Trinidad: End of Season

As we often say, our plans are written in the sand at low tide. We expected a rendezvous at Union Island with Lady Rebel and La Mischief unfortunately this didn’t align with the weather window for our passage to Trini. We departed Bequia headed south towards Trinidad taking the windward route past Grenada. In comfortable seas, a beam reach with our fishing lures out in hope we made slow progress for the first five hours due to a 2knots of negative current.  The Sargassum weed had returned and this frustrated the fishing.

Once we hit the north end of Grenada, the current turned and we sped towards Grenada, often doing 9 – 10 knots..

 

 

Our next challenge was the pirate gauntlet run between the oil/gas rigs off the Trinidad coast. There was an attack a few years ago but cruisers are careful due to the continuing financial issues in neighbouring Venezuela. We timed our departure so we’d pass the rigs at night. It is not uncommon for yachts to sail dark, turning off all lights and the AIS navigation system. We did discuss this but decided we would rather be visible to the large cargo vessels in the area. Being off shift I woke up and came on deck. Half asleep, I sighted another vessel whose navigation lights indicated that they were heading our direction. I could not see anything on AIS and Kim had to ensure me several times that it was an oil rig that was not moving. Fortunately Kim was right (I should know better by now) and returned to my bunk.

I was back on-shift as the sun rose. I retuned the fishing lures to the water. It was now a turquoise green, a contrast to the aqua blue that we had become accustom. As we approached Trinidad we were extra vigilant with our look out, finding the binoculars for a close inspection of any nearby vessel.

Land sighted and it was so jungle like and green. We arrived on a public holiday so there were plenty of pleasure boats out. A public holiday arrival is not ideal as we had to pay overtime rates for Customs & Immigration but the weather window was worth the extra money. The jungle cleared as we arrived in Chaguaramas Bay and a multitude of oil and gas related ships became evident.

 

 

We found our dock and with the help of friends we Mediterranean moored at the dock at Peake Marina. With formalities complete it was time to catch-up with friends.

It was great to see Larus (Tim & Nancy) and Ocean Blue (Derek & Lesley) who were also hauling out and leaving their yachts on the hard for the hurricane season.  Another port and another party, it was Lesley’s birthday plus they were heading back to the UK the next morning. As celebrations go, it was a big night. We well and truly went past “Cruisers Bedtime” and into the early hours of the morning.

 

 

Lesley’s Birthday

 

The following day we fare-welled Derek and Lesley and eased our way into Aura’s maintenance programme. We had arrived a week earlier than originally planned so there was no rush to work through the list:

·         Oil changes for the generator, engine and outboard

·         Wash all lockers and surfaces with vinegar

·         Flush the outboard change the gear lube change and zinc plus drain fuel

·         Clean and pickle the water maker

·         Remove solar panels, dodger, bimini and sails

·         Remove halyards, lines and mouse

·         Flush holding tanks and drain

·         Wash and polish dingy

·         Fresh water flush the generator and engine

·         And the list goes on …….

The only unfortunate issue with Chaguaramas was the diesel oil in the water. We could see colourful fish under the dock and the odd turtle but day after day the tide would take out the slick only for it to return on the incoming tide. Another job was added to the list, clean the water line once Aura was lifted. 

 

Diesel Oil Slick and stains on Aura's water line

We did take a break on the Sunday and friend’s Paul & Karen (iGood) who are locals took us on their yacht to their favourite bay for some “Liming” (Caribbean and a special Trinidad word for drinking and enjoy time with friends). Friends rafted against iGood while we drank, snacked, chatted and swam. (we met iGood in the Bahamas last year & Flic they have the big white house at Sandy Island Carriacou.)

 

 Liming on iGood

Liming on iGood

 

The week past quickly and before we knew it, the day arrived to haul out Aura. I’m never comfortable with hauling Aura out. The facilities at Peake are great with a 70t lift that can easily lift Auras 15 tonne (actually 20t with full fuel and gear) plus physically sized to accommodate vessels significantly larger than Aura.

It all went as planned and we had Aura safely on the “hard”…..but we did have a minor tragedy…..we ran out of gas….how embarrassing...no coffee !!! A gas refill required a trip to the capital Port of Spain or a week wait for the gas run, Kim had the menu planned exactly to run out the last of our provisions…oh well the best made plans. Nancy came to the rescue as she kindly made our morning coffee and we shared a few evening meals together. Not to forget the evening with iGood. We experienced their local steel pan group practicing (Nutrien Silver Stars Steel Orchestra) for Mardi Gras. We understand that Trinidad’s Mardi Gras celebration (French “Fat Tuesday” the practice of the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before lent) is one of the most celebrated in the entire Caribbean.

 

  Borrowed image from their web site as we didn't have a camera

Borrowed image from their web site as we didn't have a camera

See also - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZOaxDhtYwzM

 

In the hot humid conditions we put Aura to bed for the next 6 months. Time flew by. We did get a little help from Uncle Sam with the waxing of the hull and deck. They supplied scaffolding that didn’t shape up to my safety standards, so we did a “Take-5” and carried on. We were very impressed with the marine professional services by both the yard Peake and the usual supporting services. Next week we shall have a tent installed over Aura, just so to add a little extra protection.

 

 

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We said good bye to Aura and friends. Next stop is Fort Lauderdale for a catch up with Monique and Mark followed by a weekend in New Orleans to celebrate our 13th wedding anniversary before returning to Oz.

Stay tuned for the next exciting instalments of Sailing Aura. The captain and crew are taking a well earned six month break to catch up with friends and family…and possibly work. Aura is still on the market but we plan to be back at the beginning of January 2019.

Mon 4.0

Well, I am proud to say that I hold the distinction of being the person with the highest number of Aura Visits – and with Kim and Simon’s generosity, have enjoyed it alone, with my two children and my boyfriend….and each time is just as wonderful and amazing as the last!

My first trip was to Ibiza, which we enjoyed in full Ibiza style….staying out until 7am (you would have thought we were in our 20s’!). Second was a gorgeous few days off the Exuma’s, where Aura was able to enjoy (I think) her first experience with children on board, then there was another trip with kids to a few places off Culebra, which was AMAZINGLY BEAUTIFUL and finally (well, at least hopefully for the short term) there was the Grenadines, where we swam with turtles and snorkeled on some amazing reefs.

 

Flash Back to Ibiza

 

Flash Back to Exumas (April 2017)

 

Flash Back Culebra

 

I think my proudest moment came in my last trip where I reduced my clothing to the extent that it would fit in a small backpack (no luggage needed)…this included:

·         3 pairs of swimmers

·         1 swim cover up

·         Nicer Airplane clothes that I wore to and from Aura

·         1 romper (note from editor; we Googled this word and it looks like a casual kind of jump suit) that had dual purpose of casual on boat and off boat wear

·         2 pairs pajamas

·         4 pairs underwear

·         1 bathroom bag (foundation, lipstick, mascara, toothbrush, toothpaste only)

·         Pair of beach shoes (tevas)

·         Pair of fancier flip flops (thongs (note from editor: Monique is bilingual))

My second proudest moment was working alongside K&S as we did our absolute best in drinking Aura out of alcohol (I think we failed by not making our way through the final bottle of gin (if only I stayed an extra day)

I was super fortunate to meet some of Kim and Simon’s cruising friends during some of these trips, and what truly fantastic people they were – this cruising culture seems to attract fun and generous people – everyone I have come across was so warm and hospitable and always willing to pitch in and lend a hand when people needed it.

Here are some things I have learned over my numerous Aura ventures. Some are obvious, some came as a surprise

·         Always always ask if something doesn’t look right (no matter how embarrassed you    might be to discuss typically very private issues that surround the toilet)

·         Speaking of toilets….always, always, ask….truly….always ask

·         Kim is a passionate and fantastic cook and we will remember many of her meals….who would have thought to put mango in coleslaw, but it meant the dish went from something I truly don’t enjoy, to something that I couldn’t get enough of

·         Simon is very cool, calm and collected and does super nice things like saves good coffee when he knows I’m coming back

·         Kim really doesn’t like the boat leaning, or going in a direction that isn’t the direct route (which makes total sense to me!)

·         Kim isn’t a big fan of me taking the wheel of the boat especially when she is trying to have a nap, turns out my sailing ability needs some work (note from editor, Monique did a great job on the helm)

·         Don’t overpack, its just bothersome to come home and unpack all of the things you won’t wear

·         I never thought I could relax so much….even with my 2 kids on board

·         Puerto Rico is beautiful – I would never have guessed it, but it is one of the most spectacular parts of the Caribbean that I have seen

·         Kim loves Mexican Train – a game I didn’t know existed until my Aura Exumas trip

·         Simon can whip up some pretty tasty bread

·         Simon makes a mean cocktail….my favorite being his margarita, followed closely by an espresso martini

·         Kim’s lasagna – not sure how she manages to make that so amazingly tasty, but the kids look forward to it at every visit

I’m sure there are lots more, but basically it comes down to 4 things

1)      I drank too much and enjoyed every minute of it

2)      I ate too much and enjoyed every minute of it

3)      I got by with minimal clothing, making it a super easy and relaxed way to travel

4)      Bodily functions aren’t necessarily always a private matter on a boat

I want to thank Kim and Simon for their amazing generosity – I truly don’t know how I managed to meet them in a bar in Italy over 4 years ago and then make such amazing friends! Sometimes you just get really really lucky with who enters your life and how. I mean, how many people can say: “I am going to visit my friends, who are sailing around the world on their yacht”….I am truly fortunate and thankful for all that Kim, Simon and Aura allowed me and my family to experience and do; things we would never have been able to see or explore if it wasn’t for these guys

Xxxxx

 

Thanks Mon for your insight and kind words, we just love sharing the experience with our friends on-board and we love you lots!

Below are a few photos of our recent time together, one of our most favourite parts of the Caribbean “Bequia – Tobago Cays – Mayruea and Union Islands”.

 

Dinner with La Mischief

 

 

At the Bequia market, we found a few exotic looking fruit. They tasted great, except for the brown round looking one that wasn’t ripe and we (Si and Mon) both choked and spat it out……

 

 

We have a new addition to the Aura’s crew, she is called Peggy. We have found Pegasus’s are not easy to ride.

 

 

And these are a few pics from our return (5th visit) to this special part of the world.

 

 

 

And a few photos of sailing to windward, note the angle by horizon in the background.

 

And a few more Tobago Cays.

