Sailing matilda

15 April 2013 | Rodney Bay, St Lucia
25 March 2013 | Union Island, SVG
10 March 2013 | Union Island, SVG
25 February 2013 | Speightstown, Barbados
18 February 2013 | North Atlantic Ocean - 165 East of Barbados
12 February 2013 | South Atlantic Ocean - 300 miles North of the mouth of the Amazon
03 February 2013 | South Atlantic Ocean - 260 miles East of Ilha de Fernando de Noronha
29 January 2013 | South Atlantic Ocean - 225 miles West of Ascension Is.
23 January 2013 | South Atlantic Ocean - 145 miles West of St Helena
16 January 2013 | South Atlantic Ocean - 75 miles from St Helena
10 January 2013 | South Atlantic Ocean
31 December 2012 | V&A Marina, Cape Town, South Africa
20 December 2012 | Hout Bay Yacht Club, Hout Bay, South Africa
24 November 2012 | Durban Marina, Durban, South Africa
24 November 2012 | Bluff Yacht Club, Durban, South Africa
16 November 2012 | Richard Bay, South Africa
11 November 2012 | 85 miles off Richard Bay, South Africa, Indian Ocean
08 November 2012 | Mozambuique Channel, Indian Ocean
02 November 2012 | La Port, La Reunion

End of the World (ARC) as we know it

15 April 2013 | Rodney Bay, St Lucia
It has been another three week break since our last blog, and now it's all over. We handed back our Yellowbrick tracker yesterday and Rally Control flew out today. It feels a little strange that it is all over, but we are quite looking forward to getting back to reality now.

Our last blog was just after we arrived in Grenada which seems like months ago now. It was nice to be the first boat in the marina for a change, welcoming all the fast boats in and helping to tie up. The prize giving there was the last of the Rally; it made us wish we had participated in the Brazil leg, but not for long. Hearing the stories of Brazil mostly made us happy we'd missed it and headed straight for Barbados.

Dreamcatcher organised a big BBQ for the fleet in Tobago Cays which was very well attended and a lovely night. There was even a steel band to serenade us as the piles of lobster were brought out to the tables. The ride back to our boat in the launch belonging to "Mr. Fabulous" (I kid you not) was spectacular on the clear, mild starry night. The moon was just after being full, so it was quite a romantic evening.

We arrived in Rodney bay ahead of the rest of the fleet and started working on all our jobs. We got the generator replaced, replaced the main halyard sheaves, fixed up some deck plugs and 100 other little jobs. We could not sail matilda down to Marigot Bay to meet up with the rest of the fleet as I had removed the fore stay and back stay. Luckily we had booked to stay at the posh hotel there for three nights which was a welcome bit of luxury after 15 months living on the boat. The first BBQ party there was great fun, and was followed by three more parties each night. My liver was begging for mercy by last night so we decided to have an early (and dry) night for a change. We drifted off to sleep early back in Rodney Bay with the sounds of Karaoke aboard Anastasia next door.

A few yachts had already left, and most will be leaving tomorrow. We are pretty much ready to go now so we plan to set sail this afternoon. Dominica is 95 miles away, and we plan to spend a couple of nights there followed by a couple of nights in Saba. Our final destination with matilda is Nanny Cay in the BVI before we move aboard peat Smoke for the last passage back across the Atlantic (our third crossing of the Atlantic!). We will probably write a final blog from the BVI once we've moved off matilda and we have some time for uploading photographs of our last few destinations.

Union Island, Carriacou and Grenada for the Meet Up

25 March 2013 | Union Island, SVG
Its an unforgivable gap since the last blog, but a combination of not the best of internet connections and meeting back up with the fleet has meant it got rather forgotten.

So, to continue our story.... After Saltwhistle Bay we checked out of the Grenadines in Union Island. As we were coming in we heard some familiar voices over the VHF, At Last and Dreamcatcher were leaving just as we were coming in. What a shame to miss them.

Union Island is a funny little place, it even has a restaurant on an island in the bay made up of a huge pile of discarded conch shells (a delicacy here). As it was a Sunday we waited until Monday to check in, so we had a very pleasant evening at the Anchorage YC watching the nursing sharks they have in their pond at the front.

As per usual the checking in/out process could be a mite more efficient and I am not sure what the criteria is for being appointed to the job, but friendliness is clearly not on the list. In fact they were pretty much the only unfriendly people we met on the whole of the island. The funniest part of the whole thing for me was watching a guy at his desk in front of a queue of people, searching for something at length that was not there, he eventually went away and came back clutching his mobile phone - for the sole purpose of using it to tell him what the day and date was to complete his part of the form.

