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Lovely Bonaire
Jane, hot and sunny
10/31/2014, Bonaire

Bonaire; we found the longer one is there, the more it grows on you and the longer you want to stay. Yet again this was so true. Our seven weeks went far too quickly and it was very hard to leave what is for sure one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean.

Bonaire is part of the ABC islands and although part of the Caribbean they are in a class of their own. Tourism has not yet taken the charm from the people who still go out of their way to help you. Luckily we were there in the low season, and it remains the same sleepy, laid back place that we remember from six years ago. The three islands are part of the Netherland Antillies. Bonaire is 50 miles from the Venezueland coast and the smallest at 112 square miles (24 long and 3-7 wide) with Klien Bonaire (a little uninhabited island) off the west coast.

Six years ago there were no cruise ships, but sadly they have recently found this little gem, we can't imagine what it must be like once the season starts on the 4th November. In a couple of years it will become a different place as we saw a lot of building work in progress.

The weather was very kind to us with cool offshore breezes to ease the heat that we remember being quite intense our last visit. We had a few wind reversals, but the mooring buoy we picked did not put us too close to shore. We were in our favorite spot just off the Yellow Sub dive shop; which has fantastic snorkeling and diving. The sea around the two islands is a marine park. There are 63 dive sites off the main island and 24 off Klein Bonaire. You are not allowed to anchor and all boats either take a mooring buoy and go into the marina.

Needless to say, the diving and snorkeling is some of the best in the world and so we pigged out. Be warned there are quite a few underwater pictures with this blog that I took with my new camera. I just love being in the water (above or below) the beauty of it draws me and each time I enjoy looking for that rare treasure that Bonaire always seems to deliver. However, time on board Ta-b is not always play as she is an ongoing concern. Russ especially got a lot of boat jobs done (of course more reared their ugly heads to keep the to do list in balance) and I kept the place running and clean (not an easy task). We had some great days where we took friends out sailing and diving to the more remote sites, with a late leisurely lunch after, before sailing back before sunset.

The boating community are such a wonderful mixed bunch. We made wonderful new friends with numerous nationalities, some who will be friends for ever and we are looking forward to seeing again in the San Blas islands next year and others in Panama/Pacific the following, with more downunder. When we arrived there were only about a dozen boats, but by the time we left nearly all of the 30 odd mooring buoys were taken. There was probably a rush for ours as we left, as it was such a great location. We experienced more boats during regatta week; which was fun, but there was always seemed to be a mooring buoy for all the cruising boats .

When we were last in Bonaire Karel's bar was very unpopular with cruisers as their speakers pointed in our direction and the music at night kept everyone awake until dawn. Thankfully they are now pointed in the other direction and we never heard them, although we were told that they are still loud if you are close to Karels. Also if you are near the fishing boat dock the fishermen tend to wake you up predawn as they shout to each other leaving. Just a heads up for fellow cruisers. There is also a new supermarket in town that does a free shuttle on Tuesdays and Fridays at 10am for all the cruisers, makes life SO much easier.

We used to get together on Wednesdays at the marina with other boaties for their two hour happy hour (2 for 1) and fantastic $8 hamburger night. I am not a hamburger person, but without the bun, a choice of six toppings, salad and fries it made for an easy, yummy, fun and cheap night out. Another weekly event was going to Bobbejan's (only open at the weekend) a Bonaire must. They have a garden to dine in, but we found that it was more fun to have take out and take it to the kids park with a crowd. We all took our own refreshments and enjoyed the ambience of the kids who stay up until all hours in true European fashion.

Our favorite dive site was probably Salt Pier, it is not too deep so I was able to take quite a few pictures and it was always teeming with life. Salt is still exported from the island and one can see many pink flamingos on salt pans. Our second favorite diving spot was off the back of the boat, especially at night when the colours are so fantastic and different fish come out to play. We also went across to the East Coast with friends for a day's outing and enjoyed diving the White Hole, a huge collapsed cave with a white sand bottom with sleeping turtles on the reef.

