Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Month: April 2016

10 Questions with Ruby Rose

There’s an awesome blog called Newly Salted who interview cruisers that have been underway for less than 2 years. Here’s our responses to “10 questions with Ruby Rose” about liveabord cruising. I hope this information might be useful or interesting to our readers and it’s a great way to round up our impressions of a year of cruising on Ruby Rose!

Me and Nick smiling into the camera- the sun is shining and the skies are blue!

This selfie was taken as we left Conyer almost one year ago- wow, Nick’s hair was so short!

  • What (if anything) do you wish someone had told you before you started cruising?
    Well, people did tell us but we didn’t listen- slow down! We looked at a chart and said, “Oh yeah, we can definitely cover that distance in a season, no problem!” But the reality is that after 6 months, we started to feel tired, frustrated and increasingly irritable with our schedule because we had set ourselves a timetable that was unrealistic. Well, perhaps it was realistic, but certainly not enjoyable. I wish I’d listened to people who told us that we shouldn’t rush, but it’s the type of thing you can only learn yourself!
  • As you started cruising, what transitions did you find the most difficult?
    We had undertaken two ‘shakedown’ cruises on Ruby Rose to France the previous two summers before our actual departure. Both sailing trips were about a month long, and although we were in holiday mode, it gave us a real insight into what living onboard would be like when we did it for real. We walso lived onboard for about 6 months before we actually left the UK, so the transition was a slow one and we didn’t find it difficult at all. The main luxuries we miss are regular hot water, air-conditioning and a front loading fridge!
  • What do you find the most exciting about your cruising life?
    Do I have to pick just one!? We love discovering and exploring new places, people and countries, and I suppose that’s the most exciting aspect of cruising. We also find the freedom we have exhilarating- to think we could simply point our bow in any direction and go wherever we like! We also love meeting new people and making new friends- that is one of the best things about cruising.
  • What do you dislike about cruising that surprised you?
    I asked Nick this question and he replied, “Sailing!” It’s true. We thought we’d have ‘champagne’ sailing as soon as we reached the tropics- we couldn’t have been more wrong! Sailing in the Caribbean isn’t always pleasant. In fact, it’s often quite unpleasant. We’ve whinged about this to plenty of people who have just looked at us like we’re a couple of aliens- or, more accurately, like we not ‘real’ sailors.  But we just don’t like 2 metre swell on the beam and beating into 20 knots- sorry! Yes, we’ve had some very quick sails between the islands. No, we haven’t enjoyed the majority of them.
  • Is there something you wish you had bought or installed before starting out?
    We had planned to only use renewable energy- wind generator and solar panels- but we also really love Nespresso coffee and watching DVD’s at night which takes up more power than our renewables produce. We weren’t realistic about what our energy requirements were, and we also didn’t want the expense of a generator set or a suitcase generator. Plus, we wanted to be green! But after a year onboard, we’ve decided to go ahead and buy a generator so that we never have to spend a windless, cloudy day without the convenience of our electronic devices ever again…
    We also wish we had bought a watermaker with a much higher output (ours produces 12 litres/hour)- at the moment we have to run it for several hours to top-up the tanks, and I’ve already mentioned our issues with power at anchor!
    One last thing. We bought a soft-bottomed dinghy with a 3hp outboard for this cruise, but we wish we had a RIB and a more powerful outboard. We’ll be upgrading as soon as we can!
  • Tell me your favourite thing about your boat.
    We adore our Southerly 38, Ruby Rose . Our favourite features are the big cockpit, the big aft cabin and the big saloon. Sensing a theme? Yes, she had a huge amount of living space for the length and other sailors who come onboard are always surprised at how spacious our boat is. We also love her lifting keel, as going aground is one less thing we need to worry about (we hope!) and it means we can get into shallow anchorages. We think our boat is beautiful, comfortable to live on and she is very seaworthy.
  • Tell me your least favourite thing about your boat.
    All that living space comes at a cost- we have very little storage space on Ruby Rose  or room for plant machinery. We’d love a bigger fuel tank, a bigger water tank, and a gen set. We also heartily dislike our top-loading fridge- any time we want something from the baskets down the bottom we have to empty the contents of the fridge completely in order to get to it! Needless to say, we try not to use the baskets if we can help it.
  • What are your plans now? If they do not include cruising, tell us why. 
    We will definitely continue cruising! We’re storing Ruby Rose  in Antigua for hurricane season which has the double benefit of reducing the risk of damage if a hurricane does come through (plus we’re insured if it’s on the hard and tied down) and gives us 6 months to visit our families, travel and enjoy the conveniences of being a ‘land lubber’ for a time. We’re already looking forward to next season where we will (probably) continue north and visit the BVI, Bahamas and then cruise the East Coast of the USA. After that, who knows- but we have no desire to go back to bricks and mortar permanently. If we can continue to fly home periodically, we will likely carry on cruising for many years to come.
  • Is there anywhere you sailed to that was a disappointment? 
    The Tobago Cays! I thought it would be like paradise- but it was so disappointing! It was like a carpark: there were so many boats at anchor, it was like a forest of masts all around us! The boat boys hassled us and yes, we saw turtles which was awesome, but we’ve snorkelled with turtles many times since. The anchorage was also completely open to the wind which was blowing upwards of 20 knots while we were there, so it was generally not particularly pleasant. We left after one night.
  • What are your impressions of the cruising community? 
    One of the best things about cruising on Ruby Rose is meeting such an interesting mix of people. We have met young couples who barely have enough money to eat- but are living their dream anyway!- and retirees who have recently left very lucrative jobs, have bought the multi-million dollar yacht, and expect everyone they come across to drop to their knees in bowing acquiescence. We’ve met families who are cruising with their children and homeschooling, cruisers who have been living in the Caribbean for 15 years, couples on a 6 month sabbatical, and everyone in between. Even though there’s a minority of the sailing community we try and avoid like the plague, in the most part everyone is friendly, interesting, and sociable. Generally sailors are extremely generous with their time and experience, and if you need help or a spare part or another set of hands, there’s always someone nearby willing to help.

