After an easy trip from Bristol to Paris with an overnight stop at Orly and then Air Caraibes to Guadeloupe we were so looking forward to seeing Ocean Rainbow. A real disappointment though on getting on board to find that someone had managed to gain access to OR in our absence via the front hatch. All the canvas protective hatch covers had been removed and placed under the doghouse so we think the break in must have been during the day with someone climbing on board as if they were supposed to be there. The only way onto our boat was from a neighbour as our stern was too far away from the pontoon to allow anyone to jump on board that way. Luckily nothing of any real value was taken. The binos, satellite phone, penknives, torches, ipods, tools etc were all intact – just Claire’s ‘slush fund’ purse and James’ dummy wallet had been emptied. It’s not the only petty theft that has occurred in the marina we now understand but a shame that a boat right under the eye of the Capitainerie was boarded and the staff so disinterested that the only question they asked was whether we had insurance!
It took a while to sort things out and back in the relevant lockers before we were ready to unpack all the stuff stored and then empty the bags we had brought back but we did manage to get a bed made and an ‘instant supper’ prepared (ravioli!!) We also managed to get some shopping done as Friday was VE Day and a Public Holiday so we needed to stock up for the weekend. On Friday morning we were up early and washed down the boat, filled the water tanks, replenished the drinking water bottles and slipped our lines at 0900. It was immediately apparent that we had a problem with the propeller as we couldn’t get any speed up despite Victor Volvo’s best efforts. We made it to the fuel pontoon and refuelled but trying to get off the pontoon with the wind holding us on was a mission with no power in the engine. Still we managed to escape with no damage to the boat thanks to our big fat blue fender. Once out in the anchorage we finished of all the tidying jobs and were able to relax with our first sundowner in our new goblets. What a treat and what a great reminder of the Regiment and an amazing Amalgamation Parade.
The movement in the channel is amazing and keeps us amused. The dredging continues 24/7 – and we noticed the difference.! We are currently anchored in 5m whereas before it was only 3m …. wonder how long it will be before the sand all builds up again?
Saturday we went off to find out about a lift out for OR and then came back to find that Honey Ryder had appeared in the anchorage. Such fun to catch up with Tom and Sabrina. They had lunch with us and we planned our activities for Sunday ….. mango scrumping, gatecrashing the opening of the Memorial d’ACTe which Francois Hollande is opening and a trip up the Rivière Salée. Libbie and David from Peregrine also came over and introduced themselves so we may well have a real dinghy party going up the river! The cruising life is never dull.
Well, we did manage to gatecrash Mémorial ACTe but only after Francois Hollande had left … on the first attempt, the nice gendarmerie wouldn’t let us within 200m of the place despite James’ best endeavours and assertions that Président Hollande was his new best friend and was expecting us! We’d actually dressed in tidy clothes for the occasion but weren’t downhearted at being rebuffed at the first attempt. We decided to mount an assault later in the day when vigilance had slackened and went scrumping instead – still in our tidy clothes! Great fun was had collecting mangoes and we even found ourselves being educated … we didn’t attempt to pick the fruit from ‘Le fromager’ as folklore tells that the fruits from these trees have magical properties and were prepared and eaten by vampires prior to a raiding party! The boys had fun too ….. straight armed bowling versus Tom’s baseball pitching. Bullseyes scored all round!
Our second assault on Mémorial ACTe was successful. The guards told us we were not authorised to tie our dinghy on the pontoon, nor were we authorised to climb in under the railings, nor were we authorised to attend the party but they didn’t actually stop us!! Then to add slightly to our credibility Tom identified the Minister of Tourism so we boldly stepped forward and introduced ourselves and were effusive about the amazing new building. When we asked if we might have a look around he didn’t have the heart to say ‘No’! Just goes to show what a little bit of buttering up can achieve! Jo Public aren’t going to be allowed in until June … maybe the crews of Honey Ryder and Ocean Rainbow should no longer consider themselves mere ‘Jo Public’!! The building itself is dedicated to the memory and history of the slave trade and is situated on the site of the old Darboussier sugar cane factory.
