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Martinique and Dominica
Jane, warm with sunny

Martinique and carnival, it does not get much better. We enjoyed it so much six years ago we decided to try and make sure we did not miss it this year. We were in luck and even had friends around to share it with. During the four day holiday of Carnival festivities, the island comes to a stand still. The parades and parties start on Big Sunday and finish on the Wednesday evening when the carnival effigy, the "Vaval" King is burned on a huge bonfire. Monday is the comical wedding, Tuesday red devils where EVERYONE wears red, and Wednesday she-devils and black and white dress.

There are marching groups, all singing and dancing (well girating), painted and dressed in fantastic outfits. Up to 50 people, of all ages, at a time. The energy is addictive, everyone is smiling, laughing and having fun. We never saw anyone out of order, even with the beer and rum that was often flowing. There were also all the youngsters on the cars that they had converted, they sat on the roofs, bonnets, sides and none fell off. We surprisingly did not see any police, although they were probably there just dressed up like everyone else.

A lot of the guys are dressed up as women, especially on the last day and women in all kinds of stockings and fun outfits, showing lots of booty. However, we noticed that the atmosphere was a lot more toned down, still naughty, but not so blatenty sexual. Even the music was not as primal, so the girating was less. So wonderful to see so many people having such a fantastic time. Not to be missed if you are in Martinique in February.

After Carnival we returned to Marin to pick up Russell's new glasses. He had been to the Opthomologist while we were there, looks like his right eye might need surgery within the next five years, but different glasses have made a huge difference. We had a belated anniversary dinner at the Zanzibar which we would highly recommend to anyone when they go to Marin. Then a final shop for French goodies before we checked out and headed north. It took us five days to get to Dominica as we stopped off at some of our favorite anchorages on the way, enjoying easy days of sailing and snorkeling.

The weather at last has improved and it has hardly rained for the last three/four weeks, even the wind seems to have calmed down at last. Lucky as Russell needs to go up the mast to check our VHF aeriel tomorrow. We have been in Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth, Dominica for about ten days and have a visa for two weeks, so we are looking at upping the anchor on Wednesday. We just love Dominica and wanted to spend a decent amount of time here as we only managed a few days on our last visit.

On our arrival we met up with our friends Bryce and Martha on Silver Fern. They are moving north quite quickly as they plan to spend the hurricane season in the states. We are not sure when we will see them again, probably in New Zealand when we are next there or going through the Pacific. We had a wonderful three days together. Went on a fantastic snorkeling trip and we hired a car and had a very amusing day checking out the west coast, Emerald pool and Spanny waterfall. The boat boys here have set up quite the organisation called PAYS. There is no pressure, just lots of help if you want it. We have become friends with quite a few and have been to a couple of their bi-weekly beach BBQs. A great way to meet locals, other cruisers and dance the night away - although the rum punches (no limit) are evil and should be drunk with extreem care.

Since our last visit there has been some change, but mostly for the better apart from a new (low key) hotel they are building near the Fort. The four freighters that graced the town's shore front have gone and the local shops and buildings seem in much better repair. Luckily there are no big hotels anywhere on the island, it is just a magical, tropical paradise. Dominica has seven potentially active volcanos (most other Caribbean islands only have one) which explains the dramatic scenery. They call it the island of Nature and it has been wonderful exploring the interior. The Forestry Department have made extensive trails and it is possible to hike from the south of the island all the way to the north over 14 segments (2 weeks). A spectacular hike I would imagine, we only did small parts and it was breathtaking.

With our friends Jane and Sean from Happy Hour we took more time off from boat jobs. A must walk is the Cabrits National Park which is in the north part of our anchorage. Here the jungle has taken over part of Fort Shirley, quite eerie, but fasinating. We again hired a car and went to Syndicate and Trafalgar waterfalls, delightful hikes and finished off the day with a swim up Titou Gorge to the falls there. They were quite weird, rather like Petra in Jordan, but in the water - fantastic.

I have put up two albums of pictures, one of Martinique and one of Dominica for you to enjoy.