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We Escaped!

Antigua classics, and much more….

Okay, so you know how in my last post I said how happy we are in the marina and how we’re just going to stay put for the moment? Well, that’s all very well and good, but then this weird weather system came through which basically meant there was absolutely no wind whatsoever- not even a little bit- and as a result life onboard in the marina became absolutely unbearable. It was muggy, still, hot and generally uncomfortable. We tried to go for a swim down the beach to cool down, and it was like wading into a warm bath. We decided it was time to go and spend a few nights at anchor.

Tina and Mark on Magic and Holly and Simon on Tudor Rose were already in Falmouth Harbour as it was the beginning of Antigua Classic Week so it didn’t take a huge amount of head scratching to decide where to go. We dropped our mooring lines after 5 weeks in the marina and motor-sailed down to Falmouth Harbour in wonderfully calm seas with a bright blue sky above us. It was a great feeling getting back on the water and not being bashed around by inter-island Atlantic swell.

Once tied up in Falmouth, Tina and Mark descended on us almost immediately with our itinerary for, like, the entire week. We’d only planned to stay one night, perhaps two, but we ended up hanging around until our food ran out a week later. There was an open mic night that evening at the yacht club, put on for Classics, and so Tina signed her and Nick up to do a couple of songs.

Nick and Tina at open mic night- before it all went wrong!

Nick and Tina at open mic night- before it all went wrong!

It was a great atmosphere and there was even a stage- a real stage!- for the performers. However, it was clear from the very first performance that there was going to be some sound issues. The first group to go on stage was a Cornish family who played some English folk music. They were fantastic, but only those who literally went right up to the stage could hear them! The sound was dodgy all evening, and although Nick and Tina’s first number was actually fine, by the time they got up on stage for the second time, you couldn’t hear Nick on guitar or another guy who was playing the bass at all. The atmosphere had gone from merry and festive to irate and disgruntled as the performers struggled to be heard, and the sound technician was possibly the most miserable and surly man I have ever met. He made no attempt whatsoever to adjust the sound levels and during Nick and Tina’s second performance you could actually hear over the speakers another couple of musicians out the back warming up!

