These pages catalogue the ups and downs of our (Jamie & Rachel’s) quest to break the hum drum routine of everyday life, to get out there and see if the wider world has more to offer.
Our mission is to find a yacht big enough for two people to live on (and sometimes a couple of guests) without killing each other.
We would like to discover the wonderful hidden treasures of the world that are usually only known to locals, walk the countryside, mountains and jungles, find beautiful secluded bays and beaches while supporting ourselves with what work we can find along the way.
We are both extremely hard working, I am a software developer and Rachel is a proficient cook and a qualified teacher, once we have purchased the boat we will have our accommodation and transport, so as a minimum we need to find money for food.
We are under no illusion, we realise that the boat will cost money to maintain and anchoring every night (to avoid mooring costs) will not always be possible, but hopefully we will meet many interesting people along the way and encounter plenty of exciting potential to earn a good living.
It’s exactly a week today since I worked my last day. What a stark contrast; at exactly this time last week I was getting onto my bike to cycle the steep ascent of Sharpe’s Hill, whilst mentally preparing myself to face a another miserable day teaching with a bunch of ungrateful brain-dead morons. And the only concern I have now is what to buy for breakfast, HURRAHH!
Our first morning and we were rudely awoken by the manic cries of a rooster. We got up early and had breakfast on the beach.
Walking to Bridgetown along the beach was a slow and steady affair. Firstly it is so very hot and humid, perhaps hurricane Ophelia building in the distance makes it more so.
Secondly, we kept having to stop to look at things along the way, oh, and swim. And what a glorious place to swim, it was hard to keep the grins of delight from our faces.
Bridgetown was a bustling hive of activity with an interesting mix of colonial architecture, Rastafaian culture and bureaucratic throwbacks (we ate lunch from the ‘butty’ van serving the ministry for data entry and statistics).
Catching the bus home after a long day walking was a daunting prospect having seen so many pass with limbs hanging from every window and Reggae music booming, however the other passengers were so friendly and accommodating that it made the journey an experience not to be missed.
Although Barbados looks fairly small on a map, and before arriving we had plans of being able to walk from the west to the east coast in a couple of hours, the heat dictates that this is not a viable option.
Buses were a consideration, however, our brief experience of them is that they’re hot, sticky, overcrowded and erratically driven, therefore, we ‘copped out’ and hired a car for the day.
We headed north along the beautiful west coast, driving past enormous mansions and tiny shacks (chattels), the divide of wealth is stark.
First port of call was Speightstown which our trusty Lonely Planet described as “easily the most evocative small town on the island”, and they were right. It was lovely, bustling but not overcrowded with locals selling fruit and veg on the streets, the sea sparkling and plenty of friendly people. We tried to find ‘Eats Bar’ in search of rotis, a local dish which I’ve been trying to track down since arrival but still haven’t managed to sample yet. Unfortunately, it’s no longer called Eats and the lady there informed us that she was not cooking today…don’t believe everything you read:(
An on spec visit was made to Port St. Charles Marina; Robert, a helpful chap, showed us around, there were some beautiful yachts, we are just waiting to hear whether the prices are equally so.
After some ‘discussions’ about my map reading abilities, we headed for the east coast. The view down the coast from Cherry Tree Hill was stunning. It’s in total contrast to the picture paradise west coast. The coastline is rugged and the roar of the Atlantic booms, filling the air with a mist of sea water. Surfers come here but swimming is not advisable.
Later we drove to Oistins, 10 minutes east along the south coast from where we’re staying, where, every Friday night, a ‘fish festival’ is held. The fishermen cook their catch, mostly locals and some tourists enjoy the food, drink copiously and dance the night away. Even Jamie ate red snapper and appeared to enjoy it.
After a week in Barbados we were eager to start our yacht search, and, if truth be told, Barbados, as beautiful as the beaches are and as perfect as the sea is, is pretty touristy, extremely overpriced and it’s a struggle to find decent food.
We flew into St.Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) yesterday morning – 28th September – (you can read about the finer points here) to visit our first yacht. This place is beautiful; huge, craggy, volcanic, jungle covered, lush mountains with the Grenadines scattered around in the surrounding sea and easily visible in the distance.
