St.Kitts to Sint Maarten

We arrived at St.Kitts and went  in the dinghy to Basseterre.  The dinghy dock there wasn’t geared up for dinghies, the narrow entrance was dotted with rocks just a few inches under the water so we took advantage of the fishing harbour near us and tied up to some fishing boats.  Fortunately the fishermen were friendly and didn’t seem to mind.

It was so windy in the anchorage that we re-anchored a bit nearer to the shelter of the dock, though we were surprised how adapted we’d become to all the movement at sea.

The main town, Basseterre, was a short walk along the coast road and when the cruise ships came in it was crazy.  On the walk there we came across a little restaurant called El Fredo’s that had a Welsh flag flying at the entrance.  There were plenty of locals eating there which is always a good sign so we decided to try it out.  The owner, Ken, lived in South Wales for 42 years where he married a Welsh girl and they both came over 10 years ago.  It was lovely to hear her Welsh accent was still strong after all the years.  The food was excellent and Ken gave us a big Welsh flag when he heard that ours had to be cut down as it had wrapped itself around the stantion.  I promised to return the favour when we get back to the UK by sending him a smaller flag for the front of his restaurant.

We were woken early one morning by customs who came aboard for a routine inspection and wanted to see our flares and life jackets.  It was a training exercise and we were relieved that the flares were all in date.  (No mention of the morphine I’ve got locked away!)

It was here that we got an email from Peter, a friend we’d made in Grenada, who told us that he knew someone who may be interested in buying Sephina.  This was totally out of the blue and a bit sureal as our plan was to sail up to St.Thomas in the American Virgin Islands and have her shipped back to the UK from there.  We had planned to live on her in Southampton until she was sold.  Anyway, we told Peter to pass on our details and the next thing we were contacted by a guy called Bill who wanted to fly up to see us the next day.  We emailed back to say that we wouldn’t be in St.Martin for another week so arranged to see him there.  Still very surreal!

St.Kitts has the only working railway in the Eastern Caribbean and is used to take tourists around the island so we booked ourselves on a trip.  When we arrived at the train station at 8.30am we were greeted by a very enthusiastic guide who recited a long list of the complimentary drinks onboard.  Even for us it was too early for a rum punch.  We had a whole carriage to ourselves and settled upstairs in the open air.  The train crawled along and we were treated to ladies singing a cappella to entertain us all, their last song was about coconut juice.  Cute!  We travelled past abandoned sugar cane fields, spotted plenty of wild monkeys jumping about in the trees and the locals all waved at us as we rolled along.  At the end of the line we finished the tour by bus with a very humorous driver chattering away.

Clive received an email from Alan at Berthon, our yacht broker, saying that Sailing Today wanted to do an article about Sephina.  (Have I mentioned surreal?)

After a few days we decided to move on and had a short sail up to St.Eustatia (Statia) and settled just off Oranjestad.  I nearly lost the boat hook trying to pick up a mooring ball as my arm was at full stretch under the bow.  

The island was totally unspoilt by tourism.  On shore there was a dirt track road along the coastline then a steep cobbled track up to the main town with its narrow streets lined by pretty little houses.  Fort Oranje is well maintained and has spectacular views out to sea with some of the canons still in position.  In 1776 the Dutch fired a canon to salute an American war vessel and so became the first country to recognise the newly formed United States of America.  The Brits weren’t very impressed and bombed the island to high heaven and took possession.  Oops!

We found a bar called Cool Corner that turned out to be a Chinese restaurant.  It doubled as a take away with cars pulling up on the single track road outside and the barmaid handing food orders out of the window.

We managed to get some good snorkelling in along a reef just off the beach while we were there.

From here we sailed up to St.Martin.  The island is half Dutch and half French and we opted for the Dutch side as we wanted to go into the huge lagoon and find a marina.  On arrival we anchored just outside the bridge and went to check in with customs and to visit a few marinas in the lagoon.  We decided to book in with the IGY marina and arranged to come in later in the afternoon.  Entrance to the lagoon is restricted to certain times of the day when the lifting bridge opens to let traffic either in or out.