The organisers tried to address these issues with the sound guy, but he was having none of it and basically refused to cooperate. Nick and Tina tried asking him to adjust the sound, but he just shrugged irritably and did nothing. Eventually, Nick gave up and left the stage and I, several rums down by this stage, may or may not have accosted this sound guy- about 3 times my size by the way- and given him my best “You should be ashamed of yourself” speech accompanied by some high quality finger wagging. He responded defensively, and then sat back down in his chair which he promptly fell off of. There’s no coming back from that in an argument, and I felt that I’d made my point, so I summed up my position by saying, “You’re just a massive asshole, mate” (I get very Australian when I’m angry) and, with a flick of my hair, exited stage left to a round of applause (okay, I may have made that last bit up).

Mark stared at me open-mouthed, Tina clapped me on the shoulder and Nick just rolled his eyes and was like, “You see what I have to put up with?” Poor Nick. At least he never falls off his chair when I’m telling him off.

We didn’t get a huge amount of classic yacht watching done, but did manage plenty of rum drinking, eating out and generalised socialising. One day we went to Boom, a restaurant overlooking English Harbour which has an infinity pool and sun loungers for an afternoon of relaxation- not that we were feeling particularly stressed! It was so nice to swim in a pool instead of the sea, pure luxury these days. The weather was quite rainy, and on one particularly miserable afternoon mid-week we converged on Magic with sweets, popcorn and chocolate and watched a movie on their big flat-screen.

On Thursday night we went to the Red Hat party. Allow me to explain. During Classic Week, there are a number of opportunities to acquire tickets that will eventually convert into a coveted Antigua Sailing Week Red Hat. So, there’s a schedule and several bars in Falmouth Harbour participate. You have to buy a Mount Gay rum-based drink (they’re the sponsors) and each drink gives you one red ticket, and 3 tickets gives you a different ticket which is for the party on Thursday night and includes a free bar for an hour (only for rum!) and a free red hat. For some reason, Tina- who doesn’t even like wearing hats- became borderline obsessed with acquiring one of these red hats and as such our entire week revolved around being in a certain bar at a certain time, drinking rum, and collecting tickets. We ended up a few tickets short as we were trying to get some for Simon and Holly who sensibly stayed on board, so had to revert to some seriously questionable flirting techniques in order to get the party ticket. There was some cringwe-inducing flirting by Nick and Mark and Tina and I were in a state of sort of horrified hysteria at the spectacle. Eventually, the boys got fed up with our piss-taking and reverted to challenging us to do better. How predictable. I was like, “Leave it to me, boys,” and walked up to the booth, behind which a girl in her twenties stood, a big pile of tickets in front of her. I gave her my best ‘just between us girls’ smile and 30 seconds later I walked back, tickets in hand.

Nick later redeemed himself by getting 6 drinks tickets, which put a stop to my gloating and left us with several spare. All in all, mission accomplished!

Red hats!

Red hats!

The party turned out to be brilliant fun. We turned up early to secure a spot and ended up with one of the few outdoor tables and chairs. The bar was free for an hour only and only served rum, which was fine by us. I think you can imagine the carnage that followed. We also finally managed to get our red caps which is great because my Musto one flew off my head coming into Antigua in March. The band was awesome and there were stands selling kebabs and pork and coleslaw buns. All in all, it was a great evening.

May got into the spirit of things...