Back in Bequia

We headed north and back to Bequia (pronounced Bekway), an easy sail. This part of the Caribbean is one of our favourites, the locals are friendly, the water is clear and the snorkelling is excellent. Plus the fresh markets are well stocked.

This time we hugged the coast to get a closer look at Moon Hole. This community was established some time ago with the homes being carved out of the local rock. The concept was to use only the natural stone for both construction and internal furnishings. We did notice a few windows, later additions as these were not part of the original concept.

 

Moons Hole

 

We’re back in Bequia as Monique and Mark shall soon be arriving. This will be “Mon4.0”… her fourth Aura visit. On our return it was the usual market trip, followed by the phone shop to top-up the 3G data. We then settled back and enjoyed our surroundings. As we set our anchor we were surprised to find the French Doctor (Hippocup) party people arriving. We hadn’t escaped and they were back in force. They partied into the evening but were somewhat more sedate than the two nights prior in Chatham Bay. They made an early departure heading out at sunlight; some were struggling to get home and back on-board in their inebriated state. It was all very entertaining. We watched a floaty Pegasus toy drift past a friends yacht, they attempted to catch it with the boat hook. It continued out the anchorage passing another yacht. Rather than let it drift to Mexico I finished my morning coffee to salvaged it (now named Peggy).

 

Peggy

 

La Mischief (Steve & Dee) had arrived and that killed any chance of an AFD. We backed up with a Rum Shack Tour that was organised by a couple of expat locals. It literally took us off the beaten track. One of the fine rum establishments was located in a family’s back yard (convenient and entrepreneurial). A few locals join us along with the typical cruiser group, this include a number of OCC members, it was great to see Poerava (Ryan and Renee) who we’d farewelled back in St John. Thanks N&N plus OCC Richard and Rowena (Galene) for organising us and a great event.

 

Rum Shack Tour

We had another Aussie yacht in the anchorage, Byron & Katie (Ceylon). The Hippocup people never claimed Peggy so a li-low afternoon was called. With three Aussie yachts getting together it could have been another Australia Day. The afternoon of cocktails and li-low time, merged into the evening. No swimming awards just an escaped dingy that was promptly recovered.

What a week, it has flown so fast. We did manage to fit in a snorkel on the north side of the bay. A coral garden with the usual collection of tropical fish, maybe the best snorkelling location yet…..big call…..

 

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Bequia – 12 37.242N 61 27.141W – sand 4.5m

Grenadines

 

The relentless wind finally eased and we made our way south, back to the Grenadines. Day hops, first Rodney Bay next Bequia (pronounced bekway). There were about 10 boats all heading south to Bequia. Simon made the call to head windward of St Vincent to get “clear wind”. What seemed like a logical decision turned out to be less than enjoyable. We had a strong current (2-3 knots) against us for most of the trip, confused seas and very little wind. So we had to motor sail.

We were last in Bequia nearly 18 months ago and had a great time with our friends, Dianne and Joel. We found a few new treasures, a chicken roti shop at a local bar and some great snorkelling. We were pleasantly surprised at the coral and sea life including a moray eel, baby crayfish and sea snakes.

 

 

We stretched our legs with a walk across the island to Friendship Bay and took in the views to Mustique Island. We also spent a lazy Sunday afternoon at Lower Bay (south of our anchorage) where we chilled to tunes from a mobile DJ with a pop up beach bar.

 

Bequia - Lower Bay

 

Our social calendars where full with catching up with old and new friends. We caught up with Tim and Nancy on Larus who we last saw in Norfolk in November. We also met a few other OCC boats and enjoyed sundowners at Jacks on the beach. Helios (our dingy) was misbehaving again so we had to be towed home by Roy and Tacey (Mercator). Mercator is a 55 foot trawler, this vessel really stands out in the crowd of sailing yachts. We had a chance to get to know them and shared a lovely meal aboard.

 

It was time to head down The Grenadines chain of islands to revisit some of our old favourites and explore some new bays. First stop was Salt Whistle Bay. It was crowded with charter boats but we still managed to find a good anchorage spot, Si dived on the anchor and discovered an old mooring that we took a line to. We were close to the reef but with the mooring line attached, we reduced our swing circle.

 

Back in Salt Whistle Bay - Beach

 

It was our last night with Larus so a customary curry night was called on Tourterelle. We decided to expand our repertoire and made butter chicken. It turned out great so will now be a regular feature. The next day we climbed the very steep hill and visited some of the more interesting building and enjoyed the view.

 

Mayreau - Hill Top Walk

 

Later that day, Tacey and Roy arrived and enjoyed sun-downers on Aura.

 

Sundowners

 

The next stop was Tobago Cays and to swim with the turtles. Unfortunately I had come down with an ear infection so had to sit this one out. Mr Quality who operates a mobile boat based souvenir shop arrived on our stern and enquired about my back. We were impressed with his memory. We did a great walk up to the top of the hill on one of the small islands. The view was spectacular but of course no one remembered the camera……

Unfortunately the wind was fairly strong at Tobago Cays with an uncomfortable fetch and the plague of Sargassum weed continued making its way through the anchorage. So after a couple of nights, we decided to head to Saline Bay located on the east coast of Mayreau. It’s a lovely big bay with a nice beach. It is very well protected and slept well after the lumpy anchorage of Tobago Cays.

The next stop was Chatham Bay. We had missed this bay previously due to the reports of petty theft. As we came around the corner, the first thing you notice is the steep mountains and rock face that surround the bay…stunning. The second thing is that the bay is massive with very few boats anchored. Also that lack on development onshore…our sort of place.

Once we anchored we were a little taken back by the strong gusts that would whip through the bay every now and then. Once minute it was calm, the next the whole boat was shaking with the force of the wind. Fortunately our anchor was well dug in.

We enjoyed a lovely meal ashore with Ian and Ann at Sun, Beach and dine on fish, fried potatoes, fried bananas, rice and salad. This was followed by Banana Muffins that to us looked more like banana donuts.

 

< Insert photos of dinner out request from Tourterelle >

We stretched our legs again with a walk up the hill to take in the view. Along the way we came across some road kill that looked very much like a possum. After asking the locals what it was, we discovered it was in fact a possum. We did some google research and discovered that possums are native in this part of the world. There you go and I thought a possum was uniquely Australian (with unwanted exports to NZ). (The possum photos was removed from the blog)

 

Chatham Bay

 

The next day, we snorkelled on the point. The sea floor was covered in green algae and as we swam further out, the algae cleared and you were surrounded by millions of bait fish. It was really strange and something we had not experienced before. There were other fish and coral to look at but it was challenging at times to see past all the fish.

 

Snorkel Chatham Bay

 

We love this bay and were enjoying the peace and tranquillity until we noticed a considerable number of catamarans started arriving in the other side of the bay. We haled down one of the locals who told us that 40 boats would be anchoring in the bay for the night. Not a problem, there is plenty of space. As they started to arrive, we soon realised that this is not an ordinary rally. Most of the boats were decorated with flags and other paraphernalia. The big give away was the music that was blaring from some very big speakers. Looks like things are going to get interesting and they did. They partied through the night into mid-morning. As the sun rose, over 100 people were dancing on the two rafted catamarans. One had its bow well in the water. By about 9am, the music finally stopped, they went back to their own boats and sailed away. We finally had our bay back to ourselves wondering if that really happened.

 

Hippocup Party in Chatham Bay

 

We had one last night with Tourterelle before we would be parting ways…this time saying goodbye for the perceivable future. We enjoyed a lovely meal together with good wine. We all started getting a bit sleepy after the loud music from the night before so we pulled out Mexican Train for one last game.

We had buddy sailed with Ian and Ann (Tourterelle) on and off for over a year. We were heading back to Bequia as friends from Florida will soon join us for a few days and Tourterelle are continuing south to Grenada. They will haul out and take a short trip back to Europe. It was a sad goodbye as we have so many good memories, great times and shared so many wonderful experiences. They kept Si company in Christmas Cove when I was back in Australia visiting my dad last March. They helped us navigate the shallow Exuma waters and convinced us to join them in Bermuda for the Americas Cup. We then headed north where we summered in the USA before returning to the Bahamas for Christmas and New Year. We then explored Jamaica together, Puerto Rico and returned to the USVIs then Windward Islands. Fair winds and following seas, we shall miss you Tourterelle.

 

Bye Tourterelle

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Bequia – 12 37.242N 61 27.141W – sand 4.5m

Mayreau (Salt Whistle Bay) – 12 38.822N 61 23.480W - anchor edge of mooring field, also took line to an old mooring

Tobago Cays – 12 37.85N 64 21.327W – 3m sand

Mayreau (Saline Bay) – 12 38.05N 61 23.854W – 5m sand

Union Island (Chatham Bay) - 12 36.223N 61 26.952W – 3.5m sand

 

 

Parle Français?

We arrived in Deshaies, Guadeloupe. It was a tight angle from the BVIs with the prevailing easterly wind. What started off as an uncomfortable 10 hrs of smashing into waves, turned into a pleasant windward sail, calm seas and a good breeze. Sailing past the volcanic island of Montserrat was challenging with no wind, wind, wind on the nose, no wind…grrr.  We motored the last 10 miles as we could not point high enough (into the wind) arriving at the harbour of Dashaies just as the offshore breeze kicked in. If you thought you had plenty of space between you and the boat next to you, this is a great way to test that theory as all the boats turn 180 degrees and face opposite directions. Fortunately we were fine…just :-)

We completed the usual clearance formalities, the French islands have an unique and sensible system for yachts clearing customs and immigration. It’s a self-service computer terminal that typically located at a café, beach wear store, a marina or tourist office. So 5 minutes navigating a French keyboard and a few euros later we were legal! When back in France, the next mission is the supermarket but everything is closed for the usual afternoon nap 12 to 4. Not to worry, we just enjoyed a glass of French wine at a water front cafe, thanks Ian and Anne.

We didn’t stay in Deshaies long, not just because I couldn’t get the pronunciation right….we had considered a few of the walks and a picnic in the botanical gardens. It was just the 15€ each felt a bit expensive. We just had a mission at hand.

