I don’t know who Barry is either, but you know what I mean. (or see *)
Since arriving in the East Caribbean, we have been puddling around the beautiful Windward Islands, which include St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, and Martinique, to mention a few. And, to my greatest delight, my daughters joined us here for 9 days. ❤️
Having said all that; this period has been the most varied of our trip so far…..the come down after the Atlantic crossing; the joy at being in the Caribbean; the absolute delight at having my daughters come to stay with us; visiting some truly spectacular and wonderful places; the sadness of farewelling said daughters; the “who knew?” feeling of visiting long yearned for places such as Martinique; and then the crushing impact of the Corona virus – for us first felt in the group of French Islands called Les Saintes, near Guadeloupe. We have been in ON BOAT lockdown now for over a month, and expect that this will be last for another month. We consider ourselves lucky to be well and in a safe place within the EU, with ample food and water, albeit under very strong restrictions regarding going on land for shopping etc. However I will come to all of that in the next blog. This present installment has been produced squinting through my glasses, typing with one finger on my phone, in irritatingly short bursts of tepid Internet connection. First World problems 🙄
Our thoughts and well wishes are with those affected by Corona, and we applaud and support strong government action to minimise harm.
Some new experiences have included:
- Visiting many places previously only read about or seen in pictures….including Tobago Cays. It is one of the most photographed parts of the entire Caribbean –and to be there with my kids and Magnus was absolutely incredible.
- Swimming with turtles, who were apparently unperturbed by our giddy amazement as they went about their daily business, laconically chewing sea grass and gliding regally past us. Watching my kids’ delight was a truly special treat – just like when they were small 💕
- First Mate being “Captain for a day”, sailing from Dominica to Les Saintes. An interesting experience for both of us, and positive all round!
- My first solo dinghy trip under motor. Another small captaincy I guess. I’ve rowed alone many times, but hadn’t yet used the motor unaccompanied. My mechanical superstitions and subsequent quirky methods worked a treat – and I got several kilometres from the boat alone AND back with no rowing required! All good – and a necessary freedom (for both of us) I think. Now I zoom about like a newly licenced teenager; with the added fun of being able to go much faster alone than when we are both aboard. ⚠️
- First “conscious” attempt to meet with other women on boats. Wednesday Ladies Lunch is apparently common around these parts, you just need to tap into the local cruising networks. The only problem was that “boat talk” was banned, and I wondered what 12 strangers would talk about, but it didn’t take long!! The crowd was varied in age, boat type, nationality and background. One woman’s motorboat had a fullsize bath, but most of us were on sailing boats, some on their way somewhere, and some used as holiday homes in the marina. Amongst us there was an author, an actor, an ex politician, a youngish mum, a pharmacist, a teacher, a farmer… Etc. An interesting group of lunch companions!
- A unique insight into our own psyche. When we first went ashore in Martinique, Magnus let out a sigh of deep relief, as we encountered NO ONE begging or hustling, and we could see signs that made sense and THEN we found an orderly area to sort rubbish!!! Back in Europe! Magnus’s shoulders visibly relaxed a few centimetres. There is some comfort in the familiar after all!
- Beach BBQ with other boats including two families with small kids. Arriving to the beach in dinghys, speaking Norwegian, Swedish, English, laughing, eating simple food, watching the sun set, and then the stars. Although we STILL haven’t seen the green flash, despite having watched more than our fair share of cloudless sunsets this year.
