Two days before Christmas and the forward cabin is complete, the white faux leather headliner has been stuck to the wall nearly killing us with the glue fumes in the process and the varnishing in there completed. The aft head (bathroom) has been smartened, the floorboards varnished and the stack pack sewn and installed. It was time to leave Chaguaramas (not forever unfortunately) for some Christmas festivity. However, not before we had attended the obligatory Christmas ‘works do’. We basically gatecrashed the Christmas ‘do’ of an electrical shop which we have been patronising recently and with whose staff we have built up a rapport. Too much rum was drunk (I fell flat on my face whilst trying to run in the car park in front of everyone…) and a wild night of partying culminated in a dawn bed time and ridiculously bad heads for Christmas Eve. Luckily, we’d had the foresight to do our food shopping the day before and had only to get ice and diesel before heading off to Chacachacare, our festive destination, an island that was a leper colony and had been abandoned as recently as 1984.
We sailed (the first test of our new rigging) to the island, the furthest north-west part of Trinidad, and anchored in a beautiful and large bay in the late afternoon of Christmas Eve. It was utterly peaceful and there was only one other yacht moored on the other side of the bay. We could see a couple of houses on the shore and decided to go and explore before it got too late. The shore was totally overgrown and we stepped through ruins choked with weeds (and a depressing amount of dumped trash) while bats flapped around our heads. It was spookily eerie and the sight of a rusted, wheeled hospital bed sat in the dark, dank corner of a roofless wooden house was too much for me to bear. Even Jamie was spooked. We headed (quickly) back to the safety of the Magic Badger.
After a sirloin sizzled on the BBQ and several glasses of red wine followed by some star gazing, confidence was restored, faltering only briefly until we realised that the shiny sparks of light flickering in the trees on the shore were fireflies.
Christmas morning, ah, how different from usual, no hangover, instant warmth and not a single present in sight : ( We had the traditional bucks fizz with breakfast, dinghied ashore and trekked up the only up-kept road (dirt track) on the island to the lighthouse. It was quite a slog in the heat but worth the climb. We passed a tiny hummingbird, saw hundreds of vultures cirlcing the thermals above the lighthouse and looked across to Venezuela, nearer to us than Trinidad now was. After a phone call apiece to our families, we walked down to have a snorkel, more bucks fizz and a fish. We both caught one, Jamie’s was edible and mine looked like some kind of alien so we put him back.
Later on, the coast guard’s big grey boat whizzed over, we both hastily dressed, there had been little point in clothes until now, and answered his questions. “Had we seen anything suspicious?” No. “Where were we from” etc Their presence was a comfort after reading that a yacht on the northern shore had been boarded by Venezuelan pirates a few years earlier.
Boxing Day was spent in a similar sunny alcohol fused haze, except we used the opportunity of clean water to clean the propeller and the underneath of the tender which was covered in green slime and barnacles. Dolphins showed up to swim with our boat on the crossing of the bay, do
they think we’ll feed them or are they simply curious? They made our day either way. The next day we headed back reluctantly to Chaguaramas. It was more depressing than ever after the lovely peaceful time we’d just spent in Chacachacare. Luckily, we managed to escape again on New Years Eve.
This time we sailed to somewhere even closer, Scotland Bay, a popular place for locals and yachties alike to escape the confines of Chaguaramas. We arrived close to dusk, anchored and ate (though I say so myself) the best rib eye I’ve ever eaten. Again, despite the presence this time of several other yachts and gin palaces, the place was beautifully tranquil. Fireflies sparkled in the trees on the shore and, to our amazement, fruit bats flew into the salon several times, presumably on the scrounge for food. We couldn’t even stay awake to bring in the new year and went to bed at 11.30!
We woke early the next morning to be greeted by a strange but beautiful phenomena. The water around us appeared to have huge golden leaves flashing through just below the surface, which, on closer inspection were these strange long fish that looked almost eel like, doing synchronised swimming. They’d swim like regular fish, then, all together, they turned on their tails (looking a bit like giant sea horses) and swam upright very slowly, then they’d all start to swim normally again. There were thousands glinting around the bay and I tried to photograph them but just couldn’t capture the spectacle at all.
After breakfast, we dinghied ashore to look for a walking track that apparently existed all the way to Macqueripe Bay. Disappointingly there was a ridiculous amount of rubbish on shore, plastic bags filled with bottles and plates and cigarette cartons strewn around and tied to trees. Clearly, a nationwide litter awareness campaign is desperately needed in Trinidad. We didn’t find the trail but, after finding the shed skin of a large snake, (several poisonous ones live here) and seeing ants as big as grapes we suddenly felt less inclined to cut through the jungle with our machete and returned to the Badger to clean her topsides. We peered at a yacht anchored next to us on the way back. She looked like a ghost ship with decks piled with rubbish and a rotting sail cover in tatters. Strangely, there was a deflated dinghy tied next to her that gave the impression that someone had gone aboard and hadn’t left. Spooky. Was their a body on board? Should we check? Who was there to check in circumstances like this? Neighbourhood Watch wasn’t around to clock the milk bottles piling up on the doorstep… Whats more she was called ‘Mysterion’ and registered in Southampton. We didn’t dare to check, just glanced at her all day long wondering what had happened to her owner(s).