On our previous visit to Guadeloupe we didn’t stop at the famous Pigeon Island. We wanted to cross this of the To Do List. The island is located in the Jacques Cousteau Underwater Reserve (National Park). The main Goyaves anchorage is on the north side of the cove, near the beach. We found La Mischief on the AIS and they had anchored on the south side and close to the small locals boat harbour. This just so happened to be a short walk to the Carrefour and Leeder Price supermarkets. The anchor was down and we set off to indulge in a selection of brie, camembert, baguettes, prosciutto, pate, reasonably priced wine and all things French. Two dingy loads later we had Aura well stocked. For future reference fresh meats (steak, chicken, pork) and our staples such as corn chips, wraps, rum, tequila, gin and vodka are all better value in PR, SVI’s and even the USVIs.  After we off loaded all our delectable food, we took the short dingy ride to the island and a late afternoon snorkel. It was nice but we only got to see a small area of the reserve. We headed back and enjoyed the mandatory sundowners with La Mischief of French laden platters.

Now back to the mission…the main reason for being in Guadeloupe is to catch up with Isabelle and Gilbert on Vent D'Allures. They are selling Vent D'Allures and are about to embark on a new touring life, now with a campervan. Guadeloupe is shaped like a butterfly and they were on the opposite side of the island, almost the most eastern corner at St François. Oh well, we’d been sailing upwind for how many months now, what is another day? The leeward sail on the coast was just fine, we sailed south east towards Les Saintes the wind moved more south forcing us to tack. As we approached Guadeloupe the wind moved more north, forcing us to tack once again. We repeated this process several times before we eventually gave in and turned on the motor…….several hours later and just before sunset we arrived. We navigated the narrow channel and came behind the protection of the reef. We were greeted by Isabelle and Gilbert in their dingy. They guided us to the very small anchorage area that was suitable for deep keel yachts. The lagoons water depth is better suited to catamarans. Fortunately the spot was big enough for one deep keel boat so Aura fit perfectly.

 

Arrive @ St François

 

It was a great reunion, we hadn’t seen each other for over a year so we celebrated with champagne and wonderful conversation. A day or so later, La Mischief also arrived to farewell Vent D'Allures, Gilbert would soon transit the Atlantic and return to Europe. Another fun night was had by all.

 

 

During our stay the lagoon the nearby marina was inundated with seed weed (algae). The water at the marinas dingy dock became repugnant. One morning we awoke to Aura being totally surrounded. Fortunately it did clear and we could once again swim and enjoy the water and watch the kite surfers zoom around us. The village had a nice feel with small shops lining the street that runs along the beach front. The marina is surrounded by dining options and a few hotel resorts. We found Wi-Fi to watch a delayed telecast of the Freo v Eagles game and went to the fruit and veg market that was held every Saturday morning. Unfortunately not much was done in the way of haggling due to Kim’s French not being the greatest.

We were entertained to a delightful evening of local cuisine on Belbo, a sleek Privilege catamaran. We look forward to catching up with Xaiver, Natalie, Tom and Lucy again.

 

 

Dinner aboard Belbo

 

It wasn’t long before we lifted our anchor to continue the trip south, another weather window determining our movements. We said a sad farewell to Isabelle and Gilbert and wish them all the very best and we look forward to catching up again, next time maybe back in Brittany.

 

 

Next toy will be a Kite Board

 

 

Morning of weed in St François

 

That afternoon we passed Les Saintes and as the sun was setting we could see the lights of the Dominican Republic in the distance. We tracked along the leeward side of the island only because we had concerns of being stuck in the blankets of sargassum seaweed.  The leeward brings fluky winds that would gust 25knts then dropout and turn due the volcanic hills ashore. We motored the 20nm and we re-entered the French waters of Martinique, passing Sainte Pierre. Tourterelle popped up on our AIS navigation system. We had gone our separate ways at Deshaies so it was great to see them again. We motored down the coast and when greeted by the Baie De Fort-De-France we powered across (now under sail) to drop anchor at Grande Anse. We enjoyed sundowners with Tourterelle and the next morning we continued our sail south, tacking at Diamond Point (Pointe du Diamant) to make our way to St Anne. This 10nm sail was directly east, a 20nm tack towards St Lucia was required with another 20nm back to Martinique. We’d power on these angles easily making 7 knots. Kim was not up for a 5 hour sail to windward so we turned on the iron main sail and slowly motored a direct course.

St Anne is one of our favourite anchorages, the bottom is sand the depth is around 5 meters and it’s almost 1nm x 0.5nm in size. Once ashore there is a great bakery, several bars and restaurants, two local supermarkets and a several hiking trails. La Marin is a 2nm dingy trip to numerous chandleries, professional yachting services and the major supermarkets. Two of our three battery chargers had failed and La Marin had a service agent. We had been surviving on just one so looking forward to being at full capacity again.

 

 

St Anne

 

While waiting for the repair, we had regular morning beach walks and hikes. The most notable was the 7 kilometres to Anse Salines where we passed the beach Petite Anse Salines. Unknowing to us a popular gay and nudist beach, the locals we’re not phased maybe just a little over keen to show off their lack of tan lines.

 

 

Hike @ St Anne 

 

Returning to the topic of food, one evening we had a French night with Ian treating us with his culinary skills with his Magret de canard roti, sauce vin rouge et echalotes and Kim’s gratin dauphinois, she also replicated Isabelle’s tart crème fresh and bacon recipe. I think it’s called Tarte Flambée, a tart but it’s almost a French pizza. I’ll follow up with Isa for clarification :- )

We hired a car to explore further afield plus to find a Soda Stream gas for our drinks. The Soda Stream unit is environmentally friendlier than plastic soda water bottles. For lunch we found a restaurant that was off the tourist trail. After an initial “lost in translation” type moment, we were almost chased out the door. It all worked out, we dined well and received complementary rum and chocolates to finish our meal.

 

 

Lunch @ Restaurant Carioca

 

Our little Citron car did incredibly well up the steep, narrow and winding roads. We visited two rum (rhum) distilleries, La Mahuny and Trois-Rivières. At the later we toured the old facility, cane crush, fermentation vats and the distillery. The guide kindly conducted the tour in both French and English and it was concluded with a few tastings to finish.

 

Rhum tour

 

La Mischief arrived, Kane and Clare departed and Dee returned from California. A curry night was called (just a change from the magnifique cuisine française). The feast included Steve’s first pressure cooked, lamb Rogan Gosh, Ian’s famous Onion Bhajis, Kim’s Dahl and Si’s Naan.  It was great night and good to see Dee again.

The relentless wind finally eased and we made our way south, back to the Grenadines via day hops. First stop Rodney Bay in St Lucia followed by Bequia.

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Notes

Deshaies – 16 18.42N 61 47.89W – 7.5m

Ilets A’Goyaves – 16 09.861N 61 46.605W – 5.7m

St Francois – 16 15.02N 61 34.62W – 2.5m (actual, small area for deep draft yachts)

Grande Anse – 14 30.1N 61 05.23W – 7m

St Anne – 14 26.41N 60 53.02W – 4.3m

Soda Stream @ Martinique - DARTY (Habitat) address Z.I. Les Mangles, 97232 Lamentin

Return to the USVIs

We noticed a little hurricane damage in Puerto Rico and it was more than obvious in the USVIs. From a distance the blue coloured roof lines looked fashionable but not up close ……so many people are still living under tarps, its more than 8 months since the hurricanes.

Christmas Cove is a small island off the east coast of St Thomas that provides a protected anchorage. We spent a fair bit of time here last year as it was Simon’s home base while I went back to Australia… it felt like coming home. Nothing much had changed with the exception of new mooring buoys. The water was still crystal clear with plenty of turtles, rays, tarpin (2 meters long) and other sea life. In between our boat jobs, we enjoyed the paddleboards and some snorkelling. I was not too happy about a big barracuda that took up residence under Aura. He would pop his head out to see what we were doing…fine as long as you are not in the water with him.

The wind and water was calm so we decided to take Helios the 2 miles across the bay to the marina do some food provisioning. There were many sad looking boats that had been damaged by the recent hurricanes. Many of the docks were still in disrepair but the boat yard had replaced many of their docks so we tied up there and popped across the road to get some supplies.

We had been in touch with Greg and Cathy on BnG and knew they were in the area. We had very limited internet so decided to see if we could find them somewhere around St John. Our first stop was Francis Bay. On our last trip, we had loved this beautiful bay. Since the hurricane much of the trees have been stripped and the white beach is not as pristine as itis now blended with a little black sand. Already you can see a lot of regrowth. It will take time but St John will eventually come back to its former glory.

The following morning we did our regular VHF call out to BnG hoping they were close by. This morning they were just around the corner so we dropped our mooring and joined them in Waterlemon Bay. It was great catching up as have not seen them since we stayed with them in Canada last September. We took their dingy ashore and walked through the ruins of the Annenberg sugar mill plantation. It is currently closed as many of the old buildings have structural damage due to the hurricane. The shoreline and cove was littered with a number of wrecked yachts. They had likely been blown across the channel from neighbouring Tortola (BVIs) and smashed against the USVI shore.

We did some great snorkelling. The coral was a bit worse for wear but the visibility was great and there were plenty of fish to look at.

 

 

We even caught up one evening for dinner and a game of Mexican Train. Great catch-up…now we are on our way back to Christmas Cove for Steve’s (La Mischief) birthday. We passed Caneel Bay where we had celebrated my birthday the previous year at the resort overlooking this bay. It is now a modern day ruin, the buildings are just a mess.

We raced BnG the 7 nm back to Christmas Cove…BnG won of course even with a head start. We just assumed that they had their engine on but I think they are just faster :-)

Later that day, Steve and Dee on La Mischief arrived at Christmas Cove so the pre-birthday celebrations commenced.  It was great to see Dee who had been in California for several weeks helping her mum move. We spent the next three days catching up…went to the yacht club for lunch then did the dingy trip around to Red Hook to do some provisioning and stopped at a bar for happy hour.

 

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The following day was Steve’s birthday and perfect weather with a no wind day. We took the dingy to the outer reef and did some great snorkelling on the rocks. We were all there to greet Tourterelle as they arrived for the days celebrations. With all the gang together, we proceeded to celebrate Steve’s birthday in style with ribs, rum and wine.

The day was without incident with no new winners of the Ken Robertson swimming award! A fun time but it was all too short as the following day we all sad a tearful goodbye and parted ways.

 

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Happy Birthday Tully

We had a couple scheduled to look at Aura, this was originally agreed to be scheduled on March 30. However they didn’t realise it was Easter Friday so the inspection was rescheduled for the 3rd April. We had committed to Steve’s birthday celebration at Christmas Cove so back to the beautiful Celubra we went. Unfortunately they did not like the cabin layout of Aura. You would think they would have been familiar with the configuration of the Sense (All cabins are forward) before they signed a contract to do an inspection and waste our time. Fortunately the winds were still light so the next day we motored back to the USVIs.

