On my own...

So, news from us just ground to a halt in January after some idiot managed to hack into the website, but we’re back now and I’ll try and give a flavour of the missing months.

The first few weeks I’d rather forget about as Clive was taken ill, went to see a doctor, had various tests that were inconclusive so he flew back to the UK for a CT scan.  It turned out to be kidney stones, which was a relief, but he needed an operation. 

I’d remained in St.Lucia as we though Clive would only be gone for a week. One week turned into two and I was lucky to have friends on another boat  in the marina as news from the UK was very limited and I wasn’t sure what was going on with Clive.  I started to go stir crazy.  During this time he was staying with our eldest who had just gone back to work after her maternity leave and Luke was teething so she was having quite a stressful time.  She returned home one day to find him doubled up in pain and immediately took him to her local hospital where he remained for a couple of nights heavily sedated.  It was at this point that I packed a bag and returned to the UK to join him.  I had to quickly find somewhere to leave the cats and the local vet seemed a safe option.  I wasn’t at all happy with the condition that they’d be living in but I tried not to think about it too much.

It’s at times like this that I’m grateful to have such good friends as I emailed my dear friend Cherry to ask if we could stay with her and she opened her home to us for as long as we wanted. Clive was out of hospital and had so much medication that he had to carry a bag a round with him.  He had a couple of hospital appointments and a few more tests but when he saw the consultant was given the all clear to go back to St.Lucia.  It was lovely to see family and friends again even though it was for all the wrong reasons but we made the most of our impromptu visit and I had some precious cuddles with Luke.

Back in St.Lucia and CJ met us at the airport. I couldn’t wait to rescue the cats and we went there first.  They were huddled together, cowering in the corner of the room and looking very scared.  Poor babies, I promised never to do that again to them. They were so relieved to be back on the boat and couldn’t stop purring and following us around.

 

By now we were into March and were still in St.Lucia. We’d decided to stay in the marina for a couple more weeks to make sure that Clive was fit and well before moving anywhere.

This was a turning point for us. If we were going to ship Sephina back to the Mediterranean then we’d need to start heading north to be in St. Thomas for April.  This would mean that we’d see nothing south of St.Lucia and I knew that in years to come we’d regret having come all the way across the Atlantic only to miss out on a big chunk of the Caribbean, so we decided to stay for another year. As simple as that!

 

Decision made, we started to head south.

 

Electrical Systems

It is always nice to see friends and you can read more about it in Pink and Fluffy but the arrival of spares and the ability to return faulty items is also welcome. So since completing the ARC a number of systems have needed maintenance or fixing. The RedBox wifi and router unit from Mailasail has been great until it went wrong and the wifi Bat systems (designed to extend your wifi range so you can pick up wifi in anchorages) have not lived up to their reputation. Getting the internet has been very important for us, not only for weather but to stay in touch with friends and family. As I installed two wifi Bats I thought I had it covered. One was at the top of the mast and failed after 2 months, water ingress into the USB connection. At great expense involving an engineer and a rigger the cable was replaced and a new wifi Bat installed. It lasted a year but has also failed. After the first failure I installed a back up on the SatCom pole at the stern. This would be easier to get to if it failed. And sure enough it has. To be fair it was a wifi Bat clone from Crucial wifi but as both wifi Bats proper have failed I am either unlucky or they are not up-to marine installation. I can’t be bothered to get another rigger and engineer up the mast but will have a look at the stern one later.  For the time being our friends brought another Crucial wifi system with a directional antenna and that connected directly to the Mac indoors seems to work. We can aim it at restaurants to pick up their free wifi. Other success are the mast head camera, videos currently being edited and will appear on the site soon, A65 small plotter and AIS under the spray hood, Sat Phone, water maker, washing machine, fans and galvanic isolator. Failures are the deck LED lights and the already mentioned WiFi Bat.  Another important system is the shower. The heater element in the water tank failed and the shower drain pump sounds like a coffee grinder. The element brought from the UK turned out to be the wrong size but the spare pump is at hand if the primary one fails. All this requires battery power and the 750Ah AGMs have proved their worth. So far we run the generator for 3 hours a day and the engine for 30 minutes, in reality for cruiseing the 140Ah solar panels are a bit superfluous with a generator.  Interestingly to monitor the batteries we installed the swishest battery monitor by BEP marine, nice colourful display and great readouts, however the cheap and easy to fit smart gague is far more accurate despite it only having simple connections monitoring voltage.  The other systems all seem to be working for the time being and now having spent many weeks away from marinas I cannot speak to highly of some of the electrical upgrades I made. The aircon sounded a luxury. It is essential. The generator is fantastic and keeps my Espresso Coffee machine at the ready. The upgraded alternator puts lots of juice into the batteries on passage and heats the water while we sort out the electrical heating element. The 32 inch smart TV is great, we can stream films from my Mac book directly to it. The water maker is a dream and keeps us in daily showers. The pure sine wave inverter keeps our phones, laptops and camera charged and powers the TVs. The keel cooler element for the fridge keeps the beers cold on very little energy. We are not slumming it!