We pretty much dumped our stuff in the hotel, had a coffee then went for a ‘test drive’ out on ‘Rainbow Chaser’ (bit of a crap name unfortunately). The boat seems pretty good (not that I would know otherwise), she was a little shabby around the edges, but it’s hard not to get excited when you see the first potential buy and the dream starts to feel more like the reality. Some decisions need to be made very soon…
The food is good here, just what we attempted to find in Barbados but didn’t. We feasted on goat roti for lunch yesterday and it was delicious. The whole place just feels ‘real’, which sounds a bit silly, and it’s hard to explain, but there isn’t much tourism visible in the village near where we’re staying. It’s just locals with a bakery and bars and a few shops and fish sold on the streets. No big glitzy hotels and air conditioned bars.
The set for The Pirates of the Caribbean is just north of here, we had a drink with one of the extras today, a British naval officer…
It’s been nearly three weeks since we arrived here in SVG and that is because we put an offer in on the boat with the naff name and we have been sorting out the ‘stuff you have to do before buying a boat’ since.
Once our offer had been accepted we had to arrange a marine survey with an Australian called Chris who flew in from St.Lucia. Once he’d looked inside and inspected all her bits and pieces, we all sailed to Ottley Hall (an hour north of here) to have her hauled out of the sea so that Chris could inspect her more closely. He tapped her all over with a hammer after which she was put back into the sea to sail back. We had to wait a few days before Chris’s survey was revealed and then did a bit more negotiation with the owner as a result of this. It has been a fairly time consuming process during which we have been trying to occupy our time as best we can.
At first glimpse, the island looks like a hiking paradise, however, on closer inspection there is a severe lack of footpaths or pavements of any kind. There are trails in the north to climb the volcano La Soufrière but we have been warned by the locals that we should take a guide because tourists have been robbed in the past. We plan to climb her eventually but until we do, to get some exercise, we have been walking to the capital Kingstown.
The walk is not a pleasant stroll, it is more of a sweaty march down a main road following a footpath which stops suddenly, and for no apparent reason, making it necessary to take our lives into our hands to cross St.Vincent’s equivalent of the M6 in order to regain it, all the while breathing in lung fulls of sooty black diesel fumes (they clearly don’t have an emissions test here). Our walks have mainly been driven by a search for simple produce such as lettuce and tomatoes, which, even in the big supermarkets, are not a guaranteed find. Jamie found some great snorkelling gear in a fishing shop though!
There is a prettier and less dangerous walk that we sometimes take through what we’ve named the ‘boat graveyard’. Part of the shore has several wrecks from past hurricanes and they just sit and rot looking forlorn and a little bit creepy.
We hired sea kayaks for the day and rowed over to Fort Duvernette which was built on a volcanic plug in the bay sometime in the 1700’s by the British to ward off the Caribs and the French. It has been restored by the Finnish government (I’m not sure what the link is) and once the 250 plus steps have been climbed the top is bristling with impressive looking cannons. There’s even a little stone cottage hidden away where we had a sighting of our first wild iguana.
This our sixth evening aboard The Magic Badger, previously Rainbow Chaser, we just haven’t been able to tell anyone yet due to power and wi-fi issues. Our first day was spent cleaning out the bilges. For those of you who have never done this before I really can’t recommend it, however, as gruesome a task as it was, it was great to be finally doing something.
The first two evenings aboard I hardly slept due to the heaving, swaying and rocking of the boat but by the third night I managed a decent nights sleep. We’re moored in a relatively sheltered bay called Blue Lagoon on one of the Barefoot moorings, this is the charter company that we bought the boat from.
Every day since moving on has been spent doing jobs on the boat, she has quite a lot of work which needs doing and this will occupy us both for some time to come. I’ve spent the last two days sewing Velcro patches onto the salon cushions because the old stuff has started to come away and Jamie has been sorting out the wiring and batteries. We haven’t sailed her anywhere yet and neither of us can wait! The islands are there beckoning if only we didn’t have so much stuff to sort out.
Life has been a lot more enjoyable since moving into our new home. It’s wonderful being able to cook again and eating it out on the deck is a real treat. We both lay down on deck after dinner tonight and watched the stars which was magical and it makes it feel a bit like we’re camping but my nails are cleaner and I don’t have to wee behind a bush when I wake up in the middle of the night.
