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!