 

Friends Visit

Gren and Elaine friends from the UK flew out to St Vincent to join us on our discovery of the Grenadines. This sailing area is one of the world’s best cruising grounds and often features in yachting literature and folklore. 

After they stayed in the famous Cobblestone Inn in Kingstown we met them there for the taxi ride to the marina. We then went off to provision the boat on the famous local busses and stopped on the way for a beer and lunch. A delightful roadside shack clearly sold beer but we asked if they did lunch to which they replied “no the shack next door does”. We went next door and asked if they did lunch and were told, “We only have macaroni or rice.” Not very tempting but there was no choice. So 3 rice and 1 macaroni were ordered and we were then asked if we wanted fish, meat or chicken with it!!!!! What actually came out of the kitchen was rice, macaroni, salad and random meat no matter what was ordered. The drinks shack was more than happy for us to take our food over to them and rums and beers were consumed. After a mediocre pizza at the “Driftwood Restaurant” in the evening we set sail the following day for Mustique. It was an easy beam reach and took a couple of hours. The island was ‘closed’ because VIPs were in town. Yachties were allowed ashore but only to a small section of the beach and cameras were banned. As Raymond put it from Blue Lagoon- “They are not trying to separate the rich from the poor, they’re trying to separate the rich from the very rich”. We had dinner at the famous Basil’s Bar and a good buffet meal it was too. The next day we departed for Tobago Cays and it lived up to all the hype. Not only is it a truly impressive sailing area but the blue, turquoise, and green seas are breathtaking. The small islands lie behind horse shoe reef and there is a turtle population who are tame enough to swim with. So we did. That evening one of the Boat Boys convinced us to have a lobster BBQ on the beach. I am often wary of these tourist attractions but it was truly memorable. Not only was the setting fabulous we were with great friends, we had our own drinks and all of us agreed the lobster was the best we had have ever tasted. Done simply over wood coals with no stupid thermadore sauce that is often used to conceal the tiny amount of lobster in the meal. These were no tiny lobsters. We had 3 huge ones between us! The next day we set sail for Canouan and picked up a mooring ball just off the hotel. A rather deshelved local in a boat tried to get us not to go to the hotel but visit “Mangrove” a local restaurant. He said the beer at the hotel was double the price. We ignored him as the hotel was a stone’s throw away so quickly settled down for a beer, glass of wine and a rum and coke. When we saw the prices of the meals and Gren asked for the bill for the drinks we were soon out of there and off to Mangrove. We should have taken local knowledge. Mangrove turned out to be a crazy place. It was Friday night and the locals were getting down. The DJ was hilarious as he spotted us tourists, not a hard thing to do here, and told us not to worry the locals were just off their medication! Boy did they party. The food was great, the drinks cheap and the music loud and impossible not to dance to. In the morning we headed North for Bequia and arrived at Friendship Bay where we intended to stay the night. We anchored but it was soon clear the place was deserted. We pulled up the hook and sailed round to Admiralty Bay the large yachting community. The place was buzzing and there was a huge choice of bars and restaurants. We went to the famous “Jacks Bar” and we were the only people there. The meal was very good being a sort of French/Caribbean fusion and was the most haute quisine we had had since leaving St Lucia. We asked why it was so quiet and they told us everyone was on the boat. We nodded as if that made sense to us but later in the evening we discovered what she was talking about. In the port area one of the ferry boats had the largest sound systems known to mankind.  You could feel the groove and Gren decided to go and check it out. Luckily he did not get too near because it soon set off. We could hear it for miles as it made its way out of the bay. At 2am the sound returned as it sailed back in. This is apparently a twice-yearly locals party boat then goes around the island to much alcohol and music. We had a second night before our friends left so went to the Gingerbread restaurant that had good food and live local folk type music. It was great hearing some traditional Caribbean music all unplugged. I was so enthused I bought a CD for myself and one for Gren. Mine turned out to be blank so I hope he had better luck. The next morning Gren and Elaine had to make the 9am ferry to Kingstown to catch their evening flight to Barbados and then onto Manchester. There was a 1pm ferry but it was marked as “unreliable”. It was great to discover some of the Grenadines and luckily we have time to do it all again at a slightly slower pace. For now we are holed up in Bequia and we await the Easter Regatta.

