The good, the bad, and the ugly... of sailing

By popular demand……

Apparently I am not allowed to show the good pics and good times without the bad times.

Unfortunately most of the bad times involve weather and its either too dangerous or we are moving at speed to stop something happening so cant video as well, or, its me lying feeling like death in rough seas and not taking film!!

But just to make it a bit real - here we go:

The good….

You don’t know what day of the week it is.

You get unforgettably beautiful days (and nights) with perfect wind and easy sailing.

You go to awesome places - often unreachable by plane.

You see stunning sea wildlife.

You meet really awesome people!

You can have a lot of fun too.

The bad….

There is never-ending work - its not all champagne and sunsets (not even much of it)!

Weeks at sea - I think you’ve got to be a born and bred sailor to love them!

Yes - it can be dangerous and it can be scary.

Night shifts - waking up at 1 or 2 am with little sleep - are no fun at all.

Night shifts - some nights are really dark.

I get sick - ohhh so sick (until I got to Capetown and my new pills - now I just get a bit sick!)

The ugly….

My hair! Always fun (not)!

You don’t care what you look like at sea - so you look like the proverbial in most pics!!

You lose your cardio fitness - pulling ropes and all that doesn’t give you the workout a walk uphill or swim does!

Things break and things go wrong - no matter what. You have to live with it.

Sydney Boat Show 2019

A quick three day trip to Sydney to help Matt and his team with the stand at the Sydney Boat Show. What a great show, but I have to say the unexpected pleasure was in the people we all met - most especially the cruisers and cruisers-to -be. It was so good being able to share first hand experience with others that really want to know - how to deal with the seasickness, what size boat you need, what you need on board, and a myriad of our experiences to date. I loved it as it made me realise just how much I have learnt over the last year.

Performance Cruising Yachts team

Performance Cruising Yachts team

Team Influencer at the Sydney Boat Show stand - Matt, me, Josh!

Team Influencer at the Sydney Boat Show stand - Matt, me, Josh!

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Apart from that it was great to catch up with my favourite Sydney-siders and get back in the best little swim spot ever with the Bold and Beautiful at Cabbage Tree Bay.

Bold and Beautiful crew @7am

Bold and Beautiful crew @7am

Home again to my housesitting life - with a 20 kilo suitcase in hand - spares for the boat I will be carting back to the Caribbean with me!

Ropes, filters, oil extractors ……. heading back to the boat!

Ropes, filters, oil extractors ……. heading back to the boat!




A Land lubber again!

It was weird to fly out of Martinique instead of sailing out even weirder to know the boat was sailing south without me and it would be a while before I saw it again. But……I managed to have a good old time catching up on some hiking for my legs and cardio - something sadly lacking when I’m on the boat and at sea.

I flew to the little hub of St Martin / Sant Maarten, ferried to St Barts, and then beautiful Antigua, and hen the jewel in the crown for me is Saba. I thought Barbuda would be unbeatable in this part of the world, but no - Saba finally got my heart of them all! This is most likely as it was so reminiscent of St Helena and Ascension - like a cross between the two!

Given I wasn’t sailing, I’m not writing much here - that will go in the other blog, but a summary below (and I’ll try not to be too biased toward Saba (not really)! Scroll on down to see the lot.

Saba (pronounced SayBa) is an absolute gem. A terrible place for mooring unless you get the weather and the sea state right though! One crazy road, called The Road, from one end to the other. Lizards and anoles everywhere, and some fantastic hiking, and actually some of the best food I’ve had in a long long while. I also got to climb atop the highest peak in The kingdom of the Netherlands - Mt Scenery!
I could go on…and on, but I wont - see the other blog!

Anguilla is famous for its white beaches. To be honest I’m almost white beached out and am not that interested anyway, but yes they were a stunning white. Walking is harder to find but it happens. A highlight for me was coming across a wild tortoise or two and walking to the northernmost tip of the island. Proudly British these people fought against independence and being lumped in with St Kitts and Nevis.

St Barts - the St Tropez of the Caribbean for the rich and famous. I found some excellent walks and there is a beautiful anchorage at Anse a Colombier, plus a lovely coastal walk with fairy terns in abundance from the same beach. But for me, I will never forget the insanely steep streets - couldn’t believe it!!