Small world/funny coincidences again. We are selling some of our stuff at the end of the WARC and a guy from the UK who was interested in some of it emailed and mentioned that if we happened to pass Union Island, his brother, originally from Scotland, operated a local boat there (Scaramouche, used in the Pirates of the Caribbean film) and had a house on the hill. We had only just been told only about this guy from a local and we were looking up at his house when we got the email.

From there we went to check into Grenada at Hillsbrough, Carriacou. Once again, we heard a familiar voice on the VHF, it was Spirit of Alcides coming out as we were coming in - good job we are not sensitive. Hillsbrough is also a bit of an odd place. The dinghy jetty is worse than St Helena, and if that did not give you a bad enough impression, a crowd of drunks were hanging around wanting money for taking your rubbish to the bins (which were at the end of the jetty). The process of checking in was once again awful. A hot, crowded room with only one official who only handed out the forms to complete as you got in front of him, who then stood twiddling his thumbs while you completed the lengthy forms - all excruciatingly slow. Jonathan made the mistake of asking if he could have a form to complete while he waited his turn. He was loudly and publicly upbraided for having the cheek to suggest such a preposterous and clearly revolutionary idea, the speech went along the lines of "I believe there is still a work in the English language called WAIT" and on and on he went. Jonathan did however get a form, but unfortunately only him, so while he was good to go there were still people in front of him without forms, one of whom was told he had several forms to fill out. This guy let Jonathan go ahead of him, so the man in charge was not well pleased with us.

Its funny how these towns are located on the most stunning beaches, yet the houses all point away from the beach. I guess they must take the view and location for granted.

Probably because we hadn't been given the best of impressions, we decided to head straight to Tyrels Bay, not far away, to anchor for at least 3 days or so. Again a funny place, but clearly beloved by yachties as the anchorage was packed. Unfortunately it was extremely rolly, so we were very happy to cut the visit short to two nights. A great restaurant there, called the Slipway, with a very lovely Italian lady running the show.

On to Grenada proper, and what a lovely sail it was too. We decided to spend a few nights in Prickly Bay (just outside of St Georges) until the fleet met up as, following rather unhelpful enquiries at the Port Louis Marina in, it would be quite expensive to stay there beforehand. The next day we decided to explore St Georges proper and went into the marina just to check it out. We then found out that the WARC boats had a 50% discount off the berth fees, very annoying as we could have come in earlier and have been getting on with some jobs that were easier to complete at a marina berth. So we booked in for the following day.

St Georges is a beautiful place (as is Grenada) and I cannot help feeling that with a bit of investment, the harbourside area could become as stunning as Honfleur. It was still reeling form a series of fires, not to mention the 2004 hurricane. However we did find the most amazing restaurant, BBs - a bit of a local legend. BB is a Grenadian who became a chef in the UK and then went back to open his own place with the help of some of his grandmothers recipes. The food is wonderful and not at all surprised that he has the most amazing reviews worldwide and even won Caribbean masterchef. We have since been back 3 times, and I have to get the recipe for his Bathway Express (a kind of coconutty, spicy risotto) - YUM.

That night the anchorage started to get rolly again, so pleased we had booked into the Marina, it was also clear on the Yellowbrick that the first of the fleet would also be arriving on the morrow, so undertook to get in early. Very excited to be seeing the fleet again, we had really missed them all!

Mustique, Bequia, Tobago Cays and Saltwhistle Bay

10 March 2013 | Union Island, SVG
9 March

The last night on Mustique was very special. We stayed on for the Sunday night jazz at Basil's, which turned out to be Jan, a very down to earth lady from Yorkshire and her partner, Louis. She had once come to Bequia on holiday, ended up staying and becoming a diving instructor and then landed the job of Social Director for Mustique (what a job!). Jan also played a pretty mean jazz saxophone with Louis on the keyboards. We got to Basil's early and ended up helping them set up after we were really taken with her dog called Stump (due to having not a lot of tail). Stump was a real character she clearly felt she was overseeing operations and I took it as a joke when she was described as the singer with the band. It turned out not to be joke at all because as soon as Jan played the high notes on her tenor sax, Stump would stop whatever she was doing, take up centre stage and start 'singing'. She very quickly stole the show and had her own fan club among the younger members of the audience, who pretty much became her slave. Must be a bit frustrating though if you would like to be known for your playing and not your dog. We have a video and photos that we will try and load on our sailblogs site soon, if you need cheering up I defy you not to smile at the video of Stump at work.

