Monday, 20 September 2010


A very welcome day off on Sunday brought fun and games on Hog Island.Gypsy Blues organised a Kayak tug o' war competition off the beach by Roger's bar. Teams of 2 (one in the dinghy, the other in the water) fought it out, trying to pull the opposition's kayak across the anchored marker, a rather fetching decoy duck. Rules were loose and cheating obligatory, leading to kayaks being turned over and the duck being moved! Three heats later, we actually managed to win, mainly due to Nic's deadly tactics in the water. I just kept madly paddling in the kayak until the whistle blew.
Today work has been rained out; will we ever get these jobs finished?! I am looking at the brand new paint I applied this morning to various spots in the scuppers which are now immersed in a river of rain water, not ideal but it's a welcome opportunity to fill the tanks.
We have also pulled the dinghy out to re-glue it yet again. Thanks to the incredibly kind Gypsy Blues, we won't be boat-bound for days this time, they have generously lent us their spare dinghy to use.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010


We are feeling far more positive today...the final coat of paint has gone on the coach roof (my hand is aching from 2 days of stippling non-slip paint!) and the generator is working (hooray, back to normal cooking on more than one burner at a time!).
On Monday we motored around to the marina in the next bay, Le Phare Bleu, to fill up with water and to enlist further help from Mike of Palm Tree Marine. After a compression test he established that we have an injector problem. The offending injector has been cleaned and we have power. It really needs replacing but that requires specialist tools for the installation that are not available anywhere in the Caribbean. We are keeping our fingers crossed that Nic can keep it going until we get up to the States next year.

Sunday, 12 September 2010


We enjoyed a brief respite in the work schedule and joined the Grenada Hash House Harriers for a hash in Sauteurs on Saturday. After convening on the beach, a huge group of walkers and runners set off on the course which took us up steep, muddy slopes but afforded spectacular views north to Carriacou. The crowd quickly dissipated in all directions following circles of shredded paper. Everywhere around us we could hear calls of "On, On" to confirm we were on the right track and not one of the false trails culminating in a paper X. The cold beers and bbq were very welcome at the finish. As "hash virgins" we were given certificates and ceremoniously sprayed with beer as we sprinted through the hashers. A very kind Haitian couple gave us a lift back to St Georges despite our beery, damp state!

Saturday, 11 September 2010


Grenada has the most spectacular sunsets of anywhere we have been in the Caribbean, maybe it's something to do with its position??? Nowhere else are the colours so intense, especially the deep blue, or seen on such a majestic scale. Friday night outdid itself and gave us a full arch double rainbow. My photos couldn't do it justice but the memory lives on.

Thursday, 9 September 2010


We've finally finished stripping the coach roof and have got a few layers of paint on. The weather is not cooperating...a torrential downpour stopped work yesterday and it has been raining continuously today. Open bolt holes cause us to have plastic trays under the ceiling in the saloon to catch water coming through!

We've also started work on the decks and, just to make life more difficult, had to take off a pulley which had not been installed properly. This entailed dismantling part of a bedroom cupboard (my clothes are now sitting out) and emptying part of the saloon storage. The disruption expands daily! Nic had just removed a couple of bolts before the deluge began yesterday and within seconds we had water pouring in from the river running along the scuppers.

The generator parts arrived and Nic installed them but we still have the same problem so investigations are ongoing with no solution in sight. We've been here a month now and haven't yet even started a single job that we came here to do. Very frustrating!

Friday, 27 August 2010

Trials and Tribulations

Our maintenance programme seems to be expanding. We began to prepare the coach roof for painting. Just a few tiny cracks and rust spots to grind and prime before putting on a couple of coats of paint. Then one of the hairline cracks suddenly opened up and the paint started coming off like wallpaper. That was last Friday and since then we've had to strip the whole area which involved taking off lots of deck equipment, which meant taking down some of the ceiling in the saloon so that it could be unbolted. And, and, and...