Immediately on the right after passing through the bridge is the Sint Maarten Yacht Club and people gather to watch the boats passing through the bridge.  There’s a famous video of the super yacht that was owned by Steve Jobs passing through it with no room on either side for fenders.  It really is a tight squeeze so this became a favourite place for us to pop into for a drink and to watch some of the massive yachts pass by.

Stephen and Debbie had anchored over on the French side of the island, a 30 minute dinghy ride across the lagoon and they invited us over for dinner one evening, to stay overnight and to take the cats!.  It was a very bumpy ride and the poor cats must’ve been terrified as the dinghy kept crashing down in the water but once we got on to Amelie and let them out they were unfazed and seemed completely at home.  They’re so resilient, bless them.

Another evening we all went to the cinema complex by the marina to see a film ‘Run all night’ with Liam Neilson and then had sushi afterwards.

On our first trip into the capitol Phillipsberg I tried to tip the driver as it was only $3 each but he was completely confused so I haven’t tried since.  Phillipsberg is a lively, happening town, best avoided when there are too many cruise ships in.

 

The day finally arrived for Bill to come and view Sephina.  He spent 2 hours chatting to Clive and looking around and he asked us both what we liked most about the boat.  I said it was how light and roomy it was inside and that the bedroom was so spacious.  Clive said it was the way it sailed and then said he  should go away and think about it.  Bill said he’d be in touch.

Meanwhile,Leo and Karin from Bubbles arrived back from Holland to join the non stop partying.

Bill came back the next morning to see Sephina for a second time and once again said he’d be in touch. When he emailed us later the same day he made an offer on condition that we complete in the first week in April.  (It was now 24th March!!)  A price was agreed the following day and Bill said he was thrilled when he came back to see us for another chat.  

So in effect Sephina was sold!!!

That evening we went over to Bubbles for champagne and to toast the sale.  Leo kindly invited Bill over as well so he was able to meet some of the other Oyster owners firsthand and to see how boozy we all are!  Clive very graciously said that he’d enjoyed working on Sephina for 2 years and then living on her for another 2 years and thanked me for my support.  He said he knew Bill would look after her and that made us feel better about the sale.

Finding somewhere to live then became a priority but we managed to find an apartment right opposite the marina that was perfect.  There's plenty of space in the apartment for us to store the belongings that need to be freighted back to the UK, air-conditioning, excellent wi-fi and we have a gourmet supermarket within walking distance.  Also the marina bar is just across the road and we’re well know by the staff and get special treatment, with a smile.  There's also a totally unspoilt, white, sandy beach less than a 2 minute walk away that is quiet, has sunbeds and the sea is crystal clear.  (And 'Happy Hour' is all day!)  From the sunbeds we can watch the planes take off and land across the bay at Princesss Juliana Airport so there's never a dull moment.  We hired a car for a couple of days to move all our belongings in before finally moving in with the boys.  There’s an area at the back where we can walk them and they can chase lizards and there’s a pleasant breeze blowing through the rooms, so all is well.

Within cycling distance is the famous Princess Julian Airport (Check it out on google) where planes come in to land over the beach.  You can almost touch the wheels.  Even better is when the planes take off.  The blast from the jets sends sand flying everywhere and standing on the beach getting sandblasted is awesome and quite painful.  The very daring hang on to the fence at the end of the runway and are blown off their feet with the blast.  I’ve thought about doing this but then I saw a video where a girl lost her grip and smashed her face into a concrete wall.  I think I’ve done enough damage to my face on this trip so we’ll see.  I’m not saying no!

 

On 31st March, 2015 we had our last breakfast on deck with the boys and we looked through the cards we’d been given by people wishing us ‘Bon voyage’ 2 years ago.

So much has happened to us in that time and we have fabulous photos and memories that we’ll cherish forever.  We’ve lived the dream and some more.