We stalked Tourterelle on AIS and found them in Beautiful Francis/Maho bay. We enjoyed a few days relaxing after all that polishing and preparing for the inspection on Aura. We also caught up with Tim and Maria (Mina 2) and Trip and Nicole (Kalyra). We had some great catch-ups over sundowners. Si even got the dive hooker out for Sam (Ian and Ann’s daughter) and Kyle to get them familiar with diving. Before long we needed a change of scenery and internet so headed back to our favourite USVI anchorages, Christmas Cove.

Back at Christmas Cove, we also met some other Aussies, Peter and Debbie, on Chat Eau Bleu (no comments about the French grammar) and Dutch friends we met in Ponce, Nicol and Ronald, on Fairy Queen (they are also aware of the translation). Also Mina2 joined us for a couple of days. Their beautiful Oyster 48 has covered a few miles including a trip to the frozen Antarctic. It has all been very social as we enjoyed more sundowners and a curry night.

 

Curry Night

On another evening, I have to make a special note about Peter and Si finishing a bottle of single barrel rum in record time just because the cork refused to go back in the bottle…you really have to watch out for those Aussies. It took Si a good two days to recover :-(

Meanwhile under Aura, Big Barry (the barracuda) had moved on and we were joined by a school of tarpan (Up to 2 meters long). We also watch a baby dolphin play in the cove, jumping and practicing its breaching. We’d like to think it was same dolphin that we’d watch being born in the Cove same time last year :- )

We are now waiting for a weather window to Guadeloupe to catch up with Gilbert & Isabelle (Vent d'Ailleurs). The wind has decided to swing around from the South East so if we set sail now we would have the wind on our noise plus there are some big seas out there so it would not be any fun. We are happy to hang in the UVI’s for an extra few days while we wait for better weather.

La Mischief turned up again with new crew Clare (Steve’s daughter) and Cain (boyfriend) minus Dee she’ll catch up soonish.

We revised a few of our favourite bays, Si favourite is Honeymoon Beach (between Cruz and Caneel Bay). The beach has more than doubled in size since our last visit. We also popped over to Josh Van Dyke. This island hosts two of the famous BVI bars, Soggy Dollar and Foxy’s. Way back in 2008 we didn’t make it JVD so it needed to be crossed off our ‘list’. The sea and wind angle made the anchorage a little choppy plus the beach front has had considerable hurricane damaged.

 

 Foxy's BVIs

Foxy's BVIs

 

The bars are back but we didn’t feel the love so we turned around and went back to the flat aqua water at Mahoe Beach for a paddle board and to do some more turtle grazing.:-)

 

 

Steve took these photos of Aura while at Mahoe.

 

 

A small weather window has opened up so it is finally off to Guadeloupe we go. Back in France, where is the champagne? 

Spanish Virgin Islands

We made one stop at the beautiful island of Vieques. Vieques is known for its stunning beaches however there was a south easterly swell that made these beaches uncomfortable for Aura. Ondine Blue appeared on the horizon and it wasn’t long before the super sleek 52’Balance catamaran passed us. We decided to anchor in the well protected bay of Ensenada Honda.  It is surrounded by reef and precise navigation is required to enter the bay. Ondine Blue  kindly entered first and called any depths less than 3 meters.

The bay is surrounded by mangroves with clear water. The sun was shining so I decided that I needed some li-lo time. Simon always the accommodating husband, happily supplied me with margaritas while I blissfully floated behind Aura. It wasn’t long until Ian and Ann popped over for a few early sundowners, along with Balbina, David and the faithful hound, Lola.

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As we had just completed a night passage, it wasn’t long before I could no longer keep my eyes open and called it an early night. The next day was just as lovely so Si and I got the paddle boards out and went exploring. We did come across a sail boat that had been damaged during the hurricane and consequently abandoned.  We then piled into Hatch (Tourterelles’ dingy) and went to a small island close to our anchorage to enjoy the water.

 

 

 

 

 

 

After spending the last six months with Ian and Ann on Tourterelle, we were finally going our separate ways. Ian and Ann had to meet their daughter in St Thomas while we were heading to Culebra to meet up with Monique, Ainsley and Eamon from Florida. For our last night together, we had a curry night. Ian excelled himself with making a curry that required 100 cloves of garlic. As always it was fantastic. Ann and I spent much of the night with our feet in the water playing with the phosphorescence. It was magical as it is one of the very few bays that there is no residual light from the land. It was completely dark.

 

 Kim mastering the dahl&nbsp;

Kim mastering the dahl 

After farewelling Tourterelle (we would see then again in a few weeks) we made our way north to Culebra. We anchored just off the town and went ashore for a reci (aka recognisance) to explore the village. Our outboard was misbehaving again and it took several attempts of stopping and starting before we made it to the town dock to off load our rubbish. Unfortunately we managed to stop right in front of a police boat with about six officers. After being highly embarrassed we managed to finally make it to the dock without further incident (Si drained the carburettor).

The following day, Mon and the kids joined us on Aura. Not only is Mon our only reoccurring visitor but this is her third stint with us (MonAura v3). We were both excited as it has been a nearly 12 months since we have had visitors. By the time the ferry arrived and we had them on-board, it was close to 5pm. This did not stop the kids from going for a swim…jelly fish and all.

 

 Great to see you !

Great to see you !

 

The following morning we decided to leave early and head over to the small island of Culabreta. We wanted our guests to wake up to a pristine beach and clear water with no jelly fish. We picked the hook up at about 6.30am for the hour motor around the corner. Unfortunately the dark clouds that were heading our way did not provide the non-eventful trip we planned. Before long the wind picked up to 30 knots and the seas big enough to make it interesting. Somehow the kids managed to stay in bed though I did put the lee cloth up for Ainsley who was sleeping on the top bunk. Apart from Eamon slipping down the stairs half asleep, we did make it to our island paradise and were not disappointed. The island is truly special with turtles galore swimming around the boat. We went to shore and walked the white beaches. We hiked to the abandoned lighthouse to enjoy some amazing views and to download email :-)

 

 

 

 

During their time on Aura we did visit a few of the different anchorages…the kids are water babies so are happy to spend all their time swimming and see who can knock the other off the paddle board or li-lo. Mon and I ensured we got some li-lo time until one of the li-lo’s final sprang a leak…not that this stopped us as Mon persisted with the deflated li-lo until there was literally no air left. As all good things come to an end as the five days flew by. We had a lovely early lunch ashore before Mon and the kids caught the ferry back to the PR mainland while we headed across to Christmas Cove (US Virgin Islands) while the winds were light.

 

 

Li-Low Time with the Turtle's

 

Kids @ Play

 

 

Lighthouse Walk

 

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Monique - boardroom teleconference 

 

 

Photos from the baths

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a few more photos 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Puerto Rico – slowly heading east

We pointed motor yacht Aura east, passing the Haitian coast. We did manage a little sail time however if we persisted tacking it would have taken almost double the time. As we rounded Isla Beata (that’s part of the Dominican Republic coast) we were on lookout for fish traps. Oh no, we didn’t see a float but we could see a line in the water. We crossed over it but it didn’t pass behind us. We’re trapped…..Kim instantly had the engine in neutral so not to wrap the line around our propeller. I grabbed my dive mask and I was over the stern before Kim could protest.. The water was crystal clear, the sun was high and the sea was calm. I couldn’t ask for better conditions for an offshore swim. Fortunately the line was only around our keel, I was able to pull it off and before Kim realised, I was back on-board.  No damage done, we just lost a little antifoul paint.

As Kim was on a lookout for fish traps, she noticed something in the water a couple of meters away from Aura. At first glance she thought it was just debris until a big head of a sperm whale popped up…presumably after being woken up from his slumber. I am not sure who got the biggest fright but Kim did yell at me to “come here now!”, which probably scared the poor whale off. By the time I came on deck all I saw was the bubbles where he dived down and then a big splash of his tail breaking the surface. Close encounters like that always make me nervous as substantial damage would be done to both the whale and Aura if we had connected.

As is always the way with ocean passages, we were working to another weather window. A strong northerly front was forecast that was expected to bring big swells to the north coast of Puerto Rico (PR). We had to get across the Mona Passage before that hit. After many hours of motoring we had a little breeze that strengthened from the North West. A Westerly wind is unusual as it’s opposite to the prevailing trades. We had a great sail to finish the trip, crossed back into US waters and safely entered Puerto Real. We had a marina slip booked so it was easier to spend time ashore to celebrate Kim’s second birthday. Her actual birthday was on passage.

Once we’d docked Aura we found the Apperol and the celebration commenced. We did wander the town looking for a suitable venue and we decided on the restaurant at the marina. We then enjoyed the best ever Mojitos (big call) followed by the final bottle of Penfolds red to accompany a yummy Spanish Mexican American meal.

 

 

 

We returned to Aura and found her bouncing in the pen (slip). A surge had entered the bay and all the boats in the marina were rolling. Aura was well secured but we had to endure a night of squeaking warps (lines) and the odd roll that felt like being back at sea…not happy. The next day we did consider anchoring however our slip was undersized for Aura. We docked Aura with 30cm space on each side but now our fenders are being compressed with the surge. We couldn’t leave as we risked damage exiting the pile type slip. Fortunately no damage was done, just a few nights of broken sleep.

Jose the marina manager felt bad as his staff had put us in the undersized slip. He’s a great guy and organised a taxi to take us to Customs and the shopping. I should point out that Puerto Rico is a US territory, it’s just like being back in the States however Spanish is the spoken language. Anyway, Jose also gave us his ute (sorry we’re in the USA that’s a pickup) so we could run a few errands. Also just to add a little history, Puerto Rico translates to Rich Port obviously it was originally Spanish and discovered by Christopher Columbus. The USA acquired it in 1989 following the Spanish-American war.  

We met a few other cruisers, notably David and Balbina (Ondine Blue) plus Paddy (crew) and Lola (a Hungarian Wizler) who knew a few of our other cruising friends. The swell dropped and we exited the brown water bay in search of clear water cays on the south coast.

 

 Cabo Rojo

Cabo Rojo

We motored eastward along the south coast and navigated our way through the cays to Punta Montalva (La Pagera).  The cay was protected by a coral reef, a popular weekend spot for the locals. We explored and enjoyed a few nights before needing to find better protection from the forecast wind.

