Are we there yet?

Apologies for not keeping Pink and Fluffy up to date. During the 23 day crossing we put our daily blog onto the ARC website and Clive has painstakingly managed to transfer them on to our website under ‘latest news’. It prided a daily blow by blow account of our trip with all of us taking it in turn to write something.

It’s been reported that this year was one of the most challenging ARC crossings and everyone that we’ve spoken to since has commented on how difficult it was and how glad they were to get to StLucia.

I have to confess to liking the first 10 days but that was a challenge in itself as there was no wind and we had to motor.  The ocean was a calm as a pond and I even had a swim around the boat. We obviously didn’t have enough fuel to motor all the way so had to divert to Cape Verde and do a pitstop refuel. I had to check that this didn’t count as us checking in as that would’ve caused problems with the cats.

After Cape Verde we chased whatever wind there was and it was all a bit tactical as to how much fuel we could afford to use.   We finally hit the trade winds and that’s when I stopped enjoying the ride!  It was not what was expected, it was rough! Sleeping was almost impossible and I had a few days of seasickness when I just wanted to curl up and die. We kept getting battered by squalls which made it even more unpleasant.

The cats were amazing and put me to shame, adapting so well that I think they were born to sail.

When we finally saw land it was dark and we were welcomed by the finish line boat and by an enjoyable rum punch on the key side. Kika crew and some friends from the UK were there to cheer us in and we  docked on the luxury yacht pontoon. The marina bar came alive with cheers and whoops and we felt very important! It was such a relief to finally be on land, although I can honestly say that I was never scared or frightened at any stage of the voyage.

We were straight into the usual ARC parties that were going on every night.

Rodney Bay is now our home for a few months.  I immediately discovered our man C.J. (Christopher Joseph) who is on the end of a phone whenever I ring. He takes our laundry, returning it the same day, he drives a taxi and takes us to the supermarket, waits while we shop and then helps us back to the boat. Everyone should have a C.J., he’s such a find.

We sailed to Marigot Bay for Christmas and as we’ve always had a champagne party on Christmas Eve for all our friends we tried to Skype the usual suspects at the allotted time, but it was not to be. There was a massive sub tropical storm that hit the whole area and neighbouring islands. It lasted for about 36 hours and was merciless. We found out later that there were 7 fatalities, roads flooded and bridges swept away. There was no water in the marina for several days. (Fortunately we have our water maker.)

Christmas day was very memorable. Cocktails in the hotel bar by the pool followed by lunch on board. Gravlax and roast turkey with all the trimmings we could muster.

Sailing back from Marigot Bay to Rodney Bay felt like we were coming home as we’re now known by a lot of the staff in the restaurants and bars. We’ve also discovered Spinnaker’s bar which is on the beach and have just booked in there for New Year’s Eve. A live band, fireworks on the beach and an awsome menu with cocktails and drinks included.

Then on 2nd January my eldest daughter, son in law, his mother and our grandson arrive for a week. I can’t wait!!!!!!!!!!!!

We don’t know what we’ll do next or where we’ll go. The Caribbean is our oyster and we intend to do some serious exploring and chilling out over the next few months.

Meanwhile, a very Happy New Year to everyone from the sunny Caribbean!

Countdown

After years of talking about it, we’re now just a couple of hours away from starting on our Atlantic crossing!

It’s been non stop partying all week but we’ve worked hard at various jobs around the boat during the day so I think we deserve to let off steam at night. Our friends have arrived from home to see us off and we’ve had a couple of very memorable nights out with them all.

I’m starting to feel a bit apprehensive but I suppose that’s only natural. We’ve had an emotional Skype call to our eldest daughter and grandson and I really do miss them. (Yes, son in law as well.)

Vey mixed emotions at this stage.

Caribbean here we come1

Losing the plot

Something happened this week that certainly wouldn't have happened pre retirement!

We were going out for dinner with our friends from Kika and were due to go for pre dinner drinks on board at 7.15pm. We rang to announce our arrival at the gate to their pontoon and it took ages for someone to appear to let us in. We tucked into G&Ts and nibbles, enjoying the catch up news with them. After a while I suggested that we needed to make a move as we were meeting someone else at the club. Kika crew looked confused! It was only then that we realised that Clive and I had failed to realise that the clocks changed last weekend.  The poor guys were enjoying a siesta when we turned up an hour early. How rude!! So we managed to get all the way to Thursday before we realised that we were an hour out!!!! Outrageous, and somehow blissful.

Mantra

'This isn't a holiday. This is our life.'

 

Goodbye to Kika

There was a combined ARC Plus farewell party and an ARC welcome party that was spectacular but very hard to describe as it all seemed a bit surreal. There were people on stilts, a brass band, some traditional dancers, a small orchestra, guitarist, ballet dancer and then an amazing drag act. I don’t normally like drag acts but this lot were on another level. There were some very athletic men doing pole dancing and acrobatics, sliding down suspended ropes in in next to nothing, clothes wise. We had wine, nibbles and danced like crazy. It was such a good night. Kika crew were there, some of our neighbours from our pontoon who called us party animals the next day. We caught up with some other friends later who were feeling the worse for wear as they didn’t leave until 5.30 am.

Our friends on Kika left on Sunday with the rest of the boats taking part in the ARC Plus.

There were about 40 boats and they will go via Cape Verde and arrive in St Lucia before the main ARC arrives. We got the dinghy down and followed them out of the marina and cheered them on their way before cycling along the promenade to watch the boats jostling around the start line. There’s a 3 hour penalty if you cross the line ahead of time so it was all a bit frantic as 1pm got nearer but little Kika was 4th to cross the line.

