Tin Tin's Sailing Calendar

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Bonaire - fabulous snorkellng!

Bonaire was very different from the other islands we've visited. No anchoring is allowed, and moorings are provided all along the waterfront, where the water suddenly shallows from dark blue 150metres deep to pale crystal blue in 3metres of water. The waterfront road and promenade runs in a long gentle curve along the bay with low colourful buildings. The sea wall is only a couple of feet high, and as one walks along one can see loads of bright blue and yellow parrot fish at one's feet, nibbling the coral to make new beach sand.

Around us are lots of yachts from many countries. Astern a big 53' Oyster called "Venture" flies a huge white ensign emblazoned with two golden lions on a red field. This is the personal flag the Seigneur of Sark, but when I went over to chat I find that the Royal Sark Yacht Club is allowed it too. On board I recognised Anita, who did the SSB radio course with me, and her husband Pete. They are awaiting spares for their autopilot and will then rejoin the Oyster Rally through Panama before spending Oct - Apr in New Zealand; something that I am considering as Option B.

We dinghy along the seafront to moor at Karel's Bar, set out on stilts into the azure swimming pool of the sea and prominent with great white awnings, floaty white curtains and white furniture. Definitely the place to be seen, and essential for all the wifi admin I need to do...... :-)

The following day we discovered why Bonaire is so well to do, with its chic cafes, high end menus and well painted buildings. A huge cruise ship docked improbably against the harbour dock, and disgorged its 2000 passengers. As it came in we were already halfway across the mile and a half to Klein Bonaire to go snorkelling.

It was the best I have ever experienced for richness of corals and fish varieties. We snorkelled out across white sand in waist deep water, between brain corals and "cabbage" coral heads, until ahead the water went deep blue at the drop off into 150 metres. The down slope was visible for a long way in the crystal clear water until it became too dark blue, and gave us all shivers of fright as we wondered what might be down there watching us.

Emily is amazing at diving deep down to photograph fish far below. It felt like a wonderful garden with so many shapes and colours of coral, between which swim great blue parrot fish, occasional excreting a plume of chewed coral sand, large round black fish with yellow edged scales and yellow eyes that gaze placidly at one, pink and red pipe fish which swim horizontally until they get shy, when they stick their head down into coral and stay vertical, camouflaged by the coloured markings.

In some of the cabbage like corals tiny yellow and blue fish dart in and out, while red snapper types mooch round below. A turtle or two appeared as well, and once back on the beach we saw lots of turtles and shoals of blue parrot fish feeding in the shallows a foot or two from the sand. Emily followed one or two turtles with her GoPro and they seemed unconcerned by her presence and she got some great video!

Now we leave all that astern as we sail the 36 miles to Curaçao, getting very close to the Venezuelan coast. Justin is fishing at the stern, hunkered down I the shade of the Bimini, Emily is lounging in the sun at the mast reading on her kindle, and Mark is plucking the ukelele. I have just been emptying the holding tanks- glamorous stuff!

Saturday, 28 January 2017

Across the Caribbean Sea

11:00 Saturday 28th January 2017 with just 150 miles to Bonaire. 13 02.70N 66 40.03 W

We have had two nights at sea and the wind, fitful enough yesterday evening to motor for an hour, has strengthened nicely to 25 knots from the ESE,giving us 7-9 knots on a broad reach under full sail. We have begun settling into the routines of passage making, with 3 hour watches, and 9 hours off watch.

Mark is sitting in the shade of the aft Bimini practicing his ukelele, and making me feel bad that mine goes unplucked. Emily has taken the over-ripe bananas and is making banana bread. Justin is on watch and has been hand steering, getting the feel for the unfamiliar hydraulic steering. The autopilot still does better than any of us, and we blame the lack of feedback from the rudders which would build our instinctive response. We have just trimmed the sails to try to balance the boat better, but in so doing she rounded up a bit and there was a sudden crash from below as half a dozen eggs careered off the galley onto the floor. I found Emily clearing up and looking hot and harassed, and so I set about a couple of long overdue jobs; a) restraining the boxes of food under the companionway steps, which had slid to starboard and hit the eggs, and b) positioning a fan in the galley to cool the cook.

