Unpaid crew!

This is nothing to do with me, but while I was on my own in Antigua, the girls had made plans of their own. I have yet to decide if she is going to be a valuable member of the crew or a regular walker of the plank!

That said she is lovely but shhhhh don’t tell anyone I said so !!!

 

Welcome on board Nala, “Charlottes” Cockapoo…… please note I said Charlotte’s !!!

Back to the UK

Our transport ship AAL Melbourne sailed back to the UK in great weather pretty much in a straight line, arriving in Southampton in 12 days. We were tracking it all the way with winds of less than 15kts most of the journey and calm seas…. until the last 24 hours as she reached the English Channel. With winds around 30 kts+ the shipping company decided to delay offload by 24 hours when conditions were due to be more favourable. We could see from images and video sent by the skipper in Antigua that the ship was big but when we arrived in the port alongside, damn she was big!!

With personal protective equipment along with hard hats, we boarded to find Silhouette. 2 years ago we left the UK with Allegrini, 2 years later and our yachts were next to each other on the Melbourne. Inseparable at the start and end of this part of our adventures!

 

Steve & Helen set their cameras up on Allegrini which shows us being moved around the ship and then theirs all the way in to the water… that’s UK water you understand, green and cold ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

 

Here’s the link from their website http://www.allegrini.co.uk

 

Safely in the water we spent the night in Southampton town quay marina and enjoyed a safe socially distanced drink or 3 on the pontoon along with 3 other yacht owners!

Having put the sails back on and bimini plus ensuring Silhouette was good to sail, we said goodbye again to Steve & Helen who were heading off to Plymouth making that their base in the UK & headed off to Poole and Cobbs Quay marina which ironically was where we left from in 2018. We had to motor out to the Needles then had a glorious sail to Poole harbour, we couldn’t have asked for better conditions… well perhaps the air temperature could’ve been 15 degrees higher!

We’ve sailed approximately 8,000 miles in 2 years. We are now on pause but will head off to explore the coasts of France, Spain & Portugal again when the World calms down. Then new adventures into the Mediterranean which we are excited about.

Stay safe everyone ๐Ÿ™‚

 

 

Farewell Caribbean

So it’s a sad farewell to the Caribbean, certainly not the way we thought we’d be leaving either! Arranging everything quickly and from afar was not without without stress, starting with getting the storage yard at Jolly Harbour marina to confirm they would be prepared to move yachts out of the way to get to Silhouette. I must say the entire team at the marina were very helpful and even recommended a skipper to prepare Silhouette, take her from the travel hoist to a marina berth and then motor her to the transport ship in St John’s. We had paid for 6 months storage in advance and said we didn’t want a refund as we were messing them about since January… first we were leaving then staying then leaving etc etc! Jo Lucas the general manager however said that’s not how they operated and was happy to pay for all the costs relating to getting Silhouette to the ship out of the credit on file & return the remainder. Once everything had been paid there was a credit of around ยฃ17oo so we agreed to take half and asked the office to donate the other half to an Antiguan charity of their choice. Jo suggested a specific food bank which directly helped locals in the hotel trade who had lost their jobs overnight due to the COVID-19 virus. These hotels had shut down and laid off all their staff leaving them with nothing. This was the least we could do.

Our skipper “Daniel” was amazing with WhatsApp videos updating us on what was going on and full video of the lift onto the simply huge ship AAL Melbourne. Unfortunately as Silhouette was being lifted the wind picked up and a gust took control which caught the stern making the bow hit the side of the ship….. 5 times ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Luckily Daniel’s filming showed the hits, the deck crew struggling to hold Silhouette steady & the load masters shouting, so no denying contact. Peters & May have taken lots of photos which don’t show visible damage, but they and us will take a good look with a surveyor if required in Southampton. It does look like the anchor took the hits so fingers crossed.

Next stop Southampton UK

 

 

 

Covid-19

Coronavirus Disease 2019 Rotator Graphic for af.mil.There can be no doubt the last 4 months has affected most of the world, it’s a time we will all remember for very personal reasons. I had been drafting an update over the last few weeks but in the end decided to do a shortened version.

