The start of another year - can't believe it! At least this year we are on terra firma and not bobbing around in mid Atlantic. We had a great start to the New Year with champagne on board Freebooter before going on to Chateau Mygo and a delicious dinner. The live band were really excellent and played loud enough for us to want to get up and dance and yet not so loud that we couldn't enjoy a conversation. Our table was almost on the water's edge and we were in a prime location to see the fireworks at midnight. We couldn't have wished for a better start to the year.
We had a gentle day after all our celebrations and then in the evening we went across to Freebooter to welcome Kate and Richard (Annemarie and Steve’s daughter and son-in-law) to the Caribbean. Lovely to meet them at last – the day has been eagerly awaited by Annemarie and Steve since June last year! Next day we all set sail for Rodney Bay to arrive in time for Jump Up Fryday in Gros Islet. Unfortunately we had a small hiccup and we ripped a hole in the mainsail before we’d even managed to clear Marigot Bay. Not a propitious start to 2015’s sailing – but heyho, that’s that sailing life and we were so pleased with ourselves that we hadn’t resorted to immoderate language (New Year’s resolution is to ensure that our grandchildren only hear respectable language from us so we are busy practising!!!). Without a main we were struggling to sail in the bumpy seas and high winds and ended up motoring up to Rodney Bay which was a bit of a shock as we do love the sailing bit of our travels. However, Victor Volvo was very happy to be of use and propelled us steadily northwards – we even gave him an opportunity to show us what he’s made of as we powered him up to blow away all the cobwebs!
Once in Rodney Bay we anchored and took off the main and James headed in to the sail loft. Closed. But, we did managed to get the gas cylinder refilled which was a plus. That night we went to Jump Up Fryday in Gros Islet with Freebooter and had a lot of laughs with them over a couple of drinks and some very interesting local food. On Saturday it was an early visit to Kenny in his sail loft and a few purchases locally – Claire’s flip flops seem to have been left on the dock in Marigot Bay!!! Bit careless to say the least but hopefully someone will be enjoying wearing them. Kenny actually mended the sail within the day and we were able to collect it at 3pm. Unfortunately the weather window to go up to Martinique had disappeared so we are now sitting out the wind and waves in Rodney Bay while Freebooter enjoy everything that a French island can offer! We shall follow soon enough and in the meantime we are enjoying a live steel band outside Café Ole on Rodney Bay’s Boardwalk.
5th – 8th January
One of the great joys of the sailing life is meeting new people and our stay in Rodney Bay was no exception. We had spotted another ‘blue ensign’ on a catamaran close to us in the anchorage but had failed to identify its origins so, when we found ourselves at the dinghy dock next to the tender from the catamaran, we struck up conversation! (Well, Claire did!!) The long and short of it – we asked Mark and Elizabeth Buxton on board for a sundowner. They’re about to set off across the Pacific as part of Jimmy Cornell’s Blue Planet Odyssey so we had a fabulous time hearing all about their plans and swapping useful tips …. Claire is now going to take all the tops off her onions before storing them to ensure no cockroach eggs have made their way on board in the tufty layers! We had a repeat performance the next night on board ‘Love Sail’ their catamaran – now that really is luxurious, spacious sailing provided you only want to go downwind. Upwind travel is rather noisy as catamarans don’t sail close hauled so they have to motorsail.
On the admin side, Claire shortened all the elastic in the hatch covers to ensure we don’t lose any in the high winds, James cleaned and polished, we took down the Christmas decorations and ate our last mincemeat shortbread with brandy butter on twelfth night. We also managed to get the mainsail back on despite the crazy winds! We put in three reefs in anticipation of a bumpy crossing to Martinique when the winds finally returned to more normal levels. We hadn’t used the 3rd reef before so we were delighted with the sail’s performance when we actually put it to the test on the crossing to Le Marin.