We’ve made friends that we know we’ll keep in touch with.  Debbie and Stephen in particular have been with us since June last year and we’ve had an absolute ball.  We found a special friendship with them and we’re missing them already as they’ve now headed off to go around the world for a second time.  The invite is there for us to join them where ever and whenever we want to and we’ll certainly take them up on it, probably starting with Panama next March.

 

So with a tinge of sadness I sign off Pink and Fluffy, but the next chapter is about to start.

We’ll probably stay here for a couple of months then head home to face the music with our very patient family and to do some serious making up with our lovely little grandson, Luke , who was born on the day we moved onto Sephina.

 

This is Pirate Granny saying goodnight.

 

 

 

Up to Nevis

We left Nelson’s Dockyard and headed to Jolly Harbour, a short sail up the coast of Antigua where we anchored just outside and went in to the marina in the dinghy.  

It was very much like Port Grimaud in the south of France with houses surrounding the entrance to the marina, their own private docks at the end of each garden.

The next day we sailed over to Nevis and the crossing was very uncomfortable with everything flying around downstairs.  The cats sensibly found a safe place to curl up until it all settled down.

We arrived just off Charleston and on our first day struggled to find somewhere to eat in town.  There were 2 Chinese restaurants but we settled on a restaurant that Princess Diana had taken William and Harry to eat.  We did try Goldcoast Chinese another day and it was just as you’d expect.  Over 100 menu choices and our meal was rustled up in no time and tasted delicious.

We were joined by Amelie, Bubbles and Babes after a couple of days and the partying got into full swing again.  We discovered a fantastic new Indian restaurant on the beach and went there a couple of nights, ending up dancing away to a live band.

We booked to do an island taxi tour and were lucky to have John Paris who was a real gentleman and talked non stop (bless him) for the whole tour.  We saw where Alexander Hamilton was born (his face is on $10 notes) and where Nelson married Francis Nisbet.  There were some natural sulphur springs where we paddled in the hot water and then stopped off at a couple of plantation inns.  One was where Princess Diana and her boys stayed and another where we had lunch on a terrace overlooking some magnificent tropical gardens with humming birds hovering near by.

The mooring was very windy and I ended going up the mast again, twice.  I’m starting to think that Clive is just making up reasons to send me up there.  A couple of dinghies were lost overnight in the wind and we saw another floating past us at a rate of knots as we sat on deck having breakfast yesterday morning.

Today we decided to head up to the sister island, St.Kitts and after a short journey we arrived at a little anchorage just off the main marina in Basseterre. St.Kitts is the bigger of the two islands so there should be more exploring for us to do.

I’m not sure how long we’ll stay but we’ll see what St.Kitts has to offer.

Still in France!

We  were so taken by Martinique that we decided to hang around for a bit longer.  After our first week in Marin we headed north up the coast and anchored off the capital, Fort de France.  A very busy but little town with plenty of Chinese shops selling everything you could possibly want and a lot of stuff that you really don’t want.  Every other shop seemed to be a ‘costume’ shop and as we didn’t spot any nurses or school girls wandering around we assume that this is for the lively club scene.   We were right next to one of the cruise ship docks and we had fun watching them arrive at 9am and then leave at 6pm prompt by which time we were on deck just finishing our sundowners and looking for the green flash as the sun disappeared into the water.  There was a guy at work who used to go on cruises and said he'd look out for our boat in future so if you were in Martinique this week Gwyn, it was us sunbathing under the Welsh flag.

We found an out of town shopping centre alike to an American mall with some upmarket shops and even took a bus ride up into the hills to Jardin de Balata which were almost prehistoric and quite stunning.  We stayed for a week and were just in time to see the first few classic sail boats cross the finish line after sailing from Lanzarote.  Second in was Argyle (Gryf Rees Jones’s boat) so we raced over in our dinghy waving the Welsh flag amongst the press dinghies.