After a wonderful new year celebrating with great friends Christoph & Angela from Ithaka we spent a couple of days in Barbuda before returning to Jolly Harbour where Silhouette was due to come out of the water for 3 months then sailing back to the Mediterranean. Shutting down for an extended period was certainly a challenge and hot work too! Plenty of beer breaks required ๐Ÿ™‚

Caroline & Charlotte flew back to the UK 2 weeks earlier, when I landed at Gatwick the morning temperature was -1 degrees…. Brrrrrr, haven’t felt the cold for 2 years & I didn’t like it.

So, this is when things started to go wrong. The pandemic looked like it was going global and fast, so it was decided I should get back to Silhouette in case plans changed. I managed to get a flight back with British Airways on an almost empty aircraft, and spent the next 3 days cleaning and antifouling ready to launch Silhouette. The thought process was to get her back in the water so if necessary I could sail to another island to pick up my crew if Antigua closed. We quickly realised this was a big mistake as restrictions everywhere were closing most of the islands and Airlines were shutting down with no idea when flights would resume. Even the boatyard thought I was crazy putting Silhouette back in the water with nowhere to go and an approaching hurricane season, that coupled with not being happy leaving the girls alone in the UK, the new plan was to spend the next 4 days shutting Silhouette down for the rest of the year. This was a mammoth task on my own, but Jeremy kindly helped getting the sails down and bagged up along with moving our dinghy. ย As the world began closing its borders and curfews brought in, crews around me were talking of how they were going to get their “homes” to safety. Jeremy on Right Turn & James and Bex on Hepzibah were looking to ship their yachts back to the UK, we were trying to organise insurance cover during the hurricane season as ours wasn’t interested. The extremely full flight back to the UK was very sad but the right thing to do in the circumstances. I managed to get on the second from last flight back to the UK and I was furious to hear some passengers complaining to the cabin crew there wasn’t any hot food available. The crew were working without personal protection equipment and at risk to themselves bringing citizens back home. Just what’s wrong with people?76ef354e-5685-4dfe-9fff-6ec996ac7c12

Arriving back at Gatwick just over a week after leaving and the difference was incredible. There was hardly anybody around and the roads back to Dorset were almost empty. Within days the UK went into lockdown as with most of the world which gave us time to think about the bigger picture and what cruising might be like in the next year or two with possible international restrictions in place. The new insurance company who had quoted to insure us during the forthcoming hurricane season couldn’t be reached, presumably due to the lockdown on Antigua which meant there was a chance of no insurance from June in the event of a claim if we couldn’t get in touch with them. Yet again we decided to change plans and got in touch with yacht shippers Peters & May. We have now booked Silhouette on the Ship to bring her back to the UK next month meaning we will be sailing locally for the next year or until whatever the new “normal” is. We have so much money tied up in Silhouette we felt bringing her back to the UK was safest BUT very expensive too ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We hope to see Silhouette in about 4 weeks safely back on the water where we will sail her back home to Poole, this will mean our adventure is put on hold for now. It will be strange sailing in the English Channel again….. but it could be so much worse.

 

Stay safe everyone.

 

Another Caribbean Christmas

 

The ARC+ & ARC is all over for another year, amazing to think it was us arriving 12 months ago. This year as previously mentioned we were one of the finish line boats, something we’ll remember for a long time, such a great experience to be part of. We were first out on the line to give a very special welcome to the first arrival, and ended up staying out for 72 hours straight!!! One of the other yachts which had agreed to take part on the line failed to turn up so we stepped in. It was a long time out in the bay remembering yachts arrive day or night but sleep just wasn’t a problem due to the excitement of talking to them on the radio and blowing the air horn as they crossed the line. Some yachts must have forgotten how to sail upwind as they made a bit of a mess trying to get in, all commented with laughter on the radio how funny it must’ve looked having sailed across the Atlantic only to mess up the last mile ! What stood out for us was listening to the huge cheers from boat crews with arms in the air to watching the first yacht over the line in the ARC. We found out later this was a family crew of 4 on a French catamaran, they approached us in the dark at 14 knots and we saw somebody at the bow shouting down the seconds to hitting our stern, at the last second they tacked (turned) to cross the line hardly slowing down which was an incredible sight. What made this so special too was they were in ahead of some serious Volvo Ocean racing yachts.

