29 Jan 2017

29/1/17: Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

We had a fun day out in the capital St John's yesterday travelling there on the local bus service. There's a great little wine bar we know where we enjoyed lunch and a glass of wine or two.

Today we've walked along the cliffs from Falmouth Harbour to English Harbour seeing the ruined fortifications from Nelson's time.  All very interesting and some great views .... good to use our legs too!

27 Jan 2017

27/1/2017 : Falmouth Harbour, Antigua

We picked up a mooring ball at a small island near St Barth's called La Forchue on Wednesday night because we're having problems with our windlass, the motor which effectively raises and lowers the anchor.   For some reason is it running at half speed and is simply not up to the job of lifting the anchor without Paul also hauling on the chain.  Even then it trips out and so taking mooring balls when we can seems a sensible option.  The island was barren and quite sinister in some respects .... or at least Judi and I thought so!

Thursday we had our best day's sail of the season yet sailing down to Antigua, with the wind about 60 degrees off and a benign sea state.  We arrived just before dark and a massive downpour but were enjoying a G&T by then.  This morning we coast hopped around from Jolly Harbour to Falmouth Harbour to clear in with Customs and Immigration and also explore Nelson's Dockyard.

Phil & Judi have three more days with us, one of which we'll use to take the local bus into the Antiguan capital of St John's.  It's nice to be back!

25 Jan 2017

25/1/2017 : Gustavia, St Barth's

We motor-sailed over to St Barth's on Sunday night, all taking our turn on watch, to arrive in St Barth's at dawn.  It was a star - lit trip and we had a spectacular sunset and sunrise thrown in.

Virtually everything about Gustavia is lovely, the one negative being the very rolly anchorage which makes sleeping difficult.  We spent Monday ashore,  doing a little bit of shopping, enjoying lunch out and generally soaking up the atmosphere .... all very chic.  All that said the rolly night drove us away yesterday morning to a small bay around the corner and out of the majority of the swell where turtles swim around the boats.   After a walk ashore we had a lazy afternoon on board and then a BBQ in the evening.  All good.

Today we're back in Gustavia to clear out with customs and immigration in readiness for our trip down to Antigua tomorrow.

20 Jan 2017

Sopers Hole (again!) 20 Jan 2017

Well, here we are again, back in SH on Tortola, this time with our great friends Judi and Phil. The winds are still not playing ball as they have dropped off altogether and we have been motoring the last two days as there isn't enough to sail. We are not getting too angry though as we have been going short distances between harbours where we have been snorkeling and enjoying the baths (a jumble of massive granite boulders) on Virgin Gorda.

We spent last night in the Night at Norman Island and had dinner ashore at the Pirates Bar, a rather more expensive experience than we expected, but enjoyable nonetheless.

This morning Phil and I went snorkeling to see the caves where it was rumoured that pirate treasure was hidden, spawning the Treasure Island tale where Ben Gunn hid the vast haul. Sadly, no gold doubloons were to be found, but a treasure of wildlife and fish instead. We may go to the Indians tomorrow, another great site that I have not tried yet. The water temperature here is just perfect, and the clarity amazing. Long may it continue! We just need some wind in the right direction and we will be like pigs in muck!

17 Jan 2017

17/1/17 - Trellis Bay, Tortola

We're enjoying a cold beer having spent the morning readying Tumi for our first guests from home, the start of quite a parade over the next few months. Trellis Bay isn't the most scenic of anchorages but it has the big advantage of being within 200 metres of Tortola airport, ideal for picking up visitors. It also has the advantage of being reasonably sheltered ... the high winds continue and our stop last night at Cooper Island whilst definitely more scenic was exposed and rather rolly.  Neither of us slept particularly well.

The big low which has been impacting all of the BVI for nearly a week is unusual for this time of year.  We were chatting to a local lady about the fact that all the beaches on the north shores are closed and she said she has never known it happen before
  Just shows how rough it has been!

We dinghied over to neighbouring Marina Cay beforehand and admired the lovely view from the sundowners bar .... the BVI really are rather lovely. Throw in the sunshine and warm temperatures, then they take some beating!

So we now start 6 weeks of hosting friends and family on board .... let the fun begin!

14 Jan 2017

14/1/17 : Frenchman's Cay,. Tortola

We've just enjoyed a lovely lunch in the sunshine at this small boutique hotel near Sopers Hole with yet another fabulous view from the terrace. The manager has invited us to use all of their facilities and so we're about to grab a lounger by the pool and snooze the afternoon away!

The cold front we have been running ahead of since the Turks is still making its presence felt with high winds and a few short, sharp showers, enough to disturb our sleep
at night as we have to keep getting up to open and close hatches. A hard life.  Fortunately it's forecast to moderate from midweek and so we're looking forward to some easier passages.

Friends arrive on Tuesday so we're stocking up with food and drink before we head to the more remote Islands. After several days at sea in tough conditions it's nice to have a bit of shore time.