On Wednesday we refuelled and took on water in Rodney Bay and then we set off to cross the acceleration zone. What a wonderful sail and what a wonderful yacht we have in Ocean Rainbow. The waves were really quite steep and the gusts of 30knots would challenge any boat but OR took it all in her stride. It was so reminiscent of riding, sitting deep in the saddle and urging your horse on to rise over a seemingly impossible jump …. we had water over the deck but very little water over us as OR skimmed the tops of the waves and raced down the other side. The flying fish and diving sea birds added to the activity and kept us constantly amused during the trip which seemed to be over far too soon. A sure sign that we had enjoyed ourselves!
The autopilot has been delivered and fitted. Everything works beautifully so very many thanks to Jean-Phillipe from Diginav. A real whizz with things electronic. We are now free of repair work (momentarily) and therefore able to move across to Sainte Anne which we did first thing on Friday morning. We are now at anchor and already enjoying a full social life!
On Friday night Pete and Cathy from Arawak invited us over for a drink which was lovely as they are a fount of local knowledge as well as being great company. On Saturday we transported all our dirty washing across to the launderette close to the Creole Beach Restaurant. Claire commandeered 4 washing machines and 2 tumble driers to get through an impressive pile of stuff in only 2 hours. Something very satisfying about doing so much laundry all in one go!
On Sunday we went off to church and had another lovely service with the priest speaking very clearly so we managed to get the main theme of his message – and a good sprinkling of baptismal water as well as he went down the aisle doing his ‘John the Baptist’ bit. We then repaired to a local restaurant to Skype the children and await the appointed hour for our Ocean Cruising Club lunch. This is the first social occasion we have been able to attend since joining the OCC on completion of our Atlantic Ocean passage at the beginning of last year. We were so glad we had accepted the invitation (we don’t normally do lunches as it means an afternoon lost!). We met a great bunch of people with such a wealth of experience – sailing, electronic, engineering. It doesn’t matter what our query, there was someone with a possible answer. We had a lot of laughs and a really good meal. Basilica has just opened and is a lovely location just on the beach a short walk from the dock in Sainte Anne. That evening we had been invited to join John and Alex from Free Spirit for sundowners … this actually turned into a cheese and wine supper (they’d also been at the OCC lunch!) with more tales and anecdotes and the promise of a Rummikub night the next time we meet up.
On Monday Claire conducted her ‘travel’ experiment. We went ashore to find out about transport from Sainte Anne to the airport so that we were prepared for the ‘call to Granny duty’. After a long conversation with a local lady at the Gare Routiere Claire discovered that she could get from Ste Anne to the airport in a ‘taxi collectif’ which ran once an hour Monday to Friday. Fantastic – no problems about catching the plane then. Next challenge was to ensure that James could get to Leader Price in Le Marin to restock his supplies (rum?!) and access the chandleries while Claire was away. A ‘taxi collectif’ was spotted at another junction - a quick cross-questioning session of the driver and Claire was on board, en route to Le Marin for a mere E1.20. Another success story – the round trip worked beautifully and Claire even managed to find out about hire cars at E20 a day from Gladys at GD Location (very good value when you consider a taxi ride from the airport to Le Marin is E70!). A good day all round.
Tuesday was the day of the impromptu decision – we had intended to stay in Ste Anne until Wednesday but our plans changed! Frank from Infinity B is an electronics and internet whizz and he had come up with some bright suggestions about how we might improve our on board WiFi connections. He and Mandy were setting off for Grande Anse, we decided to follow them! We weighed anchor and left at midday arriving in Grand Anse at 3 o’clock after a lovely sail despite some flukey winds and, guess what, we found more friends at anchor! Freebooter, Love Sail tucked away at the north end of the bay and Loic from Sea Prize. Needless to say we had sundowners with Freebooter and supper on Wednesday night (we won’t be seeing Freebooter again until June as they are now heading back for a few months working ashore) and we were lucky enough to be able to catch up with Love Sail for coffee before Mark, Elizabeth, Lucy and Craig set off for Le Marin and the start of their Pacific Odyssey. In case you are wondering about the photo of a helmeted Annemarie – that is what happens when you find you don’t have enough money to pay the supper bill and the restaurant don’t take credit cards ….. you get taken off by the Maitre d’ on a Vespa to the ‘hole in the wall’!! Beats doing the washing up!