As we head south it feels hotter, and it's important to keep hydrated. However the watermaker is working smoothly so it has been possible to let the crew have a shower which has been a relief. Poor Emily is suffering from a chest infection picked from Lottie last week, and is coughing away, but fortunately beginning to feel better this morning.

Yesterday our main diversion was dolphins at dawn and again at dusk, leaping high out of the water, and then showing off under our bows for a while before vanishing without any apparent farewell gesture. Then just we were thinking there were no other ships, the African Grouse cargo vessel over took us heading for Panama. We looked across the mile and wondered whether to call on the VHF for a chat, but left the professionals to their work.

Justin has been assiduously fishing, first with the much repaired Watamu Yoyo, and then rehabilitating his old reel from our 2005 ARC crossing to fit on the Ocean Pro rod that Antony sent us. However the long rod put the line high in the wind so that it consistently drifts across to get snarled in the Watamu Yoyo line. Eventually we focussed on one or the other, but so far without success........

We had a recurrence of the current leakage problem again, with ominous red lights on the monitor, but we couldn't trace the problem. To my relief the leakage has stopped as mysteriously as it started, leaving us scratching our heads for a cause and a future solution.

Ahead lie Bonaire, Curaçao and Aruba, which promise new island experiences under Dutch Influence and then we tackle Colombia and the surprising possibility of meeting our aunt Kate Kendon who is exploring the country.

Friday, 27 January 2017

St. Kitts & Nevis

We only gave these two islands 24 hours, the first two of which were spent in the old yellow painted cotton ginnery in Charlestown, Nevis, where Customs, Immigration and Port Authority offices were side by side on the old colonial first floor balcony. I had close questioning about our trip from Antigua , but eventually all were satisfied and I was also allowed to visit St. Kitts without having to present my documents there again.

We visited the museum set in an old stone building on the sea front, and spent time going through the history of the island. Then we had a good pone about in the streets, characterised by old fashioned colonial style buildings with stone lower floor and wooden clad upper storey. There wasn't much in the way of cafes but a lot of ramshackle bars. We went past Wilma's Diner, in a little cottage with steps up to a verandah, but felt that it wouldn't meet our needs for a simple sandwich. Onwards we explored, right out to the ruins of Fort Charles, accessed through an abandoned factory, and beyond that, a failed beach side holiday complex. There was a reasonable amount of fort still visible as low walls and a gable end. There were still the original cannon overgrown by weeds and thorn bushes, and a water cistern, a twenty foot diameter circular walled well. If cleared back and presented well, it could be an interesting place to visit. Our return journey was much shorter a
s we found that we could walk along the beach back to the port. It was very hot, but places to welcome a thirsty tourist seemed to be missing. In the end we returned to the museum, where a brightly painted tin hut housed the Cafe des Beaux Arts in a courtyard shaded by trees with a pleasant sea breeze. They served a home made ginger that was exceptionally fiery, and a large glass took a long while to sip!

Back on board we motored the ten miles to St Kitts, along its low coastline, set with many hotels and beach resorts. Two huge cruise ships were alongside the pier in Basseterre. We anchored off and went ashore to explore as dusk fell. First impressions were of a livelier more crowded place with some large stores o the front. Walking past the bus staton and port we were accosted by several people asking for money. Little food stalls lined the bus station to serve those waiting to travel.

We turned inland and admired the old houses and streets. As the light failed we came to a stone church, built with a square tower that could have come straight from England. Eventually we ended up on the first floor balcony of the only place that looked like a cafe, which turned out to serve Asian food, and enjoyed a light supper of Thai noodles etc.

Back aboard we slept in a rolly anchorage, and then set sail the following morning for Bonaire. Some hours out, boldly flying our Parasailor with its bright orange band, we were buzzed by a Dutch Antilles coastguard plane. Perhaps they liked the colour!