Grenadines and Carriacou
Jane, warm with sunny periods
02/24/2014, Martinique

We left Barbados with Jim and Patti after enjoying a couple of nights in the luxurious marina of Port St. Charles, on the north east coast, where we had arrived. Whilst there we by chance bumped into an old friend; who was there with her partner's family. Sarah was our first female, and youngest commodore a few years back at the Royal Vancouver Yacht Club, it was great to spend a little time together.

Our overnight trip to Bequia was a tad bumpy. Poor Jim and Patti suffered the dreaded "Mal de Mar" and were very happy to stay in lovely Bequia for a couple of days before we headed off again. They were due to leave us at Union and the generator was organised to be fixed there too. We stopped off at Mayreau Island and Tabago Cays, two of our favorite spots, although sadly there was a lot of wind. We even had 40 knots at anchor in Tabago Cays; which made snorkling and swimming slightly harder work than normal, although we saw lots of marine life including turtles.

Jim and Patti were able to enjoy Happy Island at Union while we got our "new" generator fixed by some mechanics that flew up from Trinidad. Happy Island is an island made of conch shells. A local entrepreneur collected all the shells, that were in piles everywhere on the beach, and took them out to the end of the reef. They slowly grew and what was a shack bar six years ago is quite the busy little bar where the owner now lives. It is a great place to watch sunset over a rum punch, but be warned they are VERY strong. As it was Jim and Patti's last night onboard Ta-b we went ashore to Clifton for a lovely dinner and to celebrate the fact that at long last we had a working generator. They said that the flight from Union to Barbados was incrediable, lots of stunning islands, reefs and turquoise sea, a wonderful way to see the Caribbean from a different perspective.

It was now serious time to chill out. We did not realise how tired we were, we have done a huge amount of mileage in the last year. So it was great to spend ten days mainly around PSV and Carriacou doing not a lot before we went back up to Bequia to meet up with our friends on Happy Hour and Sonsy Lass. We met both boats on the EMYR and last year saw them on our trip up to Venice and in Gibraltor. Our plan was to share some of our favorite places in the Grenadines before we started to head north. What a fantastic time we had together.

While we were in Bequia we were able to enjoy an amazing three course lobster dinner one evening while listening to some bands playing in the Mount Gay Rum music festival. Then it was off to Mustique for the start of the Blues Festival that is an annual event there. It was magic. We were supposed to only spend three nights there, but the band who we got to know said we had to stay for the Wednesday jump up as it was not to be missed. We were not dissappointed and would recommend making sure you are in Mustique at the end of January next year.

We met some fasinating people at Basil's Bar, however we would not know if they were rich or famous as we do not follow the social scene. Kate and Will (with son George) were on the island, but we did not see them. However, we were invited to a cocktail party at a beautiful house on the east coast that had a gorgeous beach and spectacular views. It was called "Sapphire House" and it is a fantastic home owned by the developer of Mustique. Our hostess was a three time olympic gold medalist for riding horses; she rents out a different home each year. There are about 90 private homes on the island, about 50 of which you can rent out. The staff (there were five at Sapphire) all live on site and are mostly from St. Vincent. It is worth going online, just to dream about which one you would rent, if you ever had a chance.

We then went back to Tabago Cays, Mayreau, PSV and Union before heading down to Carriacou. Happy Hour were staying in the Grenadines and Sonsy Lass had headed up to St. Lucia to buy a new tender and motor - lucky things, we are so jealous ☺ Whilst we were in Union we caught up with Dick and his crew on Van Kedesi. They were heading down to Grenada from Antigua and were due to put VK on the hard on the 10 February for nine months. We saw them again in Carriacou, sadly they lost their second genoa on the way, so many drinks were consumed on Ta-b that night in commiseration.

We had a wonderful time in Carriacou in Hillsborough, Palm Island and Tyrell Bay catching up with old friends. Our friend Uli works in the sail loft and we met her at the Slipway restaurant; a locals place to go for Sunday lunch. For 25ec (about $10) they have the best BBQ tuna, ribs, salad and fries. There are a lot of expats and cruisers who now live and work in Carriacou. It is a delightful island with no big hotels, just the odd guest house, or a villa or two you can rent. It has hardly changed since we were last there six years ago, hopefully it will stay as charming for many years to come.

