17 October 2011

St Barts to the BVIs: 13/10/11 – 17/10/11

We arrive in St Barts but when Mike goes to the Capitainerie to check in he is told that we can’t park Jeannius on the left side of the marina but that we have to go over to the right by the Hotel de Ville.  That’s a bit of a pain in the arse as on top of being a long walk around to the shops or a dinghy ride, that side also has no shore power.  There’s a part of me that thinks Mike is not being honest about this – it’s a long, hot walk to all the nice shops and he knows I won’t drive the dinghy unless I absolutely have to – I think it’s all a big plan to keep me out of the shops.

P1090622 Photo:  Billy-no-mates in Gustavia, St Barts

Anyway, the plan doesn’t work and Debbie and I hit the shops – first stop – Bulgari – Debbie has her eye on a particular piece of jewellery but they don’t have it in stock.  She has to make do with a single pearl necklace instead.

We then all go over to Tom’s Beach Hotel on the other side of the island to eat at the beach bar and restaurant – and for me to shop – and it’s the second disappointment of the day as the shop is shut and instead they are doing a fashion shoot there.  Although the food is good, the atmosphere is just not the same.

P1090612 Photo:  Mike and a moment

While Mike, myself and Russell decide to take the taxi back, the others walk back – no mean feat in that heat – of course this necessitates an afternoon sleep for all.  I catch Fred taking his 40 winks as I walk past his cabin.  How sweet to find him clutching his pillow.  I wonder what he’s dreaming about?

P1090603  Photo:  Sweet dreams, Fred?

I catch him later that evening, calling out to the ladies of the night – the feline type of course – trying to get them to come on the boat, but with Mike standing there glaring, they get the picture and don’t risk it!  I can’t risk teasing Fred about his entreaties and from then on the rest of the crew make meowing noises every time he walks past and we start to make up stories about him and the ‘alleged cat affair’.  Doesn’t sound funny now, but it was!

Before leaving St Barts the next morning, Debbie and I visit the St Barths shop and get a few nice bits, then we motor round the bay for a snorkel stop.

029 Photo:  Debbie strikes a pose

In the afternoon we pull the anchor up and head straight for the BVIs on yet another overnight sail.  It’s an easy sail with a great following wind and an awful lot of cruise ships hanging around. 

We check in at Spanish Town, Virgin Gorda.  Today’s fee for entering is $10 for 6 of us and the boat.  The last time Mike and I entered the BVIs here it was $135 just for the two of us and the boat.  How does that work?  Anyway, Mike knows better than to argue.

We carry on round to Leverick Bay and manage to meet up with Monica and Nick for a quick drink.  We have just got back on the boat when we turn around to see a cat nonchalantly strolling through the cockpit.  I turn to Fred.  I bet that cat just came out of his cabin!!!

Sunday is the last full day of the charter and we sail down to Cane Garden Bay.  In the evening we make our usual rendezvous at The Elm.  The boys are playing, Candace and Mal are there and we have a great evening.

P1090631 P1090632 P1090635 P1090637 P1090642 Photos:  Another night at The Elm

The following day we go back to Conch and say goodbye to our guests.  We then have the nightmare task of clearing Jeannius of all our possessions.  When we returned to the boat in July, we had 23 boxes, some bags and a washing machine.  Having sold a lot of stuff in Grenada (and thrown quite a bit of Mike’s hoarding out too), we manage to whittle it down to just 7 boxes and a bag for storage at Conch.  The rest we manage to get into the bow locker which Mike fits a lock to and then seals with silicone.  It takes us nearly 2 days to pack, label and ‘stuff’ and we finish just in time to catch the ferry to St Thomas – except it breaks down on the way and goes to St John instead.  And so begins the nightmare journey home – but that’s just not sailing so the tale doesn’t belong here!

The sailing tales however, will continue next year.

12 October 2011

Bequia to Antigua: 09/10/11 – 12/10/11

Finally we arrive in the beautiful French islands of Les Saintes.  Unfortunately we can’t anchor where we usually do and have to go a little further out, and while Mike and I potter around, the rest of the crew go ashore to explore.

When they return, Fraser turns the bottom step into a gentleman’s grooming parlour.

