9 Jun 2013

[Cruise News] Back home again!

After 11 days at sea, beating into winds and waves, we arrived in the sunshine into Falmouth on Thursday, very glad to make landfall.  The crossing from the Azores, whilst no problem, was an uncomfortable one with us heeling over at 30 degrees much of the way.  I can't tell you how frustrating it becomes to be at an angle for days on end ... cooking, sleeping, bathing, even just moving around the boat.  Needless to say we are all covered in bruises!

As we sailed futher north, it got colder and colder at nightime.  The first week we stayed in the cockpit on watch 24/7 but the last few days so us retreat inside at night, only coming up every 10 minutes or so to do a 360 degree scan for other shipping and then back down below.  We had AIS (Automatic Identification System) running which sounds an alarm when any commercial shipping comes within 24 minutes travel of us so we were well prepared for avoidance measures.  Fortunately the sun shone just about every day and so it was pleasant sitting in the cockpit out of the wind.

I've noticed that the more we sail the less we actually hand-steer, instead letting the auto-helm take the strain.  Whether this is because we're covering much greater distances or the novelty of helming has worn off a little, I don't know, or maybe we're just getting lazy in our old age!

Falmouth was a delightful place to arrive back in the UK.  Not only was it sunny and warm, but we enjoyed excellent fish & chips (something we'd all been looking forward to - how sad is that!) and I loved pottering around the boutiques.  With little wind on Friday, and what there was still coming from the east, we motor-sailed along to Fowey in the afternoon and spent a very pleasant evening on a mooring buoy with a bottle of wine watching the sun set.  A German cruise liner arrived at 7am on Saturday morning waking everyone up so we were ashore by 9am and spent a couple of hours reacquainting ourselves with this charming town.  

We motor-sailed back to Plymouth that afternoon arriving just gone four o'clock.  Paul was even thwarted being able to sail into the Sound - the wind was still on the nose!  So after over 10,000 miles at sea, crossing the Atlantic twice, Jay Jay is now back in her berth at Plymouth Yacht Haven and we're at home again.  It's been the most fabulous adventure: A real sense of achievement, an opportunity to revisit some favourite places in the Caribbean and explore new countries too, and the chance to be part of the cruising community and meet interesting people from all around the world.  Real life is going to feel rather dull after all that I'm afraid.  Roll on the next adventure!

And finally, a word of thanks to all the blog readers for your interest in our trip and words of encouragement along the way.  We're incredibly lucky to be able to undertake these sailing adventures, but a big part of our enjoyment is keeping in touch with friends and happenings at home.  Thank you!

24 May 2013

[Cruise News] Angra Do Heroism, Terceria, Azores

After a very enjoyable week in Horta, having Georgie join us, visiting the neighbouring Pico Island and touring Faial itself with sailing friends Karen & Nigel, we departed Horta yesterday for the 80 mile sail across to Terceira.  As ever the forecast winds which would have made sailing possible didn't materialise so we ended up motor-sailing virtually all the way arriving just before midnight.  We sailed along the channel between Sao Jorge and Graciosa, two more of the Azorean islands.  The north coast of Sao Jorge was all steep cliffs with deep, wooded ravines cut into them we presume the relics of volcanic activity also.  It's one of the least populated of the islands and it was easy to see why: Not exactly very accessible!

It was Georgie's first passage at sea (she's been a dinghy sailor to date) but she proved to be a natural on the helm, sure-footed and very keen to help and learn.  Luckily for her we saw whales and dolphins, including some rather unusual white spotted dolphins with a very tall dorsal fin, and apparently called Grampo Risso's dolphins.  We were all tired by the time we got here and didn't get a great nights sleep thanks to the swell entering the marina.  So this morning, after Paul had checked us is with Customs & Immigration, we moved further into the marina and are hoping for a better night tonight.

We're actually berthed in the marina at Angra Do Heroismo, a town awarded World Heritage Site status by UNESCO back in the 1980s.  We've been exploring the old town for the rest of today and have all really liked it.  Georgie and I have indulged in a little shopping and we've also all enjoyed the ambience of the place and friendliness of the people.  Architecturally it's very pretty with a lot of balconies and properties painted in pastel colours.  Definitely worth a visit.

Unbeknown to us, Terceira has a tradition of bull-fighting.  Unlike in Spain where the poor animals are skewered and can't escape an arena, here the bulls are left to run the streets very much like in Pamplona.  They have the end of their horns squared off and most spectators watch  from the balconies of properties lining the streets, but a surprising number of men bait the bulls and are lucky to avoid being gored.  We're off to watch one such spectacle tomorrow .... from a safe distance!

22 May 2013

[Cruise News] Tour of Faial Island

We decided to hire a car today with fellow ARC 2012 sailors Karen and Nigel to explore Faial.  We'd been told about the incredible geography of the island and were keen to witness it first hand.

The Azores are of course tips of volcanes sticking out of the Atlantic.  A lot of these are dormant but do erupt reasonably regulalry in volcanic terms.  Pico Mountain last erupted 15 years ago whereas the main volcano on Faial hasn't erupted since 1957.  The result of this volcanic activity is a very dramatic landscape with barren plains intersected by lava flows at Capelinhos - a real lunar landscape at the western end of the island, and home to a still-working lighthouse.  In the centre of the island is an enormous crater, approximately 2km wide and 400m deep, called Caldeira.

There is a well-known 10-volcanoes walk on the island covering a distance of 27km which we didn't have time (or the inclination!) to do but it just shows how many volcanoes are present on such a small island.

One disappointment for me was that the hydrangea bushes that cover a lot of the island weren't quite in bloom,  Oh well, there always has to be a reason to revisit a place!

21 May 2013

[Cruise News] Pico Island

We caught the local ferry across to neighbouring Pico Island today having been advised it was a local festival day (Spiritos Do Sao Santos) in honour of Patron Saint of Sailors so we thought it was appropriate we attend.  Pico is the second largest of the Azorean islands and is home to the highest mountain in Portugal - Pico Mountain, a volcano.  We took a taxi up to the visitor's centre but sadly everything was shrouded in low cloud and so we couldn't see a lot!   So we retreated back down to the town square in Madalena, claimed a table in the square and partook of beers and wine until the festival proceedings started.  These seemed to comprise of a procession through the streets of local ladies carrying paniers of bread on their heads for blessing and distribution to the poor, plus brass bands and local dignatories.  It proved to be a very pleasant afternoon, expecially given the wine was only 1 Euro a glass and was  pretty decent.

As we returned to the ferry port, we were all given a loaf of sweet bread as well .... obviously not looking like wealthy yacht owners today!!