St Martin / Saant Marteen - a divided island - half French and half Dutch. This island was also badly hit by Hurricane Irma. Interestingly on the French side the devesatation is still very apparent, however on the Dutch side its almost unseen. The Dutch sent people over to clean up, rebuild and get the place back on track. I met some still there after 18 months and they are staying until its complete. Too much traffic but some great coastal walks and swim-able natural pools in the cliffs. Best of all was the iguanas wherever I walked and the amazing fun you can have plane spotting!!

And now for me, the wait until I get back to the boat. I cant wait for the Pacific, although am looking forward to seeing more of the Caribbean and if I can find a place I like as much as Saba or Barbuda!!

Boat hauled out

Influencer on the hard in Grenada

Influencer on the hard in Grenada

We had a final few days in Le Marin back at Martinique, with a little side trip to Sainte-Anne between cleaning jobs, before I left to catch a plane, and Matt left with his friends and family crew back down to Grenada.

The boat is on the hard and ready for all those jobs that need doing. An important one being a good scrub and anti-fouling, particularly important as we go via the Galapagos next year and they are incredibly fussy - one barnacle in a through-hull fitting and you’re out!

Matt has business in Australia and wont be back until September, so I guess its October before she’s in the water again. I’m not sure if I’ll cope!!

From the top!

From the top!

Back to Guadeloupe and Martinique

After leaving Barbuda, fortunately with me still on board, we sailed back to Antigua with me at the helm much of the way. I say this because a couple on another yacht took a video which they gave to us when we ended up at the same marina in Antigua. Check it out here!

I was pretty happy with that!

With the repairs and components needed all sorted now in Antigua, we headed back down to Martinique, where Matt had a rendez-vous with family and friends. We had to pass by Montserrat and Dominica en route which are two places I really want to visit, but we will be back so all is good!

After the Barbuda experience, it was hard not to compare. However, stopping off for a break in Guadeloupe’s Marie Galante, another less visited island on the south east of Guadeloupe, was not too dismal! Named after one of Colombus’s ships, the island is beautiful, a little forgotten by time which adds to its charm, full of peaceful sugar cane fields dotted with ruins of old windmills, all kinds of coastline from pristine white beaches to wild rugged cliffs, fabulous walks, and famed rum factories to boot!!

Back in Martinique, its all hands on deck getting the boat cleaned and then we head our separate ways. Matt to Grenada with his new crew, where the boat will be hauled out, and me? I’m taking a plane to St Martin en route to NZ via Miami to catch up with my family and friends. Flying down-under from here is a bit circuitous, but I cant complain. Good times!

Final night before returning to Martinique

Final night before returning to Martinique

.....And Barbuda

Beyond any doubt! my most favourite Caribbean spot so far!!

So, Matt was convinced to come here. There was no way he could miss this place. He duly arrived with a spare crew member! (So now do I have to worry about being replaced??)

This island is wild, woolly, wonderful! Undeveloped and still suffering the trauma of Hurricane Irma that devastated it in September 2017. Hurricane Irma is the strongest storm on record to exist in the open Atlantic region and the first Category 5 hurricane to strike the Leeward Islands on record. There is plenty of evidence of the disaster but the people are a stalwart bunch. It was incredible to walk around one resort that was fully wiped out and just see the empty shells of what had clearly been a quite wonderful resort near the pink beach.

I was falling in love with this place more every minute. With a beautiful anchorage on the white sands of Princess Diana Beach - named after the Princes that used to visit with her sons; just one (mainly gravel) road from top to bottom of the island; roaming goats and donkeys; plenty to explore; and genuinely friendly and helpful people.

We explored coastline and a path through a limestone cave to climb up to the Tablelands! The highest point on the Tablelands (and the island) is a mere 343m, but we loved the rock lined pathways walking up there with beautiful wild bush, birds flitting around us, and great views.



The absolute highlight for me though was a trip with George on Codrington Lagoon to the frigate colony! Codrington Lagoon is said to be the second-largest nesting area for frigates outside the Galapagos and was almost wiped out after Irma as it destroyed their nesting mangroves. (Scroll on down for pics!) Luckily they have returned - to a different spot but who cares as they are back. En route we saw a full loaded container that used to sit beside the small, and totally devastated, Palm House Hotel over the other side of the lagoon. When wind can pick up a full sized, fully laden storage container, and throw it over 1km you know it was something else! The birds themselves were magnificent! It was the wrong time of year for the spectacular mating display of the males, but we had plenty of chicks to see instead. It was wonderful getting up so close and really being able to see them eye to eye! The added bonus was the upside down jellyfish - who literally swim upside down to allow the symbiotic zooxanthellae (algae) that live within them to get more sunlight for photosynthesis! You’ve gotta love that!