 

La Pagera (iPhone)

 

 

La Pagera

 

We then moved on to explore Gilligan’s Island. No one could tell us why it was named such. We waited until Monday when all the locals were back at work and then we explored the sandy mangrove with Ondine Blue and Tourterelle. Steve from La Mischief finally caught up (new crew member but minus Dee, she’ll be back soon). We hadn’t seen Steve since the 2nd November birthday event. They left Norfolf before us and slowly made their way to Florida while we moved further south before they arrived in the Bahamas. Naturally we had a bit of catching up to do over a few rums and wines.

 

 

Gilligan’s Island – Chat & Chill

 

 

Gilligan’s Island – Li Lo Time

 

 

Gilligan’s Island – The Wild Life

 

As always, we had a new plan, so we pushed eastward. We anchored out the front of Ponce Yacht & Fishing Club with a view of the container port. A little exploring of the old Spanish town was in order plus we took the opportunity to refuel (motor yacht Aura) and do some provisioning.

The 1882 Ponce fire station has a unique exterior painting, the colourful pavilion related to sponsorship of a fare and the building later become the home of the fire department. The city emblem is a Lion and dates back to the founder. The historic centro area of Ponce features Spanish architecture of a time well past, it was well weathered especially since the city had been badly affected by the recent hurricane Irma. We enjoyed walking though the city although it was suffering a little economic and hurricane damage.

 

 

Ponce – Old Fire Station

 

Ponce – Lions

 

Ponce – Street Views

 

It was time to say goodbye to the Puerto Rico mainland as we set off for the 7 mile motor to Coffin Island (aka Isla Caja De Muerto). Irma really hit this place hard, the ferry dock is a mess and the cultural museum is closed. Little remains of the sandy beach. There was a roll in the main anchorage so we moved further north towards the old lighthouse dock. The water was clear and we watched many turtle’s diving near our stern…perfect. We had a BBQ with Steve. He is waiting for Dee to fly into San Jan then will catch us up in Culebra. We had a mission to see the island of Vieques and meet Monique (repeat Aura crew member) and the kids in Isla de Culebra so we set the alarm for midnight and headed east once again.

 

 

Coffin Island

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Haiti - Ile-A-Vache

This may be our first visit to a community that draws water from a well where the residents then collect water from fountains that operate on rotational days. There is no electrical network. The residents are unable to afford generators yet a few are fortunate enough to have a small solar panel. What these people lack in material possessions they make up with friendly smiles and conversation. Fortunately for us many are also fluent in English, in this former French colony of Haiti.

 

 

On our arrival we were mobbed and I now understand why. Before we could get the anchor down we were surrounded by guys in dugout canoes, the odd paddle board and few broken small boats. It was a little challenging to anchor and not run over the flotilla of greeters. We herded the boat boys to Auras’ stern and we spoke with each of them and listened to their offerings of hull cleaning, stainless steel polishing, tour to the markets, tour of the island, bananas, coconuts and even diesel. Our issue was that we didn’t have any local currency and the size of our USD notes are not something easily changed on an island without an bank, ATM or conventional type shops.

 

 

We arranged a tour with Bernard, he was the first to greet us. He had paddled nearly half a mile in his dugout canoe. I remembered that we still had a few small Euro notes from our time in Guadeloupe and Martinique and we purchased a Haitian courtesy flag from another guy. I gave him €10 and he returned with 100 local (that’s about two dollars). I was pleased he returned and we now had a few local dollars. The harbour master visited, he arrived on a broken fiberglass boat with a strip of steel protruding from the bow. His boat has an outboard but his two assistants were paddling instead. We paid our harbour fee for Aura and Tourterelle and also his fee to facilitate any customs immigration arrangements. He told us about the island and of the new solar pump project for the well, our friends Ken and Jenny had recently assisted on the installation. With the financial formalities complete we enjoyed our new surroundings.

A few local fishermen provided Tourterelle with lobster and thus dinner was organised. We chatted to a few other cruisers, they were heading to Jamaica so we exchanged experiences and phone SIM cards. We hadn’t had the best of sails from Jamaica. On our departure the seas were short and steep with the wind on our nose. Before long, we had 2 to 3 meter swell flinging poor Aura from side to side. This was broken up with the occasional “BANG”, as we smash down to the trough of a wave. It is not often that Simon mentions that he is feeling unwell. For me it is quiet common to have the bucket handy on our first day out. This was definitely bucket sailing. We found it more comfortable to sail even if our path was taking us north instead of east. Once we found 18 degrees north we had protection from the point on the Haitian coast and we motored the following day to Ile-A-Vache. The uncomfortable passage was soon forgotten with the help of a rum or two.

 

 

The following day Bernard showed us around. We passed the school, a few churches and found our way to a beautiful gold sand beach on the west coast. A small American hotel occupied the corner fortunately it wasn’t overbearing in size and it fitted well with the local surroundings. The walk took us past mango trees, small banana plantations, tethered goats and sheep. We noticed that the newer houses were made from stone and brick, while the older homes had thatched walls, progress and a change of craft. We past many small children dressed immaculately in school uniforms. On several occasions Bernard would stop and give a child a hug or kiss. Another cousin he would say. He really is a kind hearted nice young guy.

 

Island Walk

 

Local Living (note everything is extra neat & tidy)

The previous day Tourterelle (Ian & Ann) had also purchased a flag and they hadn’t received their change. During our walking tour we found the seller and they received €10 change. Not the local or USD that they had expected but the same note that I’d provided. Ann then paid Bernard with the same note. I’m sure if we had stayed longer, it would only be a matter of time before that note went full circle and was returned to me.

We enjoyed a fish dinner at Jon Jon’s restaurant (Calico) on the beach. He opens for bookings made by visiting yachts. It’s BYO and light however we didn’t get that memo. Fortunately we were joined by a few regulars who lit the table with solar desk lamps. These regulars once made the annual cruise from Martinique to the island but with age they have a small house on the hill and visit the island annually. We were also joined by long time cruisers Murry and Clare. As it was Kim’s pre-birthday celebration Tourterelle found a few treasures in the bilge and we enjoyed a few special bottles of wine.

We found many treasures in our bilge for the locals. We had been asked for dive masks, sails, clothes and food. We decided to help out and trade. It was just a matter of principle for the adults as we realised they didn’t want charity but would rather  work or barter. An old dive mask and fins for a few guava, papaya and coconuts. A fisherman was pleased with my swimming googles as he tested them out he found star fish under Aura. In exchange he gave us a few lobsters. I made one guys day by giving him an old mobile phone, other kids we just gave little gifts of shampoo and clothes. A young boy asked if I had any school shoes but the best I could give him was my worn leather Merel shoes. I found fishing hooks that I’d purchased in Panama back in 2008 to gift. The best I could do for the guy asking if we had any old sails was the canvas cover for the dingy.  It had never been used and he looked pleased.

The window to Puerto Rico was still favourable so we continued our way east into the prevailing wind and seas.

Next Kim’s birthday in PR.

 

Farewell Haiti - On our way to PR

Respect - Cruising the South Coast

The following morning was glorious. We picked up our hook and navigated our way out of the reef and headed to Black River Bay. The Black River is one of the longest rivers in Jamaica. What makes it unique is the large population of crocodiles that live there. We arrived in Black River Bay around lunch time. As it was Saturday, we needed to go to shore to do some provisioning as most places are closed on Sunday. We had struggled to get a good holding in the mud and silt. The wind had picked up and during lunch we had started to drag. We anchored for the third time. We watched our GPS for an hour to ensure we hadn’t moved before heading to town. Black River was bustling with people everywhere going about their business. After visiting the supermarket, we wandered through the fruit and veg market, purchasing fresh, local produce. As we headed back to Aura, it was obvious that she had dragged again. We also noticed that the Marine Police where wanting to visit Tourterelle. We went past and dropped off Ian and Ann while we took care of Aura. We just got the anchor down for the fourth time when they came over to Aura. As always, they are extremely friendly. Once they had left I checked our GPS reading and was pleased that we had not moved…yay…finally!!

 

Black River

The next day it was time to visit the crocodiles. We had originally considered taking our dingy up the river but as we know the reputation of the Australian crocodiles, thought it prudent to go on a tour. As we made our way up the river, we saw about five crocodiles. A couple of them came close to the boat. They all have names and they come when they are called. They seemed relatively friendly (and well fed by the tour operators) but no one was keen to go for swim. Especially when there are meant to be approximately 400 crocs that live in the river that can grow up to 5-6 meters.

 

 

 

Black River

 

 

The low continued to sit off the coast of Columbia resulting in strong winds and big seas across the Caribbean Sea. As we are heading east, we will have the wind and current against us so we want the seas to be calm. Hence we decided to stay at Black River Bay for an extra couple of days hoping that the sea state will decrease. With nothing much else planned, Ann suggested that we take Tourterelle with their retractable keel, to visit the Pelican Bar. We motored the 3nm down to the other end of the bay and where greeted by a small pod of dolphins. We had not seen dolphins since leaving George Town so it was a treat.

We anchored about 200m from the bar. As we cracked open a cold Red Stripe to wait for the anchor to set, the wind started to pick up. This was not on the agenda. We decided to have some snacks and wait for the wind to decrease. In the end we just decided to make a run for it. The bar is located on a sand bank next to a reef with the only way to there is by boat. I don’t think they see many dingys with electric engines. The bar is very rustic and small but interesting enough. We ordered a beer and proceeded to be windblown. We had planned on staying for lunch but had a vision of a nice fish getting blown off our plate and back into the sea. As more punters arrived, we decided to head back to Tourterelle for lunch. Ian made some bread and we had a very nice ploughman’s lunch followed by fresh pineapple.

 

Floyd's Pelican Island Bar

 

Our last day at Black River included some last minute provisioning and take-away jerk chicken for lunch. That evening Ian made an exquisite lobster bisque followed by beef stifado. It was an early night as the next day we were finally moving 13nm down the island to Grand Pedro Bay. This will be an overnight stop before doing a big 45nm to Pigeon Island.

