31 Dec 2017

A new year beckons, new adventures on the horizon

We have pretty much exhausted our travels in the eastern Caribbean now and it is time for us to plan some new adventures. We have decided to join a rally almost as soon as we return to Tumi in early November that will take us down to the ABC islands just north of Venezuela (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) then on to Santa Marta in Columbia, then to Cartagena for new year, which apparently is spectacular. From there we will progress to the San Blas islands where we will join up with the World ARC rally in time to go through Panama Canal and into the Pacific. Exciting times ahead!

Speaking of new year, we are anchored in Freeman Bay, part of English Harbour on Antigua. It is a really pretty anchorage, but it is notoriously busy and all boats tend to do 360° pirouettes during the course of 24 hours. It makes for some interesting close encounters as the boats are any which way but the same which is normal in other anchorages, but since we are sitting in a bowl, the winds swirl and eddy as they please, taking the boats with them. Still, we have fenders out on both sides just in case (as do all the other boats), so we should hopefully be OK. The reason we are here is that there are fireworks at midnight, being set off from Fort Berkeley, a rocky promontory that guards the anchorage from marauding French frigates (they are still trying to invade British territory) and which is 50 yards away from us, so we should get a prime view of the pyrotechnics. We have also been invited to join some sailing friends for drinks and snacks on the quayside this evening so we will be baking this morning to prepare our offerings.

As we came into the anchorage yesterday a classic sailing yacht was just making sail and leaving the harbour. Beautiful sleek lines and a picture to behold.

We watched a very serene sundown a few days ago and were rewarded with a perfect green flash as the sun dipped below the horizon. That is the second flash in 2 weeks, unusual indeed, but always a pleasure to see. As the sun was dropping down rapidly the first time, I mentioned to Joan (Debra's mum) that there might be a green flash any second, she replied with "wait a minute" and continued drying up the dishes. Needless to say that five seconds later it had come and gone and she missed the opportunity to witness such a rare event. Nature waits for no man.

Looking back at the year, we have had some tough sailing conditions, but thankfully we have weathered the storms. We have also enjoyed some great sailing days. Tumi has performed brilliantly throughout and is a pleasure to sail. Long may it continue.

Happy New Year to everyone, may your journeys be ever fruitful, and may the water remain under your keel!

25 Dec 2017

Christmas Day, Jolly Harbour, Antigua

We decided to come into the marina for Christmas Day so arrived yesterday afternoon in high winds ... we were both a bit apprehensive manoeuvring Tumi into a tight berth in the conditions but Paul did an excellent job on the helm and I worked with the dockhands to secure lines.  Phew!  As soon as we were settled we got the presents and cards out, as well as the small Christmas tree .... all looking very festive!

We had dinner at friends that evening ... they're renting a condo on the complex until their boat is splashed back in this coming week.

Christmas morning dawned sunny and warm (no surprise there!) and armed with a glass of bucks fizz we tackled the present table.  An early walk down to the beach under our belts, we tucked into a "full english" which should be enough to sustain us until dinner this evening.

So now we're doing the traditional Christmas Day activity of snoozing and watching movies ... just shows that wherever you are in the world, things happen in a very similar manner!

Merry Christmas.

23 Dec 2017

The day before Christmas Eve 2017

We are here in Antigua waiting for Santa to land his sled on the water so that he can deliver our presents on board Tumi. We have had our Christmas lights up decorating the boat for weeks now to make things more festive, the supermarkets and stores have been playing carols in reggae (something you really need to experience first hand to appreciate) but somehow the warm weather just doesn't make it feel Christmassy. Never mind, we will enjoy ourselves anyway: Joan made a pudding and a cake for us which will go down very well, and we are dining out at the local restaurant to get our turkey and stuffing fix.

During the week we have been sailing round the island with lots of shore time to explore the hinterland and swim off the beaches.