We have found as we travel we open doors to perceptions we did not previously know exsisted. We meet new challenges, form new friendships and discover new visions of our world. We have a week of hard work to put Ta-b to bed for two months, she will be on the hard at Curacao Marina. Next week we fly back to Vancouver for a quick stop over on our way to Australia to visit Russell's older sister and family. We then go to New Zealand to visit Russell's 91 year old mum, his younger sister and also our best man Foxy who has moved to Queenstown. It will be a busy month before we return to Vancouver for Xmas and New Year.

We hope that we will be able to see many of our friends while we are off the boat, please let us know if you will be around over the holidays. The best way to contact us is via email as our global cell phone is rather expensive. Enjoy some of our Bonaire pictures, it is a place that we would recommend to anyone; especially if you are a diver.



Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgins
Jane, warm and sunny
09/11/2014, Bonaire

Tomorrow, no another day, we found It hard to say goodbye to the Spanish Virgin Islands, as they are locally called. They are part of the offshore islands of Puerto Rico, both of which are territories of the United States. The islands were colonized by the Spanish for four centuries and now offer immersion into the Spanish Caribbean, with the benefit of bilingualism and the convenience of US institutions. Luckily, unlike the other Virgin Islands, they are many years behind in development. Terrific for the getaway cruiser with secluded undisturbed anchorages, pristine beaches and great snorkeling. We saw no charter boats, with only local boats and a few liveaboards like ourselves being around at this time of year.

Culebra and its out laying islands are magic. They have not changed at all since we visited six years ago and we keep our fingers crossed that they will continue to stay a local secret. The beaches and bays are spectacular and the town of Dewey is very quaint with no development. Everyone is terribly friendly, happy, and always helpful. Even the kids came up to us smiling wanting to chat. We can understand why people arrive here and never leave.

During the week Culebra is quiet with Thursday happy hour (well three hours from 3 till 6) at the Dingy Dock being the night that the local liveaboards seem to get together. The food is excellent and it is always busy on Friday and Saturday nights, as they have live entertainment, and people arrive from the mainland for the weekend. The island is only about five miles, by two miles, however it has a wonderful community. There is a great grocery with fantastic butcher, Tues and Friday a fresh market, library with free internet, and even a mini cinema open two nights a week. We were fortunate and met lots of locals, some fascinating characters either living on their boats or ashore. Our neighbour at anchor John helped us set up our new wifi aerial/router system, he left a top job at wall street at 35 to go sailing over 20 years ago and has never looked back.

The weather has been perfect since we have been in the Virgin Islands. For approximately 99% of the time we have had warm, sunny days with the temperature averaging 28-30 degrees with not too much humidity. There have been a few fronts to keep us on our toes, the worst being Bertha when we hid ourselves and Ta-b in the mangroves in Culebra. We hardly moved or felt the wind, although it felt like we were being pressure washed all through the day on and off. Some of our friends stayed out at the anchorage where we had been. They told us they clocked 76 knots of wind at one stage, with one of them being nearly knocked over and another nearly taking flight. It was our first time in the mangroves and it was an interesting and somewhat exciting experience - apart from a major thunderstorm. However, it is an event we hope we never go through again.

We popped back to St. Thomas for a day to get our (new) water maker pump fixed under warrenty and to pick up some parts. Reefco were fantastic and had us sorted out within five hours and we now have masses of water. It did not help Russell's compressed vertibrae though and he was out of action for quite a few days with an painful back. When will we ever learn that we are getting older.... never I fear ☺

After a month we moved onto Viequez which is the largest of the Spanish Virgin islands. Many people consider the bays, coves and beaches the best of all the Virgin Island anchorages. They are totally untouched by developers as they have stayed off limits for most of the 20th century. The US Navy used both Viequez and Culebra for weapons training. The whole eastern half of Viequez has become a marine park, but sadly you can't go hiking inland as there are signs everywhere warning of unexploded bombs. There are no houses, however the beaches are supposed to have been cleaned up. We did not go ashore as there were also wild dogs; which kindof put us off, but the beautiful coves were certainly worth visiting. We did not see a boat or a house for over a week and with no other lights to be seen the stunning night skies and strong phosphorescence were a delight.

