(17th June – 3rd August)
So with Nick and Catherine gone we had a few days sorting bits out on the boat in preparation for the northward slog. We spent a night with Symmetry for a few drinks and a lesson in boat electrics, which we were hugely grateful for, and come the morning of the 17th we were set to leave. St Lucia had been the first place we had arrived at from Europe and we had a soft spot for the Island, it was beautiful and had some of our favourite anchorages and bays throughout the Caribbean, it would be missed and it was strange to think with our plans next year that we may never see them again. We had a good sail north for once, the wind was perfect, but the Captain wasn’t, maybe to many beers with Rick and Helen the night before had left me feeling worse for wear. Once off the coast of St Lucia I retired below for a sleep whilst Holly sailed us up to Martinique. Its 30 Miles and we made great speed, I was woken up to only 5 miles to go until the anchorage which I was very happy for, and we crept into Grand Anse D’Arlet just before the sun set. Leaving enough time to nip ashore to get some ice creams.
We spend a few days here doing not much at all, this was down to one day of being stuck here due to bad weather, but it did mean a day or two relaxing.
With our dog permit issued for Dominica we were set needing to arrive on Friday the 24th June, so we moved up from Grand Anse D’Arlet to Fort De France on the 20th, be it only 8 miles, the wind was in our face and the sea was choppy making it an uncomfortable 2 and a half hours. We planned on beginning the boat repairs and preparation for returning to the UK here, as we would have access to things that were nowhere else to be found. We spent a day travelling around the Island looking in Chandleries, poor pregnant Holly was dragged for miles in search of a specific fuse, which still was nowhere to be found. Another day was a bus ride to a huge industrial zone to buy lino to replace or rancid mouldy carpet…..we can’t have jellybean crawling around that, and the final day was spent cleaning the boat and clearing out cupboards and packing away unwanted clothing etc, Holly has even started to pack for the flight. Unfortunately Fort De France is where the discomfort of our northward voyage started, the anchorage here was so rolly it was unbearable, we couldn’t sleep, move around the boat, or even think straight by the time we left, we had three nights of it and by the 4th night we decided to get moving north to get some miles under our belt, so we added a few more night hours to our log book, also knocking off 15 miles from tomorrows sail giving me an extra few hours in bedl.
Lucky we did leave last night, as my 04:30 wake up call would have been much earlier, again with a horrible rolly night we barely slept, the 45 mile sail was set to take 8 – 9 hours, but the sea its self was rough, and the wind in an awkward position to the swell, so it made the sail not so great. To top off a demoralising sail, 2 miles from Dominica the dinghy we were trailing behind us got turned over by a rouge wave, sending the contents into the rough sea (Our stupid fault for leaving it in there), we turned the boat around to rescue the bits as we really can’t afford to replace any of it, we hooked and retrieved the first oar no problem, but after 4 passes at random bits with no success Holly put her foot down saying it was time to leave before these attempts caused injury or worse…..So off we went, minus 1 oar, and our only fuel can, and our dinghy pump, frustratingly we tried twice to get this, as our dinghy needs pumping 5 times a day….very annoyed at ourselves…….Hindsight is a horrible thing. Note – Don’t trail stuff you need in the dinghy!