The other day, I was in the shallows with a fish around me, swimming through my legs and suddenly it darted into my side and bit me. I have a raised mole on my side which obviously looked like food and the fish clearly wanted to eat it. Their teeth hurt when they bite! Needless to say, I shooed it away and it swam off but I was quite affronted. It was a first experience like that for me, and no sympathy was forthcoming from Debra either.

The Christmas winds have arrived just in time, blowing at a steady 20-25 knots. Getting into the tight marina tomorrow will be a challenge. Great!

Merry Christmas to all our readers and we hope you continue to visit our blog in 2018.

13 Dec 2017

13 December 2017 Antigua

There are lies, damn lies, and weather forecasts.

How often do we report in our blog that the weather forecasters have got it SO wrong? Too many times. We fell foul of them once again on our way from Les Saintes to Antigua. We had checked the weather daily, even though we were enjoying the French island's hospitality and it seemed to us that Saturday was a good day to make the passage. 15 to 20 knots of wind, coming from the East. Perfect for a nice easy sail. No! We managed to sail most of the leeward side of Guadeloupe (unusual in itself, we mostly have to motor) but we thought that it was a bonus not to have to put the engine on to keep our speed up. As we passed the north end of the island, we were hit by 40 to 45 knot winds. Catabatic winds, we thought, they will settle down as we get clear of the influence of the north end of the landmass. How wrong we were. We had reefed the sails down heavily to just a scrap of canvas in both the sails and we screamed our way north at 10 knots through the water, 8 knots over ground allowing for the current running against us. It was a lively sail to say the least!

I tried my hand at fishing on the way, but at 8 knots, there aren't many fish that can take the lure and the journey proved once again unfruitful. Doesn't stop me trying though. Arriving back in Antigua, we anchored in Falmouth Harbour and spent the night on board under the yellow quarantine flag. Don't panic, that just means that we haven't cleared customs and immigration which I duly did on Sunday morning, paying over my $40 fees. There is a premium for clearing into Falmouth, but it is less hassle, so it balances itself out. It's nice being back, and on Saturday evening at 6pm we were entertained by a cacophonous medley of ships horns throughout the anchorage. We hoped it would be repeated on Sunday and we were ready with our recorder to be able to share it with you, but no such luck. We'll try again another day and post the concert!

On Monday, the forecast was wrong yet again. We wanted to sail around to Jolly Harbour. The forecast said next to no wind, dropping as the day progressed to almost nothing. We decided to go anyway, weighed anchor and departed. As we cleared the land, the winds picked up and we had a great sail round. Sometimes they get it wrong and it actually works in our favour, a rare occasion.

Here in JH, we have been busy getting a few things sorted  out on the boat repairing toilets (always my favourite sh*tty job) splicing bridles for quick and easy attachment to mooring balls (I like splicing), fixing hinges on the companionway doors that had worked themselves wobbly, repaired some flipflops, and spliced a clip onto the painter (rope) for the dinghy to make it easier to attach when we tie it up. The real bonus was that we needed some spares from the chandlers, and I happened to notice on a tourist map that Debra had picked up somewhere that if I presented said map at the checkout we would get 10% discount in the store. It caused a bit of a stir as I was the first person to take advantage of this offer this year, but they honoured it as they had to and we ended up getting lots of spares, far more than they wanted us to!

The other thing we have done this week is make our first steps in preparing to join the World ARC in January 2019. We are now the proud owners of the electronic charts for the Pacific Islands and Australia & New Zealand which I found at bargain prices online. We are also in negotiations for the paper versions, cruising guides, and courtesy flags for the countries between St Lucia and Australia. We have also contacted our sailing friends who have expressed an interest in joining us for various of the legs of the journey and have received enthusiastic replies. It looks as though we will have more than enough support for the trip, which is good news indeed.

The sunsets have been pretty amazing too.

This one has Montserrat in the background with the volcano smoking vigorously. We wonder how long it will be before it erupts again.