 

Passage to Pedro Bay

 

Tourterelle arrived first at Pedro Bay and radioed to inform us that there was a lot of swell and was very rolley.  As a result, we decided to continue another 13nm to Alligator Reef. We were not sure what the conditions would be like at Alligator Reef. It is approximately 3 miles off shore and 1 mile wide. In theory it should provide sea protection but you never know. A few strong gusts meant that our anchor was firmly down.  The rain quickly past, leaving our decks nice and clean. I was keen to go for a swim but Si decided that we needed to go exploring. We jumped in the dingy and headed out to the small beach. The reef is a very special place with lots of birds, turtles and sting rays. We were even visited by dolphins.  During the night the wind changed direction so I sat up on anchor watch just to ensure we did not drag onto the reef...not the best night sleep.

 

Alligator Reef

 

Early the next morning we set sail for Pigeon Cay. We lifted the anchor as a fishermen past wanting to sell their catch of lobster. Two for $10 dollars, how could we refuse. As we had already left the anchorage, Tourterelle negotiated the transaction. We put the main up in 14 knots of wind. In minutes the wind increased to 25 knots of wind. Aura found her sweet spot and took off. Meanwhile our GPS decided not to work so the wind was howling, the chart plotter was beeping and things were being thrown across the saloon. Not a good start to the morning. We eventually got things under control, reefed the main and genoa and enjoyed the rest of our day.

We eventually arrived at Pelican Cay. Ian and Ann delivered our lobster that we made into a delicious risotto. The following day after catching up on much needed sleep, we caught up on some boat jobs and went to shore to explore the island.

 

Pigeon Island

 

Later that evening three motor yachts arrived and anchored close to the shore. The next day after an afternoon of Mexican Train with Ian and Ann, we went to shore to say hello to the motor yacht peeps and the locals enjoying some time out on the beach. It was not long before we were invited back to the yachts and offered some refreshments. There were about twenty people in all, local Jamaicans who frequently visit Pigeon Island on the weekend. We had a great night in which we ended up staying for dinner. An amazing piece of beef that was cooked to perfection accompanied with jacket potatoes, plantain, chicken curry and salad. We were totally spoilt and got to meet some very interesting people who welcomed us with open arms. It was great to meet David (past Commodore) and Kathy (Fair Prospect) and their visiting friends from Latvia (Cameron and partner). They also gave us some good information regarding anchoring off the Royal Jamaican Yacht Club. More strong wind is forecast so need to ensure we had some level of protection.

 

RJYC

 

Kingston is not the prettiest or cleanest of ports but we spent a great week enjoying the yacht clubs facilities including the swimming pool and reasonably priced food and drinks. We caught up on a few boat jobs in the morning and then chilled by the pool in afternoon. We caught up with Gary and Louise on Takamoana who were on their way to Montego Bay. It was a great to catch up and have a few drinks to celebrate Gary’s birthday.

 

 

We went on an excursion to Port Royal to visit Fort Charles…the oldest remaining fort in Jamaica. It has an interesting history but much of it has been destroyed by numerous earthquakes and hurricanes. Port Royal was once known as a very wicked place as it was a haven for privateers and all the fun stuff associated with plundering and pillaging.  Now it is just a sleepy and broken looking fishing village. We enjoyed a seafood lunch at Gloria’s, whole fried snapper with pickled vegetables. Not something that I’d normally order and I was not disappointed.

 

 

 

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Port Royal (Kingston)

 

Our time in Jamaica is slowly coming to an end. We have now departed the Kingston port and we shall spend the day in the cays (Lime Cay). Lime Cay is only a few hundred meters long, a beautiful sandy beach. There are a few tourist day trippers enjoying the beach. As we entered the cays we passed a yacht (Bavaria 44 “Wavedancer”) on the reef at Racham Cay. Somebody has had a really bad day :-(

 

Wavedancer on Racham Cay

 

We will then check out before sailing to Port Bowden. From there it is a four day windward sail to Puerto Rico. An upwind sail plus into the prevailing swell is something that I am not looking forward to but here is hoping for calm winds and seas. We have loved Jamaica, the food, the landscape and its people. Glad that we visited as very few boats come here. That is the beauty of cruising…you can wander off the beaten track and find something really special. It is time for a swim to the beach.

 

 

 

 

Respect - Cruising Jamaica's West

We had a perfect sail to the west coast of Jamaica, flat seas with 15-20 knots of breeze from behind.  As we rounded the corner of Bloody Bay, we partly furled our genoa and powered into the bay. The first thing we noticed was clear water…the second was that there was very little surge. This is a perfect place to relax and spend the next few days. Bloody Bay has a long history. It is fabled to be where they captured the pirate Jack Rackham (Calico Jack) in 1720. The bay was later named Bloody Bay as whalers used to anchor here to clean their catch and so much whale blood was spilled that the water turned red. In more recent times it was frequented by “flower children”, looking for that perfect Zen.  Before long it got the reputation as a holiday destination and now the shore is lined with all-inclusive resorts. Not that we minded, we were just happy to find a calm anchorage.

 

Bloody Bay

 

Bloody Bay

 

We spend five relatively peaceful nights at Bloody Bay. We were coming to terms with the music that was a constant until 2am in the morning…regardless of the bay…there is always music (seems very much part of their culture). The locals that worked on day tripper boats and water sports where great. Always going out of their way to say hello and providing a spot for us to tie up our dingy. We would walk the beach each morning saying hello to the local craft shop owners and watch the tourists basking in the sun. One morning during our walk we got invited to visit the newest resort for lunch. The only drawback was that we had to listen to their spiel about buying hotel points. Seemed like a small price to pay for an all you can eat resort buffet lunch. We took Ian and Ann along and enjoyed a very nice lunch with wine. The talk was painless as our hostess was keen to get home to her family. We were even given a small gift of Jamaica products including a bottle of rum, a rum cake, jerk spices and sauces. They also offered a free night accommodation that we kindly declined as did not want to leave Aura on her own.

 

Long Beach (Negrill)

 

We said goodbye to Travis, Mary and Mary Helen on Seahorse who headed to the Caymans. We met up with a Kiwi family on a motor yacht called Aqua Lobo who we enjoyed a fun evening with on their boat. We were starting to get low on provisions so decided to head around the corner to Long Bay and anchor closer to Negril Town. Long Bay was pretty cool with small pensions (accommodation) and bars lining the beach. This beach is a lot more laid back and not as upmarket as Bloody Bay.

We wanted to keep moving so we motored 27nm to Bluefields Bay. We are now in a wind shadow which means light breeze right on our nose. It is nice to finally be away from the touristy areas and back to the real Jamaica. Bluefield’s Bay is another protected anchorage with high mountains on one side of the bay. It was once known to be a pirate haven but today it is a small fishing village. We went for a walk and had to be careful to stay off the road as big lorries would come past taking up most of the road.  Simon found a place to fill our gas bottle. He asked around to buy some fresh fish but it must not have been a good day as there was not much on offer. We visited the Bluefields beach and enjoyed a swim. On the way back, the Torquedo died (Ian and Ann’s electric motor) so we had to get back to the boats using one paddle. It was hard going with the wind and current against us but we made it using Ian’s thongs (flip flop) as extra paddles. After that effort, we all agreed that we deserved a drink…maybe more than one. It might have had something to do with me falling in to the water as I was casting off the dingy. I am now the latest winner of the Ken Robertson swimming award :-) 

 

Bluefields Bay & Beach

 

We had planned to leave Bluefields Bay the following day but as we really liked the bay we decided to stay longer. Today’s new plan was a dingy trip a mile or so along the coast to another beach for lunch in search of some fresh seafood. As is often the case, the sea gods provided and the seafood literally came to us. I was standing out the back watching a couple of local guys swimming about 200m away. I kept a good eye on then in case they were in trouble as they were out in the middle of nowhere. Before long they started heading towards our boat. I yelled out to Si who was below that we had a couple of swimmers on there was over. He asked me if he needed to put his pants on which I responded, “yes!”. Two guys crawled onto the back of our boat with a line full of small fish, squid and lobster. They had been collecting their catch for 5 hours…not a bad effort. Simon went and collected Ian and Ann and negotiated a price for four lobster (we’d call them crays). The guys kindly killed and cleaned them for us…ready to throw on the BBQ. I quickly whipped up a potato salad, Ian made coleslaw, Simon and Ann went to shore to buy a few cold Red Stripe beers. A perfect lunch! The skies darkened and the heavens opened. As we were not keen to head back to Aura in the rain, we decided to play a few rounds of Mexican Train. It’s still warm, the anchorage is protected, what a perfect Friday afternoon.

Yeah Man - Cruising the North Coast

We made coffee, started the engine and slipped our mooring line. We motored out the channel and re-entered the sea with a little green water over the clean decks. The main was unfurled, we turned to port and we set course, west with a trade wind and following seas.

It wasn’t long until we arrived at our planned destination, Oracabessa. We passed the entrance of an exclusive resort and then entered the harbor. The outer reef was dotted with fishing buoys that we assumed to be lobster pots. Oracabessa is a very small and well protected harbour lined with golden sandy beach and low rise resort style facilities and accommodation. Unfortunately another cruising yacht had taken a central anchoring position and there would be possible complexities to accommodate our three yacht flotilla. The next anchorage Ocho Rios was only a few hours away, this was on my avoid list however we had no alternatives as in a few days we expected an unfavourable weather front.

Ocho Rios was everything that we expected, a cruise ship almost completed blocked the harbour entrance and the anchorage was lined with hotels. We negotiated around the jet-ski hydro lift toy and dropped anchor. It is a well-protected anchorage with a sandy beach. It wasn’t long until the Chukka day tripper catamaran arrived. The music was blearing “Jump, Jump, I said Jump”. What appeared to be an overcrowded party yacht was full of sunburnt, alcohol infused party people who were being led by an energised crew and DJ. They entered the harbour, hovered at the dolphin cage, and blasted the bay with noise then moved on. It was not the prettiest of spots, a tourist haven and not the natural and real Jamaica that we’d experienced to date.

 

Ocho Rios

 

All things aside, it was ideal for our Australia Day Celebration, this year we were joined by Tourterelle and Seahorse for the barbie, a few beers and rum cocktails (when in Rome). We even found another Aussie red in the cellar. Just as a side note, its official we are out of wine and I cannot bring myself to pay $20 for a bottle of Yellow Tail (or similar) that could only make a questionable Sangria. Kim has mastered the pav using the boats oven, another success. It was topped with the super tasty bananas (not like the flavourless product from home) and passionfruit that also grabbed your taste buds with turbo flavours. A fun day with friends and this year we didn’t have any new winners of the Ken Robertson Swimming Award.