From Scotland Bay we nipped back to Chaguaramas (a 1 hour(ish) motor) to clear out, buy supplies and set off to Tobago. How exciting! Well, the first couple of hours were, as we motored east across the north coast of Trinidad while waiting for wind to pick up…except it didn’t. We had been warned that sailing to Tobago was tricky depending on the wind direction and we had a north easterly 25-30 knot head wind, 3 metre north easterly swells along with a 3 knot current and an unfavourable tide to contend with. At least the scenery was lovely as we motored slowly along.
We anchored for an hour in Las Cuevas Bay to eat dinner and strap the tender to the deck and then continued our motor sail along the coast arriving at Grand Riviere Bay after midnight. We anchored and slept as best we could in the most rolling, uncomfortable anchorage we’d experienced until now.
A brief breakfast was eaten early on and we continued the motor sail over to Tobago. Crown Point was reached at lunch time and we finally arrived at Castara Bay at around 6pm. Two days to get to Tobago. Lessons learnt? Wait for a favourable wind unless you’re desperate! It was worth it as two friendly faces greeted us from a lovely beach. Jane and Ross wined and dined us with all the lovely food we’d missed, creamy Stilton and rich homemade fruity Christmas cake…what a treat. They even brought proper sausage with them, the ones here are repulsive, at least they look it, I’ve never been desperate enough to buy them.
A lovely relaxing week was spent sight seeing, eating and catching up. We hired a car for a couple of days and went walking in the rainforest then visited Argyle Falls where an unofficial tour guide showed us cayman in the river pools and regaled us with a mixture of factual local knowledge and old wives tales. Jamie and I went for a swim in one of the pools (according to our guide this would heal any spiritual unrest in our souls…) and it was lovely. We drove to Charlotteville which was gorgeous stopping the car every few miles to gather the not too damaged mango windfalls. We drove to the south end of the island the following day which we all agreed wasn’t as lovely as the north. Here I tried the ‘crab and dumpling’ that the guide book tempted me to try. It was disappointing, the crab was too hard to get at and the dumpling consisted of three slabs of tasteless white goo…the sauce was really good though.
We set sail with our new crew and, after a bit of a hectic start, had a relaxed sail and anchored on Pigeon Point next to the beautiful Buccoo Reef late in the afternoon. The following morning we all got into the dingy and spent the day walking and swimming around the national park, unfortunately the strong wind made the snorkelling that we’d been so looking forward to impossible.
Clearing out of Tobago was a bit of a nightmare, we thought we’d be able to do it at the airport, but, when we got there, the most patronizing, unhelpful jobs-worth customs officer ever, informed us that we’d have to go back to Scarborough, a half hour taxi ride away. Here we were greeted with the most helpful, friendly and courteous customs officer ever, who had been called in especially to clear us out and she made up for the idiot at the airport.
Trinidad was our next port of call and we set sail at about 4.30am to get a good start. A favourable wind got us to Maracas bay where we had a lovely late lunch BBQ on the beach. The next day we had a leisurely sail to Scotland Bay where we stopped for lunch and a swim, then back to Chaguaramas just in time to clear in to customs.
Jane and Ross went to stay in Port of Spain and we joined them after a couple of days and hired a car for a long awaited explore of Trinidad. We visited the pitch lake at La Brea in the south of the island. I’m ashamed to admit that I had always thought that asphalt was made by men mixing tar stuff into a goo, but no! It can occur naturally and this is the largest such instance in the world. 180 tonnes is taken for export every day and Jamie commented that this was the best time he’d had in a car park since Charnock Richard Services circa 1990. Sir. Walter Raleigh was recorded as having visited in the 16th century where he used the asphalt to re-tar his ship. We were informed by an extraordinarily unenthusiastic guide in a monotone pitch (boom boom!) that this was the 8th wonder of the modern world. As unbelievable as this may have been, it was certainly worth a visit and I shall not look at roads quite the same again…
The second day with car was spent visiting the Asa Wright bird sanctuary in the mountainous northern region. The drive was beautiful through lush rainforest on windy and at times, badly damaged roads. The sanctuary was a beautiful airy colonial house in tropical, wild, rainforest grounds. We all stood on a huge verandah and watched an exquisite array of tiny hummingbirds and gorgeous turquoise, blue and green birds feeding, then had a guided tour into the forest. I really wanted to see a toucan but they were too high up to see. We tried to drive back via Blanchisseuse, however, an avalanche had demolished the road so we drove back the way we’d come.
The next day a sad farewell was made, Jane and Ross caught the fast ferry back to Tobago. We’ve had a lovely couple of weeks holiday respite and indulgence and now it’s back to the grindstone! Only a few more big jobs to complete now and we’ll be heading back to Grenada very soon, then it will be holiday mode again.