May got into the spirit of things…

The following day we decided to give our livers a much need break and headed back to Jolly Harbour. It was a bit like coming home after a holiday and we descended on Epicurian, the supermarket, like a couple of starved animals. Sunday night was yet another beach BBQ, but will be Tina and Mark’s last; they’re leaving on Friday to fly back to the UK. The fact that it’s currently snowing back home has not made this week easier for them. Yesterday was their last day on the water for some time as Simon and Holly kindly took us out on Tudor Rose to anchor for the day in Deep Bay. We wanted to snorkel on the shipwreck but the visibility was terrible- you could barely see a metre in front of you- and so it was a bit of a let down. However, it was sooo nice being out on someone else’s boat and not having to think about actually doing anything.

So we approach the end of April already- time has absolutely flown by. May will see us madly working on the boat to get her ready for summer storage and soon it will be our turn to say goodbye to the Caribbean and our home and fly back to London.

 

Taking A Break From Sailing Around The World

We have now been in Jolly Harbour for a month, which explains why I’ve been pretty slack with the blog thing lately. Apologies! There’s several reasons why we’ve been here so long. First, we had Nick’s parents here, and it’s far easier for them to stay with us when we’re in a marina than at anchor. After they left, Nick and I deliberated over what to do with the rest of our time in the Caribbean. We had, essentially, four options:

1. Carry on with our season’s cruising plans, which involved getting up to the the east coast of the US by June. The distance between here and Georgia, US, is about the same distance as Falmouth, UK to the Canary Islands, a distance we would have about 2 months to cover. Hmm….

2. Cruise the rest of the Leeward Islands and then leave the boat in Antigua for the hurricane season.

3. Haul out early and go back to the UK.

4. Stay put.

We discarded the first option fairly quickly. This was, up until now, plan A, and we had been so excited to get to the Bahamas and the US. However, a few things slowed us down this season, including a few boat issues, and having friends and family out, meaning we didn’t make the progress north that we’d originally anticipated. It was hard for us to scrap this plan, mainly because I think that people generally find it hard to deviate from a pre-determined course of action, but once we made the decision to leave the boat in Antigua for the hurricane season a huge weight was lifted from our shoulders.

Now, deciding between options 2,3 and 4 was a lot more difficult, and I’m not even sure we’ve come to a decision yet. We’re just seeing how we go. Our current haul-out date is June 4th, and we have about a month’s worth of work to do on the boat before leaving her for the hurricane season. That leaves us with a bit of free time obviously, however we’ve been having such a fabulous time here in Jolly that we felt absolutely no need to go elsewhere.

And for some reason, this has been met by some opposition amongst other cruisers.

Why? I can only speculate. We’ve been told that we’re wasting money by staying in the marina. We’ve been told that we’re wasting our cruising season by not sailing around and seeing new places. We’ve been told that, if we want to stay put, the least we could do would be to go and anchor (for some reason if a boat is at anchor in the same area for months on end, this is acceptable. If a boat chooses to spend a couple of months in a marina, this is met with derision. Quite baffling).

The fact is, we have not been so happy and relaxed for… well, perhaps ever. For the past year we have been constantly on the go. We haven’t stopped, except for a few weeks in Gran Canaria before the Atlantic crossing and I count that as the most stressful time from the past year. I know that for a lot of people, the cruising life seems relaxed and stress free- “living the dream”. And it can be. It’s obviously a much easier life than a 50 hour working week- and I know for many, a 50 hour working week would be considered utter bliss. So I’m careful to keep things in perspective. Our life is amazing and we’re incredibly lucky to be fulfilling our dreams.

However, the constant race against the clock- or the calendar- to be in a certain place by a certain date is draining. The constant breakages or problems on board are time consuming and can be expensive. I’ve said before how our engine has been cutting out sporadically over the past 4 months. Imagine every time you go out on your boat not knowing if, at the crucial moment- as you’re manoeuvring in a marina, or trying to pick up a buoy, say- your engine is going to cut out.