Fortunately we paid for an extra hand on the first day but our helper was not prepared to put in a second day! Unfortunately we had just finished the stripping and treated the whole area with rust converter when we had a torrential rain shower. As a consequence all the chemicals on the roof were being slowly washed off onto the windows so we were out trying to mop them off endlessly. The rain continued through the night and at 4am I went into the saloon to find water dripping from the ceiling, it was making its way through the bolt holes. the next day was the wettest we've had since arriving in Grenada and ensured the bare metal rusted nicely!
The big blow came yesterday. The messy wire-brushing, angle-grinding etc was over and I was putting a complete coat of paint over the whole coach roof. Finally we were seeing light at the end of the tunnel. Nic had a niggling concern about the paint we are using and telephoned the paint manufacturers in the USA. We've applied the wrong primer for the area and all of it has to come off again. (It wasn't a light it was a train!) Some of the earliest sections we've done have 3 coats of fresh (costly) paint and it's going to be incredibly difficult to get it back to metal again. It will be several gruelling Groundhog days before we reach the same point again.
On top of that hurricane season is starting to become more active. Hurricane Danielle is out in the Atlantic, thankfully predicted to miss us, and Tropical Storm Earl behind it is expected to become a hurricane this afternoon. Another more worrying tropical depression is still near the Cape Verdes with an 80% chance of developing into something. Generally our local weather has remained settled but hot and very humid. A boat in our cove was hit by lightning the other night, Nic actually saw it and we were deafened by the crack. It fried their electronics but thankfully no one was hurt. The forces of nature are a powerful thing.
To keep us on our toes we've also been fighting the local wildlife. Apart from flies and mosquitoes finding their way to the boat we've had a stream of hornets visiting and discovered they had built nests in the curtains. The last two nights we've had squid committing seppuku on the deck, not before spraying everything with black ink. How do they leap so high and why?!
Lack of wind and sun is challenging our power supply. With the main generator broken and no parts arriving until the beginning of next week, we're having to run the very noisy portable generator for hours every day, our poor neighbours! Oh yes and I forgot to mention the dinghy is leaking again so will need another long glue session very soon.
Oh joy!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Carnival fun

We're still recovering from carnival celebrations here in Grenada! After and excellent party on Sunday night we headed into the capital of St George's for J'Ouvert (pronounced "jouvay")which started to get going about 3am and peaked as dawn rose over the picturesque harbour. Everyone wears home-made costumes (or old clothes) and smears themselves and each other in paint, oil and chocolate. For such a Bacchanalian event, the atmosphere was very friendly and unthreatening. We were incredibly impressed with how well-behaved the crowds were throughout the carnival festivities despite reasonably cheap drinks available everywhere. The police were around but certainly not high profile as one would see in Europe.Amidst the socialising we've been working away on Irony trying to get through our long list of maintenance jobs. Additionally our generator has chosen to break down, yet again, so we're sourcing parts.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Gorgeous Grenadines

Light winds forced us to motor part of the way to Bequia. We anchored at Princess Margaret Beach to do our check in, stayed for a couple of nights and then headed down to Mayreau. Salt Whistle Bay sounded appealing but when we reached there it was full of boats and we carried on to Saline Bay. The next morning we had an interesting walk around the entire island. We didn't find the locals very friendly; not unfriendly, they simply didn't acknowledge our presence at all, an unusual experience in the islands here!
Tobago Cays beckoned and we anchored once again off Horseshoe Reef. We were there for 4 nights and joined by Morning Star. The captain, Juergen, gave Nic his first kite surf lesson. Conditions were very windy and rolly so although we had some great snorkels with the turtles and saw a shark (very close-up), visibility was less clear than our last visit and the currents stronger.
Next stop was Union Island where Nic had further kite surf instruction off the reef bordering Clifton harbour. He's really enjoying it and hoping to do some more down in Grenada with Juergen's excellent tuition.
Tropical storms developing out in the Atlantic forced us to check out earlier than intended and attempt to sail down to Trinidad. Our aim was to fill up with cheap fuel before heading up to Grenada. The promised winds didn't materialise and after struggling for the day we gave in to Aeolus and diverted to Grenada. We arrived into Clarkes Court Bay and anchored off Hog Island just before midnight. We were lucky to have our previous GPS track to follow in through the reefs. We are now here for at least a month doing some much needed maintenance on Irony. And it's Carnival next weekend...

Friday, 23 July 2010

Leaving St Lucia

It's hard to believe we have been in St Lucia for a week already. We had a great night in Gros Islet for the Friday night Jump Up, visiting our favourite rum shack there. Although it was Carnival we gave it a miss this year, the thought of listening to hours of soca music wasn't to appealing! Most of the time has been spent on chores and repairs including renewing one of our roller furling mechanisms (which turned into a 4 day job as these things can on a boat). We plan to check out today and sail overnight down to Bequia.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Back in Martinique

Our sail down to Martinique was far better than anticipated – hard on the wind but no tacking. We anchored overnight in Ste Pierre at the north of the island and made our way down the coast the next morning to Marin. We are here to stock up on wine, beer, cheese, pate etc and to renew one of our French-made roller furling systems which failed as we left St Martin.