We were also able to link up with Certitude who we had not seen since we left the Caribbean from St. Martin. Steve became a good friend when we were last in the Caribbean and now does a couple 3-5 day charters from Carriacou to Bequia a month for a German company. A great way to pay off boat costs ☺

It was time to sneak up north, so after checking out of Carriacou we popped into Union to meet Happy Hour for the full moon party, then spent a couple of nights in Bequia where we meet up with Jenna of Liverpool who we last saw in Cyprus and friends from Petronella whose boat is still in Turkey, although they plan to sail over at the end of the year. Jenna were on their way south and Petronella had rented a boat for two weeks and when we met them were staying in a lovely villa ashore. Always wonderful to see boating friends who we had not seen for a couple of years.

We had some fantastic sailing up to Martinique where we checked in after spending a night in Rodney Bay, St. Lucia with friends on Sonsy Lass. When we were here last we found the energy in St. Lucia and St. Vincent very negative, which is why we decided not to spend any time there. Sad really as both islands are very beautiful, although very wet; which is why they are so lush.

Arriving in Marin we could not believe how many boats there were. They have tripled in the amount with a huge new marina for 250 boats and 100 bouys laid out in the anchorage. It was packed with French, but very few cruising boats. Heading to the shops it was great to pick up wonderful French food and wine before we left for the quieter anchorage of St. Annes where we are now staying until the end of the week. We have our Australian friend Andrew on board for a while until he sets off again to Barbados where he is getting free shipping for his boat back to Australia. He was one of 17 rowing boats in the Atlantic Challenge. He came first in his class of solo rower and came seventh overall. Five boat crews had to be rescued and as you can imagine he has some fascinating stories. It is a delight to have him stay and we have had quite a few curious visitors with his boat tied on behind us.

The weather, like the rest of the world, floods in England and snow today in Vancouver, has not been normal for this time of year. Lots of sunshine, but also more wind and rain then we remember. Keeps us on our toes as we often have to jump up when a squall comes through to rush around closing hatches. We have been kept busy as the hull needs constant cleaning, lots of spring cleaning inside and jobs to cross off on the "to do" list. The odd rum punch over sunset certainly helps with the constant sociallising with new and old boating friends ☺ Life is treating us very well on board Ta-b, we feel blessed. Enjoy the photos.

Jane, warm with sunny periods
01/01/2014, Barbados

We eventually arrived in Barbados on the afternoon of 19 December, a little later than we had planned, but without the wind instruments we were really pleased with our time. With them we might have a got in a couple of days earlier, but to us it was not a race, just getting ourselves and Ta-b safely across the Atlantic was our aim. We only broke one glass and no one got hurt so we feel we did well ☺

On our arrivel we stopped at Port St. Charles to fill up with water, and to connect to shore power to see if we could get the water maker started without problem. Good news is that it was still okay having not been used for over two weeks. We were unable to stay at the dock (no room at the inn) overnight and instead put the anchor down in the bay once Jim had met up with Patti and we had sorted out paperwork (lots of it) at customs. It was a night of celebration as you may imagine.

The last part of our trip we had a lot of squalls that really kept us on our toes. Swells were all over the place too and up to 5 meters at times, so not the greatest conditions. We came across an Italian 53' Halberg Rassey on our 11th day out of Cape Verdes who were having problems with sleep and said everything was wet on their boat, they were delightful but sadly sounded really fed up. We thought the wind was 25 knots, but they advised us that it was 30 and that the gusts and squalls we were having were 40/50 knots. It showed us how well Ta-b was handling the weather that is for sure.

The day after we arrived Amy and Edwin arrived, so the boat is still a total mess although we did manage to get some laundry done after about five days. Laura their friend arrived on the 23 Dec and we managed to see and do a lot with them in the short time they were on board. We had 15 people for Xmas dinner having been ashore at the Boat Yard club (just in front of our boat) all day. Lots of rum, no one feeling any pain; which was good as the heavens opened and our cockpit was not as dry as normal. Did I mention generator? It is amazing what you can do on a camping stove, even for Christmas, but boy do I look forward to having limitless water, washing machine, oven, microwave, etc. back again. Oh the luxuries of life ☺ We are back in the Caribbean so nothing moves fast, we hope it will be fixed here or in Martinique early in the New Year.