And then there was the tale of the British yacht in the racing division who missed the line…. I should explain naming no names of course. When yachts approach the line they are told to call the finish line yacht 2 miles away for instructions. Of the approximately 80 yachts we timed across the line only 3 didn’t. Although electronic navigation is excellent, the finish line isn’t always in the exact spot due to for example some local placing a load of fishing pots in the way or a cruise ship deciding to anchor in the way. The finish line yacht radios the exact position and what to look for…. so back to this British racing yacht, who arriving after dark, for their own reasons decided not to make contact even after we saw them coming and called to offer information. We watched as they screamed past us the wrong side of the line being chased by the official photographer. He was duly advised that in order to receive a finish he needed to turn around and do it again… I’d like to think a conversation took place about correct communication, perhaps their radio wasn’t working though ๐Ÿ˜‰

This photo is of the first ARC+ yacht over the line with Silhouette in the background. We ended up doing 6 24 hour shifts on the line and would thoroughly recommend it to anybody to get involved, it was nearly as exciting as when we crossed the line ourselves.

We also were there to welcome Tony & Sue “Mirabella” and James & Bex (Hepzibah) who were on the ARC+. The added surprise was they were not expecting Caroline or Charlotte to be able to fly out to greet… boy were they surprised. James & Bex must’ve picked up an eye infection as they both had very watery eyes!  

As part of the ARC team, we were offered a free marina berth when not on the line which was lovely and unexpected (well done and thank you WCC), which is in the commercial dock area. When we tried to return to it a local fishing boat was in it so the dock master said  it was no problem as he had no right at all to be there… and subsequently moved it to the middle of the lagoon and dropped its anchor. You should’ve seen the guy when he came back to see his boat but not able to get to it!!!

 

After the prize giving it was time to say goodbye to everyone and we headed off away from St Lucia’s Marigot Bay for one last time, up to Martinique in “sporty” conditions. From there the next day it was straight up to Portsmouth in Dominica and the next day up to Pigeon Island in Guadeloupe for Christmas day in the marine park.

We left Guadeloupe at midnight on Christmas day for an overnight sail north to Antigua where we will spend celebrating New Year with friends.

So this is our last island in the Caribbean before heading east to Europe in May, as Islands go this is rather nice !!!

Our hatch covers which we bought just before leaving the UK have now completely fallen to bits, the UV here in the tropics is relentless, so I had some spare sunbrella fabric and made some new ones by hand… the result looking pretty good too ๐Ÿ™‚

 

Full update

As I write this post, the ARC fleets are on their way to St Lucia along with a much smaller fleet going to St Vincent. It seems like only yesterday we were doing it, so much has happened in the 12 months since. The ARC+ fleet had pretty bad conditions heading south to Mindelo in the Cape Verdes with a gust of 52 kts reported by some friends, plenty of sea sickness and big seas. The Atlantic has now calmed down and the fleets are struggling with very light winds as they head west.

So, my brother Steve arrived in Grenada on the 15th October after his longest ever flight via Barbados. We went straight into the bar at Spice Island Marine in Prickly bay where he noticed he’d lost his glasses en route… not a great start!

After a few days showing him around the bays and witnessing first hand the island bus drivers, along with the blaring “crap rap” music they all seem to play & introducing him to food shopping ๐Ÿ™‚ it was time to see if he had a stomach for sailing. A brief 2 night stop in St Georges anchorage to see Christoph and Angela on Ithaka was followed by his first sail up to Carriacou. I told him about the exclusion zone around “Kick em Jenny” underwater volcano and that we should be about 1.5km from it. In the end we passed about 1km from it and it was amazing how much more agitated the sea state was!!! My concern of Steve being sea sick was unnecessary, I let him helm pretty much all the way watching him struggling to keep the boat in a straight line… very funny!