[Cruise News] Horta Marina

We've enjoyed a lazy few days here in Horta, exploring a bit of the town but mainly relaxing - Paul was weary after his crossing.  Two fellow British ARC sailors who we got very friendly with in Bermuda and left Bermuda 3 days after Paul did (and I have kept in email contact with throughout their passage to the Azores) arrived on Saturday evening.  They did the crossing in half a day less than Jay Jay but their boat (Persephone) is a racing yacht so I think Paul et al did very well.  They had to be towed the last 40 miles because their engine failed but fortunately another yacht was close by and came to their rescue.

We offered to prepare dinner for them on their arrival day and spent a great evening together, hitting the various flavoured rums we have on board after midnight.  They returned the favour last night but we did forgo the rum!  We're all off to Pico Island on the ferry today as it's a festival day and has been recommended to us.

Georgina, our crew member, arrived yesterday and seems very excited and enthusiastic about the trip.  It will be great to have a third pair of hands and eyes on board for the crossing - around 1500 miles so 12 days or more at sea.  Looking at the forecasts, it should be reasonable providing we head due north for the first couple of days ... but we know how (in)accurate the forecasts can be so the exact route will no doubt develop as we progress.  At least we have plenty of food and water on board so should be fine in that regard. 

18 May 2013

[Cruise News] Horta Marina

Well life is back to normal now: The crew left early yesterday morning and we've been cleaning/provisioning/maintaining Jay Jay ever since .... and there people think it's a glamorous life!  All joking apart it's fantastic to be back on board with Paul.

It was an amazing feeling watching Jay Jay approach the customs dock on Thursday morning ... all four on board had beaming smiles and were so obviously delighted to be here having completed what is probably one of the toughest adventures of their lives.  Paul was on the helm and brought Jay Jay smoothly alongside before leaping off to give me a big hug ... so good to see him again.  After clearing in with C&I, we moved Jay Jay into the marina proper and then all went ashore for a celebratory beer in Peter's Sport Cafe, quite the place for newly arriving sailors to drink to their success and toast one another.  I, of course, was just a free-loader!

I fully expected to find a boat picked clean of anything edible given the extended passage but there's actually quite a lot of tinned stuff and dried goods on board!  Paul did all the cooking on the crossing and is justifiably proud that he didn't serve up the same meal twice.  Quite the creative chef!

Our new crew member (Georgina) arrives on Monday so we had planned to explore Faial Saturday / Sunday but both of us feel weary - Paul because of what he has just completed and me because I've caught a cold!  Damn!!  Hopefully we'll both feel a bit brighter tomorrow.

Looking at the weather forecast, you guessed it, the winds are from the wrong direction for the forseeable future.  So I think we'll visit a couple of the other Azorean islands this coming week and keep our fingers crossed the winds swing to the north (or even better, the south or west) very soon.

16 May 2013

[Cruise News] 0745 local time

I'm demoted back to Cruise News now after my temporary presence on Captain's Blog!  I thought I'd let the Skipper complete today's entry given he's made the passage after all!

Well I've just received a text from Jay Jay to say they have rounded the south of Faial and have 10 miles to go to the marina.  So I'm keeping an eye out from the hotel restaurant for their arrival and will run down to the dock to greet them.  Can't wait!

Talking to other people in the hotel who have made the crossing during the same period (crew off a 90' Swan yacht and others off a 49' catamaran) it's been a really tough crossing so I'm both very proud of the four of them on Jay Jay and also glad I took the easy option, although I guess I'll always have a few regrets I missed out one stage of the full Atlantic circle.

So, they've made the crossing in 17 days and 20 hours, 4 days longer than originally hoped but here safe and sound which is all that matters!  


25 Apr 2013

[Cruise News] St George's, Bermuda

The long trousers were out the morning after we arrived in Bermuda - it really is a lot cooler than the Bahamas.  We went ashore to explore St George's (a UNESCO world heritage site) and no sooner were we ashore than we bumped into a couple we last saw on the pontoon in Las Palmas.  They had arrived a couple of days before us from the Dominican Republic and after a chat in the town square, where the annual Peppercorn Ceremony was underway, we arranged to have drinks and dinner that evening.

After 6 days at sea, and the Bahamas where things were fairly primitive, Bermuda is somewhat of a revelation.  Everything is well maintained, neat and tidy and feels very British.  There is a good selection of shops and some interesting and colourful old houses.  All in all, a good feel to the place.

Today we caught the local bus service down to Hamilton and spent a couple of hours exploring what is basically a very modern and affluent city.  After lunch we took the ferry across to the Naval Dockyard but got caught out in heavy rain so as soon as the next ferry arrived we hopped on it to return to St George's.  It was a good day out and nice to see more of the island.

23 Apr 2013

[Cruise News] Crossing from The Bahamas to Bermuda

It was a sad moment when we lifted the anchor to depart George Town, effectively the start of the long haul home and the end of our Winter in the sun.  Added to that feeling for me was a degree of trepidation about what might be thrown at us in terms of weather: Whilst the weather window looked good in theory, we both know that weather forecasting is not an exact science and no-one really knows what will transpire  (a number of people have pointed out to me that it is one of the few professions where there isn't an expectation that the "experts" opinion will be correct ... maybe something to consider for anyone thinking of a professional career!)   But leave we had to if we were to meet our crew in Bermuda on 26th April so after an early lunch and with 785 miles to go as the crow flies, we set off.

Bermuda basically lies north-east of the Exumas and so with predominantly east-south-easterly winds forecast, we fully expected to be able to sail straight there on a bearing of 45 degrees, plus a few degrees to counteract the impact of "leeway" - effectively the effect the wind and tide has on your desired bearing, blowing/carrying you off course.  What we hadn't appreciated until we embarked was the magnitude of the leeway adjustment needed: over 20 degrees.

Yachts can't sail directly into the wind - usually they need to be at least 30 degrees off the wind for the sails to be filled and forward motion achieved.  Therefore, for us to be able to sail at a planned bearing of 45 degrees (not allowing for leeway), we require the wind to be blowing from at least 75 degrees, an ENE wind.  However, given the 20 degrees of leeway we experienced, then to achieve a bearing of 45 degrees, we would actually need to sail on a course of 65 degrees ... and the wind would therefore need to be blowing from at least 95 degrees .... just "south of east".  

Hopefully if I've explained all this clearly, you'll realise that the forecast east-south-easterly winds really needed to be south-easterly to give us enough latitude to sail at a decent rate on our desired bearing.  Sadly after the first three days the winds swung to blowing from the east meaning we couldn't achieve the 30 degree off the wind angle we need and so the engine was needed to supplement sail power and allow us to reach our destination without the need for myriad tacks along the way.  It has meant we are close hauled, the tightest angle to the wind, which results in a heavy heeling of Jay Jay .... not the most comfortable of rides unless you're lying down.