We got back to Bequia without much of a problem and decided to top up with electricity and water along side at the marina. Here they recommended Kerry, a guy who was good with electrics (a former aviation engineer). He seemed to actually know what was going on, and appeared to solve our alternator problems in about 10 minutes, so lets hope. We still don't think it is quite right and topping up fully, although it is a heaps better. Thanks to Kerry, we think we know now what to do to amend the issue - thank goodness we didn't have to beat up to St Vincent again.

Bequia was heaving, with yachts and various cruise boats dropping in, but it is easy to see why and it is a massive bay. We loved taking the dinghy to Princess Margaret's Bay, snorkelling round the point (surprisingly good snorkelling) and then sundowners at Jack's Bar, probably one of the most idyllic sunset locations in the Carib. There is a regatta over Easter and we would really love to take part, but we will see what happens after Grenada. In Bequia we also managed to get some canvas work done and the Parasail stitched up very quickly, so after provisioning we headed off to the Tobago Cays.

We were a bit afraid of what to find there. We had heard it is a must-see, but we had also heard it is chock full of yachts. All of which is true, but the yachts are there for a reason, it is a breathtaking location that is as interesting on the islands as in the water, as on the boat. The waters around the little Cay called Baradel is simply turtle soup. At one point during snorkelling I was surrounded by at least 7 turtles all eating the sea-grass. On the Cay itself there were iguanas littering the place and even wild tortoises. There are moorings (for a price on top of the marine park fee), but we took an anchorage and from there we could buy fresh croissants for breakfast, baguettes for lunch and even fresh fish for the barbecue in the evening - all without having to leave the boat. These little, wonderfully painted/flag festooned boats come in from Union Island selling an assortment of goods, but were not in the least bit pushy (we had to flag them down to come to our boat). My only complaint is the speed they sometimes go, especially when the ranger is not around. When I bought my croissants (around 7.30am), they were still warm from the oven. Fishing is banned on the Cays, quite rightly so as it is a marine park, so fish is also brought in from Union Island by enterprising fishermen. I was a bit disappointed that they appeared to be allowing a T shirt seller and a bbq cafe to operate on one of the Cays, it really should be retained a proper marine park

Early this morning Jonathan went up the mast to re-feed the secondary spinnaker halyard and took some stunning pictures. We then set off from the Cays and less than an hour later were anchored in Saltwhistle Bay on Mayreau. A beautiful half moon bay, but very busy and some islanders have set up a series of huts on the beach, some acting as bars, some cafes, some selling T shirts- which give a shanty town appearance. There have also been makeshift moorings that appear to have been laid by several guys who seem to be in fierce competition. We arrived early and anchored without any fuss (and free), but I suspect that would have been harder later - not quite the quiet spot we thought it might be. Apparently the guy who owned the resort here (tastefully hidden among the trees) died last year and things have changed for the worst since that time. We should have checked Noonsite.

10 March

Last night we had a bit of a surreal night. We went to the bar at the Saltwhistle Bay resort, the only thing open there. The staff were pretty miserable and could not wait for us to go. We then ended up at makeshift rasta bar which turned out to be a lot of fun. Great music and what turned out to be great food.

This morning we headed for Union Island to check out from the Grenadines and heard some familiar voices on the radio. At Last and Dreamcatcher were coming out as we were coming in (they are off to Tobago Cays) it was lovely hearing their voices again!

Just heard that apparently we are famous! We are quoted in Yachting World and even have a picture! Would be grateful if someone could buy it and save a copy for us.

Farewell Barbados, Hello Bequia, St Vincent and Mustique

02 March 2013 | Mustique, SVG
The last few days in Barbados were quite interesting. The MacBook developed a problem and the only authorised fixer was on the other side of the island. As we no longer had a hire car we decided to take the local buses. There are 3 kinds of bus in Barbados, the official blue 'Government busses', the yellow private busses and the white private minivan-type busses. All fares going anywhere cost 2 Barbadian dollars (around 1 US). By far my favourite were the private yellow busses as, although they are noisy, the interiors and choice of music reflect the taste of the owners and they will pretty much stop for you and let you off anywhere you want to along the way. The government buses are fine, but a bit staid and officious, and the minivan ones are way too tightly packed for any sane person to contemplate (the only time we used one I had a very large lady and two school girls pretty much sitting on my knee, all to a background of soca music at ear bleeding levels - but all very very friendly). That night we came back on a private one that was decked out inside in the style of what my father would have described as a tarts boudoir - scarlet red with interesting graphics and lighting arrangements, all soundtracked by Bob Marley. Priceless. The next day we had to do it all over again to pick up the fixed laptop. I felt like a real local crossing Bridgetown via the markets and selecting the right kind of bus.