We then repaired to Honey Ryder for a toast to our success but the boys got waylaid again. Another yacht – ‘Music’ – had arrived in the anchorage and was potentially in need of a helping hand as Steve, the Skipper, had a badly damaged leg. The boys deployed in the dinghy and were shortly seen in the cockpit downing beers …. their excuse, it was Steve’s birthday! After an hour Sabrina called time and used the good old foghorn to summons them back so the girls could crack open the celebratory bottle of bubbles to share with them! A great way to end the weekend.
On Monday we tackled the barnacle problem! James had negotiated for Ocean Rainbow to be lifted at 4pm. The guys in the yard don’t hang around, we motored into the travel lift at 4pm precisely, the slings were sited and whoosh we were in the air and on the hard within 7 minutes …. No damage to OR and only a slightly raised heartbeat for us. The guys knocked off and we were left to slave away for 4 hours scraping barnacles – well James slaved for 4 hours. Claire had the easy job of cleaning OR’s bottom; the propeller was not quite so much fun and involved taking off the propeller and removing the crusty little critters from around the rope cutter as well …. they get everywhere and cause mayhem if allowed to stay and grow. Top tip from Honey Ryder is to colour the propeller with a ‘Sharpie’ – an English translation of this is permanent marker pen! Not as easy as it sounds and the leading edges of the propeller now look very strange … we shall have to report later on the efficacy of this recommendation. After a quick supper of pizza we took to our bunks, suspended in mid-air by the travel lift and slept until 5am when we were up again in order to anti-foul the bottom. The job was finished by 7.30am which was great as it meant the paint had a bit of a chance to dry before we were put back in the water again. The reverse process was equally quick and efficient but would have had Health & Safety back in England doing a merry dance!
Life at the moment is incredibly social. We, together with Honey Ryder, were invited to join Steve and Eva on ‘Music’ to help them reduce their ‘nibbles and drinks store as they were packing up the boat to leave for the US. What a fun evening, Steve plays the guitar incredibly well and entertained us as we chatted. Eva made a great Mexican style lasagne with leftover stores so there was no need to cook when we returned to Ocean Rainbow later in the evening.
On Wednesday we mounted our Rivière Salée trip withHoney Ryder and Libbie and David from Peregrine (not forgetting Brodey the dog). Poor Yamahaha with only 2.5hp was a little underpowered for this trip as the tide runs at 2 knots in places and we would have had a real struggle to make headway! James travelled up the river with Honey Ryder and Claire with Peregrine – for the return trip we had a boys’ boat and a girls’ boat ….. great fun! The mangrove swamps are extensive and the waters are really very clear (unless we hit the bottom with the prop, in which case it got really murky!) but there is very little evidence of life. Quite disappointing as we had hoped to spot something but perhaps it is just that our eyes aren’t ‘tuned in’ to the wildlife. We went into the main basin but the wind got up and the sea became quite rough and uncomfortable so we returned to the river where James had spied a landing place suitable for our picnic. We did have some healthy food to go with ‘not-so-helathy’ and can thoroughly recommend Sardines in lemon and basil dressing! We also found wildlife in the form of a very inquisitive crab – pleased to say James’ toes are still intact! It was a good spot to have our picnic and there was evidence that once upon a time there had been a house there but nothing more than a rusty tin roof and a mosaic terrace was left as evidence. Our return trip back down the river passed without incident – unless you count the girls’ boat having to change fuel tanks. The day was rounded off with sundowners on Ocean Rainbow – together with the obligatory tour and inspection of James’ beloved Tek Tanks!
Thursday is another holiday here in Guadeloupe so we are planning a cricket match and then we are heading off on Friday to sail gently north towards Antigua, Kitts and Nevis.
14th – 19th May Well the cricket match was a work in progress! The basic rules were established – 3 balls per bowler, 3 ‘no strikes’ and the batter is out – but as the match progressed so we had to refine/explain a few things; only part of the mango-ball is needed to touch the wicket and the batter is out; if the mango-ball hits the boundary no need to run the runs; if the mango-ball hits either wicket as the batter is mid run then the batter is out; if the batter scores 10 runs not out he/she has to retire but may (or may not!) come back at the end … depending on the umpire’s decision. On the basis that the umpire was James and he was not on the winning side we feel that the successful batsperson – namely Tom – would probably not be allowed back on!! The teams were taught the tactics of ‘sledging’ and we feel that Libbie won the day with her bottom wiggling, mango polishing and cry of ‘breasts’ as she tossed the ball at her husband! His score was perhaps not as impressive as he would have wished! We had hysterics, we totally exhausted ourselves by ‘tea’ break and we decided not to go back on after tea but rather retire to our boats for a little ‘snooze’! A great way to end our stay in Guadeloupe.
