RTW April 2014

1st – 6th April

Ocean Rainbow at anchor in Grande AnseWe have just passed our first anniversary as Liveaboards and the first anniversary of Claire’s retirement!    It’s extraordinary to think that this time last year we had just moved out of Tansy Lane and onto Ocean Rainbow with our stuff all stored safely in our pied-a-terre with Gilly in Bruton.   Since leaving Portishead on 29th June we have sailed 6,620nm, crossed an Ocean, visited 19 different countries, raised courtesy flags 26 times as we dipped in and out of Spain, Portugal and Martinique on a number of occasions.   We have anchored in 89 different bays and harbours and stayed in 26 marinas although we have not actually stayed in a marina since 22nd November.   What other notables?  Well, Claire has had only two hot baths since August – and she’s not sure those count, because they were in hot springs!    James has been back to the UK twice, Edward and Verity have managed to visit twice and both our boys have bought homes.    Sailing may be a slow way to see the world but you can get a lot done in just a year …  we’re looking forward to another year afloat and more adventures on Ocean Rainbow.

Edward and Verity arrived safely and on time on Wednesday,bringing with them a whole pile of goodies, including a new wheel for Claire’s Brompton bike!  We took a “taxi collectif” to the airport but came back in the relative comfort of a taxi.   It is rather rolly in Fort de France so we weighed anchor fairly early on Thursday and made our way to Anse Grande d’Arlet.    As we arrived in the bay so we saw Swallow as she departed on her trip north – we waved her on her way.    We anchored in the southern- most part of the bay in a really sheltered patch of water very close to shore.  It was idyllic – except very little wind for Whizz to charge our batteries so we were forced to run the engine.   We saw turtles and lots of fish and Edward even managed to net a crab – far too pretty to eat and rather small for four so the crab went back in the water and lives to fight another day!

Overlooking Grande Anse

Overlooking Grande Anse

James’ foot is playing up a bit so he took the bike by road to Petite Anse while Edward, Verity and Claire walked along the trail over Morne Champagne to the village.   It was a fairly rough trail through the trees but nice to walk to the village.  We were rewarded with ice cream and then, having watched what must have been a very large proportion of the town gather for a funeral, all dressed in their smartest black and white outfits, we walked home again but along the road this time.

We moved on to Sainte Anne on Saturday and had a lively passage with 30 knot winds and, of course, we were tacking!   The passage ended up being 25nm and taking 5 hours – Edward and Verity were ready for a kip at the end!   We anchored in lovely azure waters close to the shore and a little sandy beach.   The winds have not abated so Whizz is being kept fully employed which is great.   What’s not so great is the rain that keeps sweeping in causing a flurry of activity as we rush to shut the hatches etc.    We went to church on Sunday – another great singing opportunity – and we then spent a lazy day swimming and enjoying ourselves.

7th – 14th AprilLes Salines - almost deserted

Horrendous how quickly the time flies.   Edward and Verity flew back to UK on Thursday 10th and since then we have only managed to progress as far as Sainte Anne in order to get the laundry done!   E&V have added their own take on a ‘holiday’ on board Ocean Rainbow which you can read up on their page and their blog just about covers everything that we did!!    It was great fun to have them on board and now we are settling back into our normal routine … we’ve even had a minor panic about the engine but that’s another story!

A little more padding to the rather brief note above and take us to 17th April

We stayed on in Grande Anse for a couple of days after Edward and Verity left and enjoyed swimming with turtles and snorkelling in the fish reserve.   We saw even more varieties of fish this time including an amazing brown speckled fish with 5 floaty fins each side – we really need to find a book that will help us to identify all the species as it is frustrating not knowing the names.  We also went over to Petite Anse to the church of Saint Henri for the Palm Sunday service.   The music was great but we were really challenged by the rapid fire French of the priest! However, we enjoyed the colourful scene (the choir all in red and white) and the Caribbean tradition of blessing the palms – too close to the priest and you got a good soaking of holy water as well as your palm!   We left Grande Anse for Le Marin on Monday and had a good sail down.      We anchored in Le Marin and did our shopping, James had a haircut and we filled up with water. On Tuesday afternoon we headed over to Sainte Anne and found a nice little spot just off the beach.

