Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Author: Terysa (page 1 of 7)

Life Onboard Ruby Rose

What exactly do we do?

My recent posts haven’t really focussed on what life onboard has been like recently, so today I’ll give you a little snippet of what the hell Nick and I have been up to lately. Prepare to be fascinated! (Yeah, not really.)

Nick ironing

Here’s a clue: Nick ironing a small section of Sunbrella…

Life onboard Ruby Rose: a typical day.

07:00- The light streaming through the hatches wakes us up. Nick gets up first and I groggily reach for my tablet and, before even fully opening my eyes, I’ve checked my Facebook, emails, whatsapp and viber. Sad. Very, very sad. Then I scream, “Coffeeeeee!!” and Nick dutifully makes us a couple of Nespresso coffees to wake us up. Tragically, we ran out of capsules a week ago and have since been living on cafetierre coffee, which, frankly, hasn’t quite cut the mustard.

08:00- Oh, that’s better. I can function now. We eat breakfast and get to work. By work, I mean I do some writing and Nick does something that is actually constructive like making side panels for our bimini. I do have to admit, he comes in handy. Several days in a row saw us stretching out Sunbrella canvas on the pontoon, measuring and remeasuring, pinning, and then measuring again, before Nick would take the fabric inside and spend several happy hours swearing at the sewing machine. Most of the time it was pretty windy outside, and I’d end up contorting myself Twister style to try and keep all the corners down while Nick made the measurements.

Nick the seamstress. A rare moment where man and sewing machine are actually getting along.

Nick the seamstress. A rare moment where man and sewing machine are actually getting along.

Cutting fabric in our cabin.

Cutting fabric in our cabin. Far too windy on the pontoon for this!

After a bit of trial and error, he managed to complete two side panels with a large window in each that we can roll down to protect the cockpit whenever it starts raining (which is often). Unfortunately we can’t find the correct zips on the island and we don’t want to use velcro, so we have to wait until we get back to the UK to buy the zips. So the final installation will have to wait until next year. But they look even better than we expected and we can’t wait to have them up for next season!

10:00- Snack time! Yeah, this is an important part of our day, so I’m including it here. Deal with it.

12:00- Lunch break. Usually Holly and Simon will turn up around this point and the four of us chill in the cockpit for several hours. I like to think they enjoy our company, but we also have really fast wifi onboard and they have nada because they’re in the anchorage. It’s cool. We completely understand that internet access comes first.

14:00- Nick’s usually exhausted by this point and goes for his afternoon nap. This is when I get to spend some time by myself, which I usually utilise by doing a workout. I recently discovered Fitness Blender and I am totally obsessed and wondering why I didn’t know about them years ago!?

Sometimes Simon and Holly would leave Scrumpy with us for a few hours while they went into town or the supermarket. On one such occasion I got out my exercise mat, started doing jumping jacks or high knees or whatever, and poor Scrumpy just had no clue what was going on. He ran around the saloon in circles, ears back and tail wagging but not in a good way. He was clearly torn: what was this mad woman who was leaping around in a tiny space doing? Was it playtime? Was it time to hide? To try and calm him down I decided to just do low impact stuff, but as soon as I got into a plank he clearly decided it was playtime after all and wouldn’t get off me! Not the most effective workout I’ve ever done…

This was taken when Scrump was still chilling in the bedroom, oblivious

This was taken when Scrump was still chilling in the bedroom, oblivious

... and this was taken after he came out to investigate. It's hard to relax into a yoga pose with a dog licking the sweat off your neck...

… and this was taken after he came out to investigate. It’s hard to relax into a yoga pose with a dog licking the sweat off your neck…

15:00- To celebrate completing my workout, I bake a cake. Or muffins. Or a flapjack. I wish I were kidding. I am the queen of boat-friendly baking recipes that only require one bowl, the ingredients I usually have to hand, and a short cooking time (or our bread machine). I even found a no-bake recipe that was like an oat slice with a layer of chocolate, peanut butter and coconut all melted together. It was amazing. The recipe was from this awesome website although I made a few changes.