As for the best place to stay? There is a resort, but in my mind its the wild and private Frangipani Glamping wins the prize (and is affordable for most budgets). Run by local sisters, you get a piece of the northeast coast with its own wild beach, and sheltered safe rock pool (good for 100m laps), plus use of a kayak, lobster pots to catch your dinner, and a wooden sun shack on the beach complete with all the chairs etc you could want. Your accommodation is a cabana with a very funky and cool outdoor kitchen and bathroom. Its so good that later I had to take people I met at anchor there just to see it!
Okay - the resort looks pretty good too - but is very unwelcoming to yachties - the only negative I have to say about the island!

Given Barbuda is out of the way, often a bit of a rough passage, and considered difficult to navigate, most yachties don’t bother coming here, skipping from Antigua to St Martin and the like, or vice versa. Hence, there were only four other yachts in the anchorage - in absolute peak season, and we met some of the best people on them with sunset drinks and the like.

In my mind - its the one place you don’t miss. I simply love it!


Antigua....

I guess we should have come to Antigua anyway - English Harbour being of historical significance to sailing, and Antigua Race week of course. I had no interest in the race, but did enjoy wandering Nelson’s Dockyard, which has been fully restored to its former Georgian glory - and the only one of this era in the world. Full of history, originally developed as a base for the British Navy in the sailing era, expanded by Nelson, and eventually abandoned in 1889, it is full of beautiful old buildings, now used for modern hotels and restaurants and the like, but without losing any of its charm.

The best thing here we did have done here though, while waiting patiently for what we need but also trying to keep our place in the queue among the Antigua Race week crowd, is the really enjoyable and scenic walk to Shirley Heights and back. We took a water taxi across to Galleon Beach from Nelson’s Dockyard, then climbed up to the lookout. I make it sound like a strenuous effort, but it wast - just a nice steady climb. It was a good walk and gave panoramic views across other parts of the island, but the real treat (apart from finding some yummy goodies at the top), was the return journey where we took the coastal path, and found ourselves walking a stunning clifftop walk with heaps of this unreal cacti!!

Its called Pope’s Head Cactus, and in some places Turk’s Head Cactus. Its genus name is Melocactus, due to its short rounded watermelon like base. Its really cool and only found in this general area.

After spending a couple of days trying to sort out what we needed for the boat (and a bit of a walk), it was clear we might be here a while, so I decided that I should head to Barbuda for a couple of days on the ferry as Matt wasn’t too fussed with the idea. Off to explore tomorrow!

A Dash North and a Mayday

Leaving early from Martinique, we sailed past Dominica (much to my distress, but I’ll be back!) and at nightfall managed to get into Terre de Haut, an islans in the Iles des Saintes below Guadeloupe. It was an 11 hour day with everything you can imagine - rough sea, calm sea, rain, sun, clouds, wind, no wind, sailing, motoring, and anything in between!! But I wasn’t complaining given we were not sailing overnight - the joys of the Caribbean!! It was also easy, being another French island, in terms of clearance.

En route, along with the crazy weather, we had our eyes peeled and ears on alert following a mayday in the area. Horribly, someone had gone overboard another yacht and not been seen since. This really brings it home - safety is vital; our lives could easily be lost through the smallest slip ups. There was no storm or gale, and who knows what happened, but it was probably a slip up that has had the worst of consequences.

We had time to explore a couple of the islands before continuing on. I really liked Cabrit, a smaller island, primarily occupied by goats and roosters! A walk up the hill above the anchorage takes you to an old fort with fabulous views and gives you a great little work out.

Heading on we stopped for a swim at the Jacques Cousteau Reserve and Pigeon Island, about half way up the west coast of Guadeloupe proper. Having a swim and snorkel en route was a rare treat, and not to be missed. Onward bound to the top of the island and the rolly anchorage (and great icecream) of Deshaies, before heading to Antigua!



