When the windows were finally fitted on Betsy in Jolly Harbour we set sail to Barbuda. We had a fast sail and only put the engine on as we approached Palmetto point. Barbuda only rises just over 100 feet from sea level, so, you do not see it until you are only a few miles away. It is surrounded by pristine seas and reefs and on the west, "9' foot bank". There was a lot of swell and breaking water of the point so we cautiously edged our way inside the bank keeping off the shore between 100-200 meters as the pilot book suggested. The waves were bouncing about and I watched as the depth gauge read 3.4 to 1.4 then remembering it always reads one meter more than is actually there, I revved the engine and waited to feel Betsy bounce on the sand! Greatfully she did not. However sand does in fact shift, so I would not go inside the bank again. We anchored on 17 degrees 37 north so as to be sure when we left in the night we would be missing all obstacles. We left at 0300 the wind from behind so we jib sailed. There was a big swell so we put up a reefed main and took it in turns to sleep. We had to average 6 kts so as not to enter Isnt Maarten in the dark. We skirted to Barts (which looked very busy) which was full of yachts and small cruise ships and motor sailed up to Great Bay in Sint Maarten. The island is divided up between the Dutch and French. As we were short of daylight we went to the Dutch side. There we were met by three enormous cruise ships at their dock. The largest of which carries 8000 people- the size of a small town! A bit different from Barbuda where the inhabitants total 2000. We had a very uncomfortable night at anchor with a swell setting in and the constant manoeuvres of the small boats ferrying passagengers back to their cruise ships. The next morning we went into Bobbys marina at least we were stable. Philipsburg was basically a giant 'mall' full of duty free 'stuff', so a bit different from any of the other island countries we had visited. Colins knee decided to collapse in the morningso, we made our way to th ispital as it was saturday. After a good deal of waiting Colin received an injection in his glutinous maximus and a prescription for a set of crutches! This has given him back his mobility and some conficence. Back on Betsy we hastily set off for Anguilla and anchored inRoad Bay. Having had a series of long sailing days we decided to stay here for 5 days. It is dry with very little rai so there is a desalination plant. Much of its coast is a marine park where you cannot stay overnight. In our anchorage turtles regularly swim past and shoals of tiny fish seek out the shade of Betsy. The colour of the water is a stunning turquoise blue. There are 40 churches on the island and around 13000 inhabitants. It is administered by Britain after some unpleasantness in the late 60s when the UK tried to lump Anguilla with St Kitts and Nevis. The Anguillans revolted and to cut a long story short invaded only to be met by " goats and curious small boys"! After supper tomorrow we will set sail for our last overnight passage. We will arrive in VirginGorda ready to meet Ewan and Lilla in Tortola next week.
While in Dominica we took a hike with Seacat to Middleham falls. There had been too much rain to swim in the pool, nevertheless it was very impressive cascading over 75'. Seacat (whose other name is Octavius) whistled for the Mountain whistler bird and within seconds two had flown to the trees above us! Apparently they have seven different songs all of them thin and haunting. One of the joys of Dominica are the very friendly people who live there. They are justily proud of their stunning island . We particularly enjoyed the local bread called 'bakes' which are either plain or filled with fish. The famous Sukie's bread/gas/oil that is everywhere we later learnt, is run by a man called Sukie!!!We decided to cement our diving experience by doing two dives in Soufriere marine park. No one is allowed to anchor in this giant underwater volcanic creater. Consequently the marine life and corals are absolutely stunning. That was the last of the good weather and clear water, as for the next 3 days the wind howled and the rain fell so hard the sea went flat. We had to put out 55 meters of chain with a huge weight called an angel that we slipped down the anchor chain as well. After the howling winds and rain abated we looked across the bay only to notice that the large listing fishing boat had sunk in the middle of the bay! Our passage from Portsmouth Dominica to Deshaies in the north of Guadeloupe was the wettest we had experienced since sailing in Scotland. Both of us even felt a little cold! We decided to go to the small marina on the south wesr of Guadeloupe only to find that as it was saturday afternoon it was effectively shut! The French enjoy their weekends. However we berthed momentarily beside a Dutch yacht called Grutte Grize. We left and half an hour later they called us on the VHF to say they were friends of the couple on the yacht Bojangles. It was lovely to have Rob and Baudine's good wishes passed on to us via Grutte Grize. Bojangles was awaiting a new mast in Trinidad having lost theirs in the Atlantic crossing. We had met them more than 2 years ago while doing our SSB training in the Isle of Wight. We had a fantastic crossing up to English harbour in Antigua and were met and escorted to a anchorage by Elwyn from Ishtar! English harbour is very similar to the docks in Bristol without the superyachts. One was for sale for £54 million! I wonder why it was not £51 or £52 million? We went to a very jolly BBQ on the beach and fell into bed exhausted. After fueling up we re anchored closer into the beach wherethe boats 'dance'. Because of the eddys of the tide, the yachts are one minute far away from eachother and the next minute touchng! Elwyn and Mo advised us to put out fenders around Betsy. What was amazing is when we brought the anchor up the chain had actually twisted in on itself during the 'dancing' and had to be unfurled. We jib sailed between the reefs and the island up to Jolly harbour marina where we are having four small windows rebedded as they had begun to leak. From here we here we head north to islands we have not visited which will be exciting.