 

Australia Day

 

The next day we started to roll so it was time to move on in search of a more comfortable anchorage. The swell was building and we had 2m – 3m from the east, we didn’t have quite enough breeze to sail so we motored sailed with just our genoa. We had the fishing lines out again however no success, just weed and few pieces of plastic that collected from the sea. We entered Discovery Bay with surfing waves breaking on each side of the reef. This is a large bay that is open to the north and the easterly swell was also entering over the reef. It was going to be one of those nights, only if we had a catamaran….We rocked and rolled until first light; we lifted our anchor and headed back to the comfort of the ocean. At least both ourselves and the sea swell would travel in the same direction. We watched a plume of bauxite dust in the air as we past the ship being loaded at the terminal on the opposite side of the bay. Next stop Montego Bay.

 

 

Passage 2 Discovery Bay

 

 

Discovery Bay (other side is pretty)

 

We had sum reservation about stopping at the famous Montego Bay. A State of Emergency was in force for the parish. Gang violence had escalated and we were told that the police did not command the respect from the local community. The military was on the streets and some foreign governments had told their citizens to stay in their hotels. The marina manager had explained to us not to be concerned as the recent shootings were not directed at tourists and with so many police and military visible, it was a good time to visit.

Many artists have sung about Montego Bay and now as we approach I ponder if they ever visited this place. From the water there isn’t any obvious adoring qualities, it’s just a mangrove lined bay if you ignore the airport, two cruise ships and port industrial buildings. The beach fronts on each side of the bay are lined with sand and hotels. Maybe the town itself has the treasure?

The wind was now blowing 22 knots and we looked at the small anchorage near the yacht club. There was one and half mile of open water with the wind racing across and a sheltered 15 knots. The wind is forecast to increase and the Active Capitan reports say the holding is only average. Plus it would be tight squeeze between yachts that had already anchored. We had read about Bogue Bay, it was just on the other side however the charts showed the entrance as 2.1m. Our draft is 2.1 and we have 20cm of favourable tide. We moved around to the entrance and gave it ago. We followed Tourterelle at a snail’s pace. As they say you haven’t been adventurous enough if you haven’t touched (or just being stupid?). We did and scratched our new paint on the bottom of the keel. No damage…it just hurt our pride. With our tail between our legs we aborted and returned to Montego Bay.

 

 

 Montego Bay (Mangroves and Fisherman's Shacks)

Montego Bay (Mangroves and Fisherman's Shacks)

 

We moved across to the other size of the bay, closer to the town and found a sheltered spot near Pier One in 3 meters of water not far from Aqua Lobo (a family of Kiwis on a Cayman registered motor yacht). With no rolling we relaxed and slept well. The next morning we were visited by the local marine police, friendly guys who then directed us to the cruise ship terminal to visit customs. We did so and those customs officials then directed us to the yacht club where they would sent an officer to duplicate and reissue our clearance documents. Once the bureaucracy was complete we returned to Aura then set about exploring the town. The streets were busy with tourists and locals alike. We found the usual tourist curio shops and fresh fruit and vegetable carts on the side of the street. We walked to a larger MegaMart that was a mile out of town where we restocked with a few items. We enjoyed lunch at Pier One. It was quite until 50 Germans from a cruise ship joined us. After lunch the bar’s MC had a few activities and we ended up on the stage. Each couple was introduced; first the Austrian’s then us only to be confused with our accent as also being Austrian. A blind folded couples game with a stick and cup, with the stick needing to find the hole. With only Kim’s voice as guidance we blitzed it with a record 6 second win. Free drinks for us!

 

Lunch @ Pier One

 

As the sun set the swell started to roll in with the waves almost breaking. Oh no, not another night of rolling. It was getting so bad that even making dinner was a daunting feat. We lifted our anchor and returned to the yacht club. There was little wind with only a slight swell rolling in…much nicer than across the bay. In the dark on the third attempt our anchor held in 8 meters of water with  over 60 meters of chain out so to avoid another yacht on warp (rope not chain) , as they are likely to swing differently to us). Another sleepless night while we kept on eye on the other yacht. The wind dropped out completely so we spent the night turning in circles on the weight of our anchor chain. This isn’t fun so with daylight we put the dingy away and started lifting our anchor. This process took Kim nearly an hour as the chain was caked with mud and each link needed to be hosed clean. We left Montego Bay as another cruise ship was entering…glad we visited but not one of our favourite spots. We were desperate to find a calm anchorage and clear waters…next stop…Bloody Bay.

 

 

Notes

Ocho Rios 18 24.657 77 06.4330 – 3m sand

Discovery Bay 18 27.89 77 24.1 – 5m sand

Montego Bay 18 28.126 77 55.641 – 3m sand

Montego Bay 18 27.728 77 56.481 – 8m mud (poor/average holding)

 

Lets Explore Jamaica

As we approached in pitch black darkness we could see dotted lights on shore, the sound of booming music and the smell of small domestic fires. As we got closer to land the wind changed direction so it was on our nose. The temperature had dropped so we had to pull out the long sleeve t-shirts. . We assume this was the katabatic wind coming down from the mountains. In the ambient light we could make just make out the shadows of the mountain range, such a contrast to the flat Bahamian beaches that we had recently departed.

We had arrived at Port Antonio… it was 4am. We anchored at the East Bay in 6 meters of water close to shore in between friends yachts Seahorse and Tourterelle. The next morning we woke to a quite murmur of traffic and tropical rain. We soon moved to the marina in the nearby West Bay. It’s a Med-Moor setup and we were instructed to dock next to the super yacht. Gee, we look small next to a 43 meter motor yacht. I think this was our first time on a super yacht dock. We dropped the anchor and moved astern to affix our stern warp lines to the dock. Thankfully without a 25 knot cross wind that I so dreaded in Mandraki Harbour, Greece. Fortunately West Bay was like a millpond without a breath of wind.

 

 

We hadn’t been in a marina since September at South River Edgewater. We did have a few boat jobs on the list and yet we did plan on enjoying the pool side bar and restaurant plus unlimited Wi-Fi. The local Wi-Fi wasn’t the best but we were happy with the ice cold beer and the reasonable Caribbean prices.

 

IMG_4825.JPG

 

The town of Port Antonio was made famous as a tourist destination by the actor Errol Flynn who took up residency. There are stories that his yacht Zacao had ran aground near the town, he later established a hotel resort and made Bamboo River Rafting a tourist adventure. We really like this town and its friendly vibe. I still can’t shake the reggae and Bob Marley tunes from my head “I don’t like cricket man, oh no, I love it….” Ah that's 10CC but what does it matter. Jamaica is famous for rum, bananas, coffee and grass. Bob Marley must be the most recognised icon along with the winter Olympic bobsled team. We’re still in the land of English colonies and thus the usual famous pirates visited these shores. Let’s explore!

Once we ventured past the security gates, I was surprised. This isn’t the Jamaica that I had envisaged.  It’s a lovely Caribbean town, a little broken yet still clean. The people are friendly but I was expecting a lot more Rastafarian. The vast majority of people go about their day in neatly ironed clothes with the men sporting short sharp haircuts. I thought that I’d blend in with my long hair and just for the record while in town I did have a haircut, a reasonable trim. We explored the fresh produce market that includes an open air section of butcher stalls. There was an abundant array of fresh fruits and vegetables, Jamaica appears to be self-sufficient, such a contrast to the Bahamas where near scuffles would break out at the Georgetown store when fresh produce arrived. The bakery was around the corner along with a small grocery store. We found a locals restaurant upstairs near the market entrance and we enjoyed a jerk chicken and rice plus a local Red Stripe beer. All for only 1,650 Jamaican… that’s about A$18 a very reasonable sum for two. It’s great to be back in the Caribbean.

 

The Market

 

Once we’d finished work, that’s our boat job list such as an oil change on the generator and outboard. We considered a few tour options. The original Errol Flynn hotel on the nearby island had closed many years ago. We planned to take the paddle boards and have a look around. Further afield options included a bamboo river raft trip, the Blue Lagoon and to visit the local water falls. Reach Falls caught our attention and we could stop at the Blue Lagoon. The lagoon was made famous with the movie featuring ship wrecked Brooke Shields and Christopher Atkins. There was also an option to stop at the beach resort where the movie Cocktail was filmed (Tom Cruise & Brian Brown). Around this globe we have visited a few waterfalls and I must admit that these are brilliant as we could just float down the rapids or chill under the power of the falling water. We especially loved the rabbit hole.  A torrent of water falling into a hole. Trusting our guide we just jumped and popped up in an underground cave. It was very special. We also passed a beef farm with a conservative size home that was once owned Errol Flynn’s. Today his grandson lives and manages the farm.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the way home we did stop at the Blue Lagoon. It was a little touristy for us with a number of villa apartments surrounding the lagoon plus the raft trip to the island wasn’t so appealing. It is still a natural beauty that we all appreciated.

 

 

The Blue Lagoon

 

Travis and Mary (Seahorse) (also with Mary-Hellen) organised a local Rastafarian by the name of Scario to take us on a tour of the local hills where he picks bush food to sell to tourists. He puffed on his joint as we walked up step hills where he showed us Jamaican apples, bread fruit, plantain, lemon grass, soursop and aloe vera. We explored an abandoned hotel resort that has commanding views of the town and out to sea. He picked a little lemon grass from the roads edge. It was obviously the fence line of a local market farmer. Ah so that’s his secret garden …… “borrowed” produce…… he did show us his own garden that was further up on the hill.

 

 

Bush Garden Walk

 

While in town we also took the opportunity to visit a small coffee plantation. We learnt that most of the coffee beans produced are sold to a Chinese owned factory near Kingston. The farm we visited proudly showed us the traditional mortar and pestle used to separate the husk and the beans. We toured the farm and they pointed out other plants such as pineapples, guava and Jamaican orchids. 

 

Blue Mountains

 

 

The Production Process & Facility

 

 

Heading Home & Lunch

 

We popped over to Navy Island, the location of Errol Flynn’s hotel resort. The buildings are now just ruins and nature is taking over. The main dining area was named the “Errol Flynn Room” may have once featured an indoor rock water fall and we could make out a few fresco paintings. The buildings are way past any restoration, the location and history would make a great beach bar.