Barbados on the whole is a very wealthy island, especially the west and south side. Rihanna grew up here and has one of the mega homes near Hole Town which is one of the fancier areas on the west coast. The people are a friendly, happy bunch and very industrious. This is an island where there is something for everyone and we have enjoyed surfing, snorkeling the wreaks in the marine park beside our boat, crazy rides in local buses, fish frys (a local Caribbean Friday night tradition with BBQ fish and music), the beach, two yacht clubs, etc.. Plenty of nightlife for the kids as well. We would have liked to have rented a car, but none were available, however we have found local transport to be much more entertaining and interesting.

The weather could have been a bit better. It is still windy with quite a bit of cloud and rain, but we have had warm sunny days too. Just being with the kids on board, chilling out, catching up, has made our Christmas. The odd rain shower just added to the amusement and is part of life here.

We spent New Year's eve with Kim and Cam, plus their kids (Amy and Edwin left yesterday as they have to work), Jim and Patti. The Barbados Yacht club had an evening do on the beach with dinner, music, dancing and fireworks a great way to see in 2014. Patti and Jim are joining us on Ta-b today for ten days and we hope to sail across to the islands to show them another side of the Caribbean once we have sorted out the generator. Photos to follow hopefully soon. Carpe Diem J&R

Remote sailblogs update
12/13/2013, Day 9-15

Blog 131213

It is now Friday, 13 Dec and a week since our last update.

If it is not one thing it is another and on our second day out of the Cape Verdes our wind instruments decided to pack a sad. The boys checked everything possible apart from going up the mast, seas and swells have been too confused and large for anyone to volunteer! So it has been back to old school and so far we have managed to work out what we have. Would have been good to have the wind vane for steering wing on wing, but our auto helm has done a pretty good job of it, so all is good.

On our third day out we put up our big red parasail, but were only able to keep her up for a day. Plan was to fly her for the whole trip, no such luck though this year. We have had way too many lows giving us little to no wind and have had to do a lot of motoring or motor/sailing. However, we had had some lovely sunny days and enjoyed dolphins daily. We have also been pretty successful fishing (when we put the line out) and to date have caught three large dolphin fish (maui maui) one baracuda and three ??? fish (not sure what they were, they had very thick skins, but certainly were tasty).

On our seventh day out of the Cape Verdes the wind eventually came up and we have been going great guns ever since. Chewing off the miles, at last it looks like we will get to Barbados sometime late Wednesday, 18 December. We have been averaging 160-170 mile days and the grib files show that we have the trades for at least a week. Mind you the swells and squalls have been fun, feels like we are in a washing machine at low/medium cycle whilst going up and down about 9 feet into the air at the same time. We are lucky though as Ta-b is a very stable platform. Kim and I were dreaming together about washing and having a shower (9 days out and we are certainly feeling it, especially my hair), so what happens today but we get a squall which covers us in ... seawater, not the shower we were hoping for.

Did I mention cooking? Our new camping stove is now equipped with a makeshift front to stop (well it helps) pans from falling off it. Have managed to make bread, muffins and cookies with the pressure cooker and frying pan - we are so proud of ourselves. Most of our fresh produce is now gone, but we are still well stocked and are eating excellent meals every day. Don't think any of us will have lost weight this trip ?

We have seen a few boats, but not many. The night watches are becoming easier with the moon growing and giving us her lovely bright light. We cracked the bubbly yesterday to celebrate only 1000 miles to go and Ta-b is looking after us well. Next blog will be from Barbados, can't wait to have my first swim back in Caribbean waters. Take care everyone, with love from us all on Ta-b

Remote sailblogs update
12/05/2013, Atlantic D1-8

Gotta Love Boats - that is the mantra we keep reminding each other, as we face each obstical that this life afloat throws at us.