And that's all the technical stuff out of the way!  Other than the concerns about whether or not we'd be able to find Bermuda (it's a very small island in the middle of a very large ocean); the new batch of bruises from trying to do things when we're heeling over; the ongoing niggles associated with any yacht covering long distances; my feeling queasy for the first four days (I picked up a stomach bug a couple of days before we left) and suffering from sleep deprivation, the trip was a dream ...not!  Have I sold anyone on it yet?!!  

The last 36 hours of the trip were very windy with big seas and not at all comfortable.  Paul did a great job helming "down the valleys" between the waves and minimising the impact of the big swell.  As we approached Bermuda we were able to pick up the marine reports from Bermuda Radio which announced that there was a "small craft warning" in place because of the poor conditions but for those of us out at sea, there's not a lot can be done other than reduce sail and keep going.  That said, it was a big comfort when the lights of Bermuda came into view and we were communicating directly with the Bermuda Radio service.  We've never experienced pilotage help like it: Basically give them your lat / long co-ordinates and they then tell you what course to steer to avoid reefs and bring you safely into harbour.  Incredible.

So after six and a half days at sea two tired sailors arrived in St George's in time for a good sleep! Before we could do that though we had to clear in with Customs and Immigration at just before midnight .... again, never known these places to be open so late.  And then finally after a shower to wash off all the saltwater, we fell into bed and a deep sleep .. bliss.

In all honesty, long-distance passage-making isn't really for me but as Paul keeps telling me, it's a means to an end and so I guess I'll have to continue to put up with it if I want to sail the Mediterranean in the years to come.  There are a few things that can make it pass more pleasantly, primarily having additional crew on board so everyone can get a reasonable amount of sleep.  Also, not having a deadline to meet so if weather conditions aren't favourable, then wait until they are before you set off.  And, I think, planning your adventures such that passages are restricted to a couple of days maximum whenever possible, obviously not something that is possible crossing the Atlantic but hopefully more achievable in the Med.  And finally, avoid trips where it is necessary to be close-hauled for long periods ... the heeling over does become wearing after time.  

And on a final note, I've penned a ditty about heeling over.

An Ode to Heeling

On waking up this morning aboard my heeling boat,Climbing up out of bed for another day afloat,Doing my ablutions at twenty degrees lent over,Cooking, cleaning, everything, it's no life of clover,Keeping my balance and holding on for all I'm worth,I'm not sure we're designed for sea, maybe only for earthBut seeing those white beaches, coral reefs, turquoise seas,Cutting through the water powered only by the breeze,Visiting different countries, sending senses reeling,So many new adventures, so what's a little heeling?

15 Apr 2013

[Cruise News] Monument Beach, George Town, Great Exuma

We returned to George Town on Wednesday just in time to honour an invitation to dinner we'd made to some British friends, David & Lizzie, who we met at Bog Major Spot a week or so ago.  So at 6pm we sailed into the harbour and by 7.30pm we had dinner ready and spent a very pleasant evening.

We were discussing our lack of crew for the trip back from the Azores and asked whether or not they knew of anyone who might be interested.  They mentioned a friend of their daughter's who is saving up to do the RYA fast-trak Ocean YachtMaster course and said they would contact the family to see if it was of interest.  Well I'm pleased to report that Georgina is hopefully to join us and seems to be very excited at the prospect, viewing it as a great opportunity to get a head start on her sailing training.  We're delighted to be having someone along who is bound to be enthusiastic and keen to learn - always a good start and we're more than happy to pass on our experience on the journey.  So all in all, a win win!

David and Lizzie also introduced to the delights of coconut rum, served simply over ice.  Well we're now converts and have bought our own bottle ... apparently also nice added to pan-fried dishes .... lobster, shrimp etc etc.  We're looking forward to practising.

One thing Paul has wanted to see whilst we've been in the Bahamas is a "blue hole": Basically a very deep spot of water surrounded by shallows, so we went on the hunt of one yesterday in the dinghy.  We found the one we were looking for and were a bit disappointed we couldn't see the bottom ..... no idea how deep it was, just a dark blue circle of ocean in a shallow turquoise sea.  It would have been good if we'd had a depth guage fitted, but in the absence of one and the depth not being declared on a chart, then it will have to remain a mystery. 

We now have less than two weeks left in the Caribbean, 6 days of which are needed to sail across to Bermuda.  The weather forecast is looking favourable for this coming week and so we plan to head off on Tuesday across to either Cat Island (I'd like to visit Father Jerome's monastery which, being on top of a hill at 206ft, is the highest point in the whole of the Bahamas.  It's supposedly an intriguing and unusual place to visit) or Conception Island, just to the south of Cat Island, a nature reserve but further south and so would give us a better bearing for the passage to Bermuda.

We treated ourselves to dinner out last night and sat on a verandah overlooking the water and watching the sun set ... all very beautiful.  It's hard to believe I'll be home again in 12 days .... is it a good idea given the British summers of recent years?!!

Tonight, our last evening in George Town, we plan to go to a local bar which has a "Rake and Scrape" band on a Monday evening ... the local style of music and something we should experience before we leave. 

We've very much enjoyed our time in the Bahamas and were lucky enough to spend an evening with Becky and Joe who we met in Boqueron, Puerto Rico.  It was lovely to see them again and we hope we'll all keep in touch in the future.

7 Apr 2013

[Cruise News] Big Major Spotty Pig, Exumas

We've just spent several days north of here visiting the Exuma Cays Marine Park, centred on Warderick Wells Cay.  The park comprises 20+ cays in total, some privately owned (Johnny Depp rumoured, but no sign of him) but the majority uninhabited and very natural.  Once again the waters and beaches were incredible.

We spent a lot of yesterday ashore on Warderick Wells following the maze of hiking trails that circumnavigate the island. It was a little like being on an orienteering course, struggling to spot one cairn from the next in a rocky environment where not many people tread and the local hutia (critters) eat everything and obscure the trail.  We eventually made it back to the dinghy after over 3 hours of scrambling over rocks in the heat of the day.  Thank goodness we had a water bottle with us.

We both got very hot, however, and when we descended to a pristine and deserted beach, Paul suggsted a skinny dip.  Now as blog-readers know, Paul is not adverse to shedding his clothes but I am somewhat more reluctant.  In fact, yesterday was the first time I can remember ever doing it - and it was both liberating and exhilirating .... and badly needed to cool us both down.  So, at very nearly 50, I finally skinny dipped!  Way to go!!