Oats+melted butter+honey with a layer of chocolate+peanut butter+coconut. Mmm.

Oats+melted butter+honey with a layer of chocolate+peanut butter+coconut. Mmm.

17:00- Oh, look, Simon and Holly are back again! Scrumpy is getting to know us now. The other day I was cutting Nick’s hair (yes, after 6 months of nagging, he finally let me loose with a pair of scissors) and I was interrupted by the distinctive sound of Scrumpy’s panting coming from somewhere in our cockpit. He just abandoned Holly who was chatting to someone else down the other end of the pontoon and jumped onboard! Good doggy!

We hang out in the cockpit drinking beer until the sun starts to go down, at which point we have exactly the same conversation every time:

Nick: “So, what are you two doing for dinner?”

Simon: “Oh, we’re not sure.”

Nick: “Well, how about I make us some pasta/chicken/ribs/risotto?”

Simon: “No, we couldn’t possibly.”

Nick: “I insist.”

Simon: “Well, only if you’re sure we’re not intruding…”

Nick: “Excellent! Another beer?”

Except that instead of sounding like a couple of polite English gentlemen, insert a particularly colourful swear word into every sentence at least twice. I thought Nick had, shall we say, an inventive and colourful vocabulary, but Simon and especially Holly give him a run for his money. I often feel quite sorry for any sensitive neighbours!

20:00- We’ve eaten dinner, usually prepared by Nick, and now it’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for: Game of Thrones! Simon and Holly are even more obsessive about this show than Nick and I have become, and when the latest episode was out Simon downloaded it, we got out the sweets and Simon’s chocolate cake, and sat back to enjoy the show.

Holly's turn to cook

Holly’s turn to cook

I love our decorative lights!

I love our decorative lights!

Another chilled evening on Ruby Rose

Another chilled evening on Ruby Rose

Sadly, Holly and Simon had to leave yesterday, but we have very similar sailing plans for next season so we’re hoping to cruise in company up to the USA. Of course, we’ve learned for ourselves that plans are drawn in the sand at low tide, but we really hope these ones work out! Holly and Simon are absolutely hysterical and we’ve fallen in love with Scrumpy dog, so we can’t wait to spend next season sailing with them.

And now we work…

So, with all our friends gone at last, Nick and I have run out of excuses. We’ve started working on our massive to-do list and cleaning out lockers, cupboards and shelves, throwing out-of-date food away and getting rid of items that are broken or we don’t use. I hauled about 20 books to the book exchange in the marina office the other day, a big sack of them slung over my back, and we are constantly filling up and throwing away garbage bags. Life onboard really isn’t that exciting at the moment!

Until next time!

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Our Highlights From a Year of Sailing

One year ago we motored down Conyer Creek with no idea when we might return. It could be in a couple of months, it could be in a couple of years. Hell, we may have made it to Ramsgate, had a sudden change of heart, and sailed back the following day. Sailing was our life, our passion and we loved living on board. But we had no idea if the life of being full-time liveaboard would be for us.

I’m pleased to report that after a year of sailing between the UK and Antigua, we love this lifestyle more than ever. In this blog, we look back at some highlights (and a couple of lowlights) from the past 12 months. Enjoy!

Best Anchorage
Muros Anchorage

Muros Anchorage

It’s not been easy choosing a favourite anchorage. Nick said The Saints, but I pulled rank and chose Muros. This was our first experience anchoring in the Spanish Rias and we stayed here for almost a week. It was perfect in every way: enclosed and protected, the water was still as a pool. We were an easy dinghy ride away from the village, which had a selection of truly sublime bars and restaurants and we celebrated the beginning of our sailing adventure by eating as much Galician food as we could manage. There was a nearby beach, the weather was warm and mild and we were, above all, full of hope and excitement about the months to come.