013 Photo:  Fraser at his ablutions

We have fresh mahi mahi for dinner along with some more of the breadfruit salad.  I notice at this point, that Fred, coming from the deep south, adds really hot pepper sauce on everything he eats, no matter how hot it starts off.  It’s like my dad used to do with salt – never tasting it first.  I admonish him but he grins at me and just adds more.

DSCN1286 Photo:  Anyone for mahi mahi?

On Monday I go in search of my lovely little hairdresser here.  Every time I have visited these islands she cuts my hair and I have never been disappointed even though she invariably does it a tad short.  Unfortunately it’s closed until Wednesday.  Ah well, it’s time to get those scissors out!

P1090554 Photo:  View from the dinghy dock

We leave late in the afternoon for another overnight sail to Antigua.  The sunset is, as usual, pretty impressive.

P1090558 Photo:  Enroute to Antigua

We arrive quite early in the morning and Mike goes ashore to check in before going around the corner to the beautiful historic setting of Nelson’s Dockyard.  The crew go for an island tour and find out that they have a celebrity in their midst.  Fred has been here before, several times, and it appears he is very well known by the locals.  Fred, what are you famous for?  I will find out before the end of the trip!

Being out of season, Nelson’s Dockyard is wonderfully empty, with Jeannius being the only boat moored alongside.

P1090576 P1090587 P1090589 P1090591 P1090593 P1090595 Photos:  Nelson’s Dockyard

The next morning we motor just around the corner to Carlisle Bay where Fraser decides that the grill of death is still just too stinky with fish bits and that it must have another scrub.  So they both go in the sea. 

P1090552 Photo:  Fraser, grooming the boat

Again, we leave in the late afternoon for another overnight sail, this time to St Barts – and hopefully some happy shopping – I have my mind set on some clothes from the the shop at Tom’s Hotel after seeing them modelled (beautifully, I might add) by Heather a few months ago even though I know they won’t look half as good on me.

08 October 2011

Grenada to Bequia: 05/10/11 – 08/10/11

We wait for Debby and Fraser to bring their stuff down to the boat and then all go off to pick up Russell from where he has stayed the night at True Blue.  We drop Mike off on the way to deal with the parts for the wind generator (which stopped working after its unexpected meeting with a fishing line) and hope like mad that the alternator parts will arrive as they are supposed to some time this morning.  We do the provisioning and pick Mike up on the way back to the boat.

Very soon after, workmen arrive and get the alternator working again, generating electricity once more.  The wind generator blades will have to wait until we are safely in a marina once more as we don’t want to waste time doing them now.

Mike pays the marina bill and we let the lines go, off once more.  The motor round to St George is a tad rough as we are heading into the wind and waves, but it’s bearable. 

The sail the next day from Grenada to Union then on to Mayreau is not a particularly good one and the sea is quite rough, although sightings of dolphins make everyone forget about that for a while.

On Mayreau, the gang go ashore and meet Robert Righteous who insists on giving them a tour of his private dining room, all the while lamenting the passing of Steve Jobs (the founder of Apple).  After a cocktail or two they return to the boat and we eat some of the wonderful tuna that they bought in Grenada.  It is after dinner that I discover that Fraser is a wonderful masseur – and he gives the first mate a shoulder one for free.  I make him promise to do this every evening.  Aren’t some clients wonderful!!!?

On Friday we continue our passage to Bequia.  When we arrive the gang go ashore to shop for food - they are looking for the ingredients for Russell’s tuna burgers and Fred’s ‘fauxtato’ salad.  Both sound really good and they manage to get everything they need.

While we are waiting for them to return, we are approached by a local man and his daughter selling things.  I hate it when these guys come over.  I never want to buy the stuff – it is usually crappy trinkets and buying from one usually encourages a load of others to descend on the boat.  But John seems different.  Sitting with his daughter in a little wooden canoe with no outboard, he accepts Mike’s decline to shop and thanks him for being polite.  When I emerge, I spot the most beautiful conch shell at the bottom of his boat – a king conch apparently – white with black stripes – and we agree a price.  I don’t barter him down.  He then asks if I have any spaghetti – he loves pasta apparently – and I happily give him a packet.  All the while his daughter sits there quietly and I tell him that if he returns a bit later, I will sort some other things out for him, if that doesn’t offend him.  They return an hour later by which time I have some food from my stores that we won’t get around to eating in the time we have left, along with a few articles of clothing.  His daughter is all smiles as we hand the bag over.