Wednesday was doby day.   Sainte Anne really does have the best launderette.   The machines are large and efficient and the dryers are superfast with an 11 kg load only taking 10 minutes to dry!   Saves all the hassle of pegging out the laundry around the boat and then trying to make sure it doesn’t all take off in the wind!   We washed all the mats as well as everything else that looked in the least bit grubby – a very successful morning.

On Thursday we set off early on foot for the beach at Les Salines, so that James could have a look at what is claimed as the most beautiful beach in Martinique and because he had missed the trip with E&V because of his foot (all now so much better thanks to Dr Claire’s treatment programme – Dr Claire is our physiotherapist daughter-in-law who has been awarded the honorary title of Dr by James as she managed to diagnose the problem he had with his foot via a Skype consultation!).   The full moon had caused higher tides so the beach area had shrunk quite considerably since our last visit and because the school holidays had started, the areas of vegetation at the side of the beaches were full of tents – actually not just tents, they were encampments with generators, lights, fridges and boogie boxes!   It was a sight to behold (but we’d forgotten the camera!!) with everyone smiling and very welcoming; one encampment even invited us to join them for rum punch – it was only 9am so we declined!!   Camping is only permitted in the school holidays and it is free – how brilliant is that.

18th – 21st April

We have finally left Martinique for this season!   At 6.00am on Good Friday (18th) we hoisted the mainsail, put in two reefs, then weighed anchor and set off for St Lucia.   Stiff winds were forecast for Saturday so we decided to ‘play it safe’ and head across the separation zone a day earlier than originally planned.   We had a wonderful sail with wind on the beam and Ocean Rainbow perfectly balanced with an almost full yankee and reefed main but no staysail – we averaged 6 knots for the trip which was great.   Very glad we didn’t delay our trip as the winds on Saturday were pretty ferocious even in Rodney Bay with up to 40 knots across the deck and the boat slewing all over the place as the winds battered us.   We had to stow everything down below as if we were at sea!   We’ve also got rain, in fact we almost have more rain than sun at the moment which is a bit of a shock but I don’t suppose anyone in UK reading this will have any sympathy for us!

We are anchored in the south of the bay fairly close to the main fairway which allows easy access for customs and the town.   James went ashore to complete all the formalities and met up with Freebooter (Annemarie and Steve) and arranged to join them for dinner in Spinnakers, one of the restaurants on the beach.   We decided to take the dinghy onto the beach in front of the restaurant to save going all the way into the marina and walking around …. It wasn’t until we actually approached the beach that we realised we had a challenge on our hands.   The beach is really steep (this was not obvious from Ocean Rainbow’s anchorage) and the waves were crashing onto the sands.   Those of you who are familiar with beach landings in dinghies will understand our problem – we needed to get the dinghy heading for the beach straight (sideways on and you’ll get rolled), get the engine up so the prop doesn’t hit the sand and then, once on the beach, get out of the dinghy quickly before the next wave crashes over the back or even worse picks up the back and overturns the whole caboodle.  By some total fluke we made it in one piece and our party kit stayed dry, but Claire – who had been driving – went all faint at the end of this episode and only just made it to the bar for a life sustaining ‘Sea Breeze’ cocktail.