We are back online

After we crossed the Atlantic our pace slowed down and so did the updates to the website. The lack of updates was compounded by the repeated hacking of our website. For the technical, we used Joomla content management system. Free and powerful but a little clunky to work with. The version available at the time was 1.5. To update it to more recent versions was a big task as it was a lengthy manual process. Preparing the boat was more important. Unfortunately security vulnerabilities started to be exploited by hackers. Eventually our site was attacked once a week and the internet hosting company took it off line until the vulnerability was fixed. The latest version Joomla 3.3 has much better security and so the task began to port all the content to the new version. This was no easy task. I was helped by my friend Phil who started the process. After 3 weeks of daily fiddling I finally have a version that can go live. It is still work in progress as it needs to be dressed up a bit but all the content is there. We have just completed the articles from Rodney Bay to St Vincent and the Grenadines. where we are now. We are now up to date.

Blue Lagoon and St Vincent

After the stay in Young Island we dinghy-ed over to Blue Lagoon to check out the marina. Blue Lagoon was a big Sunsail Charter base but they have departed to Rodney Bay leaving the economy devastated. The Marina is trying to get back on track and is a great facility. The Cruising Guide still has it listed as a Sunsail Base and also warns of a difficult passage to the lagoon. The reality is that RazMike is at hand. He zaps out to meet you and will pilot you through the deep water channel in the reef. Do not attempt this yourself. He is very skilled and has taken us through 4 times over the weeks. On one occasion the swell was so big we were surfing in on the waves. I was glad RazMike was on the helm. The marina has two great bar restaurants The Black Pearl and Flowt Bar with great views of sunsets over Young Island. The Capital is Kingstown and a bus ride like no other takes you there. The “Vans” take 14 passengers but most of the time they squeeze in 20 with a guy riding “shotgun” whose job it is to find passengers and squeeze them in. With accompanying loud music and fast driving this makes the journey and experience! Kingstown is vibrant and gritty. We never felt afraid and despite the obvious poverty the people were extremely friendly. We love Kingstown and visited it on many occasions. It is one of the places we could live and remains largely undiscovered principally because St Vincent lacks an international airport. This is all set to change soon and we had the amazing experience of driving onto the runway at the construction site of Argyle airport. Despite the lack of tourism the authorities list 32 must do’s and we have done 18 of them so far. The highlights have been Montreal Gardens, the Mespo Valley, a climb up the Volcano, a road trip up the windward side with our friend Raymond the sail maker from Blue Lagoon and Salt Pond at Owia