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Justin goes straight from Dora Road to Dorado

Sailing to Nevis & St Kitts this afternoon, we were delighted to draw steadily away from the 70foot Challenger 3 heading in the same direction.

Then Justin put out the fishing line, and suddenly as the sun was setting he hooked a big dorado. I have to say that it was much bigger than anything we have caught so far! So once aboard it is desperately thrashing about, and I run to get the squeezy bottle of rum to squirt in its gills to put it to sleep. Sadly it then got free of its hook and we had the strange sight of Paul and Justin trying to grab the fish as it headed for the aft steps. Finally we were both trying to hold onto its tail, but with no difficulty it shook us off and was gone.

Mark kindly made a Spanish tortilla for supper instead, which we ate after nightfall, as we rounded the southern tip of Nevis, and groped our way into Charlestown harbour to pick up a buoy for the night.

We're off to St. Kitts & Nevis

Last night we spent moored stern-to in Jolly Harbour, ,which had the useful attributes of wifi, a good chandlery and supermarket. Happy hour was good too serving excellent Painkillers - orange, pineapple, coconut and .......rum.

This morning we set about fixing stuff, and I had fun disassembling the aft heads water pump. This has been intermittently faulty for months, and I keep having to struggle with it. This time, encouraged by spare parts listed in the chandlery I thought I'd do a proper job and replace the dodgy pressure switch. But the part didn't quite match, so while I had it all in bits, I realised that the pressure switch, which keeps stoping the pump flushing water, is completely irrelevant in this application. Some idiot had plumbed in a pump completely unsuited to the job at some point. So I took the pressure switch apart and removed the switch bit, and the system worked perfectly. It's so important to be able to diagnose problems logically, and then if the only remaining option seems unlikely, it is still the only option.

Meanwhile our successful battle with the forward holding tank leakage had the unexpected consequence of it filling up and overflowing unpleasantly this morning. More joy!

Checking in and out of Jolly a Harbour proves to be a jolly experience. Port control were charming, Customs were very friendly, Immigration were chirpy, and then Customs were helpful for the final formalities. Plus the three offices are all in a row on a verandah overlooking the harbour. MeanwhileMark and crew had extricated Tin Ti. From the Fock and I motored out to the in the dinghy.

Now we are broad reaching across the 40 miles to Nevis, probably arriving at 19:30 tonight. Another round of officials lie ahead :-)

Monday, 23 January 2017

Parasailling to Jolly Harbour

Another perfect morning, anchored in clear water.  Dived in and swam round the boat to clear the sleep from my eyes before breakfast and then went through the list of jobs with the crew.  Justin and Emily are now on board for the next six months, which is wonderful.

Having researched the location of supermarkets, chandleries and fuel pumps we set sail round to Jolly Harbour.  The wind was light and we raised the Parasailor which bellied out satisfyingly ahead of us, with its great horizontal slash of orange parafoil inflated in the breeze and holding the sail out nicely with the need for a pole.

Once in Jolly Harbour we filled with diesel. We have used 254 litres since we filled in Cape Verde on 20th December, and have probably run the generator  for about 4-5 hours per day since then, plus some hours of engine usage motoring in calm patches round Guadeloupe. That means our motoring range could be 1000 miles or we could sail and run the generator to make water and recharge the batteries for 80 days.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

All Bran in a Bombay Sapphire sea!

Yesterday we said a sad goodbye to Kate, Mark and Ruth, Lottie and Beth as they headed to the airport and back to school. Getting the bags ashore to the beach by OJ's Beach Bar involved a whoosh up the beach in the light swell, and a scramble to get the dinghy ashore before the next wave broke. We had been anchored just offshore in very flat calm conditions for two days, not wanting to move with golden sands a short swim away, the delights of OJs rum punches and fried food, and in the background Montserrat steaming dramatically, especially when the massive sunsets overtake the sky.

We woke, child free this morning, but it felt strange not to have the girls stomping through the saloon where Mark and I slept, and then sharing breakfast of chocolate Rice Crispies or Cheerios with them.