Over the next 5 weeks I took him to Carriacou, Union Island, Mayreau, Tobago cays, Canouan (overnight anchor only), Bequia, St Lucia & Martinique during which he saw dolphins, whales, barracuda, lots of turtles and the clearest deep blue water he’d ever seen. I will always be grateful to him for coming out to spend time with me, as being alone for 4 months wasn’t in the plan when we left the UK. Steve’s flight back was eventful too in that after a 3 hours delay due to issues with the aircraft the take off was aborted halfway down the runway at full speed. It took 4 hours to get the passengers offloaded as the airport closed as soon as the aircraft left the apron and they had to get staff back at 3am plus find taxis and hotels for over 300 people. Quite the logistical nightmare but I did get an extra day with him in the bar!

Whilst here Steve wanted to conquer his fear of heights and asked to go up to the top of the mast … well he made it to the first set of spreaders !!!

I am now at anchor in Rodney Bay waiting for the ARC office to open on 1st December. I have agreed to be a finish line boat this year along with 4 other previous ARC yachts, welcoming the yachts over the line giving assistance and directions if required via the radio. The first boats should be in around 2nd through till 20th but I can only stay until around the 15th as we need to start moving up to Antigua which is where we are due to spend Christmas and the new year with friends.

PLANS

When we looked at where we wanted to go, initially we said we would go into the Mediterranean for a year or so then look at crossing to the Caribbean. That plan changed and we went straight to the Caribbean instead. Being here meant spending at least 3 years looking around this wonderful area including sailing up the east coast of America to New York, before making any more decisions like going through Panama Canal etc.

Life and circumstance will always dictate what happens and this is no different for us. Due to certain events we have decided to cut short our stay on this side of the Atlantic and in May/June next year will sail back across the Atlantic via the Azores to Portugal then into the Mediterranean with the first winter around Cartegana in Spain. For the foreseeable future we need to be nearer the UK and split our time between there and Silhouette. The Med is huge with so much to see, other cruisers did say if we had gone to the Med first we probably wouldn’t have gone across the Atlantic. The winds over here are always coming from the east, it will be quite strange to be in an area where the winds come at you from all ways !

Caroline & Charlotte will remain in the UK for the Atlantic crossing, I have 2 crew flying in to bring Silhouette across with me, my cousin Lee who has been sailing since he was a boy… biggest problem with him is trying to get him off the helm and always wanting to put the spinnaker up, and Chris a very experienced sailor with previous Atlantic crossings, Fastnets and Whitbreads under his belt.

At then end of January Silhouette will be placed ashore in Antigua for 2 months giving me the opportunity to fly back to the UK to spend time with family and friends before returning to prepare for the crossing. I remember saying the next time I returned to the UK I would visit my old karate club to train, since saying that I’ve occasionally taken the mickey out of the senior UK instructor on social media…. GULP !!! Be nice to me Sensei Neil. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

 

This brings the blog up to date, the next section is a bit techie &ย really only for sailors considering wind generators as an aid to power generation. It probably won’t interest any non sailors reading our blog but if you like frustration…

 

RUTLAND 1200 MPPT

We fitted the all new Rutland 1200 system over a year before we left knowing we wanted a reliable powerful model which also controlled solar panels. It is vitally important to test new gear well before embarking on long distance cruising to iron out any problems. The first control box failed and I was blamed for connecting the black and red cables the wrong way round (hmmm I don’t think so) but Marlec repaired the unit free of charge. The system never produced anywhere near the advertised power and eventually Marlec replaced the control box (mppt) again free of charge. Once we left the UK we just felt like we were expecting too much from the unit which never produced any big numbers unless it was blowing a gale, but our friends on Allegrini who had bought 2 of the same systems were reporting exactly the same low power issues. Added to this, everytime we saw a yacht with a Rutland 1200 fitted I asked them their thoughts on its performance and all were less than complimentary. Once we got to the Canary islands, Steve (Allegrini), myself and the Marlec team had a conference call to give them all the feedback necessary to reprogram new mppt boxes for us to our specification. The standard parameters of the system is to condition the batteries i.e to allow the batteries to charge then discharge down to around 12.4v before recharging at supposed full power. Our argument was when cruising full time long distance we needed the system to provide full available power all the time up to “float phase”. Although their engineer wasn’t happy being told his programming wasn’t up to scratch, Marlec supplied 3 new mppt boxes to our design again free of charge. It is important to highlight that at no time did Marlec charge for any of this over the last 3 years and most of the staff were at all times helpful in trying to understand & get over the problems.ย  We fitted the new units before heading across the Atlantic but to be honest even then there wasn’t much improvement leading us to believe we were never going to get this working as we’d hoped.