You will be pleased to know that, further to the previous blog, Derek the Dock Master sorted out our laundry bill to our satisfaction and was very reasonable on our mooring charges. Thanks Derek. I could listen to Derek all day - did I mention the Barbados accent is brilliant, and a bit weird to hear coming from blond haired blue eyed Bajans as well as everyone else - needless to say we were sad to leave Barbados for Bequia later that afternoon.

It was only an overnight hop, but it was very rolly and we only could be arsed to put up the headsail - you can tell we are a bit over this sailing thing - so we were very pleased to get there. Bequia is very nice, but on the way our alternator appeared not to be charging our engine battery (we have another one for the service batteries). At Bequia we were told that the guru on alternators was in St Vincent (about an hour away with the wind with you, around 2 and a bit with the wind against). So the following day we headed off to St Vincent. Still very nice, but the alternator man changed our alternators having established that the old one wasn't working (we had a new one spare) but couldn't solve the problem. He said it was the first time he had ever experienced this (yet again we appear to defy the experts). He had to rush off to St Lucia until Tuesday so we decided to see how the other half lived in Mustique for a few days until he got back, although he did recommend some tests we could do in the meantime which may solve the problem. We have just done them and I think we will be going back to get it fixed properly next week.

Pretty much the only way to see Mustique without being a rock star, royalty or a billionaire (William and Kate were here two weeks ago) is to take up a boat mooring - which amazingly you can do for a relatively reasonable fee for up to 3 days. So here we are and very nice it is too. Last night we watched the sun go down at the famous Basil's Bar, and were the only ones there for dinner! Basil's Bar was recreated at the Goring Hotel in London the night before the Royal Wedding, with Basil flown over to conduct proceedings. I believe they have now decided to keep the recreated bar there permanently. In fact the only thing that spoilt it a bit for me was this huge super motor yacht that was an eyesore in daylight, but by night made Las Vegas, New Jersey and Blackpool combined look the height of taste in subdued lighting. The 263 foot long boat was called ACE and rumour has it that it is owned by one of the newly monied Russians. All I can assume is that its owner must be a bloke lacking below the belt. It was like something a 10 year old boy would design, with extra go- faster stripes. Happily it went on its way early this morning.

We walked about the place today, but they will not hire bikes or golf carts to anyone who is not a resident, probably to discourage the riff raff I guess. It is all very nice, but rather artificial, it kind of reminded me a bit of the 1960's show The Prisoner. There also appears not much to see or do, so I guess everyone just stays to chill. Haven't seen any celebrities yet, but not sure I would recognize them anyway. We saw a youngish hairy man with a attractive lady rush by in a golf cart that we thought might be Russel Brand, but who knows. I was famous at my job in Australia for sharing a lift with Mel Gibson and not having a clue who he was.

We will be here until Monday (4th March) when we shall go back to Bequia, St Vincent and then on to Tabago Cays, Meyroux, Union Island and finally Grenada to greet the rest of WARC.

Update 3 March

What a night. We woke up this morning to discover we had been raided by - wait for it - bats! We had hung some bananas up in netting in the saloon and this morning - yes we have no bananas. What we do have is bad poo all over the place - clearly it does something to their little systems. We had heard them coming through the hatches (it was a hot night) but had no idea a banana orgy was going on while we slept.

Now in Basils Bar again for breakfast and can at last send some emails.

Beautiful Barbados - Rum and Polo

25 February 2013 | Speightstown, Barbados
We arrived safely in Barbados late afternoon on Tuesday 19th after 4 weeks to the day of sailing. We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves until a few hours later a boat arrived with a group of 6 Brits and New Zealanders who had just ROWED across the Atlantic - certainly put our efforts in the shade. It was great sharing in their celebrations though.

There is no mistaking where we are, the best rum punches ever and Rihanna on the radio 24/7.

We spent the first night in a temporary berth surrounded by super-yachts, in fact one of them, Salute, had probably the largest mast and boom furler we have ever seen. We were told that the mainsail alone cost half a million US dollars - jeez! If we had arrived a few weeks earlier we would have apparently been parked next to Brangelina's yacht. The following day we moved onto a mooring as they hadn't a proper berth for us and it was pretty rock and rolly anyway, so much cheaper but we can use all the facilities of the Marina development - all very posh.