We decided that this was the last chance to replace our fridge freezer. We have a European domestic appliance, now 7 years old, and if we keep to our current plans, this is the last island we will be able to purchase a 220 volt replacement. When our existing fridge breaks down we will be faced with an expensive and time-consuming re-build of the kitchen to install a boat fridge or an equally expensive import.

After a reconnoitre in Lamentin via bus and hitchhiking we found a suitable candidate for under 300 euros but the delivery was going to be 45 euros. We returned to Marin and rented a car (43 euros for a 5 door hatchback) so that we could collect the fridge freezer and also deliver our still-working old appliance to a new owner (the parents of our helpful and friendly car rental woman, Gladys). It all went very smoothly except for crunching into a lot of road closures due to the Tour de Martinique cycle races taking place this week. We definitely attracted some attention transporting fridge freezers back and forth to shore with our dinghy!

Now replete with booze and goodies, repairs done and new fridge freezer installed, we are on our way down to Rodney Bay, St Lucia in the next couple of days.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Decidedly Different Dominica

Dominica (pronounced Domineeka) has a very different character to other islands we have visited in the Eastern Caribbean. Covered in dark green rainforest, it has 9 potentially active volcanoes (one of the most highly concentrated areas on earth), tall mountain peaks rising to 4,700 feet, a reputed 365 rivers and over 30 waterfalls and gorges. One’s own transport is essential to explore its many attractions but the roads are terrible, pot-holed and often unpaved, so a 4x4 is definitely recommended. We used Island Car Rentals (Darren in the Portsmouth office was incredibly helpful).

We were delighted to find we could do a simultaneous check in/out with customs for a maximum 2 week stay. They also welcome the use of online ESea-Clear. Unfortunately, the ease of this was negated by the fact that a cruising permit is required to visit other anchorages and this can not be obtained at check in, only the day of moving! There is no charge for this, it’s just paperwork. When will officials get in touch with reality?

On arriving in ramshackle Portsmouth (a more protected anchorage than Roseau in the south), boats are greeted by numerous boat boys offering Indian River trips and other services. We were taken under the wing of “Lawrence of Arabia” who was honest and not overly pushy. He rowed us a mile up the river – picturesque with a canopy of overhanging trees, crabs scuttling amongst the tangled roots and herons on the mudflats – to a jungle bar. For us the experience paled in comparison to the Gambia; the island’s interior is far more rewarding, however it does provide local employment and all the licensed guides provide interesting information on wildlife, flora and fauna.

We walked to Cabrits National Park after torrential rains, along roads bordered by spontaneous water and rock falls. After exploring the partially restored, late 18th century Fort Shirley we enjoyed along a pretty hillside trail running with water like a stream. By car we explored north of this area, driving through the centre of a volcano with a stop at Cold Soufriere , bubbling pools of cold sulphurous waters. On the east coast we stopped to visit Chaudiere Pool, a beautiful and var

ied walk through both rainforest and farmland with a welcoming swim at the end in cool, clear waters. It was on this walk we saw the colourful native parrots flying across the valley. Along the way we gorged ourselves on fresh mangoes which carpeted the roadside and tracks.

The scenic east coast drive, devoid of many other vehicles, winds through charming villages, abundant with flowers and tropical plants, and into the Carib Territory, 3700 acre home to the only remaining tribe of native Indians in the Caribbean. We took the Horseback Ridge trail and, stopping to admire the spectacular views on each side, had the privilege of meeting Charles Williams, an ex Carib chief who has travelled all over the world campaigning for these indigenous people. It was an unexpected and interesting interlude in our day. Another stop and a short but steep walk took us to the Escalier Tete Chien, a lava formation that resembles steps coming out of the sea, awash with Atlantic rollers.

Dominica has a plethora of magnificent sites and we were very lucky to have most of them to ourselves since our visit was during hurricane season. We swam in the Emerald Pool, at the bottom of a 40 ft waterfall. Even more striking was the twin 200ft Trafalgar Falls, where a cool amongst enormous boulders is followed by a bath in hot sulphur pools which look like they have been landscaped they are so beautiful. Another memorable site was Titou Gorge, a long cleft of steep lava rock through which one can swim to a series of cascades.

The hikes on the island are extensive and some are quite arduous but very rewarding through verdant rainforest of tall hardwood trees engulfed in vines and creepers. Iguanas, lizards, snakes (non-venomous), birds and a variety of land crabs populate these areas. I was also lucky to catch what looked like a wild pig racing through the undergrowth on the Syndicate Falls Nature Trail, possibly a manicou (type of opossum). The rainy climate can make some of the steep trails and rock climbs hazardous and the gorges and riverbeds are subject to flash floods. A 2/3 hour round trip accesses 275 ft Middleham Falls, another breathtaking spot with the promise of a swim under cascading water.