Fast forward now to 2 weeks ago, having fitted lithium batteries on board, I’d noticed the mppt was now constantly showing 13.3v or above (as it should with lithiums) and the wind turbines in stall mode providing no voltage to the batteries. I sent an email to Marlec to be told they had reprogrammed the units to our spec meaning the mppt would generate full power up to 14.4v but tapering would begin below that. I have on board the data cable and software to access the mppt and reprogram as done by Marlec and plugged it in. To my surprise I found the unit had not been programmed to 14.4v but to 13.8v. This means tapering will commence at a much lower voltage which is why the unit has been poor initially and useless with lithium. I have now reprogrammed the mppt to 14.4v and …… yes you’ve guessed it, the system is working flawlessly providing everything I expected it should do.

In conclusion, I feel I should say that the Rutland 1200 system is as good as I’d hoped it to be, BUT it is vital the programming is carried out correctly by Marlec and it shouldn’t have taken this long to get it right.

My advice to anyone considering this product is not to just buy it off the shelf in a chandlers, but to actively speak to Marlec, tell them exactly what you want & expect the unit to do for you and ask for them to supply the data cable/software in the box to make sure the parameters you asked for are correct. This will cost them pennies to supply as part of the sale, & I believe should be there without asking.

In the tropics (& presumably the Med) solar power is definitely the way to go but a wind generator can provide power overnight too as long as there’s wind, which is why we fitted it in the first place. Both Caroline & Charlotte will now be so pleased that I will shut up about this !!!

Still here !

We haven’t dropped off the edge of the world, staying at anchor in the same spot for 4 months doesn’t make for interesting posts!

It has given us the opportunity to do some minor work, however don’t you just love it when the item you’re looking for is at the bottom of a locker !

If you have to stop somewhere for a considerable length of time, Grenada is pretty hard to beat with plenty going on whether its social activities or not. I can confirm however it’s really hot and humid every day, but not as much rain as I was led to believe. This is hurricane season however, which started off pretty slow but activity increased as time went by. Our first possible hit was tropical storm Dorian on 21st August, but in the end it passed north of the island with no damage at all. In fact we had literally no wind as the storm took it away. The same couldn’t be said further up the chain and Dorian continued to build into a catagory 5 hurricane, the most powerful. The Bahamas took a direct hit with wind speeds up to 295 km/h (185mph) which devastated the islands.

Tropical storm Karen arrived on the 21st September making a direct hit on Grenada and our bay with little notice. The winds were around 40-50 kts but the damage was done by the power of the sea with yachts breaking out from their moorings and anchors, pin balling through the anchorage ending up on reefs or beaches. Caroline & Charlotte flew back to the UK at the beginning of August leaving me to look after Silhouette. As the waves hit the boat together with the wind, it was the first time I was worried. With that statement you have to bear in mind this was a fairly small tropical storm… I cannot even begin to imagine what a full blown hurricane must be like, & I don’t want to! Luckily Silhouette’s anchor held firm and no damage, just a very tired skipper.

As I write this Hurricane Lorenzo has just hit the Azores full on & continues to track towards the UK. It is officially the strongest hurricane to develop so far east in the Atlantic reaching once again catagory 5. I remember watching it as a depression as it was on the coast of Africa thinking if it developed into a storm before it even reached the Cape Verdes it was going to be a problem. Here we are all grateful it went north but feel desperately sad for anyone in its path.