Finally, after weeks of fixing, sorting insurance and collecting tools and provisions we set sail. It seemed prudent to take her for a test run first rather than just sailing off into the sunset because, although we had sailed her briefly before buying, we wanted to double check, amongst other things, that the running rigging was up to the job. We took a sail north up the west coast of St.Vincent as far as Cumberland Bay, the next bay up from Wallilabou (where the film set for the Pirates of the Carribean was…still is in fact). The swells were pretty big in places and I’m ashamed to admit that I was pretty terrified as she leaned when the wind became strong. It’s been ten years since I sailed in the sea so it will take a bit of getting used to. The scenery was spectacular all the way, huge lush green mountains and craggy cliffs. We wanted to eat lunch in Wallibalou Bay but had been warned that should we choose to do so, we would be plagued by locals in little dinghies, some offering to help us moor and others just on the scrounge. Lo and behold, as we came alongside Wallibalou, a couple of kayaking locals paddled up and pestered us to sail into the bay. When we declined one just said “Can I have a cold beer?” We told him sorry, but no, we didn’t have one. (Utter lies I’m afraid but why would you? Cold beer is luxury on a yacht with no solar/wind power or generator).
As we edged in to Cumberland Bay, the same thing happened again, a bloke on a dinghy asking if we wanted help. Even after we’d said ‘no thank you’ he loitered right next the boat. I felt annoyed, mainly because I was wearing only my bikini and felt exposed and self concious but because I was steering, I could hardly start yanking my clothes on! Jamie also got pretty pissed off but remained polite and after saying very firmly ‘no thank you’ he got the message, only to be replaced by yet another… We decided to moor around the corner in an isolated and idylic little bay where lunch was eaten, a bit of snorkelling done, then we sailed back, the last hour and a half in the dark. It was a good test run and highlighted a couple of small issues which we fixed the next morning.
Once the jobs were fixed, food had been bought and we’d filled her two tanks with water we set off, this time ‘for real’. How exciting! It was quite late by this time, 15.30 to be precise, but it gave us enough daylight to sail to the first Grenadine of our trip, Bequia (pronounced beck-way). We moored up at 17.40 in a gorgeous place, Princess Margaret Bay just outside the main port of Port Elizabeth (the capital) in Admiralty Bay. And it is from here that I am now typing this.
We spent yesterday chilling out (we’ve both got stinking colds) and we took the dinghy into Port Elizabeth, a lovely quaint little town, then did a bit more snorkelling despite the colds. Today has been spent fixing stuff. Tomorrow we hope to head out to our next Grenadine! I shall update you all on which one soon.
Golly it’s been a while, for those of you who are interested and like to be updated with news of our travels I apologise for the delay. We have been suffering yet more wi-fi problems and have had to resort to using an internet cafe. We last communicated from Bequia but have been to so many other places in between that I struggled to recall all of them and it took both Jamie and I, aided by prompts from photos, to peice together our journey since!
From Bequia we sailed south to Canouan. We had initially planned on heading for Mustique but the wind was against us and so we re-routed to Canouan hitting lobster pots along the way. In aproximately five hours we anchored in a lovely bay, ate a very late lunch (4pm) and sailed ashore. We had only been walking on land for five minutes when we were hailed by a man driving a ute. It turned out to be a chap whom we’d met some weeks previously in a bar in Calliaqua (St.Vincent). He took us for a tour of the island, although half of it is a privately owned resort that we were unable to access. Large tortoises lumbered along road sides as we peered from a mountain view spot onto the palatial homes in the private resort. These were in stark contrast to the ramshackle dwellings on the other side of the island.
