of rosé and finished it off with coffee and rum, then managed to roll out the door, into the dinghy and somehow hauled ourselves onto our boat where we rested in a largely horizontal position for the remainder of the day.

Fort Napolean.

Fort Napolean.

The following day we repeated the dinghy ride in and hiked up to Fort Napoleon which is located up a hill with a commanding view over Les Saintes. The views were spectacular.

The next few days were taken up by doing all those boat chores that just don’t seem to go away no matter how much you ignore them: laundry, sanding and varnishing the interior woodwork, scraping and scrubbing the hull, as well as all the usual boring cleaning. We also managed to fit in a lot of snorkelling, mooching about on the internet (a nearby bar had wifi which we could get with our wifi bat), and laying around in the cockpit, which was actually highly entertaining.

Okay, so my underwater photography needs some work... I swear the snorkelling was much better than this pic lets on!

Okay, so my underwater photography needs some work… I swear the snorkelling was much better than this pic lets on!

Fed up with chasing the fish to photograph, I just turned to taking good old selfies.

Fed up with chasing the fish to photograph, I just turned to taking good old selfies.

Boats were coming and going every day, and Nick and I very much enjoyed watching other people on their boats, going about their day and speculating on their sailing ability, personal lives, and everything in between. We happily watched a Spanish couple have a prolonged screaming row on the boat next door, bitched about the loud Americans to our other side (sorry to any Americans reading this… but why are you so loud?), and reminded each other where we’d seen other yachts before (“Oh, hey, it’s the french couple who are always in the nude! Remember them from Martinique?”). And, of course, there were the never ending antics with anchoring. Let’s just say, I didn’t feel nearly so embarrassed by the end of the week about our three attempts. One day Nick and I were lying in our cockpit reading as I noticed suddenly that that catamaran next to us… I’m sure it was closer to the beach before! Nick was like, “Huh? Who? What?” But no, it was definitely dragging- we could see it slowly floating backwards before our eyes. It was only blowing about 12 knots. So Nick, bless him, got into the dinghy, whizzed over and raised the alarm. A french man emerged in his underpants, looked at Nick in some mystification as Nick explained politely that he was dragging and about to hit another boat (it’s owner stood by armed with a boathook), then comprehension dawned and he simply said, with a very french shrug, “Ah. Oui.” Then, in no rush whatsoever, turned on his engine and re-anchored elsewhere.

Another yacht dragged also (we let someone else save the day that time) and on a third occasion a yacht’s electric windlass failed and Nick and I had a grand old time watching two women from two separate neighbouring yachts (one of whom was singlehanded) instruct an older gentleman and his wife on how to overcome to problem as they stood in a dinghy, holding on to his bow.

You can just make out our anchorage in the top right corner of this shot.

You can just make out our anchorage in the top right corner of this shot.

The view to the east from Fort Napolean- check out that squall coming in!

The view to the east from Fort Napolean- check out that squall coming in!

Anyway, I’ve rambled on too much for one week. Perhaps I ought to blog more often!