- My dear children came to stay on the boat. This was a short but very sweet 9 days, and we made the most of it. We sailed solidly for several days in order to get down to Bequia and the beautiful Tobago Cays to swim with turtles and snorkel the reefs with their beautiful colourful tropical fish. I had been first introduced to Bequia a few years ago on a sailing vlog, and was looking forward to visiting the white beaches, small quirky town, and houses built into cliffs, a bit like styled caves. Our short visit only confirmed that it a place worth staying at for a while. As well as being deleriously happy to have my kids with us, I also loved having their enthusiastic help around the boat, and Magnus and I both loved the lively energy and fun warm vibe they brought with them. 😊
- Mooring under the imposing Pitons at St Lucia was spectacular. The stunning monoliths framing our view, and forming a perfect auditorium. The sight of my happy kids swimming under the Pitons at sunset is indelibly etched in my “mum moments” memory. 💜
- We did some nice walking on Terre du Haut in the small island group of Les Saintes, just south of Guadeloupe in the East Caribbean BEFORE the lockdown. Fortunately we arrived here 4 days before the lockdown started, and so walked solidly each day for 3 days, which went a long way to solving our small problems associated with inactivity. One day we did a walking “beach crawl” visiting 6 beaches. We had 3 to go, but the next day the lockdown came into effect. Our stay in Les Saintes under lockdown will be continued in next blog.
- Anchoring at Rodney Bay’s beautiful beaches. Postcard views in every direction.
- Getting some really nice winds when sailing north up the islands, and incidentally meeting up with friends on the way.
- Lara and I really seared our feet during a self inflicted slow form of torture. Maybe we could call this the “Aussie walking torture”? AKA every summer barefoot walk EVER! Anyhoo… Lara and I set off barefoot up a nice track (that BTW got rockier and rockier) on Palm island – one of the most photogenic islands in the Caribbean I think. Being us, we could not turn around; once we set off we were determined to get to the top. The result was… a beautiful view, and several layers of blistered sole from the. burning black rocks that formed the track. Fair trade? 🙄 ( I must admit several expletives escaped my lips on the way down, when we had to CONTINUE pressing our already very tender feet onto steak cooking hot rocks!)
- My Aussie kids were both seasick AND sunburned at the same time on one of the longer sailing passages. They had to avoid the sun (meaning being down stairs) which absolutely guarantees seasickness. ✔️
- I was quite sick with a flu like thing when corona was looming large in the region. I felt awful for a few days, and kept to myself. This is now called “self iso” I understand.
- Being hurried along when parking (anchoring) overnight in a large ferry parking/turning area. We thought we needed to leave before 9 to be out of the ferry’s way, but at 7.25 we were galvanised into action by the roar of a ferry horn VERY close by….
- Feeling far from home when we had some very sad family news. We held a memorial service, casting sprigs of seaweed into the turquoise sea – but not the same. Vale MES and Mr L M xxxx
- Well this short tale could have been penned in the “worst” column, but it ended well, so is NOW funny. Just a warning, this whole story may be hard to believe, but it really is true. I will try to paint the unlikely picture. Generally speaking, Magnus is a careful kind of guy, who considers the consequences of his actions thoroughly (?sometimes ?) However, on this occasion, he shook off his natural Swedish reserve, AND his pedantic engineer tendancies, threw caution to the wind…. and went ahead and chomped right into the WORLD’S MOST DANGEROUS FRUIT. As you do, in a foreign country, far from medical help. However; the small apple was quite tasty actually and Magnus was unperturbed. In fact his “joie de vivre” only began to fade a little when after about 10 minutes, he started to feel a strange peppery burning in his mouth, and his throat began to constrict a little. At this point he reconsidered his recent gustatory experience, and wondered what on earth possessed him to taste an unknown fruit, on a beach, in the middle of (beautiful, but medically underserviced) Tobago Cays….. I wondered that too. We were fairly quickly into the dinghy and back to the boat for some frantic googling. Magnus began to feel worse, probably as a result of the googling, but also because his burning throat constricted further, and mouth and lips ignited too. At this point we began to record his vital signs, and called the marine park ranger. The ranger came quickly, and admonished Magnus roundly, wondering “how could you be so stupid; to eat an unknown fruit in a foreign country!” We had all been pondering that, especially Magnus himself, and the ranger’s open derision summed the situation up really. Anyhoo, she administered a strong sugar solution, explaining that there was nothing else to be done, including getting to a doctor, who would just administer the same sugar solution. Our fears were not completely alleviated, but Magnus’s symptoms did subside in time. The manchineel apple is quite sweet, and lies temptingly all over the beaches in the Caribbean, but SHOULD NOT be eaten, because it comes from the world’s most deadly tree. The manchineel tree has many sinister faces… if you stand under it when it rains, your skin may burn and blister. If you eat the fruit, you may die. Caribes used the poison in their arrows Nowadays the trees are clearly marked with red paint on the trunks, but over time these markings fade and if you don’t know what they mean in the first place – are rendered completely ineffective at advising ill informed visitors of the peril at hand. In our (very feeble) defence, we carefully read a park information sign nearby, which did not mention the tree at all …. After all this was over, we felt the need to warn others of the dangers of this tree, but found it was pretty common knowledge amongst other cruisers. Lesson learned.✔️
- Another funny surreal experience was (kind of) befriending a boat boy at Soufriere; and utilising his taxi service to and from town. Speeding across the water in a boat with a motor capable of significant G force inducing acceleration, driven by a VERY relaxed (read”high”) rasta local, caused us to quickly consider EXACTLY what situations our insurance would cover….