Nic employed a guide (Graeme 276 2122) to visit the Valley of Desolation and Boiling Lake, the Caribbean’s ultimate hike to a 270ft wide bubbling cauldron through a moonscape of white-hot sulphuric rocks. Regretfully I didn’t join him after a hiking guide described lots of steep, slippery climbing – my fear of heights getting the better of me – but this was not the reality Nic experienced. The highlight of his day was a hot bath with a natural jacuzzi from the warm waterfall, he made his guide wait half an hour over this indulgence! On the way home Nic gave a lift to Stanley, an ex-guide scarred with burns from falling into the Boiling Lake. We met him again the next day as we drove though the mountains and he sold us some vegetables. Our delicious fresh salad that night was spoiled by the hot chillis I chopped into it on Stanley’s promise they were mild seasoning peppers!

As a general rule, we didn’t find the Dominican people overtly friendly or welcoming but with some effort on our part they warmed up. Of the many locals we gave lifts to around the island only one woman offered a thank you. They are, for the most part, very impoverished and the island is the most noticeably poor of any we have visited with minimal signs of development or investment. There is little sense of national pride although one local we met boasted that Dominica recently ranked in the top 10 most beautiful natural sites in the world, the only listing for the Caribbean. Sad then, that for a country of such astonishing beauty, far more rubbish is evident than most other islands - the modern scourge of plastic. Sailing south we saw many illegal dumps visible along the coastline.

Fruits and vegetables are plentiful, spring water readily available and Dominica grows its own coffee. Eating out can be expensive for very basic local fare. We recommend the Tomato restaurant outside Portsmouth, run by a Canadian couple (wish we could recommend a local-run establishment), the food is superb.

The few negatives aside, Dominica is a fabulous island and a “must” stop on any Caribbean tour. We are only sad that we haven’t visited before but those hot sulphur pools are definitely calling us back sometime soon.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Heading south

Hurricane season is well and truly upon us and the buzz is that this year will be an active lively one. We were anxiously watching the development of a tropical wave out in the Atlantic last week with predictions at one stage that it had a 60% chance of developing into a tropical cyclone. We made the decision to stay in St Martin until it passed rather than be caught sailing into it on our way south.
We were hoping to explore the two Dutch islands just south of here, Saba and St Eustatius, but the weather hasn't cooperated - too much rain and cloud combined with heavy seas has made them unfeasible as they have a reputation for being uncomfortably rolly to visit.
A small weather window of easterly winds finally opened up on Monday and we decided to set off for Dominica before the winds turned more southerly. It all started out well but, as we approached St Kitts around lunchtime, the winds turned south easterly and remained so for most of the next 30 hours. We battled our way upwind in high waves cursing the weather reports inaccuracy - where were the F4-5 east winds and 1-2 metre seas predicted? The only thing we could be grateful for was the lack of rain we were expecting on Tuesday.
We haven't quite made it as far as Dominica, we pulled into The Saintes, south of Guadaloupe, yesterday evening, exhausted and salty. It seemed a better plan than trying to anchor in an unknown bay in Dominica at 1130 at night.
Torrential rain washed off the salt last night and continued through this morning but it has cleared up a bit this afternoon. We had a wonderful snorkel here, typically without the camera, moray, drum fish, 10/12 flying gurnards all together, a colour-changing octopus and a striped burrfish with irridescent green eyes.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

Back to St Martin

I have to admit we did not abide by our 12 hour departure limit from Virgin Gorda. The weather wasn't cooperating for a passage back to St Martin so we moved up into the reefs of Eustatia Sound, a stunning spot, and waited a couple of days. We were joined again by Argo Navis and had a fond farewell dinner together before we head off in opposite directions.
On Thursday we set out for St Martin with trepidation, knowing we would be fighting our way against the prevailing winds. In the end our passage was far better than expected, we covered 130 miles instead of the direct 70 and it took almost 24 hours but the weather was good and Irony performed incredibly well with the barber hauler that Nic rigged. She seemed happiest to steer herself at around 40/45 degrees to the wind without the intervention of the autopilot and without any input from us on the helm!
We are now in St Martin to pick up some parts we have ordered and to collect Nic's birthday cards and presents sent here for the 1st May. They hadn't arrived in time due to the appallingly unreliable postal service and the added problem of the Icelandic volcano interfering with flights in April. Although not the prettiest Caribbean island, St Martin is a good stop for provisioning and services and a great place to meet other yachties. The trick is not to get stuck here, as we did last year, we know too many people pulling in here for a week and not leaving for months!