Saturday was rainy and windy but we did manage to get into town to have a good look around the shops. We bought some cheddar cheese in one of the local supermarkets but it was very disappointing plastic tasting stuff so we’ll avoid that in the future.   We then met up with Annemarie and Steve and gave them a lift back to their boat (they’d had a few nights ashore in a hotel!!), gave them a hand with their dinghy and had coffee. James and Steve had long discussions about ‘bolts’ and ‘threads’ with the result that we shall be ordering a ‘recoil’ set for 12mm thread to rethread a bolt setting!   All very technical but it was because just before we left Grande Anse, we discovered that we had a bolt loose in the gear box mounting bracket.   James made enquiries in Le Marin and was told that the only way to fix the problem was to lift the engine & gearbox ….. well, you can imagine the consternation that caused, especially as lifting the engine means we have to be lifted out as we have a saildrive.   To cut a long story short, it was a case of ‘ET phone home’!   James called Ray Williams back in Portishead and asked his advice.   Great relief to find that the loose bolt is not safety critical but we do need to take care when going into reverse; and as long as we keep an eye on things we should be fine until we get to Grenada and lift the boat out as already scheduled. If the ‘recoil’ kit works, it may even be possible to renew the thread without having to take the engine out. We shall see!

Easter Sunday was an early start for us as the service in Castries (30 mins drive away) was at 7.30 am, but it was well worth the effort!   We met up with Freebooter at the dinghy dock and then caught the bus into Castries arriving quite early for the service – but that enabled us to get prime seats!   The service was excellent; good sermon, lots of singing (15 hymns) and a wonderful band (the Royal St Lucia Police Band) with the high point being their excellent rendition of the Alleluia Chorus.   Afterwards we took the bus back to the marina, indulged in breakfast at BB’s and then retired to the boat to get ready for our Sunday roast.   Sadly some of Claire’s pre-preparation had to be thrown out …. She’d peeled the potatoes and left them in ‘cold’ water overnight – sadly not cold enough, they’d gone sour!   Ne’er mind, there were another couple of potatoes in the store so all was not lost.   Freebooter came over at 5pm and we had a wonderfully indulgent and leisurely meal together. The roast lamb was superb, finished by James on the BBQ, the roast potatoes were delicious done in goose fat (the pot that Claire hadn’t been able to locate at Christmas), onion sauce, mint sauce, gravy and roasted vegetables and this was followed by the most chocolatey chocolate and orange truffles made by Annemarie and Steve – they had beaten the melting tendency and managed to keep the truffles cold by packing them in ice!   What a treat!   We also broke open the bottle of white port that we had purchased in Porto at Calem.   An excellent accompaniment to the truffles!

 

21st – 24th April

A leisurely bank holiday Monday was followed by a busy morning on Tuesday shopping at the local chandleries and then it was off to Marigot Bay.   We had a lovely sail with our normal two reefs in the main and a reefed jib.   At one stage we were overtaken by a Frenchman in a 37’ Jeanneau which we thought a little cheeky but he had all his sail up as was zotting along. We thought about putting up more sail but decided against it – and were we glad!   Not much later we overtook the Jeanneau as the skipper was having a real fight with the winds and his over canvassed yacht!   Slow but sure wins the race – not that we were racing of course!

It’s a good job the navigation to Marigot Bay wasn’t left to Claire – we’d have sailed straight past the entrance!   It really is very well concealed and we can now understand how Nelson managed to hide his whole fleet in the bay – manoeuvring in such a small space must have been a real challenge (no bowthrusters, just men with oars!).   We managed to find a nice little spot to anchor, just off Doolittles, and have enjoyed the peace and tranquillity – that is, when the pleasure boats aren’t whizzing in and out doing their ‘guided tours’. Some are so inconsiderate and cause a huge wake which rocks the boat madly whilst others just enter and circle the bay at a gentle pace – still it only lasts for a short while in the afternoon and then it’s peace again.

Marigot Bay really is very small with only one grocery shop (with some fairly steep prices!), a clothes shop catering for the super yacht pocket and a shop selling wines and spirits and a couple of knick knack places which are always good for browsing.   There are some restaurants and cafes around so choices for eating and the area around the marina has free WiFi.     As we were on our way back to Puddle our attention was caught by the marina staff who had spotted a lion fish under the pontoon.   This is the strange fish we had failed to recognise in Grande Anse – it really is so exotic but apparently does a lot of damage to the smaller fish and is therefore fair game for the pot!   The marina staff wasted no time in getting the spear gun – a bit of overkill in our opinion as the poor lion fish couldn’t have been more than a foot long!