Our batteries have been on borrowed time & probably should’ve been replaced before we crossed the Atlantic, but you know how it is when cruising… “they’ll last a bit longer!” In the end we had to make a decision which was aided by the ever helpful Steve & Helen on Allegrini. We decided to change over to Lithium technology which is quite a leap. Steve changed a few months previously and with him having done all the research (which he’s great at) we opted for ReLion. We spoke to the main distributor on the island who gave us a price which we weren’t happy about. He simply said if you think you can buy cheaper good luck. That was red rag to a bull for me! Enter Sherri @ Wholesale yacht parts, based in Grenada who buys marine products in the USA and ship them to the island. The gamble was paying in advance but WOW was she good. The price including freight, customs, tax & delivery to the dinghy dock was 30% cheaper than the main dealer who said it wasn’t possible. Delivery was on time and comms were regular.

So compact !!!

There will no doubt be purists out there who will start screaming about safety and charging problems, what I can say is that each battery has its own battery management system and is steel cased. Despite that they are a third of the weight and half the size, charge twice as quick as lead acid batteries and pack more volts all the way through. As conventional batteries drain the volts drop but not with lithiums. They’ve been in now for 2 months and get a huge thumbs up. They are drop in batteries, the only thing I did was upgrade all the cables, making them the same length for even charging, add a victron battery monitor & change the settings over on the charging equipment onboard. The only thing that currently doesn’t work is the Rutland 1200 system as it constantly puts the mppt in “float” as the batteries show high voltage all the time. If I’m honest we’ve pretty much given up on the Rutland system & rely on solar power which most cruisers do over here.

Our only other purchase whilst we’ve been here is a Highfield RiB to replace our foldable one. Build quality is amazing and the tubes are bigger making for a dry ride and more stable too.

My brother is flying out in 10 days time to spend a month sailing with me, ending up in St Lucia which is where the ladies will be flying back to. It’s the longest we’ve been apart in over 30 years & has not been easy. It will be good to get moving again, we have a little over 3 weeks to go until our full insurance cover returns, & I’m looking forward to showing Steve how to sail and the southern windward islands.

Our plans have changed dramatically over the summer… more on that next time with new adventures and challenges ahead. Remember now, all plans are made in pencil.

All stop

We are now in Grenada having spent a few days in Carriacou where we met up one last time with Jeremy from “Right Turn” who we’ve spent a fair bit of time with since Portugal last August. He had organised one of the fleet trips south to Trinidad, this is due to the piracy issues by Venezuelan’s in the area. With at least 8 boats travelling together, the Trinidad coastguard sends a vessel out and escorts them into safe waters. Many boats go on their own whilst some prefer safety in numbers. Sadly it only takes a couple of boardings to make cruisers think twice about going to Trinidad.

You need a cruising permit in Grenadian waters which is renewed monthly at 75 EC dollars. We anchored in Tyrell bay as it looked more protected and enjoyed a week there including a walk to paradise beach and then on into Hillsborough the capital. There we saw quite a few businesses all called Bullens, which incidentally is the same surname as Nick & Carol’s (our Atlantic crew)….. they get everywhere!!

There is an underwater volcano called “kick em Jenny”which is quite active meaning there is an exclusion zone around it. This varies in size depending on how active it is, for us it was only about 2 miles as it was quiet. The route from Carriacou to Grenada is straight over the area, this picture from 2017 shows why you should listen to the locals. The name says it all as if you’re too close when she rumbles, the sea lets you know about it!

We anchored in St George’s the capital to get our bearings and also checkout the Carenage where all the shops are. It’s a commercial port with large ships entering through the tight channel daily, delivering everything this island needs. There’s 2 marinas here, the small Grenada yacht club which does a fantastic BBQ on Fridays for 15EC (less than ยฃ5) and the very smart Port Louis marina owned by Camper & Nicholson. Whilst in the anchorage Christoph & Angela from Ithaka arrived, we hadn’t seen them since January so a catch up was certainly on the cards. Also Brendan & Brenda from Crean arrived ……. more drinking! Potential cruisers beware, there’s a theme running here ๐Ÿ™‚

Apparently after a few drinks I’d volunteered to check out the top of Ithaka’s mast for an electrical issue…. really!