The other bit of news is that Debra and I have become models for a line of jewellery. We bought some bracelets from a lady we met in the BVI earlier this year who has recently moved to Antigua as the BVI have been totally trashed by the hurricane this year. She asked us to take photos of ourselves wearing her bracelets which we have done, and now they are proudly displayed on her website for all to see. Fame at last?

Last night we had a barbecue.

I was sitting on the bathing platform with the barbecue cooking our protein and you would not believe the size of the Tarpon that were swimming by just a foot below my perch. I shone the torch down into  the water and their eyes gleamed green in the beam with their bodies stretching behind them. I know that the predators all appear at night, seeing just how big these things are, I ain't going swimming after dark!

8 Dec 2017

8 December 2017 Les Saintes

When we first arrived in Les Saintes, we didn't think that there had been much damage caused by this year's hurricane. How wrong we were. We have walked all round the island in the past few days and it is a story of two halves. The windward side of the island (the eastern side) has been hard hit; trees are down, the beaches are strewn with debris which has yet to be cleared away by the only tractor on the island. It will be a steady, but lengthy process to get the rubbish cleared.

Several houses appear to be taking advantage of the piles of rubbish to dispose of a few unwanted chattels, but who can blame them? In general, the houses and businesses appear to have withstood the onslaught, but we were chatting to one lady about the storm and she told us exactly what happened. The storm raged through the island for 6 hours. As it approached, it rose from a category 1 to 2, then 3, then 4/5 in a very short space of time. Then the island had the eye pass over and the back half hit shortly afterwards. During the storm a few boats were pushed onto the beach and we have noticed that some of the moorings are missing too.

It is probably early in the sailing season here, but there are several moorings free every day. Normally it is a scramble in the mornings to grab any buoy that comes free as boats move on. We had a particularly windy night last night, and as I checked our lines this morning I noticed that one of our two lines had virtually chafed through overnight. I replaced the line as soon as I could and we are now ok, but it just goes to show that the weather still wreaks havoc and we can't be complacent.

Yesterday we had lunch at a waterside restaurant called Ti Do Boubou, which gets the best ratings on the island, and the rating is very justified. The food was excellent, the setting sublime, and the company unbeatable (it was just the two of us!).

We are sitting in a really nice cafe using their internet service drinking a belgian beer - I love belgian beer!

5 Dec 2017

5 December 2017 Les Saintes

Of islands and winds ....
We sailed up through the Windward Islands from Carriacou to Les Saintes in one hop, arriving yesterday morning to pick up a mooring ball in the bay off Le Bourg De Saintes.

On the way up we took the leeward side of the islands but gave ourselves plenty of distance from shore to avoid the wind shadowing effect of the mountains - or so we thought! But we were wrong. Even though we were over 15 miles offshore it still wasn't far enough and we ended up motoring until we cleared the tops of the islands and picked up the trade winds again to resume sailing. That said, the winds were blowing constantly at around 25 knots and with reefs in both sails we were maintaining an average of 8 knots speed over ground, 10 knots through the water (the current was running against us, slowing our progress a bit). Once we got past St Lucia, we were able to turn away from the waves and current a bit and the ride from there was much smoother and we let George the autohelm do some of the work as we sailed on through the night.

As we passed Dominica, we decided that we would 'run silent' as the people on the island are pretty desperate after the hurricane and we didn't want to advertise our presence to any opportunistic pirates by showing our navigation lights which can be seen from miles away, so we turned them off and ghosted by the island unnoticed at 8.5 knots until it was daylight and we lost the wind again and had to turn on the engine once more. The night sail was really easy with a full moon to illuminate the seas, it was like sailing in twilight, magic!