The boat needs cleaning every day, it needs work every day, it needs attention of some kind every single day. It’s like a big, inert and inanimate child, needing constant attention. No sooner do you think it’s calmed down and everything is okay, that something else breaks or you remember another job that needs doing; and before long you’re head first in the engine locker, the place is a mess, all the lockers are open with tool boxes, spare parts, and random bits of equipment spilled all over the floor, just so you can change, like, one screw. I’m not even exaggerating. This morning all Nick had to do was replace a couple of bits of fuel line and the boat looked like it had literally been tipped upside down. It’s not because Nick’s messy. It’s because that’s what it means to live on a boat.

(By the way, we think we’ve now identified the engine problem. After inspecting the fuel, we spotted some little black dots in it and suspect it’s diesel bug, which we’ve now treated. Only time will tell if this has solved the problem.)

Where was I? So my point is, Nick and I have absolutely loved chilling out in Jolly Harbour for the past month. There is an incredible supermarket nearby (okay, it’s not that incredible, but compared to the rest of the Caribbean it’s positively heavenly), there’s fast wifi, there’s a sports centre with squash and tennis courts and a swimming pool next door, there’s the most beautiful beach a 5 minute walk away and- most importantly- we’ve had a constant stream of friends staying either in the marina or the nearby anchorage. We’ve actually been able to focus on doing things other than sailing- what bliss! We’ve been catching up on all the boring life administration that’s been forgotten about over the past year- accounting mainly. Nick’s also been doing open mic nights with Tina from Magic, and they’ve been practicing almost every day. Their hard work paid off when they stole the show on their very first song!

Open Mic night with Nic-o-Tin- singing and playing guitar

Open Mic night with Nic-o-Tin- it’s a nasty habit!

 

Nervously playing our first number

We sing and we play

We’ve had two very successful Sunday night beach BBQ’s with pretty much anyone who wants to come along. We’ve done outdoor yoga. We’ve been playing squash (my goal is to beat Nick at just one game! It’s all I want!). Thanks to the awesome produce in the supermarket, we’ve been eating healthier than we have all season. We feel great, we’re happy and we’re relaxed. So that’s why we’re still here!

laughing on the beach

At one of the beach BBQ’s

The only downside is all the goodbyes we’ve had to make. John and Sandra on Eupraxia flew back from the UK, stayed a few memorable and fun days, then dropped their lines to continue north. They’re making the journey that we’d always planned to do together: BVI’s, Bahamas then the east coast of the USA. It was difficult waving goodbye; we’ve become so close to them and had looked forward to continuing to sail in company with them. Next Val and Cliff off AWOL headed off as they’re crossing back to Europe this year and need to be in the BVI’s by the end of the month. One by one everyone is heading north or south and our little community is suddenly decreasing.

I’ll leave you with some photos from one of our Sunday night BBQ’s on the beach. I went a bit photo-crazy, so enjoy!

Kissing on the beach

Selfies on the beach

may sleeping on the beach

Okay, so this is May, possibly the sweetest dog ever. She belongs to Mark and Tina from s/v Magic and is clearly not loving the whole beach BBQ thing.

All of us sitting down for beer

Beach picnic

Sunset selfies on the beach

Selfies

scrupmy dropping his ball

Scrumpy, unlike May, absolutely LOVED being at the beach and spent the entire evening dropping his ball at people’s feet in the hope they’ll play with him.

Tina absolutely hates being the centre of attention... (winky face)

Tina obviously hates being the centre of attention… (winky face)

Never in my life have I met a dog who doesn't understand the concept of fetching a ball. Until May, that is.

Never in my life have I met a dog who doesn’t understand the concept of fetching a ball. Until May, that is. Simon: “Fetch the ball, May! Go on, get it!” May: “No.” Scrumpy: “YAAAAAY!”

Nick and Tina treat us to a performance with some seriously questionable backing vocals from the rest of us.

Nick and Tina treat us to a performance with some seriously questionable backing vocals from the rest of us.

Jolly Times in Jolly Harbour!