As a tribute and farewell to Trinidad we arranged to go for a gorge walk with David (whose Christmas party we’d gatecrashed) and his friend, Keith. Dawn was a soggy affair and it continued to be so, thus the walk was spent in torrential rain, which actually didn’t matter a bit because the footpath we followed was a river. It was great to properly stretch our legs again and see some wild Trinidad. There was a small section in the ‘heart’ of the gorge that was, if I’m honest, pretty terrifying. I froze with fear, with one foot on each cliff/river side and a churning torrent of water flowing underneath, not daring to go on or turn around. I didn’t want to let the side down, being the only girl and all but had to concede to Jamie leading the way back to safety. What a great day though, finished, as all good walks should be, with a pub lunch and beer.
On the 24th January at 01.30 we set sail again, this time towards Grenada to meet Becky and Andy who were arriving on the afternoon of the 25th. We attempted to get some sleep beforehand but couldn’t. The moon was brand new and so we had no light, and as soon as we got through the Boca de Monos we realised how rough the sea was, even though we couldn’t see it. There was a 3 metre swell and a force 5 gusty wind and the boat was lifted around as if she were a rag dolly. This was much more terrifying than gorge walking! I knew it was bad because Jamie willingly let me put a lifejacket on him and allowed me to tie him on for fear he should fall off the back. We agreed to sail on until light and then re-assess our options. Waiting for dawn was the longest wait I can remember having. The boat bucked and leaned and the wind howled, I couldn’t even make a cup of tea because it was so rough. Finally, we saw the bright haze of the Poinesettia gas platform glowing in the distance and so at least we had some point of reference, and just before 06.00, daylight, albeit a grey and unfriendly one, finally arrived.
The morning continued in the same grim, drawn out uncomfortable manner but at around lunchtime the wind eased slightly and the swells became a little less alarming. Spirits lifted further when Grenada appeared on the horizon at around 15.00. Later on we spotted a hammer head shark circling the boat, and even later a pod of tiny dolphins joined us for a few minutes. At 22.30 we sailed into Prickly Bay, Grenada and were both so tired that we were hallucinating. We threw in an anchor, hoped for the best and fell into bed.
Whoop whoop, today is the day that Becky and Andy arrive! With just enough time to clean the Badger, go shopping and clear in with customs and immigration we met them at the airport, both looking amazingly white. Our long and arduous journey had been worth it.
A few days were spent in Prickly Bay with the highlights being a visit to Grenville for the most gorgeous ‘doubles’ yet (doubles are Indian influenced fried chick pea puris filled with curried chick peas and chillis, heavenly), a visit to Rivers Rum factory and the Grenada Organic Chocolate factory stopping off at some beautiful waterfalls on the way back for a quick dip. Once back, we had a few beers with some of the folks from our day trip who told us about a party they were going to that evening. We (foolishly in mine and Becky’s case) decided to forgo dinner and just carry on drinking. We managed to gatecrash the party (by entering from the beach) which was held for the American medical students here (the same ones that Reagan used as an excuse to invade Grenada in 1983) and had a great time. Our heads the next day weren’t so great however.
Once recovered we decided to show our new crew some Caribbean highlights and sailed via St. Georges (the capital) for provisions and headed north up the west coast of Grenada to Halifax Harbour, our anchorage for the evening. We’d had our usual lure out the back on which we’ve never yet managed to hook anything but seaweed. As Andy wound it in he said, “I think there’s something on it…” OMG, would you believe it, we had an enormous stripy fish hooked! Quickly identified as a Wahoo, we anchored, then the boys dragged it ashore with the dinghy to ‘put it out of its misery’.
Once ashore we lit a fire to cook our catch on. It was so big we weren’t quite sure how to deal with it and decided in the end, to saw it clean in half and grill it on the BBQ. With hindsight, the next time we’re lucky enough to land such a whopper I’d chop it into more manageable steaks because it took ages to cook. The flesh was gorgeous: firm, white and moist and there was enough of it to feed 20 easily. Needless to say fish curry followed by Thai style fish cakes kept us going for the next 2 days. From our lovely beach BBQ we saw our first monkey since arriving and spent a lovely peaceful evening by the fire on the beach.
An early start was made with Carriacou as our destination. As we approached the top of Grenada the wind became so ferocious that it made us lean until Becky and I were screaming. After reefing the sails and a shot of rum (it was 10.30…) to calm us down we continued, arriving at Tyrell Bay just before sunset. That night we were rudely woken by an almighty thud only to find that we were in a compromising position with a catamaran. We re-anchored and no damage was done to either boat but that was the second time that we have slipped anchor in Tyrell Bay.
A lovely shiny morning greeted us, although the wind was still pretty fierce, and we decided to climb Chapeau Carre, the islands tallest peak. It was a lovely wooded track, we saw a tortoise on the way up and the views accross the Grenadines and the island were stunning. A much needed swim in the gorgeous sea was had after our walk.