Then we hired a car for a few days to see the island proper - and very beautiful it is too, with the East Coast very wild with long beaches in contrast to the much more developed and calmer West Coast. Almost the first port of call was going to be the Mount Gay distillery, Jonathan's favourite rum, but due to it being election day we had to postpone it to the following day. It was all very interesting, you got to see the bottling plant (the rest of the process is done elsewhere on the island) and a video, but of course everyone is really there for the tastings. We ended up staying quite a while, the cafe overlooked the sea, there was good internet access, and it was lovely watching the humming birds - so different from being at sea. Yesterday we decided to watch some polo (Cheshire took on Barbados and lost). Its all very accessible here and made for a great afternoon - it certainly seems to have re-ignited the bug in Jonathan.

To be honest our stay here has been marred by a incident over laundry (of all things). When we arrived we asked about getting our laundry done and housekeeping in the resort said they could oblige. We assumed they meant in their own machines but still asked what the cost would be as we did not want to spend much - they could not give us a price but assured us not to worry it would not be expensive. Two days later we had a bill that is embarrassing to recount (we could probably buy a washer and dryer for what it cost). They appeared to have sent the lot out to be dry cleaned (socks, jocks, sheets, towels etc etc). The debate is still ongoing with everyone passing the buck, but we appear to have the dock master on our side and we fall under his remit, he seems confident he can sort the cock-up out, so lets hope.

Other than that everyone else has been uber friendly. One guy even gave us a lift from polo last night in his convertible Mercedes (thanks again Fred!) and we are currently waiting to meet for a lady for lunch who we befriended in the hair salon on the first day. On that same day we met another couple who invited us for sundowners and dinner at their marina apartment. There doesn't seem to be any real crime here so it has made a nice change from some of the other parts of the Caribbean.

We are thinking of heading of to Bequia (pronounced Beqway) either this evening or tomorrow, it is only around 100 nm, where we shall clean up the boat a bit and do some small jobs, and then on to Mustique to see how the other half live (if we can get a mooring), and then Tobago Cays before heading down to Grenada to meet up with the rest of the World ARC fleet. There has apparently been some interest shown in matilda, so we hope to have a buyer in early May when we drop her off in the BVI and say a tearful goodbye to her.

Tomorrow Barbados!

18 February 2013 | North Atlantic Ocean - 165 East of Barbados
Heather & Jonathan
We should be arriving in Barbados late tomorrow afternoon (touch wood) after 4 weeks at sea to the day from St Helena- hurrah! We will have sailed around 5,350 nautical miles since leaving Cape Town on 5 January, with just a few days in St Helena and only 42.2 engine hours, so we are feeling quite proud of ourselves. Matilda has behaved beautifully with no real issues despite sometimes trying circumstances. Conditions over the past 48 hours have been superb so we are back in love with sailing, but still can't wait to get there. Its looking good that we will have a place in Barbados's only marina (that usually only takes superyachts - clearly times are hard everywhere).

Life on board has been very routine, the highlight of the days being mealtimes where we have eaten very well, if rather unorthodox at times, trying to use up all the provisions. For example, lunch today was fried new potatoes in a Thai red curry sauce, topped by an omelette filled with whole button mushrooms and blue cheese sauce. Quite the experiment, but it turned out to be delicious and filling.

The passage has not been without its excitement. Since hearing of Peat Smoke's encounter with an unlit 'fishing' boat in the middle of the night, that then attempted to board them, we have been a bit neurotic on the night watch, intently scanning the radar. Although we have probably been far out enough not to be in any real danger of similar encounters, we have come across many (lit) fishing boats (without AIS) and one night one did look to be heading directly for us. I wont say we got in a panic, but when it got within a mile of us we had spotlights, flares (as weapons), boat hooks and other means of repelling boarders at the ready before the poor skipper replied to our calls on the radio; he was actually concerned about our intentions (sailing in choppy seas we do lurch around a bit) and then very kindly went well out of his way to give us a wide berth. Just goes to show...

Our next blog will probably be from Barbados, which we are inordinately excited about getting to. It's incredible to think that since leaving Cape Town we have pretty much completed a 1/4 global circumnavigation. It's a long time to spend in a small space, so we'll be very happy to get back to dry land for a change!
Vessel Name: matilda
Vessel Make/Model: Hallberg-Rassy 42E
Hailing Port: Portsmouth
Crew: Jonathan & Heather Howard
About: Jonathan and Heather Howard are now back in the Caribbean after completing the circumnavigation. matilda is now on the market and in May we will return to the UK with our friends on Peat Smoke.
Extra: matilda was re-launched in October 2011. Our circumnavigation took 15 months and we are now starting to think about getting back to work.

Sailing matilda

Who: Jonathan & Heather Howard
Port: Portsmouth