End of one chapter the beginning of the next

Well Sephina is sold. This came as a shock to my friends and also to me.

The ARC 2013 was the “Rip up the Brochure” year. We had everything from headwinds to no wind to constant 35 knots. As I wrote in my ARC reflection in 2014 there was a moment when I thought “Why am I putting my wife through this” she had not eaten for several days and had stopped drinking  because the seasickness had become so extreme. Pouring water into her mouth with a syringe knowing we were still 5 days away from land with the seas predicted to get even higher was a wake up call. Unbelievably she still did her night watch. (Video after 3 days of 25 Knots downwind atlantic here) Along with many ARC crews in 2013 we vowed not to cross another ocean. So our plans changed. Initially we booked passage back with "Peters and May" from the Caribbean but we decided to give the Caribbean a season to at least explore its charms as we had come so far. That was the best decision we made. Not only did we have some fantastic times exploring the beautiful islands and meeting some amazing people but we enjoyed living on board. The journey down to Grenada is well documented by my wife in Pink and Fluffy and we were slightly trepidatious at the prospect of 5 months in a marina waiting out the hurricane season. But fate reared its head again. Little Oyster Sephina was opposite a spanking Oyster 53 Amelie. The skipper spotted Ju on the pontoon one day and invited us over for drinks (How forward!). Little were we to know, that simple act would be the beginning of a special friendship with the owners Stephen and Debbie. We partied, worked on maintenance, dined out, hashed and partied some more and the 5 months went by in a flash. The icing on the cake was meeting 4 remarkably special people, Miles a handsome Texan from the beautiful “Lone Star”, Kiwi the constantly happy smiling fountain of all knowledge and the “Beautiful People” in the form of Peter and Wendy, the proud owners of one of the stunning properties on the South Coast of Grenada. The talk on Amelie often came to how we were going to bump Peter and Wendy off so we could take over their house. It’s a shame they were so nice . The days in Port Louis Marina were life changing. The end of the hurricane season came without even a puff and we returned to the UK for a very magical wedding of our youngest Steph and her partner Matt. On our return we set off to cruise in company with Stephen now “Stevie Boy” and Debbie now “Debs” from Amelie.  Again the journey is well documented by Ju but my simple analysis was these were some of the best days of my life, sailing Sephina with my wife and two fantastic friends and making some more great friends on the way.  Stevie Boy’s 60th birthday in Isles de Saints was a gathering of several Oysters from the Oyster World Rally. There were some truly stunning yachts and despite the obvious wealth the owners were funny, intelligent, kind, cuddly, bubbly, worldly and generous.  One even had all 7 traits! The main birthday lasted 5 days, the celebrations nearly a month.  

The cruise north continued as our plans to return to the UK took shape and I started to come to terms with parting with Sephina on our return to Southampton. Alan Mcilroy who sold the boat to me from Berthon the brokers, was so helpful I wanted him to handle the sale again. He was going to list her in May as “En Route UK”.  I worked on the boat specification for the sale and was busy drafting it when I had an email from Peter and Wendy in Grenada.  A friend of a friend was looking for a similar type of boat and would I email the spec to them.  A day later I had an email asking to view her the next day.  We were in St Kitts so not easy to get to, so I suggested Sint Maarten in 10 days time. The prospective purchaser duly arrived, asked the right questions and made an unconditional offer the next day. A bit of to and fro and we had a deal.  Sephina was under offer if we agreed to vacate her in a week!!!! Hasty plans, apartment rental, car hire and we were off!  So as I  write this we are boatless abroad. Sephina has gone to a good home under the watchful eye of Bill Martin an American Health CEO. 

And us (Cats included)… Well we have decided to stay in Sint Maarten for the time being while we plan the next journey.  

I will get my kicks from joining the various Oyster owners on legs of their future voyages and my old mate Jon on Kika.  I’m sure its not for my company that I have been invited but my systems skills!  These big Oysters are complex.

Bye, Bye, Sephina and hello family, grandson and old friends back home.  A great new chapter awaits but for now this one has drawn to a close. Thanks to all the friends we met along the way, the Sephina crews who helped us, the ARC 2013 crowd, the Kika crew and the Caribbean friends and finally thanks for reading. 

Bill has agreed to take over the site as Sephina of Beaumaris becomes Sephina of Provincetown and will continue to have her adventures.

Good luck to all who sail in her…… 

6000nM since leaving Deganwy. 63 Ports visited. 

Peri  (lost track of the date!)

 

I’m all a dither.  One minute we’re chilling on our moving house then we go scooting across some water to see our friends Debbie and Stephen for a sleep over.  We were on best behaviour but Thornton still managed to drop lots of fluff everywhere.  Our favourite owner was equipped with a brush and pan and followed us around.  Stephen now loves us.  OK, he won’t admit it but I understand these reluctant humans.  They don’t want to lose face by admitting that we can be cute and cuddly and an asset to anyone, anywhere. Debbie was a push over from the start and seems to favour Thornton but I don’t care because I know I’ve got so much more to offer.

We’re now in a new home on land.  I’m not sure what’s going on but we go outside on those lead things and have time to check out the wildlife.  There are lots of little things running about on the ground and I’ve tried to catch them but they’re too quick.  Or I’m getting too old.  I’ve managed to open a cupboard in the kitchen with my paw and nose and it freaks the owners out incase I can do the same to the fridge.

Every time they go out and leave us on our own she says “No wild parties while we’re out boys.”  I’m seriously worried about her.  Do they really think we’re going to just sit here and behave?  Dumb humans.

 

Peri 5/3

We’ve been moving around a lot recently and seen some interesting places.  There was one where we were attached to land and we got lots of comments from people walking past so Thornton and I smiled nicely for them.  The food has changed a few times as well.  My favourite owner tried serving up something disgusting once but when she put it down in front of us we just looked at it and walked off, AND we were really hungry.  Sometimes you have to put your paw down.  Then they ate ham in front of us.  Thornton got some scraps because his eye’s still closed a bit but I think he’s just putting it on now.  I lay on the sofa trying to look cute and very weak and eventually she gave me a bit of ham as well.  They brought some fish home this week and made a big fuss of chopping it up for us, telling us how nice it was but Thornton and I don’t like Chinese food, it’s far too spicy.  We’ve been with them all our lives and they still don’t know that by now?  I despair.

Where we are now is so windy that when I look over the side upstairs my ears get pinned back and my whiskers go all flat.  It’s quite refreshing but favourite owner panics and worries about me.  I like to keep her keen.

 

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.