The next morning we set sail south again to Mayreau, a tiny and sparsley populated island. We arrived after an hour or two and hurtled into a tiny bay full sail (nothing to do with me) which impressed a yacht full of French people who all called “Bravo!” and clapped from their deck. It was a beautiful spot, the kind you imagine when you picture a desert island. We were offered lobster by some local fishermen (who asked what was wrong with our engine because we’d arrived full sail) but declined as it was a little on the pricey side. After a couple of hours of snorkelling, walking and coconut collecting we went back to the boat where Jamie proceeded to hack open our coconut with an enormous hatchet he’d bought specifically for the job. Strangely, the coconut water/milk stained the deck an ugly orange despite looking clear, so, for future reference, coconuts should be prepared on the beach. Later, as we sat on deck in the beautiful tranquil bay with a few other yachts moored nearby, a deafening ghastly raquet of what I can only describe as ‘rasta rapping’ blasted out from a beach shack. It continued for at least two hours. We retreated to below deck to escape but some French (there seem to be a huge amount of French yachtspeople here) who were moored next to us started to shout ‘shut up’ which seemed to exacerbate the music players(I use the word music in the loosest possible sense of the word) and the raquet continued. It was really funny (but also quite annoying) to watch the ‘tourists vs the locals’. The locals were probably under the impression that their ‘music’ was marvellous and that we would also share this opinion, and that it would, in fact, entice us all into their beach bar shack. Instead, it was some of the most offensive noise I’ve ever been subjected to and all we (and clearly every other yachtie there) wanted was to enjoy the tranquility in a rarely found beauty spot.
Tobago Cays was our next port of call, again, only an hours sail away. It is a marine national park with an entrance fee of $10 EC per person, not much for such lovliness. We’d both been highly excited about visiting this place as it has been the most reccommended place to visit in the entire Grenadines archipeligo, and it was indeed very beautiful. A scattering of tiny sand lined islands surrounded by turquoise seas with lots of turtles swimming past. It was however ridiculously popular and there were a lot of other yachts moored around which spoilt the whole feel of the place. Similar to the Lake District in August on a sunny day, still beautiful but too full of other people. We spent a couple of hours snorkelling which was amazing, gorgeously clear and packed full of a vast variety of beautiful fish and marine life, then, after a spot of lunch and a giggle at some young kite surfer who got his kite caught in someones rigging, we headed off to Union Island, the last Grenadine before Grenada.
Union Island was a strange place, the capital, Clifton, was fairly basic with half empty supermarkets but had a gem of a french cafe where we sipped freshly squeezed orange juice whilst waiting for custioms and immigration to open the next morning. We had to ‘clear out’ before leaving as our next port of call, Carriacou (an island belonging to Grenada) is a seperate country.
The sail was lovely, we stopped off for lunch at a divine and deserted beach, had a swim then continued the sail to Hillsborough the capital. Here we dingied ashore to customs and immigration, ‘cleared in’ and sailed around the headland to Tyrell Bay where we anchored and ate.
The bay was packed full of other yachts, all live aboards presumably doing the same kind of thing as we are. It was a windy night and Jamie woke me at around midnight telling me to get up, that the anchor was slipping. Ugh, rudely awoken! We couldn’t really anchor with ease so stole a mooring for the night and moved off at 6am to avoid being charged for it. After sailing around the bay for about half an hour we realised that it was looking unlikely that we’d be able to anchor again due to the amount of weed in the bay and the lack of space between other yachts so off we sailed, this time to Grenada.
The weather, which started off grey and misty, didn’t improve, in fact worsened and as we sailed over Kick ’em Jenny, a submerged volcano, a squall hit us and we had to very quickly reef the jib and the main as torrential rain near drowned and frightening wind buffeted us. I was terrified I’m afraid, very close to tears and expecting to capsize at any moment, however, just as Jamie was trying to reassure me that this was all fine, just, in fact, part of the whole sailing package, it started to lift and within twenty minutes the sun was shining through the clouds. Shortly afterwards a couple of what must have been whales (I’ve no idea what kind) swam in front of the boat and death didn’t feel so close after all!
We anchored just outside the marina at St. George’s, the capital city of Grenada. St.George is an attractive colonial town guarded by two forts, built originally by the French but stolen by the British and used to defend against the French later on.
We walked up to St.Georges Fort which now houses the police headquarters. It was strangely tatty and unkempt, the old and original parts looking sturdy and strong, the new additions looking in a much worse state of repair with roofs missing and plants growing inside. We passed the spot where Maurice Bishop (once Prime Minister) and his cabinet were executed in the early
eighties during the unrest in Grenada in ’83. After a couple of nights anchored here, we sailed south to Prickly Bay to visit Budget Marine and purchase the charts and bits to fix our VHF radio in preparation for our sail to Trinidad.