Martinique makeover

Having said our goodbyes to our friends on the WARC, we had to head on to Martinique to complete lots of jobs on the boat. There are things we want, and things we need, and being the Caribbean it never comes easy - particularly when you don’t speak French on a French island.

However, the easiest thing in Martinique, and something I’d love every country here to aspire to - or just do, is the customs and immigration clearing in process. I walked three boats down from our berth at the Le Marin marina to the fuel dock, who had inside the office a computer set up for clearance. A simple four minutes and boom - we had cleared in. This is brilliant!!

Matt up the mast in Le Marin

Matt up the mast in Le Marin

We wanted an extra freezer for our leg across the Pacific, and I set about trying to get that happening, having found an electrics guy that usefully spoke Spanish as well as French. We also needed work done on some of the electronics and a number of items from the chandlers. Meanwhile Matt got the sails to the sail maker where they were inspected and it was decided what needed new stitching and what needed replacing and so on. We also needed work on the rig - the fixes in Ascension had served us very well, but it was time for an overhaul. All this took a lot of to-ing and fro-ing over a few days.

Meanwhile in this time, Aurora Polaris, Smoke and Roses, and Mad Monkey all came in to pick up supplies before heading homeward bound to Norway, Florida, and UK, so we got to have our final goodbyes which was a really sad moment. BUT, these are friends for life and I know I’ll see them again!

When I had done all I could, I headed off to do some exploring (read hiking) leaving Matt happily on his boat getting more work done. As it transpired, i wasn’t long before I got a call - could I meet him at the top of the island and help him get the boat to Antigua, where he was being sent by the rigger to get some vital parts not available in Martinique.

Port de Saint Pierre (below) was the meeting point; a place once buried by the local volcano, Mt Pelee, with 30,000 dead and only one survivor in the town - a prisoner, and one that was out of town - the local cobbler! It was fun to wander the town and see what had once been, plus a place we remember for a great meal before heading onward to Guadeloupe and Antigua.

Marigot Bay & Final Farewells!

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We arrived at sunset into this bay you may know from ‘the Pirates of the Caribbean,’ when the Black Pearl sailed into this exact spot - Marigot Bay!

Marigot Bay was once called “the most beautiful bay in the Caribbean” by the famous author, James Michener, and it has only really been developed in recent years. It is said the French used to hide their ships in the bay behind the little spit, covering the masts in palm fronds as camouflage, and the British would sail on by not noticing them there. .

Berthed up at the resort, where we could enjoy all their amenities, we found Marigot Bay is a great spot to meet other yachties; we’ve made new friends with people that are heading our way later in the year after hurricane season which is great. One of the best things about this way of travel is the yachties you meet and the stories of their lives, which can be fascinating.

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We also managed to knock off a couple of minor boat jobs, but now have a big issue with the bow thruster, which suddenly packed up. Many hours were spent by Matt and Tjere with their heads in the depths of the boat and they eventually managed to resolve at least part of the issue.

Meanwhile, we had our second to last dinner with the WARC and enjoyed the presentations and great food served by the yacht club, a prelim to the next and final stop at Rodney Bay.

We finished the first half of the World ARC when we sailed into Rodney Bay today, however, the rest of the fleet has finished their circumnavigation, and its time to say our goodbyes over a Caribbean rum or three! Certainly the welcoming party on the docks was pretty good! But for us, its a sad time; saying goodbye to our amazing friends after these months of shared dramas, fun, and wonder is never ever going to be easy!





Bequia Bash & The Pitons!

Bequia Sunset

Bequia Sunset

Next stop en route to St Lucia and the final bash with the World Arc, was beautiful Bequia (pronounced Bek-way).

It was a good sail in the standard Caribbean 15 knot wind from the east. Always from the east - nor’east, east, sou’east or any other east, but always east!! The route took us past the headland at the south of the island, complete with shipwreck and an off the grid commune of sorts, and into a beautiful, if not crowded bay and anchorage.

Bequia turned out to be such a colourful and chill town and a great place to meet up with the Gobows for our last reunion. We had a perfect sunset for drinks on board Influencer, and a fun night together at the local pizza joint - and very good pizza too I have to add.

Walking on the island was very relaxed and with good swimming it was a great place for a couple of days rest.