We upped anchor and headed a couple of miles out to sea to empty the holding tanks and then set out to solve the problems of the various valves that control the discharge of waste to sea. It took a long hot time running through the combinations of six valves, two toilets and two holding tanks until we had sorted out what went where. To do this we relied on a large packet of All Bran as a marker. Mark was below feeding All Bran into the bowl, pumping and frantically opening and shutting valves. I had the surreal job of leaning over the rail and gazing down into deliciously clear light blue water, which had a surface like clear glass, and giving a shout every time another gout of macerated All Bran gushed out below the surface. After much, increasingly heated, discussion we eliminated various possible causes and decided that some of the valve labelling was misleading. But then, no matter what we did we STILL had All Bran pumping out of the forward heads even if all outle
ts were shut. We finally concluded that the outlet valve had failed, and I was just wondering how to take it off without sinking the boat when I checked the valve handle........Lo ! It had been put on wrongly so that the valve never quite shut. Problem 4,713 solved. Phew! Just as well too, as we will be closely inspected by the authorities in the Galapagos.

Once we had cooled off in the Bombay Sapphire sea we sailed in light breezes through the inner passage behind the reef, while Mark raced happily around in the dinghy photographing Tin Tin. We had a touch of drama when Emily managed to collect a lobster pot round the two rudders, but a quick dive with snorkels soon had it disentangled. We then ended up anchoring off Pigeon Beach in Falmouth Harbour to await the arrival of Justin, with Latin Hiphop pounding away from a big Sunday barbecue party on the beach.

We welcomed Justin with a couple of rum punches in Skullduggery Bar at the Antigua Yacht Club, and then motored back out to Tin Tin in a deep red sunset that somehow surpassed the most spectacular of the last few days. All four of us couldn't stop saying Wow!

Emily then produced a superb Thai prawn curry and we are all now collapsing into our bunks, ready for a new voyage.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

View from my office :-)


We came ashore with the children and after walking into the village of Bourg des Saintes settled in a waterfront cafe for wifi and boissons, with a view of Tin Tin and the wonderful Maison Bateau sticking out of the cliff.

Emily and Ruth catch up on correspondence

Family cruising can be fun

I haven't written an update for a week now, such are the demands of sailing en famille. But now we are south of Guadeloupe, moored up in the Iles Saintes, and everyone is settled in.

Initially we had a couple of days in Antigua dealing with a generator fuel leak, a watermaker electrical problem and an outboard gearbox issue. The delay meant that I had to go back to Customs and Immigration in English Harbour and spend another hour re-registering our departure and paying more fees.

We set out on a brief sail one day, but everyone was seasick, and so I  curtailed it to go snorkelling on Horseshoe Reef in Willoughby Bay. Emily had the amazing expĂ©rience of being circled by two large Spotted Eagle Rays !

So for our trip to Guadeloupe I chose to leave at midnight with all in their bunks, and we arrived as dawn broke in Deshaies, with 35 knots of wind and a big swell behind us. The little town was being hammered by the waves crashing onto the buildings overhanging the water, sending big spray into the air. However we watched dinghies head to a landing stage, and soon followed suit to complete entry formalities. These were done online in the colourful environment of Le Pelican souvenir shop, where I just had to type in all the passport details for 8 crew, and pay €4! Lottie then helped me select a pair of bright red swimming trunks, more suited to the vibrant colours of the Caribbean, and a dry bag capable of taking my laptop ashore more securely.

Kate took the children to a nearby beach, Mark climbed the Grande Morne, and I spent the day dealing with admin and stuff on board. In the big swell I was feeling thoroughly seasick by the time Emily reappeared in the dinghy at 5 pm and took me ashore to have supper in a little pizzeria overlooking the flaming sunset.

Everyone seemed to cope OK with our very rolly anchorage, and the following morning rose for breakfast of fresh baguettes, pain au chocolat, croissants etc. collected by Ruth and Shim n the morning bread run.