We spent our last night in a bay called Ferro where there were six boats at anchor without anyone on board. Two were in the mangroves, but sadly one had been broken into as it was open with no one around. With the recent front that had come through we could imagine the water damage inside, not a happy thought. We left the next day for Salinas as the winds were perfect and we had a fantastic fast sail across to the mainland.

Salinas was dead, nearly everything closed for the season. So we moved onto Ponce hoping to be able to get into the marina there for a few nights so we could go walkabout. We were lucky and got the last spot for a catamaran. It was cheaper for us to spend a week at dock then three nights, water was free and as the weather was forecast to be good we settled Ta-b alongside, hired a car and went off to explore the island. Ended up spending a couple of nights in an airbnb apartment in the old town of San Juan, perfect location and great place to be a tourist. We found a wonderful place for breakfast called Hacienda Isabel, they produce their own coffee and we agreed it is the best we have ever drunk. You can buy on line and we now have some on board. In the plaza by our apartment was one of the oldest restaurants in San Juan, Rosa de Triana. It was so fantastic that we went there two nights running for tapas, sangria and live flamingo dancing. We also visited the Rain Forest and stayed in an awesome boutique hotel at a wonderful low last minute price. Puerto Rico is very lush and a nature lovers paradise.

Just before we left Puerto Rico we cleaned our hull .... Again. With the very warm waters growth was a hassle and we wanted Ta-b to have a fast trip down south. We picked our weather window and had a quick, although bumpy two day sail down to Bonaire. The trip was 434 nm with a maximum squall of 42 knots, although the average was 15-25 knots for the trip. The wind was on our port beam, perfect except for the waves that were also on our port beam max 3 meters, but confussed and a pain. Russ has a recorded max sog (speed over ground) of 11.45 knots; which was probably when the squall hit - thankfully I was off watch ☺ What did surprise us was all the seaweed in the water, it was offshore for at least 300 miles and was not there 6 years ago when we sailed the same leg north. It will be interesting to learn about it, but it certainly stopped our fishing. We took a picture that even shows a can on what looks like a little island.

On the trip our freezer went on the blink. Can you imagine with a friend's cards I had bought out Costco and Sams and had filled the freezer and it looked like I was going to loose the lot. Made friends with a big power boat on our arrival in Bonaire and luckily they had room in their ..... walk in freezer .... for our stuff. Freezer now fixed, electrics, boats ... say no more $$$

Bonaire is one of our favorite islands. We are relieved to find It is not as hot as we remember, however there is a lot of wind at the moment which keeps the temperature down. The water is a couple of degrees cooler, perfect for cooling off and hopefully will keep our hull clean. We will be here for at least a month, if anyone is coming this way, before we head towards Curaco.

I have rambled on. Those following in our footsteps if you want any more information we would be happy to help you. Tips from one cruiser to the next is what makes our community. Take care everyone, keep safe and have fun.

British and US Virgin Islands
Jane, warm and sunny
07/29/2014, 18°18′10″ N

We are now anchored behind the huge reef of Dakity off the secluded Isla de Culebra, one of the Spanish Virgin Islands east of Puerto Rico. It is one of our favorite islands in the Caribbean, small, friendly, with such happy people, a truly beautiful island. The quaint and insular town of Dewey is a delight with some fun bars and restaurants to enjoy, we will stay here for a few more days for sure.

Luckily we now have no agenda to get down to Bonaire, so can slow down a bit more allowing us to enjoy the perfect weather and sailing conditions we have. There are lots of peaceful quiet anchorages with snorkling and diving to explore, we just hope that the weather stays kind to us for a few more weeks.

We stayed another week in the BVIs so that we could enjoy Norman Island, where we met locals at the William Tell floating bar and some fun cruisers. Headed back to Road Town as I got an ear infection, then a sinus infection which I am still battling four weeks later. Saw Doc twice in Tortolla and an ENT guy in St. Thomas on our way west, way too many drugs but no choice. However I am slowly getting better. Worst part is the no swimming, it has been TORTURE.