The next day we headed for Petite Martinique (PM) and its even smaller neighbour Petit St. Vincent (PSV). The following morning we explored PM and bought some provisions, then spent a couple of hours snorkelling off PSV. It was Becky’s first go in the water with her float (due to a broken arm) and it was a success.
Following lunch we sailed over to Union Island, after clearing in at Clifton, we headed for the gorgeous Chatham Bay. The next day was spent attempting to climb the 1000 foot Mt.Taboi, however, with undergrowth that wouldn’t have been out of place in Sleeping Beauty and a huge tree across our footpath we didn’t quite make the top. A lovely relaxing afternoon of snorkelling and a BBQ on the beach was the perfect end to a perfect day.
Another early rise took us via Clifton for provisions and on to the Tobago Cays for swimming with turtles. A relaxing down wind sail took us to Mayreau to overnight. Some friendly yachties invited us for drinks on board their lovely big catamaran. A pleasant evening was spent chatting and drinking then it was back to the Badger for food and some very special pina coladas. Yet again, we were rudely awoken in the early hours with Jamie starting the engine. We had slipped anchor again, but this time were heading out into the open ocean…good job Jamie woke up.
On the way back to Tyrell Bay, we stopped at Sandy Island for some really good snorkelling and some lolling on the amazing white beach. Becky and Andy treated us all to grilled lobster (mm, except Jamie who had chicken…). The next day we had a fairly long sail back to Prickly Bay, Grenada, a drunken night in Grenada’s equivalent of a pub quiz, and then departure day loomed. I cried as I watched their plane roar over the bay and am still feeling sad now, but a lovely holiday was had by all.
We’re back in Trinidad! It feels almost like home. Jamie was offered some work here and so we sailed from Grenada 2 days after Becky and Andy left us. It was a lot more speedy to return to, than to leave and we made it back in 14 hours. I wasn’t really relishing the idea of returning but so far it has been good. We’ve met up with some friends and made some new ones too, so our social life has started to flourish. And we got to see the world famous Trinidad carnival.
Our first taste of the carnival was ‘Jouvert’ held on Sunday night. We drove through to Port of Spain, the capital, with friends and spent a wild night drinking and dancing in the streets. Although we only managed to stay awake until 3am and the floats arrived at 4am we didn’t feel too bad because we got to see them eventually and the whole ‘street party’ was what we were all looking forward to the most. It was a bit like a festival only we didn’t camp out.
On Tuesday a group of us went to Port of Spain and pretty much spent the whole day drinking beer and eating street food while we watched hundreds of bright and beautifully clad people wearing amazing costumes all taking part in the carnival parades. Soca music blared from the floats, people danced and we all had a lovely day. The ladies here don’t seem to be at all self concious of their bodies, some enormous bums (and some enviably lovely ones) were on display in the tiniest of sparkly bikinis and Jamie took great delight in photographing as many of these as he could…
Whilst walking back to the car we found a variety of discarded carnival outfits which we pounced on eagerly like soldiers collecting the spoils of war, guffawing drunkenly while we tried to work out what each item was and which part of the body it was supposed to fit.
A whole month has passed and we have been busy… working and drinking mainly, and, more recently, sailing.
We returned to Trinidad to work on a yacht which needed an enormous amount of stuff fixing and so, while Jamie was busy doing the glamorous and important stuff (wiring, but with added intelligence) I was needed for much less skilled work, mainly polishing miles of stainless steel. In fact, I spent the majority of my time sat under the 76 foot yacht, sheltering from either the scorching sun or the torrential rain, in a dusty (or muddy) boat yard, polishing a variety of marine fittings whilst trying to decipher what the fast spoken Trini workers around me were talking about. It was quite amusing most of the time, the guy who was in charge of the paint spraying would spend the entire day smoking ‘ganja’ and screaming and swearing at his workers. Anyway, we earned some cash and had some hilarious drunken nights with our co-workers/friends and the time just slipped away so quickly, as it always does when you have a job.
We abandoned work, the dusty boat yard and our new found friends to set sail to meet Joe in Antigua. This (if we make it) will be the longest journey we’ve had in the Badger, a 500 nautical mile trip no less! A lot of yachts sail straight up (or down) taking only 3-4 days to do so but, with my sailing skills leaving a lot to be desired, we are island hopping up to make the journey bearable.
The longest sail, one we’ve done before, is the 80 mile crossing from Trinidad to Grenada. We prepared by spending an afternoon in Scotland Bay (north west Trini) hacking off the barnacles from the bottom of the boat and scrubbing off the green slime that had collected in the few weeks spent in the green waters of Chaguaramas. Setting sail at 02.30 we managed to anchor in Halifax Harbour, Grenada at 18.00, a vast improvement on our timing from the last time we made the journey – what a difference a half decent wind direction makes. Oh, and Jamie’s just reminded me, we saw 2 hammer head sharks this time, swimming together, really close to the surface.