DSCN1273 Photo:  John and his daughter

Both the tuna burgers and potato salad (‘fauxtato’ salad - so called because Fred makes it with breadfruit) are excellent.  Thanks guys.

Before leaving, another shopping trip is made – Fred is hunting for shopping bags made out of old sacks that he has purchased here before.  He finds them and although they had sounded a bit weird from his description, they are actually quite nice.

We have an eventful sail as there are dolphins jumping around us for a while and then Russell manages to catch a lovely mahi mahi with his hand line.  As it thrashes around the cockpit spraying blood everywhere, I am very glad that we have Fraser to wash everything down.  He is a very good little scrubber!

DSCN1279 Photo:  Russell with the catch of the day

P1090447 Photo:  Butchery on the grill of death – Russell style

P1090444 Photo:  The scrubber, Fraser, in action

We sail through the night – there are enough volunteers for doing a watch to make me redundant.  It’s quite a rough old crossing to the Iles des Saintes although the strong winds mean that we cover most of it at about  8 knots and bring us marginally too close to a tanker, just 0.7 of a mile away.

04 October 2011

Getting Ready for the Last Trip: 03/10/11 – 04/10/11

Yesterday, when it threw it down with rain nearly all day I had plenty of time to clean the boat.  Now, with guests almost upon us, I am like a rabbit caught in the headlights – there is so much to do that I don’t know where to start.  Eventually I get myself together and start with my least favourite job – the bathrooms, more specifically the shower drains and the toilets – ugh!

Still, a pint of sweat later and they are done.  I decide to leave the rest of the chores until we are attached to shore power and I can have the air conditioning to dry me off as soon as I ooze.  What a lovely picture.

As usual Mike gives me no warning that we are about to move and I hear the anchor coming up before I am ready to help, then ominously it stops and I hear the clomp, clomp, clomp as Mike goes back to the cockpit shouting something that I don’t quite catch.  It sounds worryingly like the word ‘rock’.  Given that our anchor had caught just before a large shelf of rock I take this to mean that the bloody thing is stuck, ‘Manihi style’, referring to the time that the anchor chain got caught around a coral head in the Tuamotus and we had to get a diver out.  Terrific.  When I eventually poke my head out to see what is going on it actually looks like being either rock ‘Cane Garden Bay style’ or ‘Tonga style’, where the anchor manages to come up but with a large rock attached to it.  Luckily this one turns out to be the former and is able to be dislodged with the boat hook.  ‘Tonga style’ would have meant someone getting in the water to get it off.

The radar and weather forecasts show that we should be able to get around the corner to Phare Bleu Marina before the next heavy rainfall dumps on us so Mike puts his foot down (metaphorically speaking) to arrive before it does.  Once outside the shelter of the reef it’s really bumpy and uncomfortable and I am once more reminded how quickly my sea legs disappear as we lurch and bounce our way the three miles.  Annoyingly if it weren’t for the reef between Calivgny Island and the mainland it would be a mere half mile.

We tie up in the spot we were last time although on that occasion John was there to take the smelly, slimy bow lines to attach and now it’s my job.  On with the Marigolds!  Kevin takes one look at my bright yellow gloves and asks if I take the same approach with my husband.  I reply that Mike gets treated with my wonderful bare flesh, probably more information than he expected to hear but then his fault for asking!

Three of our guests arrived late last night and Mike goes off to see if he can find any of them.  I am scooting around with my lovely green Floor Wizard (my broom) when I see two people hovering around the dock and it turns out to be Debby and Fraser.  They hop aboard to say hello, shortly followed by Mike and then Fred.  We organise for them to have an island tour tomorrow with Rock, our friendly taxi driver and to my delight, they all love provisioning in foreign places and are happy to do the rounds of the fresh produce market and the fish market meaning that we just need a quick run around the supermarket for the tinned and dried goods when Russell arrives on Wednesday.