Then we headed south to Pigeon Island in the Jacques Cousteau Nature Reserve. Moorings were for smaller boats than we, so while some snorkelled, Mark kept station with Tin Tin. The water was wonderfully clear in the deep water, but as we swam closer to the rocks the waves were churning everything up. We saw lots of brightly coloured fish, however, and it was most enjoyable.
Then we carried on south, passing La Soufriere volcano, visibly steaming, with its leeward cone burnt and devoid of vegetation. The lighthouse at the southern tip of Guadeloupe is set picturesquely against a little village, and Lottie and I spent the afternoon on the foredeck sketching it and everything that passed.

Leaving the shelter of the mountains we roared across to the Iles Saintes (named Ilos Santos by Columbus) in a warm tropical gale and picked up a mooring off the little village of Bourg des Saintes. It was so picturesque at 3 in the afternoon, and Lottie and I sat sketching the brightly coloured cottages, palm trees and boats. She has a very good eye for detail.

So we have caught up a couple of lost days of my original schedule, and will now explore these lovely isles for a few days before heading north again to Antigua.







Sunday, 8 January 2017

Antigua

By the time I had finished with immigration and released the crew from the boat it was ten o'clock, and once ashore for a look at Nelson's Dockyard we were drawn to The Admirals Inn for brunch overlooking the sheltered anchorage, surrounded the great stone columns which had once supported a sail loft and boat house.

We then upped anchor and went round to Falmouth Harbour, where we got the only alongside berth available. This turned out to be in the super yacht and mega yacht area, where we were completely dwarfed by gigantic motor yachts and astonishing sailing yachts. The crew worked hard to pack up and clean the boat, and as sunset drew near we caught a taxi up to Shirley Heights, where the fort keeps a lookout on the French down Guadeloupe. With the aid of a few rum pinches we watched the sun go down. Sadly no green flash this time, as it slid down behind the triple-breasted outline of Montserrat, its main peak still belching steam and ash.

Supper was a fish BBQ at Nelson's dockyard, followed by a walk home through the dark, enlivened by a diversion into a pulsing reggae bar. Back on the dock all the mega yachts were lit up like Christmas trees, and had turned on their underwater lights so that the water was a luminous blue like avast swimming pool. Nearby a few off duty crew were sitting drinking rum on the dockside, and invited us to join them. It was three a.m. before the rum ran out, and we headed for our bunks, but not before we had learned a lot about life on board those amazing boats. It was particularly good to later meet the captain of Marie, who lives near us in South Harting. His ship has vintage brass cannon which can be rolled and fired!

At the end of the evening another group of crew came past and, learning that we were from TinTin, said  "Our captain watched you come in, and said it was the most impressively slick mooring manoeuvre he'd seen!"

 I feel ridiculously proud to get that unsolicited comment, but I have to say that it was a pretty good handbrake turn and reverse into a slot :-)

The following morning Kyle and Niall headed for the airport and we prepared for the arrival of Emily, Kate, Mark, Ruth, Lottie and Beth. It was a considerable challenge to stow all the stuff to release two bunks for the girls, but it was all neat and tidy when the arrived.

That evening we went round to the yacht club and dined on the balcony, and had all in bed by about 7pm!

Guadeloupe forests and volcanoes

Our hire car was delivered on the dot of 09:00 and the marina called me and pointed out "les deux demoiselles" whose car hire company it was. The little Citroen was brand new and had still got plastic bags covering the seats, and a mileage of 125km on the clock. The four of us piled in, and I drove off up the mountain roads to La Soufriere volcano, mostly struggling in first gear and occasionally second up the steep inclines. We arrived at Les Baines Jaunes to find a trail leading up the volcano in thick rainforest. The sulphur baths were a disappointingly dark clear luke warm water in a concrete tank, which two German ladies were tentatively climbing into in their swimming costumes.

We climbed a steep forget trail, well constructed with srepsin high humidity and it was a great relief to eventually reach a place where the vegetation thinned enough for a cooling wind to reach us. The path offers a 4Km circuitous the cone, but we were short of time and descended, enjoying the rich variety of lush rainforest vegetation, with huge heart shaped leaves of taro-like plants, bromeliads pierced in the branches of trees, strangler figs trailing long aerial roots, Bird of Paradise plants with their beautiful red flowers, and leaves that reminded me of its West African relative, Thaumatococcus daniellii, which I worked on for ten years producing the protein that is 3,000 times sweeter than sugar.