Back in Les Saintes, even though they were also hit by the hurricane, it is life as normal. Some of the trees have been blown down or stripped of their foliage, but it appears to be life as usual here. Three of the four ATM machines on the island are out of order but we found the fourth 'billetterie' dans La Poste, and that one was operating. A good thing really, as we had arrived with a €20 note and nothing else expecting to use at least one of the cash machines. I was surprised just how vexed I was not to have 'monnaie dans ma poche' much to Debra's amusement, but as it turned out, for some reason the supermarche rejected our cash passport card and we had to pay with cash after all!

We returned to Tumi armed with a cache of French cheese, salami, a Baguette and 🍷 for our lunch. It was so good and we ate so much, we both had to have a post prandial nap 💤 although that may be partly due to the lack of sleep the night before!

We saw some wildlife on the way up - a whale ~30 feet long surfaced right next to us and dived back down again, and Debra saw several other spouts nearby; and the dolphins came to visit a few times too. No turtles to report, but loads of Sargassum weed around. It really is a nuisance when you are trying to fish as it attaches itself to the lure which then needs reeling in to clear it off. We also had our first flying fish of the season land on the deck flapping and fluttering its wings and leaving a snail trail of scales on the boat. I picked it up and repatriated (or the ocean equivalent) it before it expired and it swam away without a word of thanks. It will probably have been eaten by a frigate bird now.

29 Nov 2017

29 November 2017 - You guessed it, still in Prickly Bay

We were hoping to have left the bay by now, as much as we love it here, we need to start moving northwards towards Antigua to be there in time for the arrival of our first guests on the 15th December. We have had a trying few days with the battery bank inasmuch as they were not holding their charge having dried out during the summer in our absence.

We decided that we needed to replace the whole bank as mixing and matching is not healthy for the power supply, and went to the local chandlers yesterday to see what they had for us. We decided to embrace the new technology and opted for AGM batteries that are maintenance free (in theory) and that should last several years. We installed them this morning and hopefully we will get a full night's sleep without the battery alarm going off during the night as the charge fell so low.

Tomorrow we will head north up the leeward side of Grenada, over or around "kick 'em Jenny", an underwater volcano that decides to disturb the surface of the sea from time to time, past Les Soeurs, uninhabited rocky outcrops in the Caribbean sea, and on to Tyrrell Bay on Carriacou where we will stop for a couple of days before checking out of Grenadian waters. From there we will head up to Bequia, then Martinique, and Les Saintes before arriving in Antigua.

Right now, the Christmas winds have not materialised, which means that we should have a pleasant sail northwards while the winds are favourable. It would be nice for something to go in our favour this season. So far it has been a matter of solving one problem after another. Ho hum! At least we are enjoying the sunshine!  And the sunsets too.

28 Nov 2017

27 November 2017 : Still in Prickly Bay

We really must start our journey north to Antigua but are rather loathe to leave Grenada.  Despite the niggles we've had with Tumi, the weather has been perfect and the social side of things first class.  But we must make the break and are heading tomorrow to Carriacou.

The last two days we have been to Grand Anse beach and Umbrellas beach bar for lunch.  The beach has just been included in the top 50 beaches in the world (we've already been to eight of them, including the number 1 in the Turks and Caicos) and our Pacific trip in 2019, including Australia, will take that up to around a half.  Umbrellas is a great place and today, as we were sitting eating, a motor cavalcade pulled up with security men jumping out (all very FBI/CIA in black suits with ear pieces) to escort the Grenadian prime minister into the restaurant.  We weren't really dressed for the occasion!

Grenada is a lovely island, very lush and green, and safe and friendly .... it's no wonder we haven't wanted to leave!  This is probably the first year however when we've not got any great distance to cover and so we can take things much easier.  Our friends have told us we are finally starting to live the cruising life, and it isn't half bad!