Monday, 7 June 2010

Continuing to enjoy the BVIs

From Tortola we sailed across to Sandy Spit off Jost Van Dyke - it's a picture postcard island of sand surrounded by turquoise water -busy during the day, but empty at night. It is inhabited by some very aggressive birds who dive bomb anyone walking on the island - and has made for some very funny video footage! Then we moved to Guana Island - the very rocky bottom has stripped our chain of its last galvinising but it's a beautiful spot. Next we spent a couple of nights off Little Camanoe anchored in sand but with fabulous coral gardens to snorkel on. After an overnight stop in The Dogs (possible due to very calm conditions) we are now back on Virgin Gorda in Savannah Bay.
Nic has been working on our dinghy for the last 2 weeks, trying to glue it back together and it will only be ready to go back in the water tomorrow. (We've been very lucky to be travelling in convoy with friends who have ferried us back and forth.) We swam to shore today to walk into Spanish Point to check out - hoping to leave in the next day or so for St Martin. We discovered, from some extremely sullen and unfriendly officials in the Port Authority office that you are only given 12 hours after checking out so we are supposed to leave the Virgin Islands at first light tomorrow morning.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

Exploring the Virgin Islands

Our next stop was The Baths on Virgin Gorda where huge volcanic granite boulders, the size of houses, have created caves and pools along the shore. At sunset we basked on the rocks heated by the day's sunshine. It's a very special place and should not be missed despite the influx of tourists and charter boats during the day. it was an excess of charter boats that made us bypass Manchioneel Bay on Cooper Island and continue on to White Bay, Peter Island together with our friends on Argo Navis. It's a beautiful bay with wonderful snorkelling, we saw a nurse shark, barracuda, turtles, etc. There is a hot walk over the hill to the resort where we could have a cold beer and check our emails in comfort.
It was then on to Norman Island, visiting Benures Bay for peace and quiet (apart from very vocal birds including a brightly coloured parrot) and The Bight for a sunset walk up to the helicopter pad and a few too many drinks at the Willy T (a schooner moored in the bay and infamous for debauchery although we didn't see any crazy antics there).
We are now on Tortola, anchored in Cane Garden Bay for the music festival.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Close Encounters of the Unwanted Kind

We set off to another anchorage yesterday and, as we were going through some reef areas, I was positioned on the bow as look out. It was all going well and we thought we were in fairly clear water, free of dangers when became fixated on a couple of snorkellers in the water ahead, not wanting to run them over. Unfortunately I didn't see the small, lone, uncharted coral head until we were on top of it. Panicking, I didn't give Nic clear instructions and we managed to hit it. Groan, I feel like such a twit! We now have a scrape in our relatively new antifouling and the coral managed to dent and choke up the water intake for the port engine causing some exhaust problems that need repair. Poor Irony - thankfully she's steel and can take this abuse from her owners!

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Workout walk on Virgin Gorda

On Sunday we set off for an afternoon walk to explore the island. Our dinghy is leaking and glueing it back together has to wait for the current high winds to die down and rain to go away, so we swam to the beach. After a quick rinse-off from a bottle of fresh water and a change into t-shirts and shorts, we headed up to the road behind the beach here. It was a long, hot, uphill walk but provided wonderful views across the island. We reached the entrance for the Virgin Gorda National Park and a track took us up to the peak at 1,370 feet and a lookout platform with spectacular views marred only by the rain clouds drifting past our heads. It was a lovely trail fringed by huge rocks enveloped in tropical vines and we saw brightly coloured hermit crabs (why so high up?), pretty stripy butterflies and at least 5 snakes slithering away. As we left the park, we continued on the road looking over North Sound and spotted some good anchorages to go to next. We passed some stunning houses with fabulously landscaped gardens - flowers seem to be in abundance everwhere. We finally arrived back in Pond Bay as the sun was setting, reflecting bright orange and gold in the wet sand, and swam back to Irony. 24 hours later we knew by our aching muscles that we had covered half of the island!

Friday, 14 May 2010

Up to the BVIs

Two weeks seemed to evaporate in St Martin and a lot of our dollars! It is such a good place to pick up spares etc and we also got a very good deal in Philipsburg on a new mini laptop and new phone. As a jumping off spot for boats heading either north or south for hurricane season, it was very busy socially. It was lovely to catch up with old friends. We even made it to the cinema (for the first time in well over a year) to see Avatar in 3D which was fantastic.