We had a wonderful sail up to Anegada, an island made up of coral and limestone which at its highest point is only 28 feet above sea level. It is north of Virgin Gorda only 11 miles long with mile after mile of sandy beaches. It is totally unspoilt, quiet and we met some wonderful people there. One day we watched the men's Wimbledon finals with one other guy at Neptune's Treasure (great place for pain killers) and ended up going to Loblolly Bay and had the most amazing conch curry at a locals beach bar. A family reunion was about to take place of all the Vanderpools, our new friend being one from New York. He had some amazing tales, one was how his great grandmother was shipwreaked on her way from England and ended up marrying into one of the eight families on the island. She had seven children, but one old lady had just died who had twenty eight children - I suppose the lack of night life had something to do with it ☺

From Anegada we sailed to Cane Garden Bay on the west coast of Tortola. Great place to party and picture postcard material. Then a quick hop over to Jost Van Dyke the most western island in the BVIs and where it is easy to check out. Foxys is still there and has even more memorabella everywhere, but we did not see Sir Foxy this visit. He is quite famous and talented with a wicked sense of humour. We love Jost Van Dyke, although large it has a small permenant population and there are some great anchorages, one where we stayed White Bay has the famous Soggy Dollar bar. So called because you swim ashore and pay, what used to be a dollar, for a drink and they had an area that they used to dry out the wet bills. At the east side they have another beach bar where you make your own drinks and pay on an honesty system, our kind of bar, a locals place.

Then it was off to St. John where we checked in at Cruz Bay, which is charming, before heading to Caneel Bay. Two thirds of this fabulous island is under the auspices of the National Park Service, maintaining its pristine appearance. We would highly recommend the island for a visit, whether on land or water, there are so many wonderful things to do. There are only two big resorts, but most people just rent a villa and do day trips. Your boat is only allowed 30 overnight stays in the marine park; which covers most of the coastline, so most charter boats are unable to tour this magical island.

Caneel Bay Resort is built on the site of an 18th century sugar plantation, it is a lovely place to walk around, with little cottages dotted throughout the three bays it covers. From there we went to Francis Bay and onto Leinster Bay, some great hiking at both places. Coral Bay is still as quirky as we remember, wonderful eccentric and dedicated cruising sorts - such characters, just love some of the people we meet on our travels. We ended up spending quite a few days in Otter Creek in the area called the Hurricane Hole, there was no one around us for miles it was bliss. We did not find out until later that you are no longer supposed to stay there overnight unless there is a hurricane situation - oh well.

We had the southern part of St. John's almost to ourselves as well and visited Saltpond Bay, Great and Little Lameshur Bays before we left for St. Thomas and the big smoke. There is a fantastic fishing shop that we wanted to visit in Red Hook, so we popped in there and I managed to get a decent hair cut at the same time. It's now very short, but it will grew and it looks a ton better even with the grey seriously beginning to show. Pisses me off that Russell still only has a sprinkling of grey on his head. Red Hook is not a good anchorage, so we went over to St. James Island around the corner (great spot) before we headed into Charlotte Amalie, the capital so I could see the Doc. Not a great place, lots of tourist shops, but they are all duty free and we ended up picking up a couple of excellent buys.

Honeymoon Bay, on Water Island a mile away, was a great place to spend our last night. Terrific band ashore and lots of people partying as it was a Saturday night. We were amazed at how many permanent liveaboards there were, although it is certainly an area where there is lots of work to be found.

The sailing between islands has been terrific. It only took us four hours to sail to Culebra with just the genie out, we were feeling lazy and could not be bothered to set up big red. Our next big sail will be down to Bonaire about 360 miles from Puerto Rico. It should be fast with a great beam reach, we are looking forward to it. I will update the blog again on our arrival. In the meantime, enjoy your summer (or winter) months, be healthy, happy and have tons of fun.