Friday morning we set off early for Antigua or somewhere in that general direction only to find after 3 hours that our friends on Freebooter were moored up off Les Saintes in a little bay. We rapidly decided to change direction and sailed south to meet up with them. What a lovely reunion – they came over for coffee and then a bite of lunch as we caught up on the news. In the evening we found that we had been included in an invitation to dinner on board Charlotta – a 44’ Nauticat. Hugely kind and generous of Rod (Skipper and owner) and Jim (Crew) to include us – hopefully we will meet up again and be able to entertain them on Ocean Rainbow.
After discussion with Freebooter we decided to head for Nevis together, Charlotta were going to remain in Ilet a Cabrit for a few more days. After a slightly delayed start to the trip due to a blocked heads (Yugh!!) we set off for Nevis however we decided to make a slight detour and stop off at Pigeon Island off the top western end of Guadeloupe so that we could do some snorkelling in the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Park. We took one of the buoys located off the island and spent a very happy time swimming in chrystal clear waters and enjoying the varied and colourful fish and corals. After that interlude we set off for our overnight passage to Nevis. It was a great sail with loads of stars and good wind (for the majority of the time). We arrived in Nevis as dawn was breaking and took up a buoy just off Pinney beach at 7am. Just had time for an ‘eggy bread and baked bean’ breakfast before crashing out for a couple of hoursl Then it was in to town to complete immigration and customs formalities and a chance to have a first look around.
The folk here are incredibly friendly, polite and only too willing to help. We decided to take the bikes out on Tuesday to go and visit the Botanical Gardens and the Bath Hotel and Hot Springs. Slightly more than we had anticipated in terms of preparation and actual cycling!! It took James 3 hours on Monday to replace the broken spokes on his Brompton and even with all his ministrations when put to the test, the Brompton was not happy and a further 2 spokes broke on the downhill run. This, combined with Steve’s Brompton with a jamming brake and somewhat dodgy rear wheel, made progress slightly slower than it might have been. However, the biggest problem was the heat combined with the steepness of the roads …. We spent a lot of time struggling uphill pushing the bikes and a disproportionately short time on the bikes freewheeling downhill. The heat was quite something so it was with great relief that we found a little bar serving cold drinks. The bar was so conveniently situated that we stopped off on our return trip and fortified ourselves with spicy chicken wings, goat stew and rice with pasta, salad and vegetables. In total we visited Fort Charles c.1628 (only a few crumbling buildings left and two gun barrels), the Bath Hotel c.1778 which is now houses the Ministry of Tourism, the hot springs (which are too hot to bathe in during the day), Montpelier Hotel where Nelson married Fanny Nisbet, St John’s Fig Tree Anglican Church c.1680 where you can apparently (because the church was locked so we couldn’t get inside) see Nelson’s marriage certificate even though he didn’t get married there and the Botanical Gardens where we saw such weird and wonderful things such as the ‘Sausage Tree’, Hedgehog Bush, Shaving Brush Palm, Fox Tail Palm and Petticoat Palm. The boys actually sat in the restaurant while the girls toured the gardens and educated themselves!! A very busy little day that was rounded off with sundowners and ‘light supper’ on board Freebooter. Tomorrow we are going by bus … it should be far less tiring!!
20th – 24th May
A sightseeing tour in a local bus is definitely value for money. The official route that the bus is supposed to take bears very little resemblance to the route actually driven. We wound our way from Charlestown (the capital) through the back streets of towns and villages to Cotton Ground and Nelson’s Spring. From there we struck out upwards and eastwards to Westbury and Fountain before we started to wind our way down towards the coast. The bus then headed south for a while towards Whitehall before circling back and along the coast road to Nisbet, Newcastle and Oualie Beach where we got off and headed to the bar for a refreshing cold drink. After a short interlude – most of it spent waiting for a bus! – we headed back to Charlestown and a revision of plans ….. St Kitts beckoned so we weighed anchor with Freebooter and sailed up to Basse Terre (the capital) arriving at tea time. After a bit of a discussion about south easterly swells, on shore winds and lee shores we decided to head into the marina to see if we could find room there for the night. We were in luck, Freebooter – having arrived first despite towing a dinghy and catching a tuna! – were allocated an official stern-to mooring whilst we rafted alongside ‘Tranquility’ until a space became available along the wall when ‘Midnight’ left for Nova Scotia (we don’t envy them the long passage!). Sometimes it pays to be slow and last into a marina, we definitely had the easier mooring slot, it was quite a challenge for Freebooter to lasso the mooring piles as she came into the pontoon.