When we arrived at Warderick Wells it coincided with a low pressure front passing through with high winds and large-ish swells,  Getting on and off Jay Jay into the dinghy was not for the faint-hearted: The stern of the yacht was bucking through at least a metre and timing was everything.  We'd been invited out to dinner on a neighbouring motor cruiser that same evening, and it was a similar story, if not worse, getting on and off their boat.  In fact, they were moving around so much with the swell that I ended up feeling sea-sick and had to go home early, despite having taken a sea-sickness pill!  Pretty embarassing but not a lot I could do about it.  Fortunately a good night's sleep and a near-calm sea by the next morning sorted me out.

2 Apr 2013

[Cruise News] Staniel Cay, Exumas

We're hanging around here a few days as it's so lovely.  The winds dropped last night and the waters became calm and crystal clear - perfect for seeing the sharks circling the boat!  And I'm pleased to report the blanket has been put away again now that the winds have swung around to coming from the south.  Hurrah!!

31 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Big Major Spot, Staniel Cay, Exuma Cays, Bahamas

North of Great Exuma Cay lies a series of smaller cays stretching up towards Nassau.  Some of these are privately owned (Musha Cay, for example, by illusionist David Copperfield and which can be rented for $350,000 per week) but most are uninhabited and share the same features of pristine white beaches and turquoise seas.  On one side of the chain is the Exuma Sound (effectively an extension of the Atlantic) at over 1500m deep.  On the other side the Exuma Bank, only 4m deep.  The sailing experience is incredibly different depending on which side you sail, both in terms of the sea state but, more importantly, the necessity to monitor instruments all the time to avoid running aground.

Yesterday we cut into the Exuma Bank and headed north to the Staniel Cay area, home of the Thunderball grotto (think James Bond) and swimming pigs!  These feral pigs inhabit a small island called Big Major Spot and swim out to visiting boats for food .... up to 100 metres off-shore.  We saved up lettuce, cabbage and bread crusts to go and feed them from the dinghy.  This morning we headed towards the beach where they hang out and they spotted us from quite a distance and started swimming out to us.  I tried throwing a cabbage leaf into the sea but that was no good: They wanted feeding straight into their mouths.  Cucumber chunks proved very popular with the dinghy nudged for more.  One of the pigs was really big - and could swim very well, although not as well as his smaller, pinker "cousin".  All in all, a unique experience!

Just after we anchored yesterday, I saw what I thought was a manta ray in the water, swimming towards us.  It turns out it was a nurse shark, and quite a big one at that, that swam under the stern of Jay Jay and slowly mosied away towards the nearby reef.  No swimming for me ... but Paul plans on going shark-hunting later.
Having bought a tiller extension for the dinghy, we have taken to travelling around standing up.  Not for the feint hearted in choppy waters, but at least it means we get to our destination with dry clothes .... always a bonus.  And excellent for the balance although I'm sure one of us will go overboard before long!

27 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Stop press news!!!

We had to put a blanket on the bed last night and are wearing our Jay Jay zip-up hoodies today because it's quite cool!   What are we doing here?  What's happening?  Apparently there has been a sudden thaw of the Artic ice-cap which has pushed cold fronts south into mainland US and even down into the Bahamas.  So we're back to northerly winds for the next few days but the locals think it will be warmer again tomorrow.  They better be right or we're sailing south!!!!

25 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Georgetown, Great Exuma Island, Bahamas

Yes, we've finally made it to the Bahamas, thank goodness.  I think I'd begun to believe we would never leave Puerto Rico but after 6 days of sailing, along the coast of the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and with two overnight stops in the Turks and Caicos islands, we're here.  The "weather window" wasn't as good as we hoped / was forecast with us having to motor sail for just over half the time but it was sunny and warm and the seas were easy.  So all in all, a good trip and it's been good to undertake a longer passage again in readiness for the sail to Bermuda next month.

Our two overnight stops in the T&C were at deserted sandy islands (Big Sand Cay and Frenchman,'s Cay) where we were the only boat around,  As we approached Big Sand Cay, a nature reserve, it was obvious the bird resident didn't like the idea of sharing their night-time roosting site with humans.  They didn't exactly dive-bomb us but made a lot of noise as we sailed through the moonlit waters approaching the island.  It was pretty surreal as we could hear all this noise but see nothing.

We sailed across the Caicos Bank to move from one cay to another - the most clear waters we have seen to date.  Despite the sea all around this area being very deep (think kilometres and not metres) the bank itself is only a few metres deep and we had to pick our way across negotiating the myriad coral heads which were easily identifiable against the white sand bottom.  It will prove to be good experience for exploring all the Bahamian Cays on the Bahama Bank.  As the charts state, "Visual Piloting Rules" have to apply to ensure not running aground.

So now we have 3 weeks to enjoy the Bahamas.  Not as long as we'd originally hoped but long enough to get a real flavour for the country.

19 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] About to depart for the Bahamas at last

Well I'm pleased to report that we're finally weighing anchor and setting off for the Bahamas.  The weather window looks good and I can't wait to be on our way!  Bahamas here we come!!!!

Sadly the end to our stay in Puerto Rico has been blighted by me being pick-pocketed at the St Patrick's Day festivities, not by native Puerto Ricans I hasten to add who have been nothing but kind and helpful resolving our situation.  But we lost over $600 of cash, all our credit cards and our driving licenses in the incident.  I can picture the people who did it but won't mention their nationality to avoid creating an international incident!  They made a show of being friendly and interested in what we are doing and I was taken in by it.  Anyway, learning points from the experience and we have managed to get things sorted helped by a wonderful American couple we have got friendly with (Becky and Joe) who have ferried us around in their hire car, and two charming Puerto Ricans (Miguel and Rey) who have been sympathetic and helpful in communicating with the local police to file the theft report, and gave me a big hug to boot.  It kind of restores your faith in the human race.

I'm really looking forward to the passage to the Bahamas and to getting there.  Will be back online in around 5 days all being well.

17 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Back in B-b-boqueron!

We gave up on motoring east along the south coast of Puerto Rico on Thursday and decided to return to the west end of the island, probably the sensible option for the passage to the Bahamas. 

Weekend is party time in Boqueron and this weekend sees the celebration of St Patrick's Day with a parade and lots of fun and festivities.  It was lovely arriving back in Boqueron as people we knew were still here and pleased to see us .... always nice to see a friendly face.  Since we were here midweek, one of the oldest buildings lining the waterfront (a lop-sided, clapboard building painted turquoise) has burnt down.  A shame for the town but it's also knocked out the internet too .... a real hassle for cruisers!

Oh, and by the way, we're leaving tomorrow all being well.  At last!