Thence we descended and drove round the coast to visit the Chute de Carbet, a gigantic waterfall that was spotted from the sea by Christopher Colombus, and explored by him.
We descended a myriad of stairs to the river and along to get a view of the 450 metre high falls. Then on the way back Kyle took us down a steep hillside on a slippery forest trail to find a beautiful deep pool with a waterfall. We weren't the first there, but were the only ones to dive in. Kyle displayed a considerable sang froid by executing a back flip off the rim of the waterfall into the pool (which didn't quite fit with his status as the responsible parent of two of my grandchildren.)

Then back to the boat for a quick passage up the coast to Pigeon Island, here we had a brief swim in the dusk (until I recalled that it is shark feeding time) and had supper before setting off north to Antigua at midnight. We had a fast sail close hauled making 7-8 knots under clear starlit skies, arriving in English Harbour at 08:30. I went ashore to sign in at Customs and Immigration, the crew being required to stay onboard while our yellow quarantine flag was flying.

Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Iles Saintes

We arrived at the Iles Saintes just as the sun was setting, and made our way into the sheltered water between the islands to anchor off the little town of Bourg. Things have changed in the eleven years since we were last here in LAROS and the bay is full of moorings, all taken, so that we had to anchor outside a line of yellow buoys, alongside a three masted topsail schooner.

We went ashore in the dinghy (all with lifejackets) to explore the village. The little dinghy pontoon was subtly lit with inset lights, and two local couples were sitting there wrapped in a colourful cloth to keep off the chill while they watched the sunset.

The little street was full of atmosphere with chic waterfront bars and restaurants. I picked a lively bar painted in bright green red and yellow and we sat on its balcony enjoying the sunset, sipping rum punches to the sound off reggae. So perfect that we had to do it again!
We then treated ourselves to supper at a local eatery, which served a very good fish tartare.

This morning we woke to find that two huge square-rigged cruise liners, last seen in Lisbon in October, had dropped anchor nearby, and were ferrying their passengers ashore in loads of fifty. No wonder the village looked affluent and up market.

We swam before breakfast and Niall and Kyle kept vying with each other to dive under the hull. Then we upped anchor and went round the headland to the little bay by the Pain au Sucre. This is a huge round outcrop of rock, with great columns of stone rising to a green top. Again all the moorings were taken, some anchored as close as we could, needing all our 60 metres of chain for the 20 meter water depth. Just a few yards further offshore it drops to 280 meters deep! It was a scene that I had been longing to revisit since our last experience, and I sat happily on deck sketching whilst others snorkelled to the nearby rocks. Then after a delicious lunch on board we set off for the south of Guadeloupe, watching a helicopter land on a big super yacht called "Cloudbreak" moored just astern.

As we rounded the southern lighthouse, we were accosted by the Douanes (Customs) in a powerful launch, but after questioning we were allowed to continue. They seemed to completely miss a yacht sailing in which looked as though it had sailed from Colombia!

We moored stern to in Marina at Rivière Sens, and went for a swim on the black sand beach adjacent, and watched the sunset go deep, deep red. Then a stroll into town to find bread and so on for breakfast. With the help of the Marina I hired a car, and tomorrow we will go and explore this mountainous and verdant island before setting sail for Antigua overnight.

Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Colourful markets

We woke to find that our anchorage included a few wrecked yachts, presumably washed onto reefs or into the mangroves in hurricanes. However the overall feeling was of Poole Harbour, with its narrow entrance bounded by coral reefs, and the container and ferry port further up the bay. Further west the mountains, of Basse Terre rose into the cloud, evoking the Purbecks. We saw Pelicans flapping heavily by, resting their wings occasionally to glide a few inch s above the water on a sort of air cushion. To my delight a frigate bird came past, it's long black wings angled sharply back at the wrist, distinctive white chest and long black beak with a beastly looking hook at the end. I'd love to see the males expand the red pouch when they display.