Most cruisers who stay on island throughout the hurricane season tend to stay in the bays on the south of the Island, so we checked out Clarkes Court bay, Hog island and eventually settled on Prickly bay. There are social activities in most bays if you want to join in, from jamming sessions in Rogers beach bar & Nimrods to dominoes in the Tikki bar Prickly bay! 6 mornings a week there is a very active cruisers net on ch66 giving security messages, weather, social & business information along with treasures of the bilge where cruisers sell buy or give away boat stuff. We’d heard about this long before leaving the UK but to actually be here now listening to it is quite surreal! We will use this during our stay… more on that soon.

We decided to do a private taxi tour of the island so together with Christoph & Angela along with 3 unexpected stowaways  from Trinidad (who were lovely though), we were driven around the island by Tom who was very informative. Leaving the dinghy dock in 30 degrees we quickly climbed into the rain forest, past a delightful place dubbed “Hotel California” by the locals. This was the main Prison and most definitely not our kind of hotel, a reminder to stay on the right side of the law!

Stopping at the viewpoint the temperature had dropped to about 18 degrees, the coolest we’d been since Europe, and the air felt damp & so refreshing. After a stop to find “George”one of the local inhabitants, we moved on to one of the islands Nutmeg factories. This was stepping back in time as everything thing is done by hand from the moment the local farmers bring in their bags through to sorting, separating and grading.

It was certainly an eye opener BUT nothing had prepared us for what we were about to see at the Rivers Rum distillery!We actually thought we’d arrived at a derelict set of buildings initially but this was the River Antoine estate, a Rum distillery which makes Rum in exactly the same way as they did when first opened in 1785 with the same equipment!

We can’t do this process justice on a blog but hopefully the pictures will help. The huge wheel is turned by water supplied from a stream, this wheel drives a conveyor belt which transports the sugar cane into crushers and melting pots. The “alcohol” is sent to huge tanks and the alcohol is actually then moved by hand ladle to other tanks, unbelievable in today’s automated world. The Rum is then sent to underground storage where it is manually tested and a percentage proof decided (tough job) before being bottled. They make 500 bottles a day here and all is sold locally. With investment they could easily make this 5000 bottles a day but you know, small is good and it wouldn’t taste the same either!

 

We then went on to the Diamond chocolate factory to see how it’s made. My cousin Kerry is a chocolatier (chocolates by Miss Witt) in the UK with international awards so this was something of interest too. The process here was very automated with large machines which make bars of different cocoa percentage and very clever…. I do think Kerry’s chocolates are better and certainly made with love! Didn’t stop us buying some chocolate though ๐Ÿ™‚

Our final stop was to the Concord water falls……enough said!

 

 

 

The Grenadines

After spending a couple of days at the Pitons we said goodbye to St Lucia until December as we will be back to the ARC+ finish line to welcome our friends James & Bex on Hepzibah & hopefully Tony & Sue on Mirabella who are booked in the main ARC but on the waiting list for ARC+

We had a great sail down past St Vincent into Admiralty bay at Bequia. We decided not to visit St Vincent as reports from cruisers have been less than complimentary with theft fairly commonplace. Whilst this may be unfair on the island we decided to take a more security based view.

Everyone’s view of a destination is personal, for us we absolutely loved it. The moment we arrived at the anchorage it felt homely, and by pure coincendence we anchored just behind Bar one…. a floating bar !!! We sailed in company with Crean who arrived a little after us, who said cats were faster than monohulls ๐Ÿ™‚ We absolutely flew down past St Vincent rarely dropping below 7 knots and mostly in excess of 8kts.

Once there it was really good for Charlotte to spend time with Ciara as they are the same age. This meant they could talk about stuff we didn’t want to know about !!! The only town on the Island is lovely with shops, well stocked supermarket, bars and restaurants most with free WiFi. You could tell the bay loves its sailing visitors as there were so many dinghy docks available, most leading to a bar!