St. Martin and the British Virgin Islands
Jane, warm and sunny
06/24/2014, Tortolla, BVI

As I write this blog we are quitely anchored in Great Harbour, Peter Island in the British Virgin Islands. It is quite different from when we were last here in December 2008 when the place was packed, the wind was blowing a hoolie and we dragged our anchor in the middle of the night. Luckily it is the only time we have dragged. We arrived after everyone else and did not realise we had anchored on the edge of a shelf, sadly we did not have our wonderful Rocna anchor in those days. It was pretty scarry with no moon, no room and my poor night vision. This visit however is wonderful, with only a few boats in the bay with us. The area is now a marine park with an abundance of fish, huge shoals to snorkel through, large tarpon to add a bit of excitement, and a barracuda under our boat for the last three days so I am reluctant to clean the hull. At dusk the birdsong is magical, with the feeding frenzy in and on the water adding to the entertainment. We could certainly spend a lot of time here.

Jamie and Frankie have just spent a week onboard and we had a fantastic time together. We left St. Martin at 0300 hours and had a beautiful sail arriving at Marina Cay, BVI at 1830 hours the day before they were due to arrive. Trellis Bay was packed because of the full moon festival so we headed out soon after they arrived. It is a great place to pick up guests as the airport is just across the road.

We visited Norman Island to snorkel and dive the Indians and the Caves before going onto Cooper Island and Salt Island to dive and snorkel the s/v Rhone. Jamie and Frankie said it was one of the best dives they have ever had on an old wreck, they were pumped and said they would have loved to have stayed longer. Early morning is the best time to visit the Rhone and from there we sailed to the Baths on Virgin Gorda. They are an unusual formation of huge granite rocks, and where the sea washes through them large pools have been created, with dramatic shafts of light playing on the water.

Bitter End was a requested destination and we organised to arrive there on the Tuesday so we could enjoy the buffet BBQ and music night. We anchored off Prickly Pear Island (where 6 years ago we spent New Year) and had a great evening ashore dancing the night away. The following day we were able to get out Big Red (our parasail) and had a lovely early downwind sail to Guana Island so we could spend the afternoon at Monkey Point which is another favorite snorkeling area of ours. A last night out at Marina Cay, gosh they do great painkillers (Rum cocktail) and terrific food before we had to pop Jamie and Frankie back on a plane home the next day. It was a wonderful holiday with terrific memories and we hope you enjoy some of the photos. I got a bit carried away with my new Lumix camera that takes pictures under water, but had to share them with you ☺

Our month is St. Martin was hard work. We were at it more or less 24/7 and it had lots of ups and downs, frustrations and joys, plus sadness. We had said a lot of goodbyes when we left Antigua, many boats we knew were heading across the Atlantic and still are. However, the lose of Cheeki Rafki and all her crew was horrendous news to all the cruising community, reinforcing how dangerous this lifestyle can sometimes be. We are constantly looking after Ta-b to make sure that she is in tip top shape. Russell has a vast amount of spares on board and we seem to always be working on a boat job (or two or three at once). St. Martin is a duty free haven and so we spent a lot of $$s investing in the future, plus getting work carried out. Having left there we realise we should have invested more, but our bank account is telling us to live off rice and water for a while.

St. Martin was quieter than we remember, but most people head south at the end of May because of the weather. However, we were able to catch up with lots of old friends who live there, made some new ones, enjoyed happy hour and open music nights at Lagoonies, plus treated ourselves to quite a few yummy dinners out in Marigot on the French side of the island. Saint-Martin/Sint Maarten is split between France and the Netherlands, which makes it the smallest place in the world divided into two countries. They speak different languages, but the border is just a line on a map and there are no frontier posts. However, each side is vastly different and we love the diversity of each country. We have many happy memories of St. Martin and would have liked to have cruised around the island, but ran out of time.

The BVIs are much busier than we were expecting, although this week seems a lot quieter than last. The Moorings Marina in Road Town has 450 boats and they say (even though they are giving 50% discount at the moment) that in three weeks time only a few boats will be out, and a lot of the bars and restaurants will be closed. We have hardly seen another liveaboard boat, but would recommend enjoying these waters at this time of the year. The weather is perfect, warm and sunny with only the occasional tropical downpour (they only last a few minutes) to keep us on our toes closing hatches. Also the wind for sailing is perfect.