14 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Isla Do Muerto (Coffin Island)

7 miles SE of Ponce is this small island which is a nature reserve and surrounded by the clearest of turquoise seas.  The island is crowned by a lighthouse which we hiked up to see - despite it still being operational, sadly it was very delapidated when we got there, a shame seeing as it date back fin Island)to 1887.

Back in the 1800s the island was used as the meeting place for Masons - an organisation that was outlawed at that time,  On the hike up to the lighthouse there was a memorial monument to the Masons dating from that time. 

13 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] On the sea again

After 5 nights at anchor in Boqueron, and with still no suitable weather window for sailing north in sight, we've decided to cut our losses and back-track to the USVI.  We had to miss these out on the way to Puerto Rico because we ran short of time so it will be nice to visit them and tick them off the list so to speak.  We're then hopeful that next week will yield an opportunity to head north, although it will have added an extra 24 hours to the sailing time to the Bahamas.  But, we're not good at killing time so would prefer to be sailing somewhere in the meantime, unlike a neighbouring boat here in Boqueron who have been waiting over 5 weeks for a weather window.  Just shows we're definitely not proper cruisers yet!

10 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Boqueron, Puerto Rico

We arrived in Boqueron Friday afternoon with the plan on overnighting here, clearing out with Customs on Saturday and heading off later that day.  Things haven't exactly gone to plan!  Firstly, Customs told us they don't work Saturday and Sunday thus delaying our earliest departure to Monday.  And then the weather is conspiring against us.  We have to sail across the Mona Passage on leaving Puerto Rico, a stretch of water 80 miles wide separating PR from the Dominican Republic, and notorious for kicking up big seas.  All the advise is not to sail it when the wind is from the north and, you guessed it, it's coming from the north for the next couple of days.  Tuesday would be a good day to head off from a wind direction perspective but there big swells forecast until Wednesday (up to 13') suggesting Wednesday would be a better launch day.  But then another band of high winds is forecast to come through on Thursday.  You get the picture!

Meanwhile we're having a relaxing time here in Boqueron and finding it very sociable.  It's the departure / arrival point for most boats sailing between the Bahamas and the Caribbean so there are plenty of cruisers here to share a beer and anecdote with.  We've also used the opportunity to re-stock (yet again) Jay Jay with enough food to probably sail to the Arctic - a chap off the neighbouring yacht very kindly gave us a lift to the supermarket yesterday so we didn't even have to use a taxi!

Boqueron is very popular at weekends with Puerto Ricans and has a real street-party atmosphere.  We had dinner ashore last night with four Canadian and two American sailors, all who had arrived from the Bahamas yesterday, and had a really fun evening.  We also got a couple of T-shirts painted with Jay Jay on the front, set again a Caribbean beach.  A nice souvenir of our time out here.  Let's hope the UK serves up enough sunshine this year for us to be able to wear them.

7 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Ponce, Puerto Rico

We're halfway along the south coast of PR now in the second largest city of Ponce.  It dates back to colonial times and has an air of faded glory about, despite the government's program me of rejuvination.  Probably the most notable feature of the city is the old fire station, a wooden building dating from 1843 that is painted in the city colours of red and black.  Red represents fire and black the ashes.  Back in the early days of the station, the firemen didn't receive any pay and so they were all awarded wooden homes, also painted red and black.  Some 150+ years on, the descendants of these original firefighters are still entitled to live there rent-free.
Tomorrow morning we'll continue our journey west along the south coast, hopefully rounding the SW corner and ending up in Boqueron.  From there we'll check out on Saturday and start the four day passage to the Bahamas.  It will be strange to make a long passage again after 3 months of island hopping but the weather forecast is looking good so we should have a decent crossing.  We're very excited about visiting the Bahamas - everyone we talk to says they are spectacular.  Let's hope so!

5 Mar 2013

[Cruise News] Esperanza, Vieques

We sailed over to Vieques on Sunday arriving in Sun Bay to rendevouz with the couple we met 10 days ago in Culebra.  It's a beautiful bay and a bit of a first for me - staying somewhere with only 2 other boats.  Last time we were in the Caribbean I always looked to have at least 5 other boats around, ideally 10, so I'm coming on in leaps and bounds!

Vieques is the largest of the Spanish Virgin islands and is very laid back.  Mainstream tourism hasn't arrived here and it lends the island a certain charm that isn't present in the BVI and USVI.  There are only two towns on the island, Esperanza and Isabel Segunda, the capital.  We've visited both in the course of the last two days, preferring the former which is surrounded by a beautiful bay.

We're setting off along the south coast of Puerto Rico tomorrow as part of the first leg of the journey to the Bahamas.  It looks like we'll be facing very light winds so may well be motor-sailing a fair bit of the way.  Better than high winds, but expensive!

Puerto Rico

We've had a great time in Puerto Rico and have seen a lot of the sights on the eastern side of the island, despite having to spend far more time at the marina sorting out the anemometer and forestay than we'd hoped!  So yesterday being finally free of boat issues we visited the El Yunque rainforest which is the only rainforest national park in the US.  It's in three distinct levels, dictated by both the height and also the type of vegetation.  We were only in the first level at around 1500 feet.

Puerto Rico has one of the rarest birds on the planet - the Puerto Rican parrot - and there are only 22 of these left in the wild.  They inhabit the third level of the forest and to help keep predators away from this level, the national park creates artificial nests in the lower levels to "accommodate" other birds.  

Another rare world phenomenon is bio-luminescence in the water.  Last night we were lucky enough to visit one of the three bio-luminescent bays in the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Whilst two of these are on Puerto Rico, the one considered to be the best is on the neighbouring island of Vieques where the density of the single-cell, microscopic dinaflagellants (? spelling!) is the highest in the world.   These little critters fluoresce when they are agitated and so trailing a hand or foot through the water creates the most incredible spectacle.  I don't often use this word, but last night fully deserved it .... awesome!

26 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Fajardo, Puerto Rico

After finally being cleared to enter into the United States on Saturday lunchtime, we spent the afternoon at Flamenco beach, considered to be the best in the Spanish Virgin islands (including Puerto Rico).  It's a beautiful crescent of incredibly fine white sand, backed by palm trees and bordered by the most incredible turquoise seas, and is very popular with locals and tourists alike.  At the far end is an old rusty tank which dates back to the days when the US forces used it for bombing practice!

That evening we enjoyed drinks and dinner with a British couple (John and Jane) who were anchored next to us in the bay.  Incredibly John and Paul went to the same boarding school in Blackpool and are only one year apart.  Paul says it's the first time he has met anyone from St Joe's since he left, and that just happened to be on a very small, pretty much unknown island in the Caribbean sea.  A small world indeed.