In the evening we all meet Jutta and Jochem in the Poolside Restaurant at the marina.  We have a lovely evening although it is a little tearful saying goodbye to my two ‘little treasures’ at the end.  As they are probably doing the Pacific next year, I don’t know when our paths will cross again.

P1090429 Photo:  Fred, Fraser, Debbie, Jochem, Jutta, me and Mike

P1090431 Photo:  Two laughing blondes

First thing the next morning, Kenwin arrives to clean the filthy cockpit and the engineers arrive to try to work out why our starboard engine steadfastly refuses to charge the batteries.  It turns out that the alternator is knackered, not a major problem as of course we have another engine to do the same thing, but we like to set off with as much working as possible (everything would just to too much to ask for!) so it gets loaded into a taxi and departs with our guests for delivery to the workshop.

Kenwin makes a wonderful job of the cockpit but as we are paying him by the hour, I don’t stop and chat.  By mid afternoon the inside of the boat is spick and span – floors swept and wiped, woodwork polished and beds made.  When Debby, Fraser and Fred arrive with the shopping they announce that they have had a wonderful time getting everything especially getting the fish.  They have bought some amazing tuna and at $7 EC dollars a pound, it’s a real bargain.  They leave it with me to cut into steaks and freeze.

P1090432 Photo:  Now THAT’S what I call a tuna steak!

Tuesday means 2 for 1 pizza in the restaurant but I am just too tired and a bit under the weather to go so I have a nice evening in by myself, finishing up Heather’s disgusting pop tarts (which horrifyingly I have discovered I like), snuggled up in bed.  When Mike returns, he brings me pizza too so it’s a fat, full little porker who eventually drifts off to sleep.

02 October 2011

Thinking About Being Busy: 30/09/11 – 02/10/11

I keep thinking about the horrendous two days I’m going to have when we get back to the BVIs and have to prepare Jeannius for bareboat charter again.  For the next couple of weeks we have guests in all three spare cabins and therefore have nowhere to organise my nautical worldly possessions into boxes.  Even worse, most of the stuff we have in the starboard aft cabin will be dumped on the floor in the companionway to make room for one of the guests.  It’s going to be fun and will be interesting to see how long it takes me to trip over everything.

So Thursday passes in a minor haze of mental lists but it’s a different matter for Mike as he discovers that our toilet is no longer pumping in sea water for its flushing activity.  By the time he’s discovered this, he’s already been in the sea once, swimming under the boat to check the inlet pipes for the engines which he does periodically anyway.  I lie on my bed under the open hatch and the fan full on, watching him poke around with an assortment of long flexible things to clear the blockage but it doesn’t work.  In the water he goes again, poking at the relevant sea water inlet pipe from the other end with a piece of old hosepipe.  He discovers a partial plastic bag (always a danger when these come anywhere near a boat) and some barnacles.  He scrapes them away as best he can and luckily water starts to come back in.  I quickly close off the inlet before we sink and the bilges pump it back out.  One working toilet again.

On Friday it’s time for me to brave the local buses alone and go and meet Jutta for our trip into town.  Mike drops me off at the dinghy dock and I wander along the road to Nimrod’s rum shack where I can sit in the shade and wait for the bus.  One comes along after about 10 minutes, thankfully with few people in it as it is now past the morning rush hour.  In another 10 minutes I am walking around the outside of the marina.  I know I have to wait for a few minutes for Jochem to bring Jutta over in the dinghy to meet me so in the meantime I nip into Foodland to use their customer toilet – only there isn’t one.  I get directed to use the staff one upstairs but no one knows where the key is or whether I am actually allowed to use it and eventually I give up and leave – I can cross my legs on the bus!

I am looking forward to seeing the shops and markets in St Georges.  Mike has not wanted to visit and as Jutta and I walk around, boy am I glad I hadn’t bothered dragging him there.  What a disappointment.  I’m not sure what I expected but whatever it was, I must have expected, well … more. 

We first head for the large open market and find the shoe repairers that Jutta was looking for.  Michael, the shoe man, heels her shoes while we wait but since he is incapable of doing two things at once – mending and talking – and since he is determined to tell us all about the countries he visited when he worked for one of the cruise ship lines, the mending takes rather a long time. 