We are now on day 8 after leaving Gomera in the Canaries. Our first day out even though there was not a lot of wind we managed to sail all night and day, the highlight being when we caught a large dolphin fish. Largest catch to date and made for a lovely fresh dinner for everyone.

The second day out we had no wind and ended up doing some motoring in the sunshine with flat seas. Decided to go for boat speed and enjoyed the 1 knot current and winds, when they come up, off the African coast. On my watch I had a first when a dolphin breached off the port bow, normally they don't come totally out of the water.

By day three the wind was still all over the place, but by following it around we were able to sail all day, however it was overcast and quite cool. By this time I had had two days out of the galley, a rarity for me as Russ does not cook. Kim, Jim and myself are taking turns being on for the day (galley slave) and as there are five of us on board it means that when we are galley slave we have a day off watch - works well for me ?

Not much fun when I was on the 9 - 12 evening watch as it was also so dark you could not see the horizon. However I did have a magical half hour when the phosphorescence was incredible, normally it just follows us behind the two hulls or alongside the rear of the boat, but it was everywhere, off the bow, sides, behind and not just close by, but far away too. There were masses of flashes, small, big, bright and then glowing. Sometimes it seemed as if another boat was near by, but it was just the phosphorescence in the distance. A very cool experience.

Day four was more of the same winds, but it was also cold and wet. We celebrated my brother's birthday in the evening with roast lamb. We have not been eating meat as Jim is vegetarian, but this is a tradition on board Ta-b and we even finished up with chocolate brownies and candles.

The next day the wind was a bit better at 7.5 knots and we were making 5 knots which was not bad. But it was not a good day. We had a problem with our new generator and it did not look like an easy fix, even with all the spare parts we had bought with it. We do all our cooking, water making and laundry using it so, as Russ says, it is our life's blood. On top of that my computer decided to take a sad too, thank goodness before we left we made sure that we got Russell's working with the programs we need as backup.

By day six we had made the decision to head for Mindelo in the Cape Verdes islands. We were praying that our generator people would come up with a solution, but we are now having to wait until Barbados before we can get it fixed. However the four whales that we saw cheered us up as we had only seen dolphins so far. Have seen more of them since, quite the site, Cam nearly ran over a couple ? but we always stay well clear.

We got into Mindelo on day seven having motored for two days. We enjoyed catching up with our friends on Van Kedisi who have had autopilot problems; which are now luckily fixed. It was a quick 24 hour turn around; while we searched out a decent camping stove (we had been using a little emergency one we have), filled up with water and fuel, cleaned up the boat and brought fresh provisions. Shopping however was very limited and expensive. The place reminded us of the windward islands in the Caribbean.

Since leaving Mindelo the winds have been light and we have had to motor for ten hours, however the trades look like they may start tomorrow and we are currently sailing in 8.5 knots and making 5 knots over the ground. We will be a lot happier when they settle in as we really want to be in Barbados by 20 December for our kids arrival. Will post another blog in about a week and in the meantime hopefully you will have been able to follow us on winlink's position map under VA7JHP. Love to you all J&R

Last Days in the Canaries
Jane, cloudy but warmish
11/26/2013, La Gomera

One more sleep and then we will leave tomorrow from La Gomera; which is one of the three only places you can check out of in the Canaries for Barbados. Alas the wind is not looking good for us, from Wednesday onwards all we can see is very little wind and in the wrong direction so we will not have time to stop in the Cape Verdes. Not a bad thing as once one gets going on a long leg it is sometimes not a good thing to stop.

On our way to Gran Canaria we stopped at Arrecife, mid east side of Lanzarote. We had been chased out of Puerto de Naos by a very officious port policeman when we tried to anchor, and there was not a lot of room in Arrecife, but we managed and even had our first take out dinner on board from the local chinese - it was so good.

Getting into Peurto de La Luz in Las Palmas we were welcomed into the marina much to our surprise as the place was nearly full with ARC boats, we ended up managing to stay for four nights before they threw us out. It was the cheapest place we have ever moored and it was great as water and electricity were included, so I managed to do 16 loads of laundry (cockpit cushions included) while we were there. Spent some time with our friends on Sonsy Lass who are on the ARC+ rally which left on the 10th November, were even invited to one of the ARC dinners which was fun. We were amazed at how unprepared a lot of the boats were and the chandlers were having a field day. Each participating boat is checked over by the organisers and there was a lot of groaning going on as a lot of boats thought that some requirements were a bit OTT. Our friends medical kit to meet the ARC specifications cost them 1,100 pounds, a bit excessive they thought, as did we.