Jamie had to climb to the top of the mast in a homemade bosuns chair winched by me on three seperate occasions to fix the radio aerial. I felt sick looking at him and I don’t think he particularly enjoyed the experience…but he managed to fix the aerial the clever sausage. We also bought a Red Ensign but decided to be understated (Jamie dislikes even a sniff of patriotism) and bought the smallest one. Unfortunately, it’s so small it looks like a tiny pair of red knickers dangling from the rigging, barely discernable. Hmph, I’d like to get something a little bigger, nothing ridiculous you understand, but just large enough to actually be identifiable as an Ensign, but have been outvoted…so far.
At 6pm on Monday the 14th we sailed for Trinidad. This is the cheapest place in the Caribbean to replace the standing rigging etc. We sailed all night passing two huge oil rigs but no other boats. I managed to cook two meals – dinner and breakfast and make tea and proper coffee during the trip while being flung around the little kitchen. I also managed to stay awake which is pretty impressive considering I normally fall asleep at 9pm. An hour after dawn, with the coast of Venezuela to our starboard and Trinidad ahead and to port, we met our first obstacle, the Boca de Monos. The sea was behaving very strangely around the Boca entrance, where the Southern Equatorial Current enters the Caribbean sea, the waters were an odd mix of brown and grey with tumultuous swirling areas right next to calm bits of water.
The wind dropped to nothing and we had to turn on the engine and bring in the flapping sails. As we reached the mouth of the Boca with cliffs towering on either side a sense of foreboding, made worse by lack of sleep, grew. Huge black condors circled on the thermals above, Jamie stood on the bow checking for rocks and I steered all the while checking the depth and shouting out to him what it was every thirty seconds. It got to thirty feet at one point where I felt so panicky I forgot to breathe. Slowly, the swirling current and our engine took us deeper into the Boca and the depth began to grow. As it got to about seventy feet a large pink and grey dolphin appeared from nowhere and crossed under the boat a couple of times and the feeling of doom lifted and I started to breathe again! Chaguramas was around the corner in the next bay, we anchored, breakfasted (again!) and had to face the ordeal of customs and immigration before finally managing to get to bed just after lunch at 1.30pm. Argh, sleep at last.
A month has passed and we have hardly moved from Chaguaramas and we have been busy, busy BUSY.
Diesel Turd introduced himself on the second day and has hung around ever since and is, contrary to his name, spectacularly beautiful. He has an iridescent purple, blue and green body, long snout (??) and googly eyes and a girlfriend that looks just like him. We christened him thus because he seems to thrive in water that is strewn with the afore-mentioned along with a whole tide of plastic nastiness.
Work on the boat has ceased only for a day and a half and that was to take a much needed trip away from the sweat, toil and tears last weekend. Prior to this trip we’ve had a whole host of troubles which we have been slogging away at, trying to resolve. I shall try not to bore you too much.
These have been the major causes for concern so far:
1) Wi-fi – with Jamie’s work and connections to home depending upon it it has been a major issue. After much investigation (walking around the few electrical suppliers and quizzing them thoroughly) we bought a ‘Bullet 2’ which is an aerial which enables us to have up to a 7 mile range for wi-fi. It seems to be working pretty well so far.
2) Batteries – ours were at the end of their life, and , after lots of price negotiation and information prising, we bought 4 Trojan golf cart batteries from Brian who certainly knew his onions when it came to marine power issues.
3) Rigging – ours was too old and had to be replaced for insurance purposes (they recommend replacement after 10 years, ours was 14 years old). There is currently only one decent rigger here now, a Swede called Jonas, and he was too busy and too expensive to fit ours before Christmas, however, Jamie was an eager student and slowly, piece by piece, he removed ours, took it to Jonas, got new bits made up and, armed with advice on how to fit it, replaced it all. This took a week, the worst of which was spent carrying the jib furler – a 46 foot length of metal cable – half a mile down the road. I think I can imagine how poor Jesus felt like on Maundy Thursday (or was it Good Friday?).
We managed to accomplish the rigging in Calypso Marine, a sheltered spot kindly lent to us by a bloke called Chicken via a wonderfully helpful Brian (of battery source). It was here that we realised that the shrieks we’d heard each morning and evening were made by grass green parrots and where we first spotted sunflower yellow and sky blue birds and iguanas grazing.