We then headed into town to a lovely little Cuban bar/restaurant that we’ve discovered and had a few mojitos. Lethal!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Meanwhile, Clive thought it would be a good idea for me to do some dive training to keep me occupied so I agreed to go along to the dive centre to see what courses were available. Within 5 minutes he’d signed me up to do a PADI open water dive course which started the next day. The first dive was held at our club’s swimming pool and I had a panic attack which wasn’t a good start. The instructor was very good and calmed me down. After that we spent the rest of the lesson (about an hour) at the bottom of the pool doing various exercises like taking our masks off and then putting them back on and clearing the water out, swimming upside down with all the gear on, towing our buddies along  without their masks, etc. The second pool dive consisted of more complicated exercises, practising buoyancy and how to share air with our buddies underwater incase we run out. There was plenty of reading and a DVD to watch for homework. The first open water dive was from a small harbour on the North West of the island. After about 10 minutes I realised that it was not for me. My instructor tried to persuade me to continue and was very patient but my mind was well and truly made up. I’ll stick to snorkelling!

I learnt plenty on the course and it will all be very useful for when I have to go under the boat to take pictures or incase of emergencies. We’ve got a ‘hookah’ system that we imported from Canada that consists of a small transportable generator and a 20 metre breathing tube so that you can breath air but still remain attached to the boat or dinghy. I’ll be ok with that and going under the boat or even diving down about 10 - 15 feet will be fine. I just don’t want to go 15 metres under!!

Things are ramping up here now and there’s a daily Sundowner meeting each evening where there are free drinks and various local delicacies to sample. The workshops and seminars have also started and you can pick and choose which ones to attend.

We bought ARC polo shirts today for us and our crew and will have them embroidered with ’Sephina of Beaumaris’ to add the professional touch. Talking of crew, our youngest and her fiancé arrive on Saturday to help with preparations for the crossing. I can’t wait.

A Tale of Two Shopping Trips

Long gone are the days of spending hours in Selfridges agonising over Prada or Mulberry. The last 2 days have been shopping events to be remembered and both equally enjoyable.

Shopping Experience 1

When we left the UK I had our reliable M&S pillows laundered and thought nothing more of it until several changes of pillowcases later I realised that changing the bed entailed hoovering up masses of feathers. I tried to ignore it but this week realised that our precious pillows were dead. We ceremoniously binned them and cycled into town to El Corte Ingles, my favourite shop of all time. We went up to the home furnishing section and mooched about for a while. No sooner had we picked up the perfect bathmat for our bedroom ‘apres shower’ than a very efficient assistant (who I will refer to as Señora) offered very kindly to carry the mat to the till for us. We then asked where the pillows were. ‘Sorry’, she didn’t understand us. We mimed going to sleep and putting our heads on pillows. ‘Ah, si!’  Señora lead us to the opposite corner of the floor where the bedding was. We didn’t want the cheap pillows on display and asked where the duck down pillows were. Clive got out his iphone to translate while I wondered if I could do a duck impression that couldn’t be confused with a chicken. Fortunately the iphone translator came up trumps. ‘Ah, si!’  She headed to the keeper of the expensive pillows who lead the way to the beds. We were worried that things had been lost in translation and they were offering us a bed but then they stopped at the bottom of a double bed and the keeper of the expensive pillows lifted the base to reveal a choice selection. Señora then took our selection back to the till for us and we said we’d wander around. We found a couple of towels I wanted to protect the cushions on deck and no sooner had we picked them up and there she was, our Señora to carry them to the till. I wanted to kiss her!. Back at the till she scanned everything and we crammed them into our rucsacs. I went to pay using my Caxton card and the purchase was declined. (I forgot to top up after a large supermarket shop.) Señor was beside herself. ‘Sorry! Sorry!’ Clive stepped in to pay and we unloaded the rucsacs so that she could rescan everything again. Señora insisted on getting on her knees to repack my rucsac saying ‘sorry’ over and over.

We left with overstuffed but very light rucsacs and only had one more purchase to make. A bag of lettuce for tea. Another light item but difficult to pack in overstuffed bags without bruising. Clive volunteered and we gingerly made it back to the boat.

The pillows are to die for. I now look forward to getting to bed and don’t want to get up in the morning. OK, nothing new there, but they are truly the best pillows we’ve ever had.

 

Shopping Experience 2

Clive arranged a surprise excursion one day which involved getting a bus and heading for the hills and I had no idea where we were going. It was the longest single decker bus I’ve ever been on and the driver was overly confident. How we managed to squeeze down some of the side streets in Las Palmas I really don’t know and as we left the town I thought we’d be safe. Then we started going up hill. The driver was by now totally crazy and threw the bus around blind corners on single track roads with a precipice on one side. He blasted his horn as if this would magically vaporise anything coming in the opposite direction. Luckily we were going to visit a rum distillery and I certainly felt like a rum when we got off the bus.

We were in Arucas and walking to the Arehucas distillery was like going to Mecca for me. We went along roads with no pavements, crossed a roundabout and diced with traffic but when we walked through the gates I felt like we'd arrived somewhere very special. (Everyone else arrived by coach. Losers.) We ended up on a Spanish tour so didn’t understand a word of what was said but I didn’t care as I was in the land of rum. There was a section full of barrels signed by famous people. Opera singers of the world, politicians and our Tom Jones.

The tour finished with a rum tasting. About 15 bottles of rum, rum liqueur and you just helped yourself.  Needless to say I wormed my way for a photo behind the bar. We then bought 6 bottles of their finest 7 year old rum which was by far the nicest. We had a photoshoot outside and then I found my dream car. I want one when we get back to Chester as it would be perfect for the school run. 'There's Granny in her rum car again. How embarrassing!'