From Grenada we sailed up to Union Island. We arrived before dark but couldn’t face the idea of customs and thought we’d cleverly avoid overtime rates by going the next morning… Only to find out that the Prime Minister had declared a national holiday only 2 days earlier because SVG had beat the Aussies at cricket! We got totally stitched up with overtime fees and felt pretty cheated. The highlight of the day however, and one which even customs and their ridiculous rules and regulations couldn’t spoil, was seeing a leatherback turtle the size of a Mini Cooper swimming out to sea from Grenada’s coastline, what a fantastic sighting.
Beautiful Bequia was our next port of call and we gave ourselves a much needed full day break, giving us chance to fill our gas bottle, do some jobs on the boat and have a lovely snorkel out on the Devil’s Table. From Bequia we nipped (ha, there was nothing nippy about it!) We motored – once sailing became impossible – into a fierce headwind and strong current) back to St,Vincent to pick up some of the sale documents from buying the boat. We stayed only for an hour and then headed up to Keartons Bay, just before Walliabaloo (where the Pirates of the Carribean set was based) to spend a quiet night before our sail to St. Lucia.
The sail to St. Lucia was good, albeit a little hairy in places along the north coast of St. Vincent, however, we had been warned and had reefed accordingly. The famous Pitons (2 large conical pieces of rock strutting 2000ish feet straight from the sea) were visible many miles before we reached them and they were indeed beautiful.
Well, here we are in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia. We spent the day shopping for my birthday present and I am now the proud owner of 2 pairs of lovely new flip flops (amongst other things) and Jamie bought clothes in which he will no longer be mistaken for a tramp in. It’s bed time. I’m sipping red wine and Jamie’s fast asleep on the couch. We’re setting off to Martinique at daybreak (well, that’s the plan) and I’m looking forward to some decent bread!
Martinique was lovely, startlingly similar to France and we would have loved more time to explore it properly. We sailed into Marin on the south west coast and anchored. Customs was a dream in comparrison to most of the other islands and it was free. The supermarket was excellent! Gorgeous French cheeses that weren’t ridiculously expensive, freshly baked baguettes and affordable red wine.
We then tried to find a new sailing guide because we’d reached the end of the Windward Islands, and Dominica, our next island, is the first in the Leeward Island chain. We have relied heavily on Chris Doyle’s sailing guides because they’re so useful with well written snippets of history and all the best anchorages and we couldn’t bear the idea of sailing into Dominica without one, but Marin had run out of them. We even sailed around to Fort de France, the capital, in search of one but to no avail. The city had a real French feel to it with cobbled streets, colonial architecture and large parks lined with restaurants and bars.
Fully stocked with provisions we headed up the coast to St.Pierre which was once the island’s capital and had been known as ‘The Paris of the Caribbean’. However, in 1902 Mt. Pelee volcano errupted and killed all but 2 of the towns 30,000 population, one of whom was a prisoner protected by his thick stone cell walls. We wandered around the lovely town where a lot of the old ruins remain and had an early night ready for our sail to Dominica the next morning.
Dominica is known as the wild island because of it’s lovely unspoiled country and dramatic scenery and again, we were sad to have only one full day to explore it because the hiking is said to be fantastic. We wandered around Portsmouth which seemed poor and quite run down but we did manage to find a copy of our sailing guide. The rest of the day was spent walking in the Cabrits national park and preparing for our next sail.
The wind was favourable leaving Dominica and we arrived in the gorgeous Iles Des Saintes well before lunch time. Checking in was even easier, we didn’t even have to see anyone, just input our details into a computer and printed off a copy, leaving us time for lunch and an afternoon sail on to Guadeloupe. We anchored at Point a Pitre and then ended up getting drunk on ‘ti punch’ (rum, lime juice and sugar – lovely but lethal) with our friendly ‘next door neighbours’ who came and introduced themselves after being excited to meet some fellow young cruisers! It was a lovely evening but a 4am rise to navigate through the Riviere Sallee after too much rum wasn’t so great. (The Riviere Sallee is a sort of canal that runs through the centre of Guadeloupe and acts as a short cut for those who want one).
But we made it and it felt like a real adventure, setting off in the dark (hastily following another boat in case it wasn’t clear where to go), and then waiting in the canal mouth with about 8 other boats for the bridge entrance to the Riviere Sallee to open. By the time we’d chugged through the mangroves to the north exit, it was light, which was lucky because we had to follow beacons through quite a treacherous channel, in fact a yacht that had overtaken us 15 minutes earlier got stuck and had to hail down someone in a speedboat to pull them off.
After a much needed breakfast we decided not to hang around in Guadeloupe because we didn’t really have the time to enjoy it, so we headed straight to Antigua where we arrived, with plenty of daylight, in the very beautiful English Harbour, to await the arrival of Joe.
We were both pleasantly surprised at how lovely English Harbour was and were very excited about exploring it further with Joe. We’d imagined it to be spoilt and touristy, and, although it is quite touristy, it doesn’t feel spoilt, and even though there are yachts moored here that clearly cost millions, we didn’t feel like poor unworthies.
Magic Badger had 2 full days of intense cleaning, scrubbing and polishing in honour of Joe’s arrival and so she was looking better than she had since we bought her when he landed, looking pale but ready for adventure.