We are not sure what our plans are. A package is arriving for us sometime soon from England (parts can be very difficult to locate and we would recommend 4 Star in the States and Ship2Ship in England, both great at getting stuff to us cheaply). We would like to revisit St. John in the US Virgins on our way to the Spanish Virgins, but everything will depend on the weather as we are approaching the hurricane season. When we have to we will head south to maybe Los Roques and then onto Bonaire for a while, it is already hot and humid down at 12 degrees Latitude (we are at 18 degrees) so we are in no hurry.

We will keep in touch and look forward to hearing from some of you. If you have any suggestions for this blog do let us know, we always enjoy your input.

Take care, Carpe Diem xo

Guadeloupe and Antigua
Jane, warm and sunny
05/18/2014

We spent nearly two months in Guadeloupe and Antigua, so it has been a while since we updated our blog. We had a great sail to Iles des Saintes from Dominica and enjoyed four nights anchored in Pain a Sucre, the only bay now where you do not have to pick up a buoy. We tendered across to Cabrits where we had anchored before, enjoyed a great snorkel and met up with friends who we had not seen for five years. The town has not changed at all and is still very quaint with lots of fantastic restaurants; which we enjoyed and a wonderful patisserie. It is an easy island to walk around with lots of sights, however our waistlines are now showing the signs of slight overindulgence ☺

We had another fantastic sail to Gosier Island just east of Point a Pitre the capital of Guadaloupe. It was a lovely setting with lots of swimmers coming from the mainland every day, we were very impressed. The snorkeling however was not very good so we only stayed a couple of nights before we went to Ilet a Cochons, opposite Point a Pitre Marina, where we met up with s/v Stormvogel who we had not seen since Turkey. We had a couple of great evenings catching up before we went into the marina and hired a car so we could go shopping. Even managed to get a few of the items on the list, always a challenge in a foreign country at the best of times, it was fun driving around.

We went back to Gosier for a night before we set off for Pigeon Island on the west coast for four nights. Happy Hour were there with some other friends and athough it was a bit rolly the snorkeling was fantastic and we stayed for four days. The area is famaous for the Cousteau National Park which includes the island and goes up the north coast for about a mile. Russell and I had a most magical experiences while we were there. Five dolphins came alongside our boat one morning while we were at anchor, we immediately jumped in the water and snorkeled with them for over an hour, incrediable. There was one young one who was very playful, we shared in his games and watched as he jumped in and out of the water, swimming under his mum and around and around us. They were all terribly effectionate towards each other and seemed to really enjoy our company. I was on a high for days after and it is a memory I will always treasure.

As we were leaving the Dolphins, which we saw every day, came to say goodbye and even used our hulls for belly rubs which we have never seen before. Since we have been back in the Caribbean we have seen a lot more dolphins, turtles, whales and sting rays then when we were last here. I have never seen sting rays fly out of the water before, can be quite the surprise when they are close by. There were a lot in Jolly Harbour in Antigua, but sadly they are too fast to catch on camera.

Before leaving Guadaloupe we spent a few days in Deshaise, luckily there was very little wind, although we did have one French boat that tried to come alongside to say hello when the owners were ashore one afternoon. We hired a car to explore the island with Happy Hour one day and also had an amazing morning visiting the Jardin Botanique de Deshaies which was spectacular. Deshaise is a picturesque fishing village with some great restaurants. We went to one called L'Amer twice it was so yummy and also had excellent music one night.

We left early for Antigua and had a great run arriving at Falmouth Harbour before lunch where we anchored alongside Stormvogel, who we crewed for during the Classic regatta. I have never raced before, so it was a very exciting and new experience for me. Our friend Ian has been the skipper of Stormvogel for seven years and often runs the 90+ foot boat on his own - did I mention that he is only 29 and is a shipwright?. The boat was built in 1961 and was used in the film "Dead Calm" she's awesome. There were 24 of us onboard for the racing, a very mixed bunch, with only a couple who had raced with Ian last year and knew the boat. The Italian owner's daughter was on board, as well as Ian's new wife, and they did a wonderful job of feeding us all after each race. We came in second, but were only behind a bigger boat with all the expensive mod cons by about 1.5 minutes overall. It was a phenomenal time and we can't thank Ian enough for the opportunity he gave us, another incredible memory.