That night Freebooter shared Annemarie’s magnificent tuna with us. We are definitely going to have another ‘go’ at this fishing lark …. We have the same gear so it can only be down to skill and patience – surely that can’t be too hard to crack?!
On Thursday we set off bright and early (for us!) to catch a bus around the island. We had hoped to take a trip on the island’s train (in fact the only surviving train in the eastern Caribbean) but the Tourist Office said it only ran when the cruise ships were in town and even then it was only when enough people had booked for the trip. We later discovered that had we turned up at the station by 0830 we would have been able to go on a trip as the train was running for a visiting delegation – and, yes, we were told that we could have joined them! Not to worry, we took a bus and were driven through Cayon, past Ross University, Old Town Road, past the tombs of Sam Jefferson and Thomas Warner (apparently if we know who Christopher Columbus was then we really should know the names of Jefferson and Warner as well…. Ouch!) then on past the dry dock (looked like a field being used as a car park by catamarans and small yachts) to the entrance to Brimstone Hill Fortress. No buses up the hill so we started the long walk in the heat …. Thank goodness for passing staff who respond to hitchhikers. We were dropped off at the payment booth feeling fairly cool and definitely with enough energy to enjoy the fortress. It’s been very well restored and the museum explains the workings of the fortress very clearly. At one time there were over 1500 people (including wives and children) resident in the fortress with provisions for a minimum of 10 months held in the stores. In its heyday it was a great example of the capabilities of the Royal Engineers! A fair while later James’ energy levels waned and he managed to chat up another tourist who offered a lift down the hill in her air conditioned car! We had thought that the girls would walk down the hill after spending a little longer at the fortress but the end decision was that Ocean Rainbow would take the luxury route down and Freebooter would enjoy some more exercise! Having reached the bottom we (James and Claire) then jumped on the first bus coming past and continued the tour of the island taking the longer route round via the northern coast. It was a great trip but there was no evidence of any industry or means of earning a living other than little small holdings. The days of fields full of sugar cane are long gone with nothing more than crumbling chimney stacks to show for the existence of sugar mills. We were told that the sugar cane fields are all burned by the government to prevent illicit crops of marijuana being grown.
After a quick shop to replenish the stores we left the airless marina (full of mozzies) and headed for White Bay and the peace of an anchorage. Marinas may have WiFi and fresh water but they are also stifling in the heat and there’s nowhere to swim and cool down so it was a relief to be out in the ‘fresh’ ‘air again. White Bay is at the southern end of St Kitt’s next door to the bay where the Christophe Harbour Marina is being constructed. We dinghied ashore and wandered over to have a look. At the moment it’s nothing more than super yacht pontoons – they sit so high out of the water Ocean Rainbow’s decks would almost slip underneath them! – with one superyacht moored (Artemis) and a great big fishing motor boat. Had we gone in, we would have had to moor OR on the dinghy pontoon but having heard the prices for mooring on a dinghy pontoon we decided we’d give it a miss, a mere US$80 per night and had we been able to moor on the main pontoons it would have been US$240. We’ll stick to anchoring! We did have a beer in the Salt Plage (fancy name for the fancy bar which has been built to complement the new marina) which was fun but we retired to OR for supper fairly early as our wallets had taken a real hit! Do note for the photos the rather amusing entrance to the ‘loos’ …. One of the pieces of machinery came from Cocksedge of Ipswich. The marina area was swarming with monkeys so we have finally managed to get a nice picture of one but not sure I would want to leave my yacht anywhere near a pack of monkeys – dread to think of the damage they could do given half a chance. Oh … and nearly forgot – we had great fun diving on the wreck in the bay. Not very many fish around but it was fascinating to see the engine and its various components.