After a slow and rolly downwind overnight passage we are now in the British Virgin Islands. We had a painless check in at Spanish Town on Virgin Gorda and are now anchored in Pond Bay. Surprisingly there is only one other boat here and the beach is deserted – not at all what we expected from the BVIs.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Landmark Birthday

The 1st May ushered in Nic’s 50th Birthday! To ease the trauma of embarking on another decade, I booked us into the Hotel Marquis in Anse Marcel. It was a real luxury to have unlimited water for 24 hours. Nic was also spoiled with 2 hour-long massages. Now we are trying to take advantage of the big chandleries and services here in St Martin before we explore the British Virgin Islands.

Friday, 30 April 2010

10 fun-filled days with Andrea

Andrea arrived on Monday afternoon sadly missing the last of the racing in the morning. On Sunday we watched the gig races and enjoyed a cream tea on the lawns of Admiral’s Inn in English Harbour. The next day we rented a car and toured the island ending up at Shirley Heights for its spectacular sunset view across both English and Falmouth harbours.

Our next stop was Deep Bay where we snorkelled on the wreck seeing lots of angelfish, a turtle, barracuda and a ray. We were plagued by mosquitoes at sunset and dawn so were relieved to sail up to Barbuda and anchor on the stunning Cocoa Beach. We then moved around to Low Bay and had a great beach BBQ with another boat, Belle.

After a long walk along the 11 mile beach we hired Clifford to take us by boat across the huge lagoon to do our check out. This involves 3 stops, the one for customs is actually in someone’s house! Clifford is definitely the man to use for this if you are planning to visit Barbuda – 25 EC for 3 of return and he helpfully escorts you around all the offices. He also does visits to the frigate bird sanctuary.

Our sail the next day to St Barts was a slow one. We arrived after dark and anchored in Baie Colombier to avoid the swell running in Gustavia. Under the full moon we could clearly see the bottom as we dropped the hook in 7 metres of water. The next day we snorkelled with the many turtles and had a lovely walk to Baie Flamands before motoring around to Gustavia for drinks and dinner. It was then up to St Martin in readiness for Andrea’s flight out on 30th April - another passage with no wind necessitating employing the iron sails. We went through the the 17:30 opening of French bridge into the lagoon.

Monday, 19 April 2010

North again

On leaving St Lucia we managed to sail up the coast of Martinique before we lost the wind. We had to press on because we needed to be in Antigua to meet our guest arriving on 19th April. After a night of motoring we dropped anchor in the Saintes, islands just south of Guadaloupe. We only had a short time in Terre d’En Haut but loved it. The water was fantastically clear in our anchorage at Pain de Sucre and we had a hot but interesting walk into Bourg des Saintes, the pretty “town”. We left wanting to return and spend some more time exploring these islands.

Since the winds were still either non-existent or against us, we decided to head up to Pointe A Pitre in Guadaloupe and traverse the island via the Riviere Salee, a saltwater mangrove channel through the centre of the island. We had to anchor near the first bridge ready for its only daily opening at 5am. The dark and early start was not improved by heavy rain showers which severely limited our visibility and made the short transit somewhat unpleasant. Dawn broke as we left the last bridge and made our way towards the north of Guadaloupe where it was impossible to eyeball navigate through the reefs to our chosen anchorage at Ilet a Fajou. We had instead to rely on our chart software, never a comfortable feeling but as we monitored it for accuracy through the buoyed channel we decided it was worth the risk.

The anchorage was stunning despite the grey skies and continuing rain. We stayed overnight waiting for some more favourable winds and were ready to sail up to Antigua the next morning. It was a fast passage and we arrived in time to anchor and head in to the Yacht Club party for Classic Week. It was a night to catch up with many friends all there to participate or watch the racing.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

In-between St Lucia and Martinique

With some commitments in St Lucia we have been sailing in-between there and Martinique. We had a great time (and a lot of rum punch) at the Friday night "Jump Up" in Gros Islet with friends from a couple of other boats. We also went Sunday night jazz at Jambe de Bois on Pigeon Island which is always worth a visit.
Back in Martinique we did part of the Trace des Caps walk along the southern coast which was spectacular - varied scenery, stunning beaches and no development.
We head up to Antigua today to catch the end of Classic Week.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