Anchorage in The Saintes

The Saintes anchorage- a close second!

 

Best Meal
Trying to decipher spanish menus!

Trying to decipher spanish menus!

Nick and I very quickly agreed that Spain had the most amazing food we’ve come across in our sailing so far. Portugal wasn’t bad if you really, really love grilled fish and potatoes, but I’m afraid the Caribbean can be discounted entirely. The food here is, quite frankly, not worth talking about. Morocco was okay, but there’s only so much tagine one can eat. So, that leaves Spain, which is totally fine with me, because Spanish food is friggin’ amazing. And the best place for food in Spain is…?

Well, Galicia came out tops in terms of location. If we had to pick one place, I’d have to say Combarro. We had some truly stupendous meals there and, with no english menus, our Spanish came along nicely. I mean, if you can order some calamares, pimentos de padron, navajas and almejas, accompanied by una cerveca, quite frankly, what else do you need to know? (Yes, I know I probably spelled those Spanish words wrong! Sorry!)

Charming Combarro, seen from the terrace of A Rosa Dos Ventos.

Charming Combarro, seen from the terrace of A Rosa Dos Ventos.

Lunching it up in Combarro

Lunching it up in Combarro

More foooood

More foooood

However, the prize for the best meal eaten in a restaurant must surely go to… do you know, I cannot for the life of me remember the restaurant’s name. However, it’s in Ayamonte and it was just so unbelievable that I sometimes still daydream about it…

Mmm again!

Mmm!

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Cheers!

Cheers!

 

Favourite Island

We’ve visited quiiite a few islands over the past year- in fact, since the Canaries, we’ve not sailed anywhere that hasn’t been an island. So, what’s been our favourite?

It’s hard to pick just one- Dominica, Saint Lucia, Bequia and The Saintes are all favourites. However, Martinique surely comes out on top. Not only was it French- already a bonus- but it was stunningly beautiful, had more picturesque and well protected anchorages that you could poke a stick at, and we could once again live off baguettes and rosé wine. The beaches and snorkelling were some of the best we’ve seen in the Caribbean and the palm-backed beaches full of little colourful bars and restaurants were exactly what we wanted when we decided to sail around the world.

Plus my friend Kate came to stay!

Plus my friend Kate came to stay!

Sainte Anne sunset. I mean, what's not to love?

Sainte Anne sunset. I mean, what’s not to love?

Anse Dufour snorkeling- a definite highlight!

Anse Dufour snorkeling- a definite highlight!

Craziest Location to Berth the Boat

This one is obvious. Essaouira in Morocco was- by far- the craziest place we’ve ever berthed our boat. We rounded the breakwater and got our first glimpse into the harbour, and our mouths dropped as the sight of hundreds of fishing trawlers, all crammed together like the sardines they go out to catch. A narrow corridor was left between the rafted fishing boats and the harbour wall opposite- which itself had boats moored up against it- and, holding our breaths, we slowly motored into the heart of the harbour. Thankfully, we found somewhere to tie up and had an incredible week in this charmingly insane location.

The view from our cockpit in Essaouira!

The view from our cockpit in Essaouira!

Essaouira port.

Essaouira port.

 

Most Memorable Sailing Moment

This one is easy. Crossing the ARC finish line after exactly 21 days at sea! We had the most amazing welcoming committee waiting for us on the pontoon as we tied up in Rodney Bay, Saint Lucia and we were so elated when our feet finally touched solid ground again. Having our friends share that moment with us made it even more special, and it’s a moment we will never forget!

Our beautiful boat approaching the finish line! Thanks Miles for this awesome pic.

Our beautiful boat approaching the finish line! Thanks Miles for this awesome pic.

My expression when we sighted land!

My expression when we sighted land!

Nick's smiling!

Nick’s smiling!