We’re now further up the coast in St.Pierre which used to be the capitol until the entire population of 29,933 was wiped out by the local volcano in 1902.  Actually, 2 survived and one was a murderer in a nice thick concrete prison cell!

Thornton has had a rough month.  We took him to the vet in St.Lucia as I thought he needed a tooth out.  It turned out to be an infection at the back of his mouth.  The vet gave him a shot to knock him out and Clive and I ended up as assistants in the operating room.  Clive holding his head and me shining a torch into his mouth.  There was a lot of blood and when we arrived back at the marina with a blood soaked unconscious cat we got some very strange looks.  He was on strong antibiotics for 2 weeks and made a full recovery but then last week he suddenly couldn’t open one eye and the third eyelid was right across.  I bathed it with warm water and after a few days we took him to the vet here who couldn’t find anything wrong with his eye.  He said he looked a bit dehydrated and gave him a couple of injections, steroid and more antibiotics.  We have to put drops in his eye 3 times a day and I’m making sure he has plenty of water. (I’m not his favourite person at the moment.)

Other than that it’s business as usual. We’re off for a walk later today to another rum distillery and then we plan to leave here in a couple of days, but our plans usually fail for some reason or other.

 

Dominica and beyond

From Martinique we stopped off at Dominica to break up our journey north.  We nearly didn’t go to the island as like most people we confused it with the Dominican Republic but we were pleasantly surprised and even extended our stay there.  (On the sail there Clive saw a whale while I was downstairs having a snooze.  Typical!)

It was a nice smooth crossing and Peri sat up in the cockpit for a lot of the journey.

On our first day there we went on a taxi tour of the island with friends.

Our driver was called Winston and seemed to know everyone and everything about the island.  (It turned out that he wasn’t married but had 6 children from 5 different women.  One of the locals called him a ‘player’.)  We went up into the rain forest and he pointed out the different villages and we saw where the oldest woman had lived.  She was about 123 when she died.  Apparently Dominica has the highest population of people over 100 for some reason.  We drove up into the Carib Territory where the last of the Caribs now live.  They have bronze coloured skin and almost oriental features.  They were fierce, warlike people and completely killed off the Arawaks on a neighbouring island.  We stopped at the Emerald Pool which is part of the National Park and went for a swim under the waterfall.  I really wanted to see a parrot so was disappointed when Winston failed to deliver.

The following day we went on the Indian River Trip, starting at 7.15am.  Albert, our guide, rowed us up a narrow river that ran between mangroves and swamp trees, the same area had been used in Pirates of the Caribbean 2.  I was still desperate to see a parrot, but again no luck! 

Later in the day Albert came over to Sephina for a chat and I gave him a cold drink of Orangina in a thermos cup with a straw.  He was completely amazed that the drink was ice cold but the outside of the beaker was normal temperature.  It really freaked him out.  The things you take for granted!

After 4 days we decided to move on and went up to Isles de Saintes to join Stephen in preparations for his 60th birthday bash.  The town was a bumpy dingy ride around the headland and was full of little French cafe’s, bars and colourful shops.  Everyone seemed to have a scooter or an small electric buggy.  

As I’d failed to see a real parrot I treated myself to a stuffed one that now swings happily over the lounge table.

For his birthday, Stephen had invited a crowd of people he’d kept in touch with from the Oyster World Rally and so over the next few days Oysters arrived and we gradually took over the small bay, Pain de Sucre.  The birthday lasted for nearly 2 weeks and was one party after another, always starting at 5.30pm with sundowners.  On the official day we were invited over to Bubbles (62 foot Oyster) for champagne and the most enormous breakfast spread, kindly put on by Karin and Leo.  Then at lunchtime we all went ashore in our dinghies and took over a little beach, spreading out 3 huge Oyster flags and laying out a mouthwatering picnic.  The locals seemed to be interested and I’m afraid we were quite loud!.  In the evening we all got taxis into town and met up at a restaurant that Stephen had pre-booked weeks ago.  He’d organised the menu and taken orders from everyone and ensured that we had exclusivity of the venue, which was just as well as the after dinner dancing was slightly raucous but most enjoyable.