24 Nov 2017

24 November 2017 Prickly Bay

Cruising - it is simply a case of maintaining your boat in exotic locations.
Yesterday I checked the voltage on all of our batteries as we noticed that we were losing voltage early in the evening and were having to run the generator a second time if we were to get a decent amount of sleep before the power alarm went off during the night. They all metered out ok so we obviously needed to start looking for the cause of the power drain. The compressors for the fridge and freezer were constantly running, drawing around 10amps which appeared to be the reason for the depletion, so I found a refrigeration engineer and he came round this morning. It is no wonder the compressors were working overtime, there was no gas in either system! We had them refilled and instantly the draw on the battery bank improved and the compressors gained some respite. Debra wants me to learn how to do the refills myself but it looks as though the system could explode if not balanced correctly, so maybe not. It is on our annual jobs to do list now though, and I did learn how to tell if the gas levels are too low so I will be able to react quicker next time.
I also serviced the four winches today, much to Debra's surprise, she went to do the laundry and by the time she got back, three of the four were already done. Busy me!

We're out tonight experiencing some local cuisine at the container park, a short walk from the dinghy dock at the far end of the bay. Our sailing friends Richard and Kathy have recommended it to us and we are going with them to give it a try.

We're also going back to the fish market tomorrow, the red snapper we had the other night was delicious and we want some more. At 8EC dollars per pound (approx £2.50 per lb) we can't pass up the opportunity for more. Yum!  We also got some tuna that we'll BBQ tomorrow night with some other friends.  It's great to be reconnecting with everyone out here!

22 Nov 2017

22 November 2017 Prickly Bay

We have had a really enjoyable day today, shopping of all things! We joined a group this morning and headed off on a bus to St George's, first stopping off at a farmer's market, then to the fish market, then to the mall. Doesn't sound very exciting does it? But we chatted to the locals, bought their produce (such as cassava bread, a first for us) at very good prices and gained some insight into the community. The fish market was the highlight, we bought two types of tuna (yellowfin and albacore) and a red snapper for tonight's dinner. I watched the guy fillet the snapper carefully so that I can do it myself next time. We bought a new SIM card that allows the phone to access the internet on Grenada and now we can do our blog from the comfort of our own boat (which is what I am doing now). We have relaxed on board this afternoon, frequently swimming in the luxuriantly warm waters in the bay, and reading.

Yesterday was a different type of day. We had a couple of things go wrong that needed fixing, namely the battery monitor was showing that the starter battery voltage had suddenly dropped to 10.7v (not enough to start the engine), the shower pump decided not to work and the toilet was spraying water through the pump handle. So the day was spent buying and putting new parts in the toilet, a job I really hate doing, and reassembling it, working out that the relay switch had failed on the shower pump, getting a new one and fitting it, and buying and installing the new starter battery. Incidentally, we were given a ride to the chandlers in town by one of the guys in another chandlers because they didn't have the right battery  for us - how often would that happen in the UK?

Who said this lifestyle is exotic? Yesterday it wasn't, today it has been! We just wish we had taken some photos of the fish market. We'll have to go back another time.

20 Nov 2017

20/11/2017 : Prickly Bay, Grenada

It's lashing down with rain at the moment so we're sheltering in a bar with a cool drink, catching up with communications.  It's amazing how much we all rely on 24/7 WiFi these days, and miss it when we don't have it!
Grenada is very hot and sunny (well apart from just now!) and we've loved cooling off in the sea, swimming around the boat in the turquoise waters.  The water also helps heal all our myriad cuts, blisters, bruises etc etc ... all part of the boating life!!
We've been enjoying catching up with old friends and meeting new ones and are looking forward to heading north to the Grenadines very soon.