Whilst watching the lion fish we met a great chap called Finn who turned out to be the most amazing source of information.   He has used the marina, where we have chosen to lay up Ocean Rainbow, for the last 10 years and highly recommends it. He also gave us tips about preventing mold, rust and all things nasty while OR sits out the hurricane season – we are in for a week of extremely hard work before we will be able to leave her and it’s going to be hot, hot, hot!     Anyway, Finn donated a bottle of Rodalon to our stores and we shall be using this to disinfect the inside of the boat to prevent mold – it’s a Scandinavian treatment for decking, easily obtainable in Denmark but rarer than gold dust out here.     Finn and Marianne came on board for sundowners and we had a really great evening – what a wealth of information they both have and what a delightful couple.   They invited us on board ‘Privateer’ on Thursday night for drinks and a tour of their magnificent yacht – she’s a 60’ Swan and just so swept up and beautiful.   Finn obviously cleans his bilges as often as James and I’m sure, if he had rugs, he too would be putting stripes in them with the hoover!   We’ll look forward to meeting up with them again next season.

25th – 27th April

Main street of Anse La RayeAfter a quick run ashore we set off for Anse La Raye – not exactly a long trip but we did sail!   The winds were very gentle so the 2nm actually took an hour but we were in no hurry.   We anchored in the north of the bay and had a snorkel. The waters are a bit cloudy but plenty of fish to see on the reef. In the afternoon we went ashore and had a look at the town.   Although there are lots of coloured houses in the main street, everything is very dilapidated and run down with very little activity and a lot of folk just sitting in the shade.   Fish Friday must really be such a bonus to the town as it brings in the tourists and much needed cash.   There is also an amazing fish market that was built thanks to the Japanese who wanted whaling rights – the building was erected, the locals said thank you and St Lucia refused the Japanese permission to hunt whales!   Well done them, we say!

During the afternoon we watched fascinated as the local fishermen went out for the catch.   They send out a man with snorkel and mask and then the rest of the crew beat the water with sticks as they chase the sprats towards the net.   If there are enough fish in the net it is landed on the jetty. However, if there aren’t any fish it would appear that the next trick is to tip the crew out in the shallows with a net and, along with a second fishing crew, they circle a huge area and herd the fish into the nets.   There is then the most amazing flurry of activity as the fish are drawn nearer to the shore and everyone attempts to keep the catch in the net.   By the time the net was landed it appeared that most of the village were there to help.   The next activity was landing the fishing boats – these are run up the shore on wooden ladders that have been placed on the sand.   It’s a huge task as the engines come out first and the weight must be considerable.   Once again, a community acitivity that ran like clockwork.

In the evening we went ashore with Freebooter and enjoyed the atmosphere of Fish Friday.   We chose to eat at the last street ‘restaurant’ – a nice meal with a mixture of dishes to share between us. Red Snapper won the day.   We were somewhat dismayed to find that one of the stalls was sellng turtle casserole!   Needless to say we didn’t indulge.   The musical act finally got going – an excellent Jazz group – so we stayed to listen but there wasn’t a lot of dancing which was a shame as we had got our dancing shoes on!   Once the jazz had finished the decibel level went even higher and the disco started … we beat a hasty retreat and, after a quick nightcap with Freebooter, we headed for home.

Saturday we weighed anchor again and headed to Soufriere.   We first picked up a buoy at Bat cave where the snorkelling was absolutely fantastic. Sadly it was so rolly we decided to pop across the bay and anchored under Gross Piton where it is very much calmer.   Imagine our surprise to find Freebooter already at anchor – we thought we’d left them behind in Anse La Raye!   We went ashore during the afternoon and had an investigation – Soufriere is rather faded.   Although the jetty, marine management office and the waterfront look quite cheerful the street behind and the town square have definitely seen better days.   There is quite a lot of begging too which is uncomfortable but we haven’t been pestered which is a relief.