We ended up staying in Las Palmas longer than planned at anchor, as we were able to get some jobs sorted out there and bumped into a few people that we had not seen since we were in the Caribbean. Richard and Pip on their last evening took us to a fantastic steak restaurent called 9 Calla Portugal, it was excellent and we would recommend it to anyone who will be in LP and likes meat. We also rented a car for a day and went up into the mountains, what a treat to see autumn/fall colours and enjoy some of the interior of the island.

From Gran Canaria we headed to Santa Cruz the capital of Tenerife in the north east corner. Yet again we had to go into a marina as there are not a lot of safe anchorages amoungst the islands. Yet again we hired a car and had a look around the island, just delightful with some charming villages and the huge Tiede volcano was fascinating. We headed south to San Miguel, a very popular golfing area with a huge choice of different cuisines on the broadwalk and a lot of English who winter over there.

We had planned to go to La Palma which is locally known as Bonita (pretty island) which is the most unspoilt of the islands and very beautiful. However half way there the wind and waves picked up dramatically and for the first time ever we decided to turn around and went to La Gomera instead. It was a good decision and we ended up going to La Palma a few days later by ferry for a couple of nights as there was no way we were going to be able to get there on Ta-b in the time we had. Yet again we hired a car and toured around the island. It is a little gem, which sadly the German walking clubs have found, and even in November (normally a quiet month) it was pretty busy. There is hiking everywhere, anything from a half day to a week around the lush forests and volcanos.

We enjoyed La Gomera and met a lot of interesting people there, one being an Ozzie called Andrew Abrahams who is part of the Atlantic Challenge. There are 16 rowing boats with teams of 1-4 people who are rowing in a race across the Atlantic to Antigua. Andrew is one of two solo rowers and we have become his unofficial support boat. Russ helped him with some repairs and we managed to feed him his best meal (he said) since he has left Oz, luckily he likes curry ☺ We look forward to seeing him tonight when we get back to Gomera.

Then it was back to Tenerife and Gran Canaria to pick up our crew, had a couple of great days sailing and met them in Magon which is known to be the little Venice of the Canaries. There was no room at the marina, but luckily we were able to anchor off which in fact we prefer. Our first day it was Friday market day and the place was buzzing, ferries coming and going packed with people - crazy. We met another two British boys who were antifouling their rowing boat and are due to leave for Barbados next week. They are not part of the Challenge - just doing their thing for 60 odd days against the elements. We were impressed. Rowing4research was their boat, if you want to check them out. We did enjoy Magon, the buildings were painted white with different colour trimwork, little canals and lots of great shops and restaurants. A popular place to holiday we would think.

Picked up Kim, Cam and Jim and ended up motoring all the way to Tenerife yesterday and after a good start this afternoon to Gomera we are now motor sailing. Did a huge fresh provision shop this morning, an eye opener for the crew as they are not used to everything being in Spanish and not many people speak English. Also shopping for up to 25 days takes some thought as you can't just run to the shops when you run out of something, and fresh produce does not stay fresh for over three weeks ☺

Memories of the Canaries? Lots of very dark clouds over delightful volcanic islands, no rain but big winds (until yesterday) and sunshine offshore. Old sugar plantations which now grow Bananas, and seem to be everywhere, and fantastic walking trails and forests. It has been fascinating to spend some time here.

We are as ready as we will ever be, and so is Ta-b, and we are keen to get going. Will use to download weather grib files and will update our position there daily. If you want to follow us go to site then map, user positions and type in VA7JHP and you should find us. Can download a short blog remotely to our sailblog site and plan to put a few up on our trip too. Our AIS will also show where we are on various AIS tracker sites too. Barbados here we come, we will write from there. Enjoy the build up to Christmas, we will miss the lovely house lights and snow for sure.

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