Nick’s parents have just left us in Jolly harbour after another enjoyable holiday together- this is becoming quite a regular event, which Nick and I are so pleased about. We miss our families very much, and not being able to spend time with them is one of the hardest things about choosing this lifestyle. Unfortunately my parents aren’t able to visit, but we’ll try and make up for that later in the year when we go home to Australia.

A shot of English Harbour and all the pretty yachts!

A shot of English Harbour and all the pretty yachts.Very different to Jolly harbour!

Gwen and Marco were with us for 12 days and it gave us the opportunity to explore the island by car, something that Nick and I have been wanting to do. We visited beautiful Deep Bay on our first outing because there’s a ship wreck in the middle of the bay which is meant to provide some interesting snorkelling. Unfortunately it was too far out for a comfortable swim, so Marco donned the snorkel and fins and went for a leisurely exploration of the underwater world closer to shore, while Nick, Gwen and I enjoyed a paddle in the crystal clear water. It was a largely deserted beach, except for one of those tourist catamarans full of, well, tourists. They looked like cruise ship passengers, if you know what I mean, and I think you do. Anyway, the three of us were sitting in the shallow water having a chat and hoping the catamaran would soon move on and leave us to enjoy the beautiful surroundings in peace when a man working on the boat wandered over to us, a tray of drinks in hand. He offered them to us, but we regretfully explained that we weren’t part of the tour.

He shrugged. “No problem! Have a drink! Enjoy yourselves!” We didn’t need to be told twice: we plucked three rum punches from the tray and suddenly the presence of the tourist boat didn’t seem so bad!

We were just congratulating ourselves on our free drinks when a different boat boy came up to us, again with a tray of drinks, and we went through the same conversation. He too didn’t seem to care one bit that we weren’t part of the tour and suddenly we were two rum punches down at 10 o’clock in the morning! Marco returned from his snorkel to find Gwen and I in quite a state, although Nick had sensibly chosen a beer as he was driving.

Happy days at Long Bay

Happy days at Long Bay

We also explored another beach called Long Bay which again had great snorkelling, this time very close to shore, which made Marco a very happy man. Once again the water was so clear and warm, it was absolutely heavenly.

We often went for an evening swim down at Jolly Beach, near Jolly harbour, and while the water here is opaque, it is the most amazing turquoise colour when the sun is out, and, especially when the sun is low in the sky, the view of the surrounding mountains and palm trees is absolutely beautiful. We usually followed this up with a drink in the beach bar, or took advantage of happy hour in one of the marina bars. All in all, life was quite idyllic.

From Shirley Heights

From Shirley Heights

While we had the car we also revisited Falmouth and English Harbours, and Gwen and Marco loved this area as much as we do. We went up to Shirley Heights to enjoy the sunset (we avoided the Sunday night party like the plague though) and had several wonderful meals in the English Harbour village. I’ve mentioned before the generally low quality of food in restaurants in the Caribbean, but this particular area in Antigua, as well as Rodney Bay in St Lucia, are the exceptions: there’s a concentration of truly excellent restaurants here and it’s probably a good thing we weren’t staying nearby otherwise we would have eaten out every night, something our bank balance would not be happy about!

Where's my beer!?

Waiting for the sun to set so we can go out for dinner!

We took the bus from Jolly Harbour into St Johns one Saturday and the capital was much livelier and vibrant than the day Nick and I had visited ourselves. We checked out the market, bought some souvenirs, then wandered towards the cruise ship area, and as we did so we got caught up in a march- complete with a band, banners, and coordinated outfits- for World Glaucoma Day. Gwen, who suffers from glaucoma herself, couldn’t get over it. We tried to get our hands on one of the t-shirts, but didn’t manage it so just took some photos instead.

Eventually they had to fly home, so we said our goodbyes and since then Nick and I have been trying to decide what to do with the rest of our time in the Caribbean. John and Sandra are due back in a few days, and we’ve got quite a few of our friends from the ARC in Jolly Harbour, so for now we’re content to just stay put and enjoy life in this marina a bit longer.