18 Nov 2017

18 November 2017 Getting back into the groove

After a summer focused on getting the house extension done and surgery on a very ripe hernia we don't feel as though we have actually done much in the sailing off-season, but we probably have without realising it. We got back to the boat in Grenada on the 15th and it was straight back to getting Tumi ready for splashing in first thing on the 17th. Getting the shade cloth off was the first task, then rigging the various lines for the sails while Debra was tackling the insides, cleaning, checking the linens and towels, bedding and such.
As usual, we didn't really leave enough time to do everything but managed the essentials in time including scrubbing the deposits of various kinds off the decks. We took a slip in the marina yesterday, finished our preparations, inflated the dinghy, hoisted it on the davits, washed and ironed the laundry that needed doing and we are ready to depart for Prickly Bay where we will anchor and do some provisioning this afternoon. The weather here is hot, humid and drains you of energy when you are trying to work, and my hands have got soft during the summer resulting in some spectacular blisters. They will soon harden off as we sail.

19 Apr 2017

19 April 2017 - heading home

This is the last blog for the season. Tumi is all wrapped up in shade cloth, the hull is being cleaned and waxed to protect it against the sun, the dinghy and outboard have been stored with a local business who are looking after Tumi in our absence. We are heading off to the airport soon, signing off for the next seven months! Thank you for reading our blog this season, and we look forward to entertaining you with our adventure next time.
Debra and Paul

17 Apr 2017

17 Apr 17 Winding down for the season

We've been busy for the last two days getting Tumi ready for hauling out tomorrow morning. The sails are off (thankfully in light airs, late afternoon and early morning) the dinghy has been scrubbed and deflated and is sitting on the foredeck in its storage bag ready to go down in the saloon as we leave.
This year we are better prepared with our jobs, I guess it is simply familiarity and experience that allows us not to run around like headless chickens trying to get everything done at the last minute. Hence the blog. We are sitting by the pool relaxing for a while making the most of the facilities the marina has to offer. It also allows us to get away from the rattling noise from the empty mast as the foil that the sail wraps around hits the casing when the boat rocks on the water. Surprisingly we managed to get some sleep last night too! We're also both looking forward to sleeping in a bed that doesn't move all the time. It's been a rocky season, roll on terra firma for the summer!

Here's an iguana that needed to cool off in the heat of the day.

15 Apr 2017

Lobster and mash ...

Sounds disgusting doesn't it? We tried it tonight in a newly opened Italian restaurant as their daily special, recommended by the owner. DELICIOUS!
The mash was cold, served with caramelized carrots and white rice, very Caribbean with a hint of Italy.
We are back in Grenada on the last phase of our season. We will be spending the weekend preparing Tumi for hauling out, removing the sails, spray hood and Bimini, cleaning the stainless, scrubbing the deck and the dinghy bottom etcetera. A busy few days, a prelude to starting the building project 4 days after we get to our new home. Are we crazy or what? No, life is for living!

11 Apr 2017

11/4/2017: Tobago Cays, The Grenadines

We had a super sail down from Bequia on Sunday, one of the rare days this season where the wind was a good speed from the right direction, and the sea state pleasant.  It all rather supports my theory that the last few days of an activity holiday are always good, whether sailing, skiing, hiking, whatever .... just so you'll come back again!

Tobago Cays is a group of three very small islands surrounded by a coral reef.  Whilst offering no protection from the trade winds, the sea is a beautiful turquoise and crystal clear with turtles swimming around the yacht.  It's the most like the Bahamas we've seen outside the Bahamas!  I'm sure French Polynesia will rival it though ....

Yesterday we donned our masks and snorkels to explore the reef .... spectacular.  Whilst the corals themselves weren't as attractive as at Les Saintes, the size and variety of fish was incredible ... pufferfish, parrotfish, blue tang (surgeonfish), various jacks, angelfish, zebra fish .... the list was endless.  There was however quite a strong current so after a time I returned to the dinghy and Paul continued to drift dive between the coral heads and I picked him up downwind some time later.  He's always told me it's like swimming in an aquarium: I can see why he says that now.  We'll go for another snorkel at slack water this morning and then head off to Petit Saint Vincent for tonight.