24th June – Dominica has a bad rep for itself amongst the cruising community, we have been told how its very unsafe with robberies and attacks to boat owners, and not to leave your boat in dark hours. This rep has actually worked amazingly in their favour as the locals have taken it upon themselves to make you feel extremely safe and welcome. They ran patrols through the night in the anchorages to ensure no unwanted guests tried visiting boats, and everyone to me seemed more friendly and helpful than anywhere I had been. We arrived into Roseau on the South of the Island and stayed for 2 nights, we took advantage of a paid buoy for once as the anchoring area was not great, and I was feeling very lazy and deflated after the previous sail, demoralisingly even the small fee to be on a buoy didn’t stop us from having the 6th and 7th horrendous nights sleep due to a small swell sneaking round the bay. From here we took a trip into the centre of the Island to see Trafalgar falls, the largest on the Island, they we beautiful but the Hurricane in 2015 had destroyed a lot of the rivers around the falls by huge landslides. It was overwhelming to see what a hurricane could do the things that had stood for hundreds and thousands of years, when they were in its path, especially when my little fibreglass boat would be standing on a slab of concrete in 6 weeks, with no protection from the elements. From the falls we walked down to a 20 Acre gardens full of smaller waterfalls, natural boiling hot sulphur pools, tropical exotic flowers and peacocks that surprised us by showing us their full feathers. Hoping to get a good nights sleep, we set off north with a destination of Portsmouth on the north of the Island, it was only 20 miles but mostly motoring due to the lack of wind. We had planned to spend 3 nights here to see a few must see things, the first night was actually pleasant and we managed to have our first decent nights sleep in a week, the next two were worse than anything in the last 10 days, which in the end drove us to nearly murdering someone….luckily the beauty of Dominica and the friendly people certainly helped to cheer us up, we took a rowed tour down the Indian River, an amazing mangrove swampy river that leads a few miles in land, it is where the Pirates Of the Caribbean movies are filmed (when the go to see the witch), our pictures will not do it justice at all, our guide and rower Albert was excellent and a lovely man who had been providing these tours for longer than I have been alive, and he was adamant that he still enjoyed doing it.
29th June – Dominica had been a lovely break away from the necessity of sailing north to return home, I even felt glad that we had missed the Island twice, just so it could break up the means to an end that this last week had been about. But now it was time to get back to it. The weather forecast for the next 10 days was not looking good. We had strong winds forecast and and a few days where it was close to being a small (But still uncomfortable) Tropical Storm, so we decided to leave late in the day and sail to Le Saints, a small group of islands south of mainland Guadeloupe. Its only 20 miles, and it was another uncomfy sail, with wind and swell fighting each other, but at the end we had completed 3 of our 4 between Island sails we would be doing, so we were pleased. We spent a night here, treating our selves to a full english breakfast onboard for dinner, it was so good, that we had the identical dinner the following night. We woke the next day and decided to do a much longer than planned sail to Deshais at the north of Guadeloupe, missing a stop we had been keen to see called Pigeon Island, this was to enable us to have an appointment at the vets and be ready to sail to Antigua when the weather lets us. Annoyingly after the Vets appointment on the 1st July, the only weather window we were happy to take for the 50 mile sail to Antigua was now…..it had been a hard 2 weeks, the sailing had become very uncomfortable for Holly at 7 months pregnant, rolling all over the place in moderately choppy seas, trying to hold a small furry rat bag, all in all she had done amazingly, especially when I bought up that it was now or next week for the sail north, she said lets do it now. I think she just wanted to get to Antigua and be comfortable again. So we set off at 14:00 with a 10/11 hour sailed planned on paper, but strange things out here can often happen…..for once in our favour…..the conditions were excellent, wind strong and swell low. We absolutely flew along, averaging 6kts overall (only ever happened once before) we were even sailing above 7kts for 2 hours. It couldn’t of happened at a better time, we were just keen to get there and the weather let that happen. Whilst sailing away, it was strange to look back and realise this would be our last proper sail, yes we would have to move the boat around Antigua to our boat yard, but I wasn’t counting that. This year had been amazing, 6500 miles covered, 12 countries and 3 continents, countless family and friends visiting and helping us sail along the way, a new addition to our family created, and touch wood no major problems anywhere along the way. This way of life really does suit us and it is fantastic.
3nd July – So strangely, for the first time in 11 months since leaving England, I am writing this blog and it is up to date. Mostly down to Holly with here catching up the last few months but I get to take all the glory today…..I am glad everyone still enjoys reading about our adventure. Less than a month we will be back home.