- We watched an oblivious French boat, (who were in the middle of a long lunch) drag their anchor quite fast backwards, unintentionally rapidly leaving the bay! They were alerted by a loud whistle from the Captain, and it was quite comical to watch one head look up and then glance around quickly then the subsequent flurry of action, as the lunchers leapt into action to bring theIr wayward boat back! After a reanchoring, lunch was quickly resumed. They were French, after all!
- Catching a fish in our dinghy – with no effort on our part. One morning in the marina in Rodney Bay we awoke to find a sizeable mullet presenting itself conveniently in our rubber dinghy! We didn’t cook it, as it was very hot, and we weren’t sure how long ago he had jumped in. 🙄
- I almost stepped on a Tarantula (whoops!) in Wallilibou Bay – the setting of the first “Pirates of Caribbean” film. The giant furry erachnid scuttled away as Lara and I poked around the back of the film set hotel, searching for the rubbish bins. I jumped a little, understandably, but Lara was looking the other way, so missed it! She wasn’t TERRIBLY disappointed I don’t think? While in Wallilabou we met most of the film’s cast of extras. It seemed that every single “boat boy” who offered to help us tie up, or sell us something, had been in the movie! On this occasion we were not in the retail market, but gave some clothes away instead- it seemed like the right think to do. Lara and Bonnie’s presence on the boat meant we had more attention from the boat boys than usual. This was not always comfortable.
- Keeping up our tradition of traveling by Stand Up Paddle board to dinner, this time at Cumberland Bay in the company of our friends from boat Roxanne. This mode of transport has its advantages and disadvantages, as you can imagine. Wet feet on arrival to the restaurant, but a much shorter trip home than the dinghy/walking option, and of course a bit of fun.
- We survived a VERY wet dinghy ride in Bequia – lucky it was hot! The four of us piled into the dinghy to have a little orientation tour of the area before exploring the town, but the unfortunate combination of the wind and wave direction meant that within seconds all of us except the driver 🤔 were soaked. It was a little harder than usual to maintain our dignity on disembarkation at the town dinghy dock, (disembarking a dinghy is never dignified!) but we tried to hold our dripping heads high!
- On one occasion, finding our dinghy being used as a big FENDER in between two enormous charter catamarans…. We THOUGHT we had parked outside the exclusion zone, but when we returned to the jetty at St Pierre in the north end of Martinique – we found no dinghy!? Then Oh! There it is! Squeezed in between two HUGE catamarans – that had not been deterred from parking in their usual spots, in fact the small inflatable dingy was quite handy for preventing them from bumping into each other! Our dinghy survived the significant compression, and we learned to try a bit harder to translate French signs!
FOOD AND BEVVY HIGHLIGHTS:
- Fruit tasting tour at the Pitons; we took a local cab to climb the Pitons and MOST fortuitously our driver was an enthusiastic expert on local fruit. He stopped and picked things for us to try, and we tasted cocoa raw, soursop, coffee, nutmeg etc. Wow!