After a relaxing day spent snorkelling, eating and drinking, we sailed around to Falmouth to fill up with fuel and water, had a delicious restaurant meal of marlin carpaccio followed by dolphin steaks (no, don’t worry, it’s not the dolphin you’re thinking of) and, the next morning, sailed around to Deep Bay on the west coast, seeing on the way an enormous Moby Dick shaped whale leap out of the water and crash back into the sea leaving a huge splash. We’d sailed to Deep Bay mainly because there lies the wreck of The Andes, a 3 masted ship that had been sailing from Trinidad with a cargo of pitch in 1905 when it had set fire and sunk, leaving a reputedly good snorkelling spot. After a lovely walk ashore exploring Fort Barrington and admiring hundreds of hummingbirds feeding from the blossom in the trees, we returned for drinks and a meal and snorkelled the wreck the next morning. We tied the painter to the bit of the mast that was still visible, donned our snorkel masks and plunged in. And were instantly disapointed because we could hardly see anything, for some reason the water was really cloudy and swimming along the old wreck felt spooky when bits of it loomed unexpectedly close out of the gloom. Something brushed my leg and I felt pannicky and started to imagine grey shark shapes looming instead. Even the boys felt a bit scared I think and we swam (quickly) back to the dingy.
We then headed back down to Jolly Harbour for marine charts of Barbuda and Antigua, and then salied back up to Five Islands Harbour, an idyllic spot, where we had a bbq on our own private beach and lots more rum was drunk. The next morning we set sail for Barbuda and after some rain and wind, the sun came out and a huge whale surfaced right next to our boat, it was wonderful.
Anchoring fairly late in the afternoon on the mid west coast, we had just enough time to walk along the beatiful long white and pink sand beach, one which Doyle in his sailing guide describes as being the best in the Caribbean, stopping briefly to look at the menu of the only hotel on the beach (the only building actually) and being stunned to discover that a green salad on the lunch menu was $50 (US), (about £35)… Not surprisingly, it was totally empty, although it had a helicopter landing pad outside so presumably it’s visitors didn’t bat an eyelid at paying such ourageously expensive prices.
An article in last months Caribbean Compass had given us the idea to hire bikes to explore the mainly flat isalnd, and so we did, having a fantastic day, marred only by Joe being chased by a rabid dog. We cycled to The Highlands where the ruins of Codrington Estate lay, and, leaving our bikes, hiked through country similar to the Australian outback, to the huge Derby Sinkhole. It looked like something out of the Lost World, we’d been walking through scrubby scorched looking desert, then all of a sudden, this huge hole in the ground about 100 yards in diameter and 100 feet deep which had palm trees growing out of it appeared. We scrambled down and it was lovely and cool and shady and there were hundreds of hermit crabs scuttling around. After hiking back to our bikes, we cycled to a gorgeous bay where cliffs joined the beach and there were caves to explore after a much needed swim.
Later, whilst sipping G & T’s on deck, admiring the sunset and discussing what we fancied for dinner, a young couple rowed over from the next anchored yacht. We watched them get closer and then realised they were coming to see us. As they pulled up to the back, the young man drew the tail end of an impressive silver fish from a bucket and said “Would you like a fish?” Wow! Yes indeed we would, you chose the RIGHT boat. And all he wanted in return was a lemon. However, we insisted that they stay and have some G & T’s and chatted for a couple of hours. They were a lovely couple, much younger than us and had both crossed the Atlantic on numerous occasions, one being singlehanded. Respect! Anyway, the fish was gorgeous, we were so happy because we’d been dying to catch one (as we always are, and it’s only happened once…) and it was the perfect end to a perfect day.
The following morning we sailed to Cocoa Point and had an excellent snorkel on the reef, heading back to Antigua the next day, arriving at Dickenson Bay by lunch time. We’d chosen the spot because it was a shorter sail and we thought that it might be lively and fun, only to discover that it had about as much soul as a dead parrot. Anyway, we made the most of it and got some provisions from the amazingly stocked Epicurean supermarket. After dinner, we went ashore and had to walk past the Sandals resort beach where a scene straight out of the Whicker Man greeted us. We were all a bit tipsy after beer and wine and couldn’t work out quite what was going on at first, but realised that the 10 or 12 elaborate paper and twig ‘tee pees’, each with burning club and awkward looking couple, placed at just the right distance from each other so as to be able to have a private conversation if they spoke really quietly, must be newly weds having their own ‘private’ special moment. God, it was awful. We had to try really hard not to laugh as we wound our way through them.
We were happy to return to heavenly Five Island Bay the following morning where we enjoyed more snorkelling and another fire and bbq on, again, our own private beach. A giddy, rum fuelled night led to sore heads the next morning, where an arduous sail, beating to wind, led us back to English Harbour. We had a fantastic night out in English Harbour and Joe left the following day. We are now waiting to sail up to St.Martin via St.Kitts for the next leg of our adventure.