More of Martinique

Rather than the expected white van, we happily ended up with a car although the passenger window didn't work. We drove out of Fort de France up into the Pitons du Carbet on the Route de La Trace (opened by the Jesuits in the early 1700s) and stopped at the Ancienne Station Thermale d'Absalon, where we enjoyed a wonderful 2 hour circular walk in the rainforest. Steep paths laced with tree roots took us through luscious tropical greenery and exotic flowers populated by brightly coloured hummingbirds. At the end we climbed down into the gorge and had a refreshing swim under a waterfall.
On day 2 we visited Habitation Clement near Francois, a rum distillery with a beautifully restored Creole plantation house. Taking the coastal road up the Atlantic side of the island we investigated the Caravelle Nature Reserve and then had a spectacular drive up to Grand-Riviere on the very north of the island. Along the way we managed to collect a bucket full of fallen mangos which we are now gorging ourselves on.
On a more commercial note we also took some time to visit the myriad of massive shops and malls in Le Lamentin - there was no sense of being in the Caribbean, it was like being back in Europe, everything is available!

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Exploring Martinique

Our first stop after Le Marin was the little village of Ste Anne, still in the same enormous bay towards the south of the island. The long white sand beach there is buzzing on Sunday with large crowds of locals picnicking under the trees. Joined by our good friends on S/Y Scorch, we had a delicious three-course lunch in town at Le Sud, which we would highly recommend to anyone.

A pleasant downwind sail took us to Fort de France, the capital, where we anchored under the imposing fortress of St Louis. The town has a very French feel to it and offers some good shopping and a number of interesting buildings. The most striking is Bibliotheque Schoelcher, built for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and then shipped to Martinique; it is still in use today. Disappointingly there is a dearth of street-side cafes in the town centre where one can enjoy a coffee or a cold beer and watch the world go by.

We moved on to Trois Islets (confusingly the name of an area and a small village). The anchorage feels very rural with the sound of birds, crickets and some very vocal cockerels. Bourg of Trois Islets is charming and was the home of Princess Josephine up until the age of 16. There is a lovely stuccoed church and a plethora of fish-scale tiled buildings. We walked across the peninsula to see Anse Mitan which was a complete contrast – very touristy and rather naff.

Finding a rental car has been a challenge, there simply aren’t any! Apparently after the strikes of last year, the rental agencies divested themselves of much of their stock. Now, in high season, they don’t have enough cars to go around. We finally managed to find a 2-seater white van to rent and are picking that up tomorrow to explore more of the island.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


We sailed up to Martinique from St Lucia last week and took our ailing GPS to Jacques at Diginav Electronics in Le Marin. It took several visits over a few days for him to determine that, it was uneconomical to repair. Jacques gave us a fantastic deal on a new Furuno 32 which is now installed and running.

At the moment we are anchored off Ste Anne but we plan to spend the next couple of weeks exploring Martinique before returning to St Lucia for 22nd March.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Wow! The Tobago Cays

Our GPS has gone on the blink but we arrived safely through the reefs after an overnight sail into pretty Clifton Harbour on Union Island for a check in. In the afternoon we headed off to Horseshoe Reef in the Tobago Cays and remained anchored there for a few days. Coincidentally we anchored next to good friends on Scorch of Wessex and were later joined by other friends on Eiland.
The colours and crystal-clear water here is breathtakingly beautiful and the snorkelling is incredible; it's like swimming in a giant aquarium. There is a turtle sanctuary where one can swim with literally dozens of turtles in shallow water. We also sighted barracuda and sharks. We are wondering why we have managed to sail past this area so many times!
Too soon it was time to leave. On Tuesday morning we sailed up to Bequia to check out and have a late lunch. Then another night sail up to Vieux Fort in St Lucia and a sad farewell on Wednesday to our guest, Anna who had joined us for the last couple of weeks.
Wednesday evening we sailed up to Rodney Bay and will be here until Sunday. Then it's up to Martinique to see if we can get our GPS fixed.

Friday, 19 February 2010

Canival Continues

The revelry continued for another 3 days. On Sunday we went in to Dimanche Gras, a big sellout event in the stadium. It was somewhat disappointing after an enormous effort to get tickets. There was a fantastic costumed depiction of the rainforest which was breathtaking but it was followed by hours of calypso performers, not our cup of tea (nor of most of the audience judging by their faces!). We got back to the boat for a couple of hours sleep before getting up at 4am to go into Port of Spain for J’Ouvert, dressed in our oldest clothes. From the French “jour ouvert” it’s a celebration of the darker elements of Trinidad’s folklore and history. The participants dress as devils or demons and bathe in mud and paint and throw away their inhibitions until daylight.