On Sunday we sailed on to Puerto Rico in time to attend a conference arranged by our good friend and neighbour from Chagford, Ray.  We're sharing a villa together at the El Conquistador Resort with ocean views to die for .... not something we lack on a day to day basis of course!  

Having hired a car, we took ourselves off to San Juan today, into the old town, which is very nice with cobbled streets, colourfully painted buildings, pretty squares and an enormous fortification called Castillo San Cristobal which commands the most incredible views across the Atlantic.  It was started back in the 17th century and is very impressive with huge ramparts, a moat and tunnels used to move soldiers around during battle out of sight from the enemy.   Incredible.   We also had lunch in a small cafe recommended by a local lady and enjoyed a typical local lunch.  Paul's selection (mashed plantain stuffed with shrimp) was an interesting choice but mine was delicious.
We're hoping to visit the rain forest national park and some other sites in the next day or two ... I'll be back online to share our news then.

22 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Culebra, Spanish Virgin Islands

We had a slow old crossing to Culebra from the BVI with following light winds and sea - our estimated 5 to 6 hours soon became just over 7 hours.  We also had a challenge with the dinghy.  Now we normally take it out of the water for longer passages but for only 30 miles on a calm day we decided to tow it.  Unfortunately for us, we were travelling more slowly than the swell which meant the dinghy would surf down waves behind Jay Jay, the tow-rope going slack, and then this would suddenly go under tension again.  This motion was putting incredible strain on the hitching point on the dinghy and so we spent 4 hours of the passage trying to dampen the effect manually.  Needless to say, it became rather tedious and strenuous .... good for the arm muscles!

Anyway, we arrived and entered the huge natural harbour at Ensenada Honda anchoring just off the main town (village?) and passed a peaceful night.  Friday morning Paul, as skipper, duly went off to clear us in with Customs and Immigration at the airport .... they fly in from Puerto Rico ... only to find out no-one was coming today!   We were given a telephone number to call which we duly did and left a message.  No-one called us back.  So an hour later we tried again only to be told to return to and remain on our boat until Saturday morning when an immigration officer would be at the airport.   So confined to barracks, so to speak but we used the time usefully.

Even from the cockpit, it's obvious we're out of charter territory and back into cruising territory.  Good to know we'll be amidst like-minded people (when we're allowed ashore!) and won't be running the risk of a kamakaze charterer hitting us!!

21 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Checking out at Soper's Hole, BVI

I'm sitting on board waiting for Paul to check us out with BVI immigration so we can sail across to Culebra, part of the Spanish Virgin Islands and formally managed / owned by Puerto Rico, our next major destination.  It looks to be a good sailing day so we should make it in around 5 to 6 hours.  Just before we leave we'll go and buy some bread for the journey - it really is lovely from the bakery here - and will make up for the sad disaster Paul and I created a couple of days ago!  
When we were crossing the Atlantic, we were lucky enough to have fresh bread every day made (usually) by Ed, who had practised with bread mixes several times before we set sail.  Now Ed will admit he's not really a cook in the true sense of the word, but my goodness his bread was good.  Contrast that to the heavy, unrisen "lump" that we managed and you'll realise why we're buying bread today.  All I can say is, Ed, can you get out here and give us some lessons please?  Otherwise the journey back to the UK will be a bread-free zone!

I must just mention another bareboat charter incident I witnessed today.  A Moorings boat was approaching a pontoon in the marina at Soper's Hole at both a sharp angle and quite a rate of knots, both big no-no's as any sailor would know.  Add to that the fact they had no fenders out, despite the dockmaster yelling "fenders" at them, well it goes without saying that they whacked into the dock with quite some force at the bow and proceeded to scrape all the way along the starboard side of the yacht.  The amazing thing is that they really didn't seem to give a damn.  Pity the poor owner of that boat that allows Moorings to charter it out in return for 13 weeks of sailing it themselves.  Yes, you can buy them at a dicounted rate and after 5 years you get your boat back, but will there be anything left of it worth having?

19 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Norman Island, BVI

We returned to this lovely anchorage (the Bight) yesterday after a detour to Road Town, the capital of the BVI.  There must be in excess of 40 islands making up the BVI but they are all very close together making it an ideal cruising area for sailors, novices in particular.  According to Paul, the fount of all knowledge (!), they were named by Columbus in honour of the 40 virgins quoted in the bible.

I have to be honest and say the only thing to mar the experience of being here is the sheer number of charter boats.  Unlike other areas wge have visited, where long-term cruisers are  the order of the day,  week long charterers make up the majority of  sailors out here and it's just not the same.

One thing the bar at the Bight excels at is the painkiller cocktail,,  devised in Jost Van Dyck, I, and they are a 10 out of 10.  Paul complimented the barman tonight and he added extra  rations  of rum!  Since we were last in the bar  4 years ago it has undergone an amazing transformation - tourism must be doing well here.
P.s. Loving the tanned legs!!!

15 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Trellis Bay, Tortola

Well we're back just the two of us again now after a great two weeks covering a lot of ground.  I think a couple of days rest is in order .... maybe back down at Norman Island which was so lovely  couple of days ago.  It always feels strange when friends leave and takes a little readjusting to again.  But we'll soon be back in the swing of things I'm sure.

13 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] The Bight, Norman Island, BVI

Sitting here in the most idyllic bay with clear turquoise waters, sunshine and beautiful scenery, I felt inspired to comment on just how gorgeous the BVI are.  It's four years since we were last here and nothing much has changed but my memory has faded and it is so much better than I remember.  We've sailed over from Soper's Hole this morning in time for a leisurely lunch and afternoon swimming and snorkelling - perfect.

That said our day in Soper's Hole yesterday was just what the doctor ordered .... so easy to just step of the boat onto the dock and have boutiques and a few bars on the doorstep, all painted in pastel colours.  Several people holidaying on Tortola as well as bareboat charter crews stop to ask us if we've won the lottery to be able to be doing this for so many months.  Well, we might not have won the financial lottery but we certainly feel like it on the luck front.

Jon and Hannah go home on Friday and we'll be back on our own again for 10 days or so before we arrive in Puerto Rico.  We plan on enjoying the delights of the BVI for that time, visiting all the islands.  It really is the perfect sailing area and I'm really glad to be back.

12 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Back in the BVI

After 3 days in St Barth's we reluctantly continued our journey north yesterday evening when we set sail for the BVI.  After a challenging overnight passage we arrived in Soper's Hole shortly after breakfast and have had a lazy day relaxing and recharging our batteries in the sunshine.

I was amazed how many cruise liners we saw last night.  I'd not expected to see anything else during the crossing but the reality was we could see the lights from other vessels all the time.  They appear as a glow on the horizon before ending up looking like something that belongs in the Blackpool illuminations.  Wouldn't want their fuel bill! 