Before leaving Grenada we had a lovely meal at he Coyaba Hotel on Grande Anse Beach, where over 13 years ago we had stayed for our honeymoon! While we were still in Prickly Bay Grenada Colin decided it was time for a hair cut so sought out the local Barbers. The shop was run by two friendly Rastafarians with dreadlocks down to their knees. It seemed strange however, that as a Rastafarian you do not cut your hair on religious grounds and here they both were cutting mens' hair for their living! However, it was a very fine haircut. It was 30 EC (Caribbean dollars) which is about £8.00 nearly as cheap as a haircut in Moffat! In order to finish our Padi Open Water dive certificate we had to do a lot of practising in the shallows, taking our masks off and on, using alternative air amongst other things. On our fist dive we saw a huge Atlantic Trigger fish - amazing and a huge Grouper amongst a myriad of sea creatures and corals totally breath taking. After passing various tests and dive planning exercises we have now gained our certificates. I swam after dark one evening and the phosphorescence was like swimming through dancing diamonds at every stroke. Colin also saw the 'green flash' which in the Caribbean you are meant to see just after the sun sinks below the sea at the horizon when the sky is clear. We leave for St Lucia tomorrow, we will both be sad to leave such amazing dive sites.
Well we arrived back in Power Boats in Chagaramus Trinidad to see lovely Betsy with a very shiny hull. It took us 5 days to re stow all our belonging from the store there. We had taken everything off Betsy last May so she could be fumigated as found Palmetto Coakroaches! Only 4 but they are particularly large and scuttling! We had ordered a new bimini (suncover for the person at the wheel) which was excellent and high enough so Colin did not need to bend his head. Trinidad was very very hot and humid. Huge rain clouds formed and the ground became awash with water. Colin dripped continually so ended up having a small towel around his neck. Obviously I glowed attractively! It was a joy to finally be in the water again and feel Betsy move. We headed north into the night towards Grenada, passing east of the gas fields just north of Trinidad. We had a fantastic sail broad reaching with hydrovane through the night. We approached Prickly Bay in the south west of Grenada shortly after dawn. We had two days to prepare Betsy for our friends John and Sue Head. The first full day we sailed round to the leeward coast and found a beautiful anchorage at Halifax Bay just north of the capital St Georges. We had a bouncy run up to Carriacou. Sue did not feel unwell at all, even though it was fairly rough at times thanks to her new scopoderm patches. We headed up to the Grenadines and Chatham Bay in Union Island. We had a traditional Caribbean meal of fish, chicken, lentils plantain rice and vegetables. Our ferryman a chap called Obama (not the ex president) helped us ashore. The winds at the end and beginning of the year are called 'Christmas winds'. They are strong and from north of east. However, we managed to have a lovely sail from Union up to Bequai where we spent 2 nights. Turning south again, we had a blustery night at anchor in Cannoun. The winds were shrieking down the steep hillsides so we had an uncomfortable night. As the wind was too strong for the Tobago Cays we anchored in Salt Whistle Bay on the island of Mayreau. This was an idyllic anchorage a horseshoe of silver sand edged with coconut trees! A short sail to Petite Martinque for the night then a wonderful fast downwind sail to Carriaour and then onto Grenada where we berthed at Port Louis marina in St Georges. We had a very good 10 days with the Heads. Lots of great sailing and fun and games. Sue definitely found her sea legs and enjoyed it! As well as being a fabbie cook in the galley she managed to make a meal for 4 people from a very small and expensive red snapper! It was great having John with all his experience, helping with anchoring, splicing etc. We are now in Prickly Bay, the sail down from St Georges had Betsy going nearly 9knots, just with a reefed yankee! We had an updated windmill fitted as the old one ceased to work. We came to Grenada for our honeymoon over 13 years ago, so it is a special place for us. February 7th is Independence Day here in Grenada so, there were lots of steel bands and many of the houses were decorated in the colours of the Grenadian flag. We will be staying until the end of next week when we will head up to Carriacou to finish our Padi Open Dive certificate!