Together with Brendan & Ciara we hired a taxi for an island tour, this being the best way to get about. We were taken to all points on the island including the highest and at my request we went right down south past the tiny airport to see the development called “Moonhole”. The best thing to do is google it as it’s really odd but if you’re wanting to live a simple life with no frills you can buy a unique dwelling quite cheap…. forget your hair drier though as there’s no electricity!

We also visited the turtle sanctuary, set up to help protect these wonderful creatures. This was a prelude to when we headed down the Tobago Cays.

Eventually time ran out and Crean headed back up to St Lucia as Ciara had a flight booked back to Ireland as she had a summer job waiting. We should meet up with Brendan in early June though in Grenada. We moved on down to Canouan, finding for us a very very quiet island with closed hotels no “safe” place to land our dinghy. Chris Doyles guide mentions the wind can howl through the hills, he was right as it was one of the more uncomfortable nights at anchor ending up with me napping in the cockpit incase we dragged. At least the batteries remained in float phase all night!!! In the morning one of the local boat boys came out to ask if we were ok as it was so windy, if they thought it was then it certainly was & we’re not in hurricane season yet! One night was enough so we headed down to Mayreau looking for calmer conditions.ย 

Mayreau is one of the smallest inhabited islands in the Grenadines with about 1000 permanent residents. We’d hoped to get into Saltwhistle bay but its a really small bay and was filled with cats so ended up in Long bay just a mile to the south. This is the main bay with a pier for the ferries, the stunning beach fringed with palm trees an easy swim away and calm waters! This is a laid back island and the first time we found the local supermarket to be as we’d expected before leaving the Uk. Visiting huge supermarkets with so much on offer makes you forget not everyone is so lucky. I will never moan again if Asda (Walmart) are out of a particular item! I was in particular looking for yoghurt to go with the chilli being cooked and was told “I stock it but am out, next delivery in 2 weeks”.

Around the corner from Mayreau is the famous Tobago Cays, a reef protecting some very small islands which have some of the clearest water you’ll see. This was also the place we were likely to see turtles up close. Access to the area is surrounded by rocks and with strong currents accurate pilotage is a must! It was worth the visit……

After Mayreau it was a 6 mile sail to Clifton in Union Island, the last of the Grenadines. Clifton harbour is protected by reefs (yes there’s a lot of reefs around here!) and has a small but pretty town with plenty of dinghy docks including one by the Bougainvilla which is accessed by an arch just wide enough to get a dinghy through. With the swell you have to line up and just go for it then brake quickly once through…. good fun. This was also where we all celebrated Charlottes 21st birthday, and had a lovely meal in the restaurant there, with the very friendly staff even decorating our table with balloons. In the town there’s at least 3 supermarkets although all sell pretty much everything making them look more like jumble sales! We did notice just how many stray dogs there were wondering round, all looked well and didn’t bother anyone. We were in the sports bar and one decided to lay down at our feet in the shade, not even trying to get food from us.

These islands are so different from where we used to live, a traffic jam here is created by the most unusual events !!!ย 

After 3 nights in Clifton we checked out with customs & left the Grenadines heading off south to Carriacou which is part of Grenada and hopefully our base until November.

 

1 year anniversary

Yesterday marked 1 year exactly since leaving our home port of Poole in England.

This photo was taken in September 2017 just after we’d signed up with ARC+ to cross the Atlantic.

Since then we’ve sailed just over 6500 miles, stopped at 86 places & visited 20 islands/countries at least once. We’ve had no wind & gales, calm seas & rough seas, plenty of sun & not too much rain!

We’ve seen whales, dolphins & turtles, including catching a huge fish mid Atlantic.

We’ve had tears from laughing at ourselves & with new friends we’ve met along the way, and tears of sorrow as I said farewell to my Dad.

Whatever dreams you may have, try your best to make it happen because life isn’t a dress rehearsal for something else……

Here’s to adventureย  !