Saturday morning it was back to Nevis for the weekend and a bit of downtime. We went to church on Sunday and then in the afternoon headed back to the beach and repeated last Sunday’s activities with a light lunch and a couple of beers at Sunshine’s …. could become a habit if it wasn’t for the fact that we’re moving on.
25th – 26th May
We left Nevis early doors so that we could get to Montserrat in daylight and perhaps leave enough time to check in with customs. The first we achieved but the second was impossible as Monday was a Bank Holiday … silly us, we totally forgot Montserrat takes every holiday available in UK and Eire as well as the Caribbean!! We had sundowners and supper on board Freebooter –arriving later than them in the anchorage definitely has its advantages as Annemarie was all prepared while we were still trying to put our sails away!
Tuesday we set off on our tour of Montserrat with Desmond at the helm of a comfy Toyota – not air conditioned but we prefer the wind blowing in our hair so that wasn’t a problem. We startd off at George Martin’s ‘new’ recording studios (the old one was buried in Plymouth during the volcanic eruption) and James tried to get a little inspiration from Mark Knopfler’s hand print. Claire, on the other hand, managed to get her thumb stuck in Phil Collin’s handprint! Then we were taken up to the airport – remind us not to fly into Montserrat in anything bigger than a Gnat, the runway wouldn’t be long enough!; after that it was Jack Boy Hill to view the old airfield – nothing on show but the old control tower. The road to the old airport is now in very bad repair with only donkeys and a few refuse lorries using the road regularly. A drive through the middle of the island took us past one of the oldest churches and brought is to Runaway Ghaut where we drank from the waters to ensure that we would return to the island. We passed Cudjoe Head which speaks for itself, saw the tree that predicts rain (all its leaves drop off before the rains come) and then dropped down into the restricted area where we were shown the devastation caused by the volcano (most recently in 2005). So sad to see evidence of the lives that were turned totally upside down. The awesome power of nature. A really memorable trip and we are so glad that we had the chance to return to the island to see Plymouth. We did manage to take a couple of photos of the western side of the island and captured buried Plymouth whilst on route to Dominica. The exclusion zone has now been lifted during the day which made it a really interesting trip.
27th – 31st May
The sail from Montserrat to Dominica is one we shall remember for all the wrong reasons! 6 hours of engine, 35 hours at sea and a trip that was only 85 miles as the crow flies! We covered 123 miles and we spent a fair amount of the time wrangling with sails or not sailing at all! On the plus side we did have some wonderful swims in the amazing blue, blue ocean and when the rain poured down as we approached Dominica then we took out the chammy leather and cleaned all the stainless steel, hatches and windows. We are now in Portsmouth and having a little ‘down time’ before heading further south in search of french cheese and cold meats! Portsmouth is really quiet and the beach restaurants were surprisingly quiet too. We only managed to get WiFi by good fortune – we saw a couple of folk on the beach and asked about beers/WiFi/lunch and were told nothing would be open until late afternoon as that was when the yachties came back from their tours ashore! Luckily, pity was taken on us and, for the price of a beer, we were connected to the bar’s WiFi – but there was a catch .. it was only for an hour! Ah well, we caught up with emails but we didn’t manage to Skype anyone. It was a lovely break in Portsmouth. Claire went snorkelling with Annemarie – not much to see really, we have been spoilt in other locations; Steve helped James to fit the new radio so we now have an aux jack and can play our iPod music through the boats speakers ….. Hooray, party time again! We had sundowners on OR with Freebooter, we had asked Honey Ryder but they were otherwise engaged … another time. Then it was time to pack up the dinghy and prepare to move on again. We weighed anchor on Saturday and set off towards Martinique.
What a brilliant sail. We made such good progress that instead of dropping a hook and staying overnight in Roseau (at the south end of Dominica) we pressed on to St Pierre (north end of Martinique) which we reached at dusk. A bit tricky anchoring there in the dark but we found a good spot first time and didn’t have to re-anchor. After a great night’s sleep despite the party on the shore we set off at first light for Fort de France but again we made really good time and actually made it into Le Marin. Fantastic …. We went to Bichek and got all the laundry done, we went to Leader Price three times and stocked up with everything, including wine (although Claire reckons she could still fit another dozen bottles in!) and we spotted friends in the Leader Price queue and went for sundowners on Amelie! What fun to catch up with Debbie and Steve before they set off towards the Panama Canal.
A great way to end one month and begin another.