It was all a bit of an anti-climax once Joe had left, our holiday was over, we had to sail up to St.Maarten, deposit our boat in a marina and fly back to Trinidad to resume work on CAP II. (The yacht we’d been working on previously).
… A couple of days later we checked out of Antigua and sailed first light to St.Kitts which was a pleasant sail, even achieving up to 8 knots at times! We sailed through the channel between Kitts and Nevis, wondering if Nevis had been named so after it’s Scottish namesake, it looked to be a similar shape at least… We anchored in the small White House Bay just before sunset and sailed up the west coast the next morning to check in at Basseterre, the capital. It was quite a pretty and bustling little town and after provisioning and eating the most dismally disappointing lobster sandwich you can possibly imagine, we continued our sail up the coast and anchored off Sandy Point ready for an early start to St.Maarten the next morning… which paid off because we arrived in time for lunch after a lovely sail past Sint Eustatius, a small rocky island that was once the chief port of the entire Caribbean, hard to believe when you see how small it is, and Saba, a very steep and rocky island that is supposed to be lovely. We decided we’d love to visit both if we get the chance, but alas, on this occasion we hadn’t the time.
St. Maarten is an island owned by 2 countries, the north side is French and the south side is Dutch. There is a huge lagoon, Simpson Lagoon, that you can access from both sides, however, if approaching from the south, it’s much easier to go in the Dutch side despite it being the most expensive option. We were leaving our boat in a marina in the lagoon and so had to anchor outside in the bay and wait until the bridge to the lagoon opened. At 17.30 we were ’rounded up’ by a guy from customs in a dingy and had to form a watery queue to pass under the bridge where we were then escorted by an employee of the marina for the surprisingly long journey through the lagoon to Cupecoy Marina. This was the first time we had had the ‘luxury’ of staying in a marina, and, after 2 nights of being viciously eaten by mosquitoes, we decided it would be our last! It was sad and a bit worrying to leave our faithful Badger in a marina all by herself while we flew off to Trinidad, however, this was the safest option and there are staff there who check on her bilges and batteries each week to make sure she’s still floating.
So here we are…AGAIN!!! In Trinidad, living in a house instead of a boat, working our backsides off along with the other crew to get CAP II seaworthy and back in the water ready for her imminent charter. She should ‘splash down’ by the end of this week (today is Monday the 14th May) and, after some sea trials and other inevitable tweaks, we shall be sailing her back up to St. Maarten, where we pause for a couple of days to buy some of the many things (like small light fittings) which are just not available here. Then, we plan to crew her over to Newport, New England.
A much needed and rare day out was had yesterday, Keith (the captain), Dina (his partner) Jamie and I drove up to the beautiful north east coast of Trinidad via Toco to Grande Riviere on the north coast. Grande Riviere is a famous breeding ground for leather back turtles and, despite realising that it was unlikely to see any beaching until after dark, we waited until dusk and saw loads of huge heads and bodies popping up out of the waves and even one who decided she’d start to get out before changing her mind and going back into the surf, presumably until it was darker when there are less predators around. Even though we were disappointed that we weren’t able to wait until dark to watch them properly, it was still magical to see what we did see and the scenery was so spectacularly beautiful we decided that it would be lovely to return one day and stay in the little hotel on the beach for a week to turtle watch and explore the area by hiking and kayaking.
So, we finally left Trinidad (again) after many days that blended into nights of hard slog and toil in an effort to turn CAP II into the sailing beauty that she almost is again…
We had a turbulent 3 day sail to St.Martin (this is the French side as opposed to the Dutch side, St.Maarten) and I (although everyone else fared much better) struggled to keep any food or drink down and basically spent the better half of 2 whole days lying on my back feeling like death and vowing never to get onto a boat again. Finally we reached St.Martin, a very welcome sight indeed. We tied the boat up in Fort Louis Marina in Marigot Bay and spent the next 3 days trying to fix what had broken down on the way from Trinidad, the major pain being the generator. Luckily, I know nothing about generators and so was spared that particular ordeal and instead spent my time with Dina driving around the island in a desperate search for the 220 volt appliances that we needed for the boat. This, although exhausting at times, gave me a good opportunity to get to see the island in some detail.
Jamie and I, in between all the hard work, took the tender (that’s dingy to you none sailing folk) and went to visit Magic Badger in Cupecoy Marina on the Dutch side of the lagoon. She looked bare without her sails and bimini and a bit lonely but other than that, exactly as we’d left her, give or take a few dollops of bird poo.
On our last evening we decided to treat ourselves to a slap up meal in Grand Case, a town on the French side reputed for it’s selection of ‘posh’ restaurants. Initially we’d planned to eat piza but the place was closed and so we continued to drive north until we reached Grand Case. We chose one of the many restaurants at random (well, not quite random, the tasy looking specials on the board tempted us in) and had a sumptious feast. I chose Mignon Rossini, a fillet mignon on toasted brioch with fois gras, sweetbreads, ceps and black truffle sauce…yum. The cheapest bottle of wine we could find on the list was 50 Euros (!!!) which we chose reluctantly whilst still reeling with the shock of seeing one priced at 19,000 Euros (!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) eek! And yes, we asked the waiter if anyone had ever bought a bottle and he replied “oh yes” and told us that one man’s wine bill had been into the hundreds of thousands of Euros.