8 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Gustavia, St Barth's

We sailed from Nonsuch Bay to Barbuda yesterday - 6 hours of pleasant conditions to arrive in time for a late lunch.  Along the way we saw our first whale of this season which was a big treat for Jon and Hannah (who was sadly feeling a bit seasick).  Barbuda is a very low island and so we only saw it when we were getting quite close.  Only 1500 people live here in one small town called Codrington, named after the English family who rented the island back in the 1700 and 1800s for the price of a fatted sheep!  Apparently, despite it being in slave times, the family were well liked and very fair so the name of the town hasn't been changed.

Barbuda is famous for its pinky-white beaches (mile after mile of them) and also its Frigate bird colony.  We visited Codrington by water taxi (it lies the other side of a large lagoon) and it found it a very simple and unsophisticated place but very friendly.  Afterwards we went to see the Frigate bird colony - some 20,000 birds all nesting in the mangroves in the lagoon - an incredible sight and pretty noisy too.  Sadly it rained during the visit and despite being in the tropics, we all got very wet and cold, but could see the funny side of it.
After a night at anchor in Low Bay we made an early start this morning for St Barth's.  Not a lot of wind so a fair bit of motoring needed to allow us to get here in reasonable time.  

6 Feb 2013

[Cruise News] Nonsuch Bay, Antigua

We've had our guests on board for five days now and have all been enjoying ourselves.  A trip to Shirley Heights on Sunday evening let us all stretch our legs and then it was back into St John's on Monday on the local buses for lunch at Bambula.
We beat our way along to Nonsuch Bay on Tuesday - not a pleasant sail with the wind and tide against us.  But we made it late afternoon and picked up a mooring buoy for a couple of nights.  It really is a beautiful spot - turquoise seas and pretty islands - and very quiet after the crowds of Nelson's Dockyard and English Harbour.  A spot of snorkelling, lunch in a great restaurant with idyllic views.  Perfect.

31 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Jolly Harbour marina, Antigua

I'm loving the season this year - none of the stresses of being on someone else's boat nor the (misguided) sense that we've got to keep moving to explore new islands.  Instead we're taking our time, relaxing and cherry-picking the places we want to revisit.  I think the sense of achievement of sailing across the Atlantic has also made us feel, rightly or wrongly, better sailors and so I am perfectly happy to undertake longer and night passages which is certainly giving us more flexibility.

And so we're back in Jolly Harbour marina, some 21 months after we were last here.  Incredibly we were directed to exactly the same berth we had last time ... a real sense of deja vu.  We had to motor-sail most of the way here in the absence of a functioning foresail and felt very much like the Lee Marvin song "Three Wheels on my Wagon, but I'm still rolling along" as everyone else making the crossing yesterday overtook us!

The first job on arrival, especially given it was so calm, was to take off/down the foresail to try to work out what was wrong with it.  So after a restorative rum cocktail, we set to and got it down very easily.  This morning Paul worked out what the problem was, and having fixed it, we put the sail back on and it furled away beautifully.  Result!  This afternoon sees us getting our first Caribbean haircut of the season and then off to relax by the marina pool.  We've also been invited for drinks on a neighbouring boat this evening - someone we met down in St Lucia, so that should be fun.

So life's pretty damn good .... we're lucky devils to be doing this again.

30 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Les Saintes, south of Guadeloupe

We never did catch the local bus service from Grande Anse D'Arlet but instead walked across the rocky headland to Petit Anse D'Arlet, another picturesque village and bay.  The walk was a test for my injured toe, but I made it there and back assisted down hills by a very patient Paul!  Finally on Saturday (26th) we sailed north up to the north-west of Martinique, pausing our journey for a few hours in St Pierre, before striking off at 11.30pm for Les Saintes.  Some 12 hours and 80+ miles later we picked up a mooring buoy in this idyllic spot, glad to be back.

The crossing over wasn't without incident: Paul pointed out the moonbow to me and we suffered a force 8 squall, fortunately only lasting about an hour.  Unfortunately as we were reducing the foresail, something jammed and so we had to roll the thing away by hand .... not an easy job on a moving deck in quite high winds.  But, as you have to, we persevered and got it put away.

Les Saintes is the most charming place going .... definitely somewhere I could live.  Very French and relaxed, lovely sunshine and beaches, pretty houses and only a short sail from Guadeloupe.  We've been spending a lovely few days here, visiting Fort Napolean, savouring the atmosphere and enjoying the good food.  A shame we have to leave!

24 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Grande Anse D'Arlet, Martinique

We finally have escaped from St Lucia the 30 miles or so to Martinique.  We had a great crossing flying (?) along at 6.5 knots in the sinshine to arrive in this lovely bay.  Since we were last here, the authorities have installed mooring buoys which are both secure and FOC.  Good old French!   The weather is glorious and the water so crystal clear it's almost too good to be true.

We had to pop around the coast to Anse Matin yesterday to clear in with customs and immigration.  The system in all the French-owned islands is so simple - basically complete your details on specialised PCs, print out the form and get it stamped by the approved customs agent.  No charge, no need for passports or other ID and you're in!
We've dined with friends off Bayzano the last two nights - a BBQ on their boat the first night and we cooked last night.  Friendships are formed very quickly in the sailing community, maybe because the nature of the lifestyle is very transient but also because we all share a great love in common.  Sadly Rhian and Rob are headng south from Martinique so we're unlikely to see them again this season but they plan to be sailing out here for several more years so we'll certainly keep in touch.

We plan on using the local bus service this afternoon to visit a couple of pretty villages south of here .... but it's a lazy morning in the sunshine before then.  Snow, what snow?!!!

21 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Rodney Bay, St Lucia

I returned to the boat last night after my week of luxury at an hotel on St Lucia with my friends from university day.  We had a fabulous week with lots of laughter, sunshine, champagne, treatments and activities.  The body treatments were quite simply superb and such luxury to enjoy one every day.  I revisited my water ski-ing abilities and found them sadly lacking - getting up was no problem but staying up for more than twenty metres or so proved beyond me!  What a disappointment!!  I also tried archery and yoga for the first time, enjoying the former but not really feeling the latter was really me.  All in all a really great week.

Paul took us all sailing on Thursday, a repeat visit for Ali (who sailed with us two years ago in the Grenadines) but a new experience for Mary which seemed to go down a treat.  Carol was more apprehensive about being afloat again, having suffered badly with sea-sickness on a flotilla holiday many years ago, but managed to avoid a repeat performance and had a good time.

So now I'm back on board Jay Jay and getting organised for a departure to Martinique tomorrow.  Laundry, shopping and catching up with emails has filled the day.  Whilst we've both enjoyed marina life, it does now feel time to slip our moorings and head off.