7 Apr 2017

7/4/2017: Sugar Reef Cafe, Crescent Beach, Bequia

We're having a thoroughly lazy time enjoying lunches ashore and leisurely stroll along beaches and through woodlands.  Today we treated ourselves to the "number one" restaurant on Bequia, Sugar Reef Cafe which sits on Crescent Beach on the windward side of the island.  Lovely food in a lovely spot ....

Whilst we were in Grenada we saw a great light fitting made out of driftwood and preserving jars (sounds awful, we know) but we decided we'd have a go recreating it and so after lunch we went foraging on Crescent Beach for a suitable bit of driftwood.  Success.  Just have to hope BA will let us bring it home!!

4 Apr 2017

4/4/2017: Bequia, The Grenadines

We saved off our final set of guests of this season on Saturday and now have two weeks to ourselves before we have to start putting Tumi to bed for the hurricane season in time for hauling out on 18 April.  Given we had to bypass the Grenadines on our sail south to Grenada because of time constraints we decided to sail back up via Carriacou and arrived yesterday afternoon after a couple of days of pretty decent sailing .... at last!

This morning we've cleared in with Customs and Immigration, topped up on fresh produce at the Rasta market and are just about to return to the boat for lunch and a lazy afternoon, maybe with a walk ashore when it cools down a bit.

We have friends who live on the island so will be meeting up with them over the next day or too.  Bequia is just as colourful and picturesque as we remember it .... it's nice to be back!

30 Mar 2017

30/3/17: Le Phare Bleu marina, Grenada

It's lovely here, peaceful scenic and relaxed so we decided to stay a fourth night.  Today we're making the most of the swimming pool, cooling off from the high temperatures ... thank goodness for the breeze!

Our second day out and about saw us visit the Palm Gardens botanical gardens, a 2 acre site developed and landscaped by Lawrence, a very enthusiastic Grenadian, assisted by two other gardeners.  The colour and variety of flowers was breathtaking.


After a couple of hours tour we dropped down to the La Sagesse nature resort for lunch on the beach, a perfect semicircular bay.  So nice I forgot to take any photos!

Mum and Alan only have a couple of days left so tomorrow we'll sail back to Prickly Bay for another evening of steel band music a the yacht club.  That's after a live band and cocktails at the marina tonight too!

29 Mar 2017

28/3/2017: Le Phare Bleu marina

We moved around to this lovely little marina on Monday afternoon and it's just as nice as we remembered .... a small boutique hotel with pretty pool and restaurant and small marina.  And as since we've arrived we've been making the most of the facilities, enjoying cocktails and dinner ashore last night.

Today we hired a car to head up to the north of the island to visit the Belmont Plantation, where they grow cocoa, sugarcane, mangoes, nutmeg etc.  A really nice local chap, Kelly, toured us around explaining the process for producing cocoa beans, still largely done using the traditional processes.  The estate dates back to the late 1700s and is still a viable business, beautifully maintained and offering employment to a lot of local people.

Part of the drying process involves leaving the beans out in the sunshine for 8 days, turning them every 30 minutes by shuffling your feet through them.  I had to have a go ....

After lunch and a quick visit to the River Antoine rum distillery, the oldest working distillery in the Caribbean, we crossed island through the Grand Etang rainforest reserve which rises to 1910 feet via a very windy road.  The Grand Etang lake is the centre piece in the crater of the old volcano and is full of fish.  All very scenic.

We climbed to the highest point on Grenada, 1910 feet, where the view down over  St George's was magnificent.

We've got the car for one more day so will continue our exploring tomorrow. 

25 Mar 2017

25/3/2017: Prickly Bay, Grenada

We had a successful sail around the south-west tip of Grenada to Prickly Bay yesterday after hoisting the newly repaired foresail.  The local company made a great job of it and it didn't cost anywhere near as much as we had expected.  We arrived in plenty of time for going to the yacht club for a pizza and beers, plus the delights of the New Dimension steel drum band, just as good as they were 6 years ago!  A fun evening.