The following morning 20 of us all assembled on Babes (54 foot Oyster) where Paul and Trish did us pancakes for breakfast.  (Someone had given us duff information and told us it was Shrove Tuesday.)  Stephen was the only one who could face a beer as most of us were bleary eyed and on water only.  The next evening we assembled on Legend IV (54 foot Oyster) where Alan was doing his Tom Cruise cocktail impressions and Jean was rustling up the most delicious canapes.  We then all went over to Amelie where Stephen barbecued 14 steaks which was an impressive feat.

The next day we sailed up to Saint Louis on Marie Galante and radioed over to Bubbles who had already anchored there.  Gradually the others arrived and that evening we were feasted courtesy of Andrew and Suzanne from Pearl of Persia who were staying on Legend IV.  They booked a restaurant in town for the 12 of us and as usual we took over the place.  Paul ended up in the kitchen as we couldn't understand what the owner was talking about on the menu.  He just kept getting louder and louder the more confused we looked.

After a few drinks we’d agreed that the next morning the women on the boats would go up the masts by 10am.  I sat on deck on my lap top and waited nervously to see if anyone else would do it being quite relieved when 10am arrived and no one had started the climb.  Our next plan was yoga on the beach at 11am.  Everyone turned up for this and even the men took part.  There were a few creaks and groans but we all felt like we’d earned a drink afterwards.  That turned into lunch, a boules competition and beach tennis.  That evening saw us take over yet another restaurant in town and this was our last supper together.

One by one we left and Clive and I sailed to Deshaies further up the island for a couple of nights where we checked out of Guadeloupe.  Deshaies is a pretty little seaside village and was used in the series Death In Paradise.  It’s like going from one film set to another at the moment.  Babes and Legend IV were also at the anchorage there en route to somewhere else.  

From there we motor sailed up to Antigua, arriving at Portsmouth Harbour and are now in Nelson’s Dockyard Marina.  We booked in for a week and I expected that we wouldn’t see anyone that we knew during our stay here.  But on the first day here we had a visit from Jean and Alan (Legend IV) who are in the next harbour, then we had a visit from David from Calypso who did the ARC with us .  Strangest of all was a visit from a guy who said he’d been told to look out for us by a friend of mine and it turned out that we knew his sister really well.  She went to my school and Clive and I went to her wedding.  Then today we had lunch with Dave and Aleisha from Gozwoz who are old friends from Wales and who also did the ARC with us.  It’s such a small world and to be in exactly the same place as people you know at exactly the same time is quite mind blowing.

 

So, we have a week here and then maybe we’ll scoot up to Nevis.  Who knows? 

Vive la différence.

We’re now in France!  Well not quite, but it feels the same.  We’re on Martinique which is French and boy can you tell the difference with the other islands that we’ve been to so far.  Proper roads (with street lights), proper cars (even though they’re left hand drive), bistro cafés, supermarkets stocked to the gunnels with canard, smoked salmon packs big enough to feed a small village and cheap, cheap, cheap French wine.  Even the chandlery has an espresso machine by the door so you can get your caffeine fix while you browse around the fishing rods and snorkel gear.  On the downside, we are no longer greeted by big smiles and everyone saying “hello” to us.  But there’s something reassuring about the French indifference and Gallic shrugging when things go wrong instead of trying put things right, so all in all it’s like being in the South of France.

The marina is surrounded by mangroves and there are an alarming number of wrecks to be seen.  Some are completely submerged with only their masts showing above water and this is the stark reminder of the forces of nature or the need for boat maintenance.

Today we went in the dinghy to a pretty seaside town called St.Anne’s for lunch and on the way back we spotted a massive turtle popping up to the surface for air and then disappearing as we went by.

So we’re here for about a week and then heading up to Dominica where I think we’ll be back to basics.