 

Navy Island

 

Another week of strong wind is forecast so it was time for a change and time to move on. When we first arrived we had quarantine, immigration and customs on-board followed by the coast guard. The local marine police wanted to also say hello but we dodged them with a trip to the showers. Before leaving Port Antonio, we cleared out with customs and immigration at the marina office. They were once again super friendly. On our departure we received a cruising permit, our route to Kingston was recorded and we would make our way via the north coast, the long way round. We are not planning on visiting Kingston, it’s just a formality and in due course we’ll decide our next port and country. While in Jamaica, I expect we’ll be visited by the police and/or coast guard, at each new port. We do need to check in with customs. They will keep watch over us as they want to ensure the safety of their tourists.

Next stop,...Oracabessa.

 

Note - East Bay anchored 18 10.85 76 26.55 – 6m mud

Bahamas - Waiting for the Weather

We had enjoyed several weeks of perfect weather, we now have the opposite, tropical storms, squalls and torrential rain. We patiently waited for a weather window for our passage to Jamaica. We kept busy reading, we practiced our Spanish, completed last year’s tax returns, played Mexican Train and researched anchorages in Jamaican and Cuba. Not to mention the regular sundowners with Tourterelle and Lady Rebel. The days and nights blended into each other, we watched numerous yachts drag their anchor during the nightly squalls and there was our nightly (sometimes twice) bailing of the water from the dingy. It wasn’t going to sink we just didn’t want the fuel tank to float away.

I also gave Ian moral supported with his foundry project. When they had their anchor and chain re-galvanised, they lost the lead in the anchor and it no longer sets (dig in). Ian collected lead from a car tyre place in Beaufort and he needed to melt it down and pour the molten metal into his anchor. At the abandoned hamburger beach bar we stoked the fire with charcoal and collected scraps of wood. It wasn’t long before the lead melted, the steel bits were scraped off the top and Ian poured it into his anchor. Fortunately without issue and noted to be without PPE.

 

Beach Foundry

 

It wasn’t long until the sky grew dark and we had another front come through.

 

 

Another Squall

 

We did manage a few beach walks, we climbed to the top of the Monument and across to the Atlantic side beach.

 

 

Stocking Island – Monument Beach

 

 

Of course we didn’t go hungry.

 

Pizza & a Penfolds Red

 

We’re heading to Jamaica maybe with a stop at Long Island. Looking forward to a change of scenery and explore someplace new.

Christmas in the Bahamas

The lead up to Christmas was filled with glorious sunny days surrounded by turquoise water. Now that the gang had all arrived in Staniel Cay, the days included paddle boarding, swimming, catching up with friends and preparing for the Christmas feast.

Christmas Eve was hosted by Lesley and Derek on Ocean Blue. Spirits were high as we all enjoyed some tradition Christmas fare such as roasted chestnuts, mince pies and egg nog. We headed home at a reasonable hour so that we could be fresh and rested for the main event…Christmas Day.

Christmas Day was perfection, lots of blue sky and not a breath of wind. Ann, Derek and I decided to get an early start and paddle board over to the pigs on the beach to give them some water. They get plenty to eat from visiting boats but no one seems to provide them with any water. They were very excited about the water with the piglets jumping into the water trough. Ann bought along the not so perfect chestnuts from the night before. They were in piggy heaven; they even tried to take the bag that Ann was carrying. It was fortunate that Derek was on hand to take the bag from a rather concerned Ann.

 

Christmas Day

I paddled back to Aura for a quick shower and to change into my new Christmas dress, courtesy of Mum and Dad Forth. Ian and Ann popped over shortly after to exchange gifts and to enjoy a bottle of Verve champagne. Simon and I opened the remainder of our presents…I got very spoilt as Si had done a bit of shopping whilst he was in Australia. It wasn’t long before we departed for our first stop of our Christmas Day feast. Each course was to be hosted by a different boat with starters being held on Takamoana (Gary and Louise). The starters menu included gravlax, chicken pate and conch salad…all washed down with more bubbles.

The next course was held on Juffa (Caroline and Bill).  As four of the six boats were English, we decided on a traditional Christmas feast; turkey, pork with crackling, chicken, stuffing, red cabbage, bread sauce (something new to me) and all variety of roasted vegetables and gravy. It was awesome as everyone contributed something to the meal.

The final and possibly the most important course; dessert, was held on Aura. I managed to make the perfect pavlova! This was no mean feat considering I am at the mercy of my boat oven that can be rather temperamental. We also had a stollen, mince pies and a Christmas cake. Ports and various liquors were brought out to finish what had been a great day. As the evening progressed, I played DJ and got everyone up and dancing. Si gave us a demonstration of his torch dancing accompanied by ABBA’s Dancing Queen.

 

Christmas Lunch

As it was Bill’s 60th birthday the day after Boxing Day, we decided that we needed a change of scenery and headed to Rudder Cay so we could be there for Bill’s big day. The sail down was hard going as we might have had a few too many the night before…but it was Christmas. Unfortunately our time sailing in the Exuma Bank had come to an end and we had to venture off shore via Galliot Cut then back in at Rudder Cut the Atlantic Ocean. Our keel means that we are too deep to continue taking the inshore route. Rudder Cay was one of our favourite spots with a cave next to the beach and some great snorkelling spots. Bill’s birthday was an Indian theme so we celebrated his birthday on Juffa with curry in hand. It was another great night of food and fun company.

The plan was to be in George Town for New Year. After Rudder Cay we stopped at another one of our favourite spots; Lee Stocking Island. It has a gorgeous beach and an abandoned research centre that feels like a ghost town as everything was left behind. We walked over to the Atlantic side and along the beach. We found a lot of rubbish had been was ashore. It was most like due to the hurricanes they had experienced earlier in the year.

So to break up the sail to George Town we decided on one last stop…a small anchorage behind Boise Island. It is known for its blow holes and surge. We had a great sundowner of the beach where we were joined by the local hermit crabs and a very friendly curly tail lizard. The hermit crabs were hilarious, trying to steal food and wrestling over a peanut. Unfortunately the wind picked up overnight and so did the swell, so we rocked and rolled all night. First light we picked up the anchor and headed to George Town.

 

Sundowners

We arrived in Georgetown to another glorious day. We had expected Georgetown to be heaving with yachts but to our surprise, there was plenty of space. We found a lovely anchorage at Monument Beach, right next to our other Aussie friends Vicki and Steve on La Peal Noire. Once we had the anchor down we went to shore to do some provisioning. There was not a lot available but enough to get by for the next few days. We even shouted ourselves a meal onshore, a real treat since the last meal out was three weeks prior. The burgers where good and the beer was cold and the view was incredible…I never get sick of looking at the water.

The weather remained perfect and we enjoyed water aerobics, paddle boarding and sundowners on the beach. New Year’s Eve was spent on Takamoana where we shared a meal and a few drinks with all seven boats. By about 11am we were all starting to fade. Fortunately Ann suggested charades to keep us up until the New Year…fortunately the strategy worked and we all enjoyed watching the fireworks on the deck and a bit of revelry before heading to bed. Another year gone…where has the time gone?

 

NYE

All good things must come to an end and so too has our perfect run of weather. We had to move to an anchorage that offered us some protection from the south west to the north west. It was the tail of the weather that had caused more snow storms on the east coast so something not to be ignored. We went to an anchorage behind Crab Cay. A day earlier than we need to because of our depth, we have very few options and we wanted to ensure we had sufficient swing space. We found a nice spot and made sure we were dug in tight. Fortunately the expected squalls didn’t eventuate and the wind was not too severe.

 

Morning @ Crab Cay – the calm before the storm

 

Another front was on its way, this time from the north east so we decided to head back to Monument Beach. We had used two of our three gas bottles so we had to get those refilled. All that done, we settled in and waited for the weather to hit. Must say this one did not disappoint with plenty of wind and rain. I was up most of the night watching a few of the smaller boats drag…not much fun when you have to re-anchor in strong winds in the middle of the night. The weather is to continue for the next couple of days and then fingers crossed, we can continue of journey south.

Next stop, Long Island.

Catching up @ the Exumas

We had a plan for Christmas to catch up with a number of our cruising friends in the Exuma island chain. Some were already there, some close by at Eleuthera while others were still waiting in the US for a weather window to cross the Gulf Stream. We are close, with an overnight passage we would cross before dawn at Fleeming pass into the Exuma chain and then arrive at the maze of coral heads with enough sun so to navigate. In a steady breeze we set sail before sunset, our course was direct to Fleeming pass without any need to tack. The breeze strengthened slightly so it wasn’t long before we reefed the genoa. Our speed was still too fast so it was furled away. In the early hours of the morning we updated our ETA and calculated that we needed to slow down further so we had sunlight to see the coral heads. We then reefed our main to reduce our speed further to a cracking 3.5 knots (almost drifting). Our timing was perfect however we couldn’t control the clouds. With Tourterelle leading the way we sailed our way through several miles of coral heads. The Explorer Charts were accurate, yet we did have a few hard and fast turns to starboard or port. A seabird attempted to perch on our spreader to enjoy his breakfast catch however our motion and trying to hold onto his catch did not make it possible.

 

We anchored on the outside of Allen Cay and that afternoon we took the dingy to visit an island inhabited by the endangered Exuma Iguanas. The beach was teeming with Iguanas. The following morning Simon went to shore to take some additional shots and only saw one lonely iguana.

 

 

In the flat shallow Exuma waters we casually sailed with just our genoa to Norman Cay. It was low tide and we had to watch our depth as we slowly inched our way over the shallow entrance and we finally found a nice deep patch to anchor. It was another glorious day, we took the paddle board to shore and went for a lovely walk on the beach.

We had intended to stay longer however the wind was light and it was just a few miles to Shroud Cay. We’d been there earlier in the year and I thought the mangroves would be perfect to explore on the paddle board. The following day we again took the lazy approach with just our genoa to glide the 5nm to Shroud Cay. On arrival we were caught up with Derek and Lesley (Ocean Blue). We were pleasantly surprised to discover Takamoana (Expats PNG / Queenslanders, Gary & Louise) who were anchored in the distance. They had arrived from the USA and after an overnight passage from Nassau had dropped the hook in the dark away from the main anchorage. Later that day we were joined by Juffa (Bill & Carolyn) who earlier in the year had saved us from a dragging yacht as Bill used his dingy as a big fender.

Later that afternoon we took the paddleboards to the mangroves but it was a struggle with shallow water and an opposing current. Kim had her first fall when her paddle board came to an abrupt holt running aground and she kept going and got her leg stuck in a crab hole. She was none too impressed when I asked her to do it again so I could video it.