- Trying fresh coconut water at Bequia – we watched a man skillfully lop the top off with a machete, pop a straw in and.. voila! Lara and Bon and I shared it, and now we know how it’s done! We were pleased to learn this, after Lara and Bon spent several painstaking hours hacking, chopping, chiselling, drilling, using EVERYTHING they could find to try to open one! What else do you do, when newly arrived in the Caribbean and find coconuts lying on the beach you have just swum to from the boat? Of course you gather them up, swim awkwardly back with them under your arms (mostly keeping your head above water) and expend all your Jet lag depleted energy on trying to get the dammed things OPEN!! 😂😂😂
All we needed was a machete!!(and some skill maybe?🙄)
- Fresh crab and sea urchin Acras from a street stall at St Anne. They cost almost nothing, and were DE-LICIOUS.
- As a treat with Lara and Bon, trying some new cocktails at Bequai. Between the four of us we tried a painkiller, rum punch, pina colada, and a mai tai. We agreed that the painkiller would be effective if required.
- Lobster BBQ with boat friends from Delphinus at Tobago Cays. Romeo’s Lobster BBQ was highly recommended and our expectations were well met. We feasted on an abundance of lobster and delicious succulent vegetable side dishes, and enjoyed the sparkling good company of family and friends, and of course the novelty of being collected and returned by a roaringly fast water taxi!
- Almazul caught Tuna! We BBQed it and also made sushi and shared it with Delphinus. Decadent!
- Bringing our grocery shopping trolley directly to our dinghy in Le Marin, Martinique. This place is REALLY geared towards sailors!
- Hatches!! We have had 3 leaky hatches since we first bought Almazul in Spain, and I have tried unsuccessfully to seal them several times, each time gaining a little further insight into what to try next – all the while being woken at night by a gentle shower should it rain. The final straw came when we discovered that all three of our large front hatches had progressed from being “crazed” to being cracked right through, meaning we would fall through them if we stepped on them, as well as the leaking issue. We sought expert advice from a very helpful chandler in St Lucia, and were directed to another chandler in Martinique. To our surprise and delight, we were able to buy three, on the spot! We had expected to have to order these at great expense, and then wait months for delivery. As well as selling them, the chandler had an associated business that could fit them for us! Too good to be true? Actually yes. The hatch expert wrestled with our old hatch sweatily for about half an hour, before announcing to us that it was “not possible” in a strong French accent. Ookaay….. so if the expert cant do it ?… But Magnus was not deterred. We marched home, 3 very expensive hatches in hand, and Magnus set to work, making the impossible happen. Voila! – 3 new hatches installed. What a Captain! 😍
- Spray hood lowered – this involved Magnus removing small “stands” that had been added to raise the height of the spray hood, resulting in a small gap at the bottom, which was quite breezy at times! It is a little more sheltered from wind and rain in the cockpit now.
- Bilge cleaned. This was an important job, because we had inadvertently started and sustained a hugely successful fly breeding program during our crossing. This began as the majority of 192 cans of beer stored under the floor punctured, one by one, emitting a sweet yeasty liquid, perfect for breeding prime fly stock. It took us a while to understand the success of our accidental breeding program, and the source. The Estrella purchased on special suddenly became much more expensive as only 20% survived the journey.
- Purchase of a washing tub. I have been alternating between hand washing and using increasingly expensive laundromats, so now I can wash everything from the sheets down the old fashioned way – with my feet! (I have a small hope that one day it will be grapes I am stomping on in this tub…)
- *My daughter Bonnie introduced me to the phrase “This is living Barry” as she took a photo of Magnus and I reclining in the sun on the transom after having just swum in crystal clear water at Bequia – so I think I agree, this is living, for the moment anyway. Apparently it is from an old “Boating Camping Fishing” (BCF) store advert on TV.