Best Meal Onboard

Well, this is a tough one. I do believe that Nick’s famous Lobster in a Creamy Dill Coconut Sauce (yep, capitals are necessary. Just… trust me) was possibly the best meal I’ve ever had- ever. However, I was so excited about the phenomenal meal I was about to enjoy, I didn’t pause to take a photo. However, our Christmas feast comes a close second!

Magda and Tim, very happy about our feast

Magda and Tim, very happy about our feast

The big moment!

The big moment!

Peeling veggies on Christmas morning

Peeling veggies on Christmas morning

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

 

Most Unpleasant Passage

We take pride in the fact that we have very few- if any- sailing related horror stories to tell. Generally speaking almost all our passages have been pretty pleasant, if a bit bouncy at times. Sure, there’s been a few sails that have turned me and Nick green and we’ve just been waiting for them to end. But at no point have we been scared. I know sailors who will seize any opportunity to tell you all about that time they were out in a force 9 or whatever, with waves as tall as apartment blocks towering over them, and they seem oddly proud of it. Like a war story or something. The difference of course is that they allowed themselves to be in that dangerous situation in the first place. Nick and I never- never– go sailing in conditions like that. There’s certain places in the world that are notorious for bad conditions year-round- off the Cape of Good Hope for example- and perhaps if we’re ever sailing around those areas, we might have to just deal with whatever Mother Nature throws at us. But in Europe and the Caribbean, there’s defined seasons for sailing and even if you perhaps have to wait out a low pressure system over Biscay, or a storm off Cape Finisterre, all that is required of you is patience.

So the only time we had ‘lively’ sailing conditions were when we did not choose our own departure date, which was when we did the ARC. Had we been doing the Atlantic crossing independently, we probably would have waited for the high winds to pass through before setting off. As it was, we had 40 knot winds and 6 metre seas and, yes it was exhilarating, but if we hadn’t been surrounded by 200 other yachts who were all battling the same conditions, we probably would have been ever so slightly terrified. That said, I’m glad we did it! It was a good experience and we now know that the boat can easily handle it, even if we didn’t find it particularly enjoyable!

Best Overnight Passage

This one is also easy. We set off from Cadiz and crossed the Straight of Gibraltar, then night sailed down the coast of Morocco. Not only was this an exceptionally pleasant sail- light winds, calm seas, cloudless night- but it marked another milestone in our plans to sail around the world: we had finally left Europe! And it felt like it. As soon as we were off the coast of Morocco, the air became warm and scented with spices. It was quite extraordinary, and a moment we will never forget.

Crossing the Gibraltar straight

Sailing across the Gibraltar straight

Most Unexpected Achievement

Nick has had a fear of performing in public for his entire life, which might surprise some people considering he is ludicrously confident in almost every other respect. But playing a guitar and singing in front of an audience was simply not something he could bring himself to do. Enter Tina, from Magic, who, despite having a great singing voice, was terrified of singing in front of others. Put them together, however, and suddenly they were galvanised into facing their fears. They practiced daily and before long they were standing up on stage at an open mic night. After their first number, everyone burst into rapturous applause and from that moment on, we could barely drag them off the stage…

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

Nick and Tina at open mic night

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

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

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.

Best Cruising Moment

The night that really captured what this cruising life is- or, at least, should be- about was our first beach BBQ in Antigua. When we got to the Caribbean we hoped that we’d be fulfilling our somewhat naive visions of sitting on the beach, surrounded by friends, and watching the sun go down while sipping a cocktail. This vision didn’t materialise until one fabulous evening at Jolly Beach. Many of our ARC friends were in the harbour and an impromptu suggestion to have a beach BBQ suddenly snowballed and we ended up with about 20 cruisers- some of which we knew, many of whom we didn’t. It really summed up what cruising and sailing should be about.

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

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So we still have quite a long way to go before we achieve our goal of sailing around the world. But we’ve certainly sailed around quite a bit of it!

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

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!

 

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