A heavy rain shower passed as we set off in the dinghy to the marina. There we found the most efficient customs and immigration system on two computers. Just a question of filling in all details of boat and crew, printing it out and paying €3 to the marina. There is no need to check out again as I have specified that we will leave on the 5th.

We then took the dinghy up to the main town, and moored at the market, locking it to a lamppost. The intensity of colour in the fruit market was amazing, from the piles of produce to the brightly clad ladies selling their wares. From there we wandered through the streets of colourful clothing and tourist curios to the main market square, with its high roofed metal columned structure filled with colourful stuff. I sat in the blazing sun to sketch the scene and then joined Mark for a sandwich and cool passion fruit drink before we focussed on shopping. Meanwhile Kyle & Niall coloured more widely and discovered a museum.

Back on board with vital things like washing up detergent replenished we raised sail and set off for the Iles Saintes, 20 miles to the southwest, arriving just before sun set. Along the way I had the distinct impression of sailing on Ullswater, wish green fields and woods coming down to the water, with little settlements occasionally and the hills of Guadeloupe rising steeply behind. Beautiful! Plus it's Europe. The British could come and live here as easily as in Provence. Or at least before the Brexit fiasco!

Arrival in Guadeloupe

We altered course after breakfast consultations to head for Guadeloupe, to extend our exploration before Niall and Kyle fly home from Antigua. As the sun set we sailed in past La Desirade island and in darkness passed through the channel south of pointe des Chateaux. Against the lights on land we could see that the point had jagged spires of rock which evoked the chateaux.

It took a while to sail the 30 miles to Pointe-au-Pitre, and we dined at the cockpit table, rolling wildly in the swell, on plates of tuna goujons, diced herb roast potatoes and garden peas. The latter, being round, tended to roll off the plate at every lurch.

Finally, we made our way through the plethora of flashing navigation buoys into the river entrance, and dropped anchor for the night. Rum punch was duly served to celebrate our safe arrival and to counteract the unnatural stillness of the boat in flat calm water.

We have sailed 2252 nautical miles in 13days and 11 hours at an average of 6.97 knots, much quicker than the similar length of trip round Britain! But then we did moor up most nights!

Monday, 2 January 2017

Land Ho !

New Year's Day was another day of whales! Our white anti fouling must make us look like a large Minke whale from below. We were joined by several more which examined us closely, surfing in the big waves astern, and occasionally stuck their heads out for a breath. They tended to hover astern in the swell and then suddenly shoot under us and keep pace at the bow, often turning upside down to show their own white belly and fins. I tried to capture under water photos again, but we were going too fast, and even when hove-to the rolling in the swell meant that the camera kept coming out of the water. So I sat on the side deck, with my legs dipping in and out of the blue water, as warm as a hot tub. A whale came slowly up within touching distance alongside me, raised his head for a look, and then blew out his breath and curved under again. It was definitely half the length of the boat.

We had tuna steaks for supper, lit by fairy lights, thanks to chefs Niall and Kyle. It's a bizarre sight with our cockpit table laid for dinner, and the four crew each tilting their plates in unison to keep the food on as each heavy roll of the boat occurs. The wind was strong and we were making 9-10 knots again.

This morning we breakfasted knowing this would be our last at sea. I got the charts out and we discussed options for exploring before Kyle and Niall have to leave on the 7th. In the end we gybed down toward Guadeloupe, and as I write the Niall has successfully got the first sight of land. Kyle claimed it an hour earlier, but it couldn't be verified.

We had a heavy rain storm this morning and all stripped down to the bare essentials and got thoroughly washed on the aft deck.

This area apparently has a rich diversity of whales including humpbacks and sperm whales, so we are keeping our eyes peeled, as they say. We aim to explore round the south and west coasts on our way up to Antigua. Sadly the canal through the centre of Guadeloupe is closed for bridge repairs, so we have to take the long way round.