28 Dec 2018

28th December: Bequia

We're enjoying a great Christmas time here in Bequia with lots going on to keep us entertained. Our Christmas Day lunch was a fun affair with thirty or so of us from around the world coming together to share food and drinks and celebrate the day. Boxing Day saw us walking off the excesses of the day before, hiking 7 miles along the north-western ridge of Bequia with incredible views towards St Vincent. A hot and sweaty outing but fantastic. We're trying to hike most days but having a day off today: 11 of us are going out for lunch at our favourite restaurant. We may walk back .....

We've decided to stay in Bequia for New Year and then will head north to St Lucia. So another five days or so in one of our favourite places out here and then we'll wave goodbye for the final time. And this time it probably will be the last time, after two previous final farewells. Rather like some of the old popstars who keep having just one more farewell tour!!

Note to self: Take some photos!!

24 Dec 2018

Christmas Eve: Bequia, The Grenadines

We had a fantastic sail down from Martinique to Bequia, leaving at 4am and arriving 14 hours later just as it was going dark. There weren't as many yachts here as we expected, there still aren't, but it's great to be back. Bequia has nailed it for the cruising community: friendly locals, decent provisioning, a raft of boat services and a plethora of bars and restaurants, some even pretty stylish. So we're delighted to be back.

We've been enjoying ourselves with friends old and new, hiking, socialising, entertaining and generally having a good time. Tomorrow is another cruiser pot-luck get together at a waterside restaurant, you take your own meats to grill and a side dish to share. Should be fun, especially as we know a fair few that are going.

In less than three weeks we'll be waving goodbye to the Eastern Caribbean and bound for South America and our next big adventure. We'll be sad to say goodbye but are very excited about the year to come.

So Merry Christmas from the sunshine and beauty of Bequia. We hope you all have a great time!

15 Dec 2018

15 December 2018 - St Anne, Martinique

FINALLY, we appear to be coming out of the woods. Our SSB radio is fixed (it appears that two cables in a very tight connector were rubbing where they shouldn't and, although the system worked after it was first installed, as the hostile environment that we call the ocean got to the connections and a bit of corrosion ate its way into the connection, it shorted out and refused to transmit).

When the nice Frenchman (unusual to be able to say that!) came to the boat to look at the radio, he sat on the navigation table, which was badly designed by another French  man, and the whole thing collapsed under his weight, and landed on Debra's foot (yes, the one that is still recovering from the toe injury). Well monsieur Jacques was truly mortified and promised to repair 'la table', so he spent a whole evening and some of the next morning making new parts 'pour la table casse' from aluminium (aluminum for our US readers) and now after a great deal of effort, 'notre table est superbe!' He also didn't charge us for the full time that he spent on repairing the SSB which was a nice result!

So we now have a working SSB which we have tested for sending and receiving emails and weather grib files, and it appears to be hunky dory. We both hope now that we have fixed everything that needs to be fixed, and that we can now start to relax and start our odyssey. We aim to leave Martinique on Monday or Tuesday to sail down to Bequia where we will spend Christmas and meet up with a couple of sailing pals.

We also modified a Christmas poem today (well, Debra did to be honest!) and here it is:

'Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the boat
The bilge pumps we're hustling to keep us afloat
As Deb read her book, and I guzzled beer
She said 'that's enough, now come to bed dear'
Then out on the water there rose an uproar
As I reached in the fridge, to get one beer more
So up went my head, poking out of the hatch
But I should have thought first to undo the latch!
I saw stars for a moment, and quick as a blink
Debra laughed 'I told you, you've had too much to drink'.
The moon on the water lit the anchorage up bright
I could see all the yachts to my left and my right
Then what with my wondering eyes should I see
But a fat bearded guy in a boat next to me
Instead of an outboard hung onto the rear
Tied to the bow were eight tiny reindeer.
He was dressed in a red cap edged with fur trim
And Speedos that covered a bare fraction of him
I was shocked and astonished but what could I say?
I also go boating dressed exactly that way!
He then grabbed a bag, a bulging big sack
And hoisted it mightily up onto his back.
He said 'My name's Nick, and my friend I can tell
That your gelcoat needs buffing and your teak looks like hell.
Your vinyl needs cleaning, your lockers arranging
Your holding tank pumping and your oil needs changing
You've put these jobs off for too long, you know it
So here's all you need, this time don't you blow it!'
Then quick as he came he was gone from my yacht
His reindeer were champing and eager to trot
'Merry Christmas' he called as they cruised through the night
'And regarding the beer, Paul, then Debra is right!!!'

We hope you enjoy it!

OK, so what have we still got to do before we leave on the World ARC? Well, sadly, we left our folder with lots of information in it about the trip at home, so we are trying to get that brought out to us in St Lucia in early January. We still need to activate the sat phone, after which time we can make and receive (expensive) calls mid ocean. We need to activate our Yellowbrick tracker so that you can all check our progress as we cross the mighty ocean that is the Pacific and know exactly where we are at any point. Incidentally, as we have AIS now, there are apps that can find Tumi anywhere in the world when we are transmitting. Anyone who wants this, just go to the app store and type in AIS and look for boat finder, You will see it there. We need to fuel up as much as possible, filling all the jerry cans (approx. 210 litres) so that we can motor if we get becalmed in the doldrums. We need to try out the Parasailor spinnaker in a downwind situation (we have always been sailing into the wind so far this season!) and finally do the last bits of spares gathering (pressure hoses, etc.) and provisioning. Then it's time to go!