On Sunday we collected Annemarie and went off to the local church – wonderful to see so many people and all in such colourful clothes with their hats and fancy hair styles.   It was a baptism service so another ‘first’ experience for us.   11 families all at the same time – no the priest didn’t remember their names, he just referred to all the children and the parents called out the child’s name themselves!   No room for error there!

Now we are going to enjoy some more snorkelling and hopefully move a bit further south.   Thanks to Annemarie and Little Pirata (their rib with 10hp engine!!),  Claire had a great couple of hours snorkelling just under Petite Piton – James stayed on board with his nose in a good  book!   Masses of fish identified and masses more still to find in the reference book!     We had tea on Ocean Rainbow (freshly baked chocolate muffins enticed Steve off Freebooter!) which then rolled into sundowners!    A lovely way to spend the afternoon.

On Monday we headed off for Laborie in very light winds – that didn’t last!  We hit the edge of the acceleration zone and had a very lively time with southeasterly swell and 35knots of wind.   Taking advice from the pilot book we decided to modify our plans and visit Anse des Pitons!   Not exactly a long way from our last anchorage!   It’s a lovely bay with a very swanky hotel in the corner with very swanky prices for their beers!  (US$6 per beer or EC$ 35 for the two – we normally pay EC$5 each.)   The downside to the anchorage is the roll caused by the swell into the bay.  The mooring buoy kept hitting the boat which made for a slightly disturbed night – shame.

Maybe next time the wind will be from the north so there won’t be any swell.   Actually we have picked up a ‘top tip’ which we shall try next time we pick up a buoy and that is to secure ourselves to the buoy using at least a boat’s length of line – apparently Bonking Bob won’t catch up with us!

On Tuesday we returned to Soufriere to meet up with Freebooter for supper but found that they were just about to weigh anchor and head for Marigot Bay. They had had a somewhat unnerving experience with pestering boatboys and were feeling very uneasy on their mooring so had decided to head up for the safety of Marigot Bay. We decided to follow suit and leave snorkelling with the camera in Bat Cave until another time.   What a great sail we had – although James is less than enamoured with sailing tight on the wind so he disappeared down below with a good book.   The snores could be heard for miles around!   Claire had an exhilarating time with winds gusting from 12 to just under 30 knots which meant a fair amount of sheet adjustment – all good for the ‘winch wench’ muscles!   Once in Marigot Bay we anchored just ahead of Freebooter who had recharged their batteries on the trip north so had arrived considerably earlier!   That evening we joined them on board for supper which Steve cooked – and as the photo on the blog shows, it’s very hot work being the chef on a yacht in the Caribbean!

Wednesday was a great day for snorkelling.   We went spotting fish and we spent a fair amount of time scrubbing OR’s bottom!   Claire has avoided this delightful chore for far too long but has finally bitten the bullet and added her muscle power to the task.   It’s amazing how satisfying it is to chip off a barnacle and see it floating away, not so sure about the small crabs that seem to have made their home on OR – they look as if they could nip quite hard!   In the evening Freebooter picked us up in their speedy RIB and we went across to the Rainforest Hideaway to have a ddrink and enjoy their jazz evening.   To quote the guidebook: ‘St Lucia’s top restaurant …. Only approachable from the sea … combines brilliant food with an absurdly romantic atmosphere’.     The description is totally accurate.   The staff are delightful, the atmosphere is really special, the approach to the restaurant is like something out of a fairytale and the jazz was very mellow.   We enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine and rather wished we were eating dinner there rather than having a BBQ on Ocean Rainbow.   Next time we’ll book a table, dress for the occasion and spoil ourselves.     Another really lovely evening in the company of Freebooter. What a way to end the month.