11 Jan 2017

Pussers Bar, Sopers Hole, BVIs Tuesday 11 Jan 2017

We stopped in Ponce, Puerto Rico on Monday night, checked the weather forecast again, and decided to go for it yesterday as there was apparently lower winds and only 10 feet swells to consider, coming from the north east (guess which way we wanted to go?). Anyway we girded our loins and departed at 6am in the dark to catch some of the lee of Puerto Rico and make as much distance as possible before the winds picked up mid morning. We had to motor sail all but three hours of the trip as the winds were right on the nose and it qas very bouncy in the swells, but we persevered and arrived in the BVIs at 2am, found a spare mooring ball and tied up to it, staying the rest of the night for free.

We checked in with customs and immigration this morning and now we can relax in Sopers Hole for a few days and do the laundry (long overdue, but laundries are few and far between), some minor repairs and general maintenance.

Looking up at the masthead last night, I noticed that something was missing - the rough ride down had caused an aerial and attached wind direction indicator to go overboard. Fortunately, these are not essential and so we will replace them at some time in the future, but it is not urgent. There are a couple of other minor repairs to be done as a result of being thrown about so much, but in general terms we got off extremely lightly.

Looking at the wind forecasts, we are in for a bit of a battering for a few more days yet. We are so looking forward to business as usual with winds coming from the right direction!

8 Jan 2017

Sunday 8 Jan 2017 Boqueron, Puerto Rico

The journey down here from the Turks and Caicos was something of a nightmare - beating into winds strong enough that they would blow your clothes off (luckily I wasn't wearing any!) and crashing into seas that made the whole boat shudder with the impact. We were both totally salt-encrusted, as was everything on the boat, from the incessant spray whipping by.  What was so frustrating was the inaccuracy of the weather forecasts once again.  We expected south-easterly winds but under 15 knots.  Instead we got them constantly over 20 knots, often over 25 knots and at nighttime in excess of 30 knots.  Not pleasant to say the least, and in fact at one point we were so fed up that we had decided to sell the boat at the end of this season. However, arriving in a safe harbour is a bit like the reputed after effects of childbirth - extremely painful when one goes through it, but you forget the pain almost immediately afterwards.

That said, we have done a great deal of reflecting on our sailing futures and we have decided that we will do the Pacific next year, and then sell the boat when we get to Australia. Downwind sailing is infinitely more enjoyable than beating into the elements and so we have decided that we will only keep going in a westerly direction once we have reached Grenada and hauled out for the hurricane season.

It is nice being back in Puerto Rico after a four year absence.  We had a long, long chat to the new owner of a waterside restaurant yesterday who has the opportunity to really make an impact with sailing community, and we were exchanging ideas with her as to the things that cruising sailors look for in anchorages. She made copious notes and we wouldn't be surprised to see that if we returned in a couple of years that all our suggestions are in place. It would make the place more appealing to itinerant mariners and encourage visitors.

Boqueron itself is a lively and colourful little town, very popular with Puerto Ricans at weekends.  They are still celebrating Christmas with a lot of salsa and marangue music filling the streets, stalls lining them and families enjoying the atmosphere.  All good fun.

There is some very bad weather heading our way early next week, currently hammering the Bahamas, but as we will be on the south coast of Puerto Rico we will be in the lee of the island and protected from it.  One thing the weather front will introduce is north-easterly winds, typical for this time of year and perfect for sailing south-east but you've guessed it, our next few days we need to be heading north-east.  C'est la vie!

7 Jan 2017

7/1/2017: Boqueron, Puerto Rico

Just a quick post to say we arrived safely in Puerto Rico this morning after a tough sail down into high winds and seas.  We got to the point we were selling the boat it was so bad but another day, another mindset .... Pacific 2018 and downwind sailing here we come!

2 Jan 2017

2nd Jan 2017 Turks and Caicos

First of all happy new year to you all!

We arrived in the T&Cs at 10am on new year's eve after a very bouncy sail in very high winds and confused seas. The weather deteriorated as we turned south-east from Mayguana and we had winds gustimg to 45 knots and the associated big seas.  Both of us were soaked to the skin thanks to the myriad breaking waves that persisted in hitting Tumi amidships and drenching the cockpit with the spray that was carried by the wind. Not for the faint-hearted!

So far the weather has not played ball, bucking every trend compliments of the weather patterns affecting the UK. The storms up there are disrupting the wind direction by sucking everything northward. Anyway, we were both exhausted when we arrived as neither of us had had much sleep in the past 40 hours and as much as we would have loved to have celebrated the new year we could not stay awake and we were both asleep by 7pm, sleeping the clock round to 7:30am. New Year's Day was a bit different, and we were ready to party but nothing was available. Ho hum!

We are really enjoying the islands, we have borrowed bikes from the marina and explored the island, enjoyed a bit of art shopping, dining and sampled the local brew (very palatable to say the least).

And the view from the cockpit isn't bad either!

The Turks and Caicos are made up of a number of islands (Grand Turk, North/South/West Caicos, numerous cays and Providenciales where we are).  The national population is only 36,000 amd 31,000 of them are on Provo, the main tourist island, and the part we've seen is pretty smart for the Caribbean.

We will be heading off again either tomorrow or the day after, aiming in the general direction of the Virgin islands but realistically we will make Puerto Rico instead. We have to go where the winds allow, and make the rest of the journey in steps.