We stayed in Chatham Bay, Union Island for a few days before making our way down to Tyrell Bay in Carriacou. While we were in Chatham Bay the winds were strong one night and the dinghy turned over with the little outboard on it. So that was the end of it, thank goodness! It had worked at best only [...]
We left beautiful Barbuda bound for Jolly Harbour, Antigua. There we met Elwyn from Ishtar who invited us to join him and Mo at the Royal Navy 'Tot' club of Antigua and Barbuda. We had a fantastic sail round to Falmouth Harbour. Unfortunately we got a bit caught up in on of the 'Oyster Regatta Races' (see photo) and had to alter course on several occasions! Betsy was no match for these racing giants. The 'Tot' club was thoroughly entertaining and suffice to say that after the large 'tot' of Rum the very memorable evening then became, less memorable and rather blurred and fuzzy. We had a very jolly evening aboard Ishtar the following day, meeting other folk from Cornwall. We met up with John and Chris on their Bowman40 Oriel for tea and cake. They have been out in the Caribbean for many years and were very generous in sharing their experiences. After having an enjoyable evening with Simon and Jenny from Fenecia (who we met in Porto Santo all those months ago) we left the socializing of Antigua and headed south. Next year we may stay for classics week. We anchored briefly at Pigeon Island Guadeloupe, then had a very wet sail down to Dominica. The rain fell so heavily from the skies the mountains were obscured. As we went below soaked through, it reminded us of many of our summer holidays sailing in Scotland! Luckily the following day dawned bright and sunny. A walk in the forests to find parrots was the quest with our guide Winston. Suffice to say after a lovely cool walk in the forest we saw briefly a pair of parrots flying away from us. We did however, hear them squawking. The Customs and Immigration in Dominica has to be the easiest and most yacht friendly of all the island countries. we have visited. You check in and out at the same as long as you do not spend more than 2 weeks. On our way south we picked up a mooring at Seacat's Pier and arranged a tour with him the following day. His real name is Octavious Lugay and he is a very experienced trekker and guide (see photo). We had a wonderful day eating the best little bananas ever, cassava bread smoked chicken from on of his chums kitchen a chocolate factory ending up with a cool dip in the Emerald Pool with the sound of the mountain whistler bird surrounding us. It was with a heavy heart we left stunning Dominica. The huge mountain outline of the island stayed with us as we reached Martinique and St Pierre. A quick overnight stop before setting off at first light for Rodney Bay in St Lucia. There we watered up and bought a few stores for the last few weeks on Betsy. Unfortunately there had been a violent incident in Wallilibou a few weeks ago so. we reluctantly decided to skip St Vincent. We had previously had a find time meeting up with Rosi and Orlando along with Curtis in Kearton Bay beside Wallilibou. So, from Rodney Bay we sailed then motored the d63 nm to Bequia. the weather here has become decidedly hotter as Summer appears. Apparently Trinida is even hotter! We cannot believe it is now less then 3 weeks before we will be flying back to the UK and our year out will be over!