12 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Rodney Bay, St Lucia

I woke up early yesterday very much with going out for a sail on my mind.  So after rousing Paul, and hauling him up the mast to fix the new anemometer, we set out for an afternoon afloat.  As usual Paul was on the helm as we slipped our mooring and I was moving around deck coiling the lines and collecting in the fenders when disaster struck.  Walking along the deck on my way to the bow, I was distracted by a shout and stopped looking where I was going.  Upshot was I kicked one of the cleats knocking my little toe out to the side - not quite a right angle but heading that way!  I pulled it back into position and hobbled back to the cockpit and that, before we'd even left the marina, was the end of the day sailing.  Not sure if it's broken or was just dislocated but it hurts!!
It's a bit of a coincidence as within the first week of us being out in the Caribbean in 2010 I broke a toe then.  Obviously I didn't learn my lesson about wearing shoes on board.
Getting Paul up the mast before all this happened was a challenge.  Helped by a sailing friend, Peter, we attached him to the spinnaker halyard and started winching away - well Peter did most of it.  We got him to 5 feet from the top when he called down that the halyard wouldn't go any higher.  Hmmm.  He was using the topping lift as a safety line so very quickly I got our a spare block, attached it to the bottom of the mast and routed the topping lift through it and back to a winch.  Peter started winding away again and we got Paul to within a foot of the top when the block sheared from the mast and he was stuck, again.  This time we lowered him back to the deck and started again using the main halyard this time.  Poor Peter .... winching Paul the equivalent of 130 feet in 32 degrees of heat .... not an easy task.  Anyway, third time lucky we got him to the very top and he was able to fit the new wind instrument.
All in a day's work .....

10 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Rodney Bay marina, St Lucia

I went along to the "cruising wives luncheon" yesterday with 25+ other women of varying ages, nationalities and backgrounds.  It was very pleasant and the message coming from them all was "only plan to do one thing a day".  So armed with this information, our "one thing" today has been to pay a visit to Pigeon Island, a former military stronghold dating from the 18th century which is now operated by the St Lucia National Trust.  We got there by dinghying across Rodney Bay and spent a very enjoyable couple of hours exploring and having lunch ... a curried lamb roti, delicious.

At the risk of sounding repetitive, it's still very windy - last night was probably the windiest yet - but the forecast is now showing it settling down for the foreseeable future.  With the wind come rain squalls that are torrential for a minute or two - just long enough to necessitate closing all the hatches before re-opening them again in next to no time.  According to the locals, it's here to help the mangoes to ripen and swell and I have to say the results are sweet and juicy .... I'm a 2 mango a day girl!

We collected the new anemometer yesterday and Paul is now relishing the job of being winched right to the top of the mast to fix it, probably as much as I'm relishing actually doing the winching.  I can't decide who gets the worst deal but will let you know once the job is complete.

And that's about all I have to report today!

7 Jan 2013

[Cruise News] Rodney Bay marina, St Lucia

Yes we're still here enjoying the facilities and company on offer, and thoroughly enjoying it to boot.  Whoops ... too many enjoyings!  The wind is forecast to drop late Wednesday so we will venture down to the Pitons for a couple of days before returning to the marina in time for the "Uni Girls" to arrive for our joint 50th celebration ... a week in a lovely hotel with spa treatments to boot.  Paul will stay on the boat but doubtless will not be without company - an advantage of us spending some time here already.

Our original plan had been to revisit The Grenadines this week, in particular our favourite island from our last trip over here, Bequia.  Time is now running against us but maybe that's not a bad thing: Bequia has got quite a crime spree underway with several boats having been boarded at night in the last couple of weeks.  And this is even when people are asleep on board.  One boat we got friendly with doing the ARC was burgled just after Christmas in the middle of night when seven crew were asleep on board.  The thief dropped through the hatch in the forward cabin on the opposite side of the bed from where the skipper was sleeping.  They had cash and electronic goods stolen but fortunately no-one was hurt.  The St Vincentian authorities are mounting night-time patrols but it doesn't seem to have stopped the wave of thefts as yet and boats are staying away to some extent.  It's very sad for both the sailors and local businesses alike who rely on the sailing community for their livelihoods.

I meanwhile am doing my bit for the local economy by indulging in a little bit of retail therapy to smarten up my somewhat casual sailing wardrobe for a week in a hotel, and quite a posh one at that.  After 3 weeks on the high oceans I think I deserve a little indulgence!
Back on-line in St Lucia

Well as most friends know by now, we arrived in St Lucia after a 21 day crossing to a rapturous welcome from locals and other ARC participants alike.  I'll never forget the feeling as we sailed into the marina, Ed and me standing on the bow and Paul & Phil in the cockpit (Paul steering of course).  Everyone was waving and cheering, air-horns were blasting and someone was even serenading us with a trumpet.  A truly magical feeling and quite humbling in it's own way.

I'm not going to write much about the crossing itself, Paul has this well-covered on his Captain's Blog, but just to say I really enjoyed it - the camaraderie between the crew; the incredible star-lit nights and awe-inspiring sunsets; the myriad marine life paying us visits and, overall, the sense of achievement of undertaking something as momentous as sailing across the Atlantic.  I'm really proud of us all: Paul for so thoroughly preparing Jay Jay for the crossing and skippering us so well; Phil for overcoming his sea-sickness to become a valuable member of the crew; Ed for his calm and reasoned support to Paul (and his superb bread-making skills) and me for finding the courage to undertake such a big adventure and actually gain so much from it.  I should also mention my Mum for continuing to insist we should undertake the trip when she is herself all at sea following the sad loss of my Dad back in October.   The lovely thing is Dad fully understood what we were undertaking, had visited Jay Jay a couple of times and even waved us on the first leg from Plymouth so I know he supported us in our undertaking.

And so now we're back in St Lucia after a whistle-stop trip back to the UK for Christmas.  It feels very different being out here this time - we're definitely more chilled and don't feel the same compulsion to tear around visiting different places and being forever on the move.  So, partly because of our new laid-back approach and also because Virgin lost some of our luggage, we're still moored up in Rodney Bay marina after five days!

Almost unheard of for us but so easy-going and incredibly sociable.  We've dined with Germans and Norwegians this week, and had drinks with Aussies .... a real international mix.  And great fun to boot!
We'll be heading off for a day or two this coming week but probably won't stray too far: The Christmas Winds have arrived and it's pretty blowy out at sea and at anchor too.  And despite crossing the Atlantic (did I mention that?!) we both feel there's no point setting out for a potentially uncomfortable passage if we don't have to.

Well now I've recommenced my blogging I'll try my best to keep it up to date .... keep reading!