The other exciting thing to happen in St.Martin was that I had my 12 week ultrasound scan. It was so exciting watching this totally unfamiliar wiggly thing on a monitor and realising that it was inside MY body. We don’t know what sex it is and the sonographer refered to it as ‘he or she’ and I almost couldn’t bear not to know and wanted to ask him if he did (I’m sure he did) but I resisted the temptation. Anyway, ‘it’ has a predicted D.O.B of the 27th December. Mmmmm, not the date I would have chosen as ideal but I’m sure it’ll be fine. (Please don’t let it be Christmas Day!!!!)
Anyway, we left St.Martin on the evening of, well, I’m not sure when it was exactly but it was evening. Thankfully the weather was MUCH calmer than the sail from Trinidad had been and I could resume my official post as ships cook. I even managed to bake a carrot cake of which I was rather proud. Three days into the sail I began to feel rather sick again when we hit some rougher seas and I had to eat some meals lying down to avoid bringing them straight back up again. I have come to the conclusion that it must be ‘baby’ who is making me feel so much more sick than I usually do. On our fifth day of sailing our captain Keith realised that some bad weather was sitting in the gulf stream which would make our sail at best uncomfortable and at worst dangerous and so we detoured to Bermuda which is where I’m writing this now.
Our first full day here was yesterday which happened to be Jamie’s 40th birthday, what excellent timing. I’m not sure that I would have managed the (though I say it myself) most excellent chocolate cake if we’d been at sea, although I would have tried my best! We all got the bus through from St.Georges (where our marina is) to Hamilton, the capital city in the evening and had a lovely walk through the very beautiful and cosmopolitan city to an Indian restaurant. The whole island is a picture perfect scene of beautifully painted Georgian houses, all with white roofs, and clean streets and lovely clear and clean looking water. Unfortunately cruise ships stop here making the streets in St.Georges almost unbearable until 4pm because the crowds are so heavy. Today I planned to have a nice walk with Jamie if I could prise him away from his duties, however, we awoke to torrential rain which has continued throughout the day and it now feels more like we’re in Conniston than Bermuda…
Anyway, we plan to resume our sail to the US of A tomorrow (Saturday the 16th) and should get there on Tuesday if all goes well. We are to expect some ‘rough’ weather when we hit the Gulf Stream which I have to say I’m dreading. I hope to prep as much food as possible (my frozen chilli and tomato sauce was a life saver when the weather got rough on our second leg) just in case I end up flat on my back wanting to die again. I shall let you all know as soon as possible how it all goes. Remember to track our progress on ‘Spot’ ( http://share.findmespot.com/shared/faces/viewspots.jsp?glId=0aECk7oHmLHEVik78GrhXl9i0QyOssbVl )! Love to you all, over and out.
The arduous journey to work 😉
It took us three and a half days to sail from Bermuda up to Rhode Island and the journey was fairly uneventful save for some whale spotting, several Portuguese Man of War floating past and the biggest pod of dolphins I’ve ever seen on our last day. I didn’t enjoy the passage really because for most of it I felt sick, I did however manage to perform my duties as ship’s cook. I was, as ever, immensely grateful to reach solid ground. The weather on arrival was scorching, 97 degrees Fahrenheit (they don’t use Celsius here), and, apart from one chilly, rainy and windy day, the weather has remained beautiful since. Not that we’ve had any time to enjoy it…!
We managed to finish work at 3pm last Sunday and drive to Newport to visit the America’s Cup Series, and, although we got there too late to see any of the races, we did get to see some amazing racing yachts at Fort Adams and it was lovely just to get away from CAP II for a couple of hours. Yesterday was our last day of work with the charter starting today and we worked from 8 am until 1 am with no breaks… awful. However, after a short stint this morning, we became free again… wonderful!
Today has been spent trying to decide where we’re going to and how we’re getting there. We have decided that hiring a car will be the best option and camping will be the most fun although we are both (mainly me actually) a little bit afraid of being eaten by a bear and so we may try to get a car that we can sleep in the back of but get a small gazebo for shelter from the rain and a small stove. I also had to buy a new wardrobe today because I can’t fasten any of my shorts or trousers any more. I’ve had to opt for some dreadfully unflattering drawstring pants that
make my backside look like a sack of potatoes although unfortunately it looks like one without the help of unflattering clothes due to the excessive intake of American junk food (no time to cook and shop when you’re working from 8 till 8 every night) and my tummy is expanding to match my behind. Not a good look. I’m just so excited with the prospect of walking in some gorgeous places and feeling a bit fitter again.
Once we’ve hired the car tomorrow and bought our camping gear we can set off, woo hoo! We want to visit a few National Parks to get our walking fix and we’d love to see New York. We’re both so excited and happy to be free from the restrictions of working after such a long slog and no real free time and the good thing is, it really feels as if we’ve earned it.