Oh nearly forgot ….. we had a bit of excitement on route to Grande Anse when a helicopter turned up and circled us a couple of times – we wondered what on earth we had done wrong but luckily we were not the culprits! The helicopter was actually chasing some hapless fishermen who were sped pat us with heads down and then finally realised they were being chased and became so agitated, hands in the air, showing their nets and opening all the crates to prove they weren’t drug runners or importing illegal immigrants. All very dramatic.
16th – 23rd January
We weighed anchor on Friday and sailed 20nm back to Sainte Anne – it was a great sail but not in a straight line so we covered a fair bit of extra mileage! We are now positioned at the very back of the anchorage with only a few boats around us which is great and only a short dinghy ride to the dock at Creola Beach (lovely little lunchtime restaurant with WiFi). It’s also just a short hop to the launderette – most convenient!
Since anchoring we have had reciprocal sundowners with Debbie and Stephen from Amelie, Kirsten and Staffan from Balance (and no, Amelie were not served left-over croustades! They were freshly made!!). Both yachts are heading for the Panama Canal in 2016. Amelie have already been round the world once with the Oyster Rally but are now travelling independently as they went too quickly last time. They are full of helpful tips and advice which is marvellous and we should meet up with them at various stages of the trip. They’re rather larger than us (56’) so we won’t exactly be sailing with them! On the other hand, Balance is a 40’ Halberg Rassey and we have the same kind of route planned so we hope we will be able to keep pace with them. We certainly get on well with them, we’re about the same age and we have the same sense of humour ….. sailing plans are notoriously fickle so we shall see what happens but it is good to have met them.
On Sunday we waved farewell to Love Sail as she set off on her Pacific Odyssey adventure and we managed to catch the local Yole Race from close range. The steering on those vessels is by paddle and each time the yole tacks you can see the guy at the back paddling furiously to turn the boat! They made a bit of a hash on one tack but sadly the camera missed ‘le moment critique’!
James has also been busy in the galley again and we have to say – despite appearances – this dish was absolutely delicious and will become a regular on our menu provided James can be persuaded to take on culinary duties even when Claire is on board!!
Tuesday was a very exhausting day in James’ calendar – he crewed for Mick on Hannah ( a classic gaffer) and found himself going right back to basics. It was an unexpected opportunity to help Mick, who is single handed at the moment, sail his gaff rigged yacht up to Fort de France. The other extra crew for the day were Stephen from Amelie and Paul from Babe! (another Oyster). Not a winch in sight, everything was muscle power, no cleats just belay pins and with the winds fairly light all the sails were set. They worked hard for 8 hours tacking their way up wind to Fort de France. (Ocean Rainbow would have needed 5 hours.) Beers on arrival in FdeF were medicinal but after the bus ride back to Le Marin, they found more beers followed by a taxi ride to Ste Anne (and more beers) it could be argued that any benefit they might have gained from their day of physical exercise had been totally negated by their beer consumption! Life on board Hannah is a long way removed from that on Ocean Rainbow, whilst we might not have air conditioning, washing machine or large capacity watermaker (unlike our Oyster friends!) we do have more than a single methylated spirit burner to cook on and yet Mick and his wife have been liveaboards on Hannah for 14 years! We admire their stoicism but are very firmly attached to OR!