4) Bimini and stack pack – ours need replacing however, after some pricing it seems that it will cost us approximately £1000 for a glorified piece of tent and a long tent bag. We are considering buying a sewing machine to try and avoid such excessive costs…
5) Trinidad is not cheap!!! – It has built a reputation over the last 15 years for being the place to come as a Caribbean cruiser to get work done. It has lots to offer but it is certainly not cheap, it just has more choice than the rest of the Caribbean. It has recently been accused, sitting comfortably with it’s Caribbean monopoly, of letting standards slip and prices rise.
6) The headliner in our cabins is minging (that’s faux white leather wallpaper for those who have no idea what headliner is) and also needs replacing. I spent a day chiselling half of our bedroom cabin wall off. YUK. Dead cockroaches and glue that may as well have been there for 100 years – the heat from the sun melds the glue with the foam backing and proves even worse than 1930’s wallpaper stuck to Victorian plaster to remove…a job still not finished.
7) Re-badging the Badger – this was completed today! It proved a messy and time consuming effort to remove poor old Rainbow Chaser.
8) Fishing boats – these are skiffs measuring 20 ft with 1000 HP engines stuck on the back. Why? Venezuela is temptingly near I fear. Cocaine smuggling pays much more than a few red snapper. Anyway, they zip past at 100 mph causing annoying and potentially dangerous waves. Nothing a bow mounted whaling harpoon wouldn’t resolve immediately.
9) Food – the contradiction. Trinidad is so unlike St. Vincent and the Grenadines. It has shopping malls the like of which I haven’t seen since visiting the Trafford Centre. It also sells Hagen Daz in every supermarket and there is an absolutely gorgeous cafe, within a stones throw from our mooring, serving iced coffees oozing with cream and ice cream (at least 1000 calories per serving) and heavenly cakes. These have been our undoing. I have troughed for the last 4 weeks making up for the lack of readily available nice food in the SVG. Unfortunately when Kate Moss said “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” she was clearly only referring to herself. The contradiction is the supermarket ‘Hi-Lo’ just around the corner from where our cafe is. Although it sells Hagen Daz the rest leaves a lot to be desired. Amongst the lows are bread that is canary yellow in colour and tastes of washing powder. Greasy tasteless cheddar that also tastes of washing powder. Tomatoes that, unless cooked, are revolting and staff that barely manage to conceal their contempt for their customers. We were served a few days ago by a girl who didn’t look at us once or say anything, just dragged our food through the scanner as if it was an effort that was totally beneath her and she paused every few items to take big mouthfuls of her lunch. Jamie and I couldn’t help but look at each other and giggle. I’m being unfair, it does sell lovely ripe papayas and excellent bananas.
So, after all our work (I’ve missed lots of sanding and varnishing and screw cleaning out but didn’t want to make you sleep, however, Dad, all your training in matters of DIY has proved invaluable, thank you!) we thought we deserved a night away from the hustle of Chaguaramas and sailed (actually, motored with the jib flapping – no wind) to the island nearest here, Monos, to a bay called Grand Fond Bay but known locally as Turtle Bay. It was a beautifully tranquil spot, at least it would have been if there weren’t 7 or 8 gin palaces moored together in the middle while the rich white kid owners had a rave that lasted until 11pm. Anyhow, we didn’t let this spoil our fun and we dinghied ashore only to find that there was no beach, just a crust of plastic amongst the palm trees. It was horrible. We’d really been looking forward to a swim, then we saw all this litter and it put us off totally. Still, we thought we’d explore because our guide book said that there were tracks you could walk on. We followed an obvious one into the jungle and had only been walking for a minute when we were hailed by a man naked to the waist waving a machete in the air shouting “This is private property! Are you after my coconuts?” We froze, then said “Er, no, we’re just having a look around.” As soon as he saw us and heard our accents he stuffed his machete back into his scabbard and said more gently “I thought you were after my coconuts. Don’t be scared, it’s OK you can carry on” but we didn’t much fancy it after that so headed back.
The morning really was beautiful, the rave had gone and the bay was still and green with exotic bird sounds calling from the shore. We saw a turtle, a spotted ray (we found out later that this was a Leopard Ray) and a huge blue butterfly that was so big it looked like a bird that flew like a butterfly from a distance. After lunch and a swim (yes, we couldn’t resist and put the memory of the plastic tide to the back of our minds as we dipped in) we sailed back to Chaguaramas to continue the work.