Unable to get a local bus we hitched and were picked up by the coastguard in a minibus. Sweetly they dropped us right in the centre of things. Along the way we saw crowds of revellers, covered in paint. In town we arrived just in time for the start of the parade. We stayed on well into the morning enjoying the friendly atmosphere and some really good steel bands.

Needing a break from Carnival we took the boat around to beautiful Scotland Bay where we could have a swim and relax for the night. On Tuesday we went back into Port of Spain for the last day’s big Parade of the Bands. The costumes were spectacular but there were few vantage points along the parade route where one could see the big groups in action. Once they had performed at the judging points the masqueraders seemed to give up performing.

We spent Wednesday re-provisioning and filling up with cheap fuel at $0.25/litre. Checking out on Thursday morning we had a brunch stop in Scotland Bay and then a very fast overnight sail to Union Island.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Carnival begins

We had a very fast night sail to Trinidad arriving at dawn into Chaguaramas. After a long tedious check in we set off for Port of Spain to see the Junior Parade of the Bands (kiddie carnival!). It was incredible to see how young they were, some were being wheeled around in prams. The costumes were fantastic and the atmosphere very gentle, a good introduction to Carnival celebrations. In the evening we watched the beginning of the Steel Band Finals and managed to walk around the bands as they were warming up before they went into the big stadium. Sadly Anna had her rucksack sliced open with a knife and wallet stoled, a dampner on an otherwise good day. Short of sleep, we ducked out early and went back to Irony passing the start of huge parties (one with 20,000 people) on the way. More on Sunday!

Friday, 12 February 2010

On the move again

I flew back into St Lucia with Anna on Wednesday, in the meantime Nic sailed the boat down to Vieux Fort on the southern tip of the island to be closer to the airport. We touched down just after 3pm and by 10pm we'd upped anchor and set off for Union Island in the Grenadines.
We arrived in Chatham Bay by lunchtime on Thursday and had a lovely day of snorkelling and a good night's sleep before setting off at noon on Friday for Trinidad.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Nostalgic Visit to Williamsburg

This is an unusual post because I am not writing it from Irony. I am visiting my university town of Williamsburg, Virginia in the USA and a very good friend here, Anna. We both studied art history but she has made her career in that world. As a consequence, I've had a very cultural time, attending the opening of a Michelangelo exhibition at William & Mary's Muscarelle Museum of Art and even helping to hang an show in a local gallery.
We also had a wonderful dinner at A Chef's Kitchen, a very novel restaurant where one eats a delicious 5-course gourmet dinner while the chefs demonstrate the recipes.
It has been a nostalgic experience wandering around the historic town, originally the colonial capital of the United States. Always beautiful, it has been enhanced by the snowy weather we are having.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Passage to St Lucia

After a few days stocking up and socialising with frends in St Martin we set off for St Lucia on Friday 29th. Winds were predicted to be northeasterly 15-20 knots, perfect for our 275 mile passage. What we encountered was rather different - an easterly to southeasterly direction meant we were sailing at 52 degrees to the wind the entire way. Just to make it more wet and uncomfortable we had winds gusting Force 8 and 3 metre waves. We nearly lost the dinghy from the davits and very sadly, Nic lost a watch he has owned since he was 21 to the sea. It was a wonderful relief to anchor back in familiar Rodney Bay on Sunday morning.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Beautiful St Barth

We were joined in St Martin by Nic's mother, Chrissy, on 12th January. We rented a car and toured the island visiting its many lovely beaches. The Dutch capital, Phillipsburg, is lovely, despite being a major cruise ship destination. The next day, we sailed around to Baie Orientale and anchored overnight before sailing down to St Barth on particularly rainy, grey day.
The island has a unique character to the other islands we have visited; a St Tropez in the Caribbean with a very affluent European population. The port of Gustavia is dollhouse-sized and very picturesque. The beaches are stunning and remain largely undeveloped. We anchored in Colombier, snorkelled with the many turtles there and had a beautiful walk across to Flamands on the Atlantic side.
We stopped at Ile Fourchue on our way back to St Martin - uninhabited it has a desolate charm and good snorkelling.
Our time with Chrissy went all to quickly and we were sad to see her off on her flight back to Spain.

Monday, 11 January 2010

In St Martin

We sailed up to St Martin last Monday, getting horribly dusted by the continuing eruptions from the volcano on Montserrat. We are now anchored in Simpson Bay Lagoon and looking forward to Chrissy's arrival tomorrow. We plan to take her on a cruise around this island, St Barts and, if there is time, Anguilla.

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Happy New Year!

After torrential rain dampened New Year's Eve, we enjoyed a lovely Carnival parade in Basseterre yesterday.