On Wednesday we decided that we’d had enough of the baby waiting game and we’d discovered that it was a bit cheaper to fly to UK from Guadeloupe rather than Martinique, so we decided to head north while the weather was calm. On Thursday morning we weighed anchor and just as we were leaving Ste Anne’s bay we picked up a text message …. the baby had arrived! We decided to keep on with our plan so we spoke to Andrew via the Sat phone and then had a glorious passage to Guadeloupe. There were a few gaps in the wind so we did put the engine on, but only for 1½ hours out of the 24. At times we were romping along doing over 7kts and that was with a reefed main and yankee so Ocean Rainbow was in her element. James got totally drenched by a heavy rain squall on his early morning watch but it was all dry by the time we came to the Pointe a Pitre (PP) approaches and we were able to see the pot buoys and reefs clearly. We are now just outside the marina with a few other yachts in a peaceful anchorage if you discount the wash from the passing ferries! The views are somewhat different to Ste Anne but there’s a little bit of everything – green of the mangroves, industrial cranes from the port, superyachts in PP harbour and the intermittent passing of ferries and water craft. We had to laugh when the cruiseliner Costa Fortune 'sailed' out of the harbour .... somebody had a real joke naming that one. Her sister ship is the rather more boring Costa Magic! There is a bit of rolling as the ferries pass but it's not as bad as Marigot Bay but it is worse than Ste Anne! The plus of PP is that we can use our bikes again … and thereby hangs a tale!
Once settled in the anchorage on Friday we went ashore and had a lovely chat with Andrew and Claire on Skype and were able to have a good look at little Emily – all babies are beautiful but some are more beautiful than others …. Emily is definitely in the more beautiful category! So cute and so tiny. Granny is not sure about baby duties – it might be a good idea if she sticks to cleaning, cooking, shopping and general encouragement until Emily is bigger for fear of dropping her! Flights back to UK are booked and James is gearing himself up for two weeks ‘home alone’!
On Saturday morning we got out the faithful Bromptons and checked them over before our proposed trip ashore to explore PP. Whoops …. 4 hours later we were ready! James’ bike had popped 8 spokes on the front wheel and Claire’s had a popped spoke on the rear wheel. What a mission! We’re sure the guys at Brompton would have done the job a lot faster with the appropriate tools but we had to make do with an old bike repair kit, loads of screwdrivers, thumbs and fingers! Once finished we set off to PP for our exploration. By this time it was early afternoon so everything was packing up but we did have a chance to get a feeling for the city and catch a bit of the atmosphere. It looks like a good place for a long stay.
Ocean Rainbow continues to uphold her reputation as a sociable boat – visiting mermaids graced the boat on Saturday evening and helped with the wine tasting and then on Sunday we met Jo-Ann and Gene from Eli Blue and they popped over for a sundowner. Great couple and a lot of laughs … so many that we actually ended up carrying on the evening by going across to them for supper. Jo-Ann’s delicious fish and wild rice with Claire’s tomato salad made a lovely meal. We had a bit of a shock when we went to get back into Puddle at the end of the evening to find her filled with water! We’d only managed to park her underneath the salt water outlet for the refrigeration system … good job we hadn’t stayed any longer, she’d have sunk!!
On Monday we joined up with Barbara and Stu from Lunar, Jo-Ann and Gene to go to Jarry, a huge industrial area on the edge of Mahault in the north of Haute Terre. We took a bus into Pointe a Pitre (80c) and then a taxi (€2) to Jarry and then we walked and walked and walked! We would normally have taken bikes so this was a rather novel experience!! We managed to find lots of goodies for the boat so a fun outing. What wasn’t such fun was the news that work to dredge the channel to PP is starting on 1st February and all the boats are to move from the anchorage! Not quite what we had planned. Tuesday morning we took Puddle across to the other side of the channel to investigate the anchorage there – it’s a little further to dinghy into town and you have to cross the main ferry channel but otherwise it looks fine. The downside is that James will have to move the boat there on his own but we decided we would ‘play it long’ and just see if perhaps we were tucked away enough not be in the way of the dredging.
Tuesday afternoon arrived all too soon and Claire was on her way with James starting his time ‘Home Alone’. It didn’t help that James had got the days wrong and thought Claire was leaving on Wednesday! However, Wednesday is organised and he is car sharing with Jo-Ann and Gene and hopefully going to visit Basse-Terre and the spectacular waterfalls – hopefully he will remember to take the camera with him! Well the update to this, he took the camera but had no means of transferring the photos so they will have to be loaded at a later date when Claire returns with the cable!