After checking out of St Vincent and the Grenadines, we sailed on to the Pitons, past St Vincent Island, which was beautifully green and inviting despite its negative reputation - next time maybe!. In the lee of the islands most of the time, we had a smooth run all the way. There are a limited number of moorings at the Pitons and we were lucky enough to secure one, as did Aurora Polaris. Boat boys helped us get onto the mooring balls, and locals soon arrived in their colourful boats selling their wares - fruit or banana bread anyone?

A wonderful lunch on shore with our friends on Aurora Polaris ensued, with magnificent views of the Pitons towering over us. Back in the boat we had the same views and it really is a magical spot worth stopping for a night or two.

Today we tripped around the island, visiting the mud river baths, the Botanic Gardens with their hot pools, and, my favourite place definitely, the warm waterfall and pool. Too good - and nobody there despite the fact that a cruise ship had landed and off-loaded its thousands!!

But onward bound now for an evening run to Marigot Bay, our final but one, meet up with the WARC!

The Mystique of Mustique

Planning to go to Bequia, where we had arranged a reunion with the Gobow team, we made a spur of moment decision and took a turn to the left - ending up in the island for the rich and famous - Mustique.

En route, Matt put me in a frantic state for at least a minute or two!! I thought he had gone overboard as he was on watch and was suddenly nowhere to be seen. I quickly checked his favourite haunts - to no avail! Fearing the worst, I started shouting just to make sure. Suddenly a head popped up out of the sail bag. I was so relieved you can’t imagine, and I have to say I cracked up as he looked so funny!

After an initial calm run out of the Cays (complete with hidden skippers) we ended up heading into fairly rough seas as we headed to Mustique. I hadn’t taken any pills, but by staying in the cockpit for this short run, I managed to make it back to calm waters without feeding the fish - feeling quite proud of myself!

One of the things we had read about before arriving in the Caribbean is the poisonous manchineel trees - every part of them is poisonous so even to stand under them in the rain is a bad idea and warned against. Here, on Mustique, each manchineel tree is marked with a big red sprayed on band so there is no excuse!

It is also an island that is frequented by the very wealthy and / or very famous. A tour of the island goes something like this: “That’s Mick Jagger’s house, that’s Tommy Hilfiger’s house, that’s Bryan Adams’ house, that’s where Kate and William stay, you know the car Ferrari? That’s his house, that used to be David Bowie’s house……and so it goes on, and on!

What is the mystique of this island then? For these rich and famous, one assumes, it is the simplicity that they love - no golf courses, street signs, traffic lights and so forth. Only a few restaurants and places for people to stay exists, unless like us they come in a yacht. There is a (most expensive) bakery and a boutique, alongside the fresh fish and fruit and vegetable market. The beaches are beautiful and there is plenty of walking if you are so inclined. And that’s about it. If you ask me, they couldn’t have done better if they tried.

So how did this come to be?

The island was originally purchased for peanuts in 1958 by Lord Glenconner as a cheaper means of surviving the Scottish winter than heating their castle, there were then just a few settlements, a couple of estates and some sugar plantation ruins. After a couple of years, he had created enough infrastructure for affluent friends to come to the island as a secluded getaway. A gift of 10 acres to Princess Margaret sealed the island’s fate.

Fortunately, yachties like us are able to anchor and enjoy walking the beautiful beaches, take in the spectacular views, and spend time eating at the famous Cotton House, or the equally famous, Basil’s Bar - more conveniently located right on the anchorage and in the perfect spot for the magnificent sunsets we witnessed!

I am so glad we came. I really like this place!

Up the Eastern Caribbean

Flying Fish Sandwich

Flying Fish Sandwich

After a wonderful break in Barbados, where I became a land-lubber once again, I headed back to join Matt in taking the boat to St Lucia where the World Arc finishes their journey. Although not the end for us, we wanted to celebrate with our friends the achievement they had made in completing their circumnavigation.

I’m not going to write about Barbados here (see my other blog) except to say that after all these months, and about 15000 Nautical miles, of seeing flying fish most days, and sadly having many lose their lives on our deck, I finally took the plunge and ate one. In Barbados they are a local staple and so now was the time!

We headed north a little after the others had left, stopping in at the delightful Sandy Island for a few nights, where the boat was surrounded by big fish, middle sized fish, small fish, tiny fish, oh and, starfish! It was so nice to be at anchor and swimming from the back of the boat again.