The Classic boats were gorgeous, no money spared on some with large paid crew on board to maintain them. There were fishing boats from Carriacou, and numerous other classes of different sizes and eras of yachts. Lots of socializing and I had a terrific time on my birthday going out with a crowd of new and old friends, ending up dancing the night away at the Lime Bar, run by Garrick one of the crew.

Whilst in Falmouth Russell decided to become a member of the Royal Navy Antiguian Tot Club with a few other buddies. It was started in 1991 to carry on the tradition of rum tots given to sailors at the end of each day. Every evening members get together and drink a gill (half a tumbler) of neat rum (supposed to be down in one) at 1800 hours. They toast the Queen beforehand and read out daily navel history which was quite amusing. Anyway after seven days of tots and an exam of navel history you can become a member. It was a close thing though (not because of the exam) but Russell got very sick with an ear infection halfway through. Luckily the club made allowances for him and we are now the proud owner of a Tot Ensign which when flying means that we will host a tot evening for any tot members nearby. Apparently there are about 1,400 members worldwide. Not only that, but at last Russell is back on his feet.

Before we left Antigua we had our friends Pip and Richard come and visit from England. We got to sail around the island in great weather and would recommend the East coast highly. Lovely little islands with lots of wonderful reefs for snorkeling and hardly any other boats - magic. Their visit ended way too quickly, lots of laughs, too much rum and great companionship is always a fantastic mix.

After they left we started to have issues with our watermaker, not a problem as we loaded up with water in Jolly Harbour and were due to have our favorite electrian on board in St. Martin. However, we also started to have problems with our freezer; which was fully loaded with goodies. We planned to stop in Barbuda for some chill out time, but had to rush to St. Martin after a few days so as not to loose all our food ($$$). Thankfully our friend Keith from Frostline got it sorted out within 24 hours, and with the help of a friend's deep freeze I hardly lost anything - phew!! Barbuda is as gorgeous as we remember. There were only three boats anchored with us along 11 mile beach and we were able to explore the famous Coconut Beach Hotel (Lady Di's favorite haunt) as it was closed and there was no security.

We had an exhilerating (and wet) trip to Barbuda in 25-30 knot winds, but just the most perfect sail (sunny) to St. Martin in 12-18 knots wing on wing over the 90 miles, with an average of 6.8 knots overall. We even made it in time to catch the 1730 bridge opening and are now anchored in Simpson Lagoon French side (free). Now it is mega job time. We have already sorted out a new tender and engine (my birthday present) as our old one is dying on us. Our electrian was on board today and will hopefully get through our long list of "to dos" sometime next week. Tomorrow we will see if we can get our scuba tanks inspected and tested, plus we need a new part for our compressor. North Sails are going to sort out repairs we need done next week, we will soon be broke. It is tax free here and easy to have items shipped from the states, so we will be shopping (bigtime) online over the weekend as well ☺

The weather over the last week has changed and we have seen a front come through with a bit of wind and rain. However as I write it is warm and sunny although not as hot as normal, so it is perfect. It will be interesting to see what the summer brings us. We have been thinking of all of our friends that left recently to cross the Atantic and hope that they are having fair winds.

We are slowly catching up with some of the people we know here in St. Martin, but it seems a lot quieter than when we were here last and the locals say it has not been a great year for them. It is good to be back in the swing of it with the best mussels in Marigot yesterday, a BBQ party ashore tonight and yoga tomorrow. We will stay north until we are forced to make our way south to Bonaire because of hurricanes, we hope to get to Puerto Rico as we fell in love with it when we were last there. Until next time please take care everyone and enjoy the your summer.

Martinique and Dominica
Jane, warm with sunny
03/31/2014

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.

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