Today we have walked to what must be one of the few microbreweries in the Caribbean producing real ales, a big hit with Paul and Alan who enjoyed sampling several varieties.

We're BBQ-ing tonight and tomorrow will head further along the south coast to Clarke Court's Bay

24 Mar 2017

24/3/2017 : Port Louis Marina, Grenada

The sail from Les Saintes to Union Island in the Grenadines took just under 36 hours and was a real mixed bag: squally conditions on the passage between Guadeloupe and Domenica which saw winds regularly over 35 knots requiring us to keep well reefed, followed by 4 hours having to motorsail down the west coast of Domenica, albeit 15+ miles offshore, with the easterly winds being blocked by the island.  We then enjoyed around 12 hours of good sailing as we continued south past St Lucia and on to St Vincent, primarily because we were by then 40+ miles from land and weren't affected by it.  As we neared the southern tip of St Vincent the wind died and so we had to motorsail south just west of the Grenadines island chain as far as the southern-most island in this group, Union Island, where we dropped the anchor for a night's rest.

We had a small tear in the foresail after our journey south from the Turks and Caicos back in early January which Paul wanted to repair when we were in Antigua but the sail just wouldn't lower when we tried to take it down.  I think the pulling and twisting in trying to get the sail down is what damaged Paul's back, following on from having to pull the anchor up when the windlass failed.  Because we couldn't get it down to make the repair, we decided to leave it until the end of the season to sort it out.  A mistake as it has turned out as the high winds between Guadeloupe and Domenica has seen the small tear extend across the sail, tearing into the sun strip as well and so as soon as Paul spotted it we had to roll away the foresail until the tear was fully rolled away.  This meant us sailing with a double reefed sail in light winds sailing south from St Vincent and hence the necessity to motorsail if we wanted to get there by dark.

We fully expected to have to motorsail on from Union Island to Grenada, another 40 miles or so, but wind speed increased and we enjoyed a great sail down on Tuesday.

So now we are in Port Louis marina in St Georges, the capital of Grenada.  My Mum and her partner Alan have joined us for 10 days and so today we explored the capital city and had a local lunch out of pan seared Tuna whilst the sail is being repaired.

With Paul's ongoing back problems, we paid for someone to come out to take the sail down for us, knowing how it wouldn't budge when we tried to lower it in Antigua.  Yesterday, when we released the halyard, it fell to the deck without any pulling at all .... typical!  We should get it back in the morning and then will set sail for the south coast of Grenada and Prickly Bay.

17 Mar 2017

17/3/17 Bourg Des Saintes, Guadeloupe

After over two and a half weeks at anchor in Jolly Harbour letting Paul's back get sorted, we sailed away from Antigua two days ago for the 80 mile passage to our favourite place in the Caribbean, Les Saintes just south of Guadeloupe.  The forecast was for winds of 18 to 20 knots and the reality was 38 to 43 knots so we had the sails well reefed down but even so it was a battle to keep Tumi on course as the big swell knocked us around.  Hey, ho .... we made it in 13 hours and anchored at Pain Du Sucre where there was a reasonable amount of shelter.

Yesterday we moved to a mooring ball off town, directly in front of the markers for the wreck, so after clearing in with customs and enjoying a French stick and the most amazing brie, we donned our masks and snorkels and went off to explore it and the neighbouring coral garden.

There were hundreds of fish and besides the usual shoals of sergeant major, angel, parrotfish and dorys, I saw my first pufferfish and moray eel.  Paul duck-dived to collect some urchin casings which were scattered on the seabed and will add to the collection of other shells we've collected.

We've got another couple of nights here before we need to head south for Grenada to meet our final set of guests, my Mum and her friend Alan.  We'll cover the 230 miles in one go in all probability, possibly breaking it in Carriacou if we feel the need for some sleep.  In the meantime we've booked to have lunch at two of our favourite restaurants out here today and tomorrow .... making the most of the French West Indies cuisine!