P1090402 Photo:  Jutta at the National Shoe Repair Shop

We say we will return and walk around the fruit and vegetable market.  The produce does look lovely but one stall selling this stuff looks very much like another and each trader calls us to inspect his or her wares.  It gets a bit tiresome saying no thank you because you know you don’t want to buy anything today and we are deep in conversation and unwittingly ignore a lady plying her wares until she shouts at us for being rude and ignoring her as we walk by.  When Jutta tries to explain that everyone is shouting at us the woman retorts that if we don’t like the way they behave in Grenada we shouldn’t bother coming back.  Talk about over-reacting!

P1090408 Photo:  At the market

When we return to the shoe stall, the mending is ready but the alteration to a new pair of sandals is not, so Michael kindly arranges for a bench to be brought out and a drink of water appears for us.  While we wait, George appears.  George is the proud owner of the North Pole Bar and proudly extols the virtues of his cookery skills.  By the time he has finished describing his local fish soup I am salivating and desperate to try some.  What a salesman!  We follow him back through a rabbit warren of market stalls and rum shacks to his little shack where I partake of his soup and Jutta has a rum punch – what else?!  Her rum punch is good but I feel he hyped his culinary expertise a little.  The soup overall has a nice, spicy flavour and the dumplings thud to the base of my stomach the way they should.  But the fish?  Well I know there’s something in the bowl resembling something that once lived due to the amount of bone and thick, leathery black skin, but it could be chef’s fingers for all I know and I leave it all at the bottom of the bowl.  Still, George at the North Pole is an experience and we are both glad we paid his little establishment a visit.

P1090415 Photo:  Jutta, George and the rum punch (what’s left of it)

P1090417 Photo:  George and his North Pole Bar

After the excitement and local colour of the market, we visit the mall.  Zero excitement here.  Presumably it was designed for the cruise ships but they must be hellishly disappointed by this one.  There’s a duty free shop for perfume, spirits and cigarettes and a handful of jewellers but the rest of the shops are full of tourist tat.  We don’t linger long although Jutta manages to buy some clothes.  There are some nice old colonial buildings around, some still bearing scars of the last hurricane which devastated the island some years ago but really after a few hours we had had enough and hop on a bus back to the marina.

P1090409 P1090410 P1090413 Photos:  Downtown St George’s shows its heritage and hurricane damage

Once back at the marina it’s straight into the pool then lunch (a more substantial callaloo soup this time) then back to Chessie to sew one of Jutta’s dresses for her.  Jochem gives me a lift in the dinghy back to Foodland but we only get half way across the marina when he runs out of fuel and we have to row back to the boat and I walk all the way round.  Leaving later than I should have, the buses are now full.  Most of the ones which pass me are the right bus number (2) but going to the wrong places.  I will never figure this out!  If they are going to different places, why do they have the same bloody number – insane!  Anyway, I eventually get on a bus and everyone shuffles up to make room for me – I manage to set one bum cheek on a seat and cling on for dear life.

Mike is waiting for me at Clarkes Court and we have a rather wet dinghy ride back to the boat straight into the wind and waves both of which have picked up just as I set foot in the dinghy.

Mike has had a fun day of doing engine stuff and trying to fix the rev counter.  The bloody thing obviously didn’t want fixing as it fought back and knocked off another chunk of his head.  That’ll be more blood on the pillow tonight!

The next day is filled with reading and relaxing although I get very anal about Mike’s filing system on his computer and spend hours re-organising everything.  Frighteningly, I enjoy this.

Sunday we are supposed to meet Jutta and Jochem for a lobster lunch at Coco Beach.  Typically we have the first rain since Allison and John left and the tropical downpours sweep through the anchorage with alarming regularity bringing with them winds gusting over 30 knots.  Mike decides it is not safe to leave the boat as similar conditions a few weeks ago here had boats dragging their anchors all over the place so we have to cancel.

The downpours continue for most of the day but things start to calm down in the late afternoon.  By sunset the anchorage is like a millpond again and we are treated to beautiful red skies.

P1090424  Photo:  Red skies over Clarkes Court Bay