January is going to be busy for us, but in the meantime, we wish you all a merry Christmas and a happy New Year in case we don't post any more blogs till 2019.

12 Dec 2018

12 December 2018 - Le Marin, Martinique

We spent a lot of the weekend cracking on with writing book two, and it currently stands at 35,000 words and is flowing very well. Hqowever, we noticed that the inverter we have been using to convert the 12V boat system into 220V didn't appear to be charging the laptop. The charge light wasn't doing what we expected, so we started thinking that the laptop was failing. We need it on our passage to send and receive emails and weather reports, so we weren't best pleased. Anyway we took it into a local repair shop and the owner proved that the charge cable was doing what it should when connected to the mains, so by process of elimination, we singled out the inverter. The nice Frenchman said that we needed a pure sine wave inverter to do the job instead of the cheaper version we had on board, so off we went and €131 later we returned to Tumi to fit it.

So we're pleased to report that it's doing it's job and the laptop is charging. We went out for a late lunch to celebrate! And very enjoyable it was too, even though Debra shared hers with a local visitor.

Today is all about trying to get the problem with the SSB radio diagnosed so we've motored around to Le Marin and are awaiting them turning up. Another day in paradise!!

7 Dec 2018

7 December 2018 - St Anne, Martinique

The trials and tribulations continue apace. We are now trying to get our SSB radio to work properly as it appears to be receiving, but not  transmitting. Investigation and Debra researching on the internet has pointed us in the direction of the automatic tuner. We checked the connections and tested the voltage this afternoon, and it would appear that we have a voltage drop between the control unit and the tuner. It may be that the cable that was used (not the proper one) has caused the loss, and this will be our first  modification. We should hear the tuner clicking when we change frequency but this is not happening. This may mean that the (expensive) tuner needs replacing. We're not happy bunnies, to say the least, but we do need the SSB to send and receive emails from you all!

We have been reflecting on the season so far. All we seem to have done is repair the boat and our equipment, and buy provisions for our odyssey. So much work has to go into stocking up our stores and inventorising each storage space so that we know what we have available. Where we are in Martinique we have a few miles of bouncing dinghy ride each way to get supplies from the supermarche and I especially get rather wet on the return journey. That said, we are enjoying the fresh bread and pastries on offer in the boulangerie!

This weekend we are determined to relax and somehow enjoy ourselves. Normally, we would go for a decent walk somewhere, but Debra's toes are still not fully  healed and so that won't be an option but a wander around St Anne is always pleasant.

We might spend the time writing more of book two (23500 words so far).

We had a stowaway on our sail over from St Lucia in the form of a Gecko. Our plan was to capture him in a box and release him into the wilds of Martinique (hoping he could speak Gecko-ese with a French accent!) but we've not been able to find him again. Can they swim? Fly? Was he washed overboard on passage? Or is he in hiding, waiting to crawl inside at some point?!!!

We invested in a manual twintub washing machine last week, (two big buckets large enough to stamp around in, rather like treading grapes, one for washing clothes, one for rinsing), and it was used in anger this week. Very successful as it happens, maybe we should patent it! Good exercise too!!

Hopefully, next week will be easier on the pocket, but we're not holding our breath. The local SSB radio agent returns from France on Wednesday and will hopefully diagnose the problem. The solar panels appear to be doing a good job, something positive to end on!

4 Dec 2018

4 December 2018 - Martinique

Who says it never rains in the Caribbean? They lie! We have had a good sail up from St Lucia this morning, albeit  a wet one ... Several showers during the passage, but with our new extra cockpit enclosure, we kept dry. Even now, sitting in the dry while the rain continues to fall from the sky, we can sit outside with no problems. Neat!

The ARC boats have been arriving into St Lucia over the past couple of days, and will continue to do so for the next week or so. It was nice to be able to talk to the sailors who have achieved the crossing and we're thrilled to be able to talk about it. It has got us both all fired up and raring to go with our World ARC adventure. Bring it on! We have 5 weeks between now and departure on the 12th January. 🌏🌎⛵

3 Dec 2018

3/12/2018: Rodney Bay, St Lucia

Yes, we've finally escaped from Grenada, 140 miles north-northwest to St Lucia, home of the Pitons, Soufriere volcano and mudbaths (you can smell the sulphur a couple of miles offshore) and the departure point for the World ARC in January. It was a boisterous trip up, 24 hours beating into high winds and seas but we made it in time to meet Debra's Mum for the day on Sunday.

Our arrival into Rodney Bay marina was greeted by two fellow World ARC sailors we last had lunch with in Bequia back in March. But a lovely welcome and a taster of what is to come in terms of camaraderie.

St Lucia is definitely less humid than Grenada which has made sleeping easier. It's also cloudier but that's probably a short-lived thing.

We have just enjoyed a delicious lunch (coconut shrimp and lobster burger) at a very stylish new hotel that has opened since we were last here ... we'll definitely be back.

This afternoon we're being kicked out of the marina as ARC boats are arriving and they need the berth so we'll anchor off Reduit Beach in Rodney Bay itself and then head to Martinique tomorrow. It feels like we're finally on our way!