We dined over sunset on Aurora Polaris and it was great to catch up with our friends before they headed north. The next night, after plenty of snorkelling and swimming, and a few boat jobs and sewing repairs, we once again ate out. This time on board Timshel, some of our favourite people - a rugged couple from Scotland!

Next morning we headed on to check out of Grenada in Carriacou, and then check in to St Vincent and the Grenadines on Union Island. All done in a day, we anchored at Chatham Bay for more swimming and turtle spotting and the first of those famed Caribbean BBQ’s on the beach.

We then headed to the Tobago Cays - the stuff the area is famous for, where we met up with a few of our friends again. It’s quite different doing this day sailing between islands and no overnight sailing and watches. Its something I could get used to! Unfortunately it was pretty windy most of the time in Tobago Cays, but it didn’t stop us enjoying the ubiquitous turtles, walking to the tops of each of the islands around us to gaze at the incredible ‘blues,’ chasing iguanas, and snorkelling the reef.







And Five go to Grenada

Leaving early from the Salvation Islands, we set a course to avoid oil fields and Trinidad and possible pirates. Dolphins were a plenty on the rest of the way to Grenada and after two days the sea colour had returned to blue as we were now well away from the Amazon. We made good progress despite a strong side current, and all is well as we sail close to Grenada on sunset, arriving in port under a beautiful full moon. We are parked up in Port Louis Marina, again with the rest of the WARC fleet. It’s expensive but very pleasant!

And, we are now in the Caribbean!! We have crossed the Indian Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. We are half-way round the world!

We’ve plenty of cleaning and sorting out of the boat to do as Matt and the boys are taking Josh from Mad Monkey and Matt from Cayuse with them for a few days ‘boy’s sailing trip’ around the island. Me - no definitely not. Auntie Syd is heading for some peace and quiet in Barbados!

We have many boat jobs we have been waiting to get here for. The Raymarine agent replaced the radar and reconfigured the thermal camera, and we have to note that Raymarine have been excellent in terms of service and warranties; the engine serviced also in quick time, and we are making arrangements for the boat to be hauled out later in May at nearby Clarkes Court. We haven’t managed to do much in Grenada yet, other than swim at Grande Anse beach which is one of those idyllic white beaches that Caribbean dreams are made of.

However, this afternoon Dan and Agnes (Smoke and Roses) came and took us in their envy-making large tender over to snorkel at the world’s first underwater statue garden. This was a heap of fun. Lucky there was someone there taking a few scuba divers on a tour so we were able to cheat and find many of the statues by following them. It’s great fun and to be recommended.



Five go to Devil's Island

After the anticipation and fun of crossing the equator, it was all a bit flat the next couple of days getting us into French Guiana’s Salvation Islands. Although, there was a rocket launch from the Space Station there due on the 14th and we wanted to see it! We knew if it went ahead, and we were there on time, we would have to go into Kourou and would not be able to anchor at the islands (enforced by the Police for safety).

The infamous Devil’s Island

The infamous Devil’s Island

Meanwhile, the squalls continued, so there were no smelly boys on the boat which was excellent. They had figured out a great shower system with the water that collected in the sail bag making an excellent full on shower when tipped toward the waiting recipient. Hair was washed and all was well.

As we headed further north the amount of sargassum seaweed we had started seeing, increased until at times we could hardly see the water for as far as the eye could see. This is a phenomenon I hadn’t realised the size and scale of.

On the 13th we were disappointed to find out the rocket launch was postponed, and we had a rough day at sea to boot. Very rocky rolly trying to get dinner ready! However, it was a stunning night with amazing phosphorous and led us into a beautiful calm day for our arrival at the Iles de Salut - the three islands of the French penal colony made famous by the book and movie Papillon (noting it was loosely based on these islands).

This was another highlight for me - after Namibia, St Helena and Ascension, I thought I would be hard to please, but I love it here! It is beautiful and horrifying all in one. We arrived and anchored in the bay of the middle island, Royal Island, beautifully lined with dense palms that looked so green despite the grey day. The sea was now a browny-green colour with the outwash from the Amazon, but it was very inviting and the first thing we did was jump in and cool off. We soon were in the tender to shore and walking around Royal Island - the one with accommodation and a (not very good) restaurant! Walking around we were struck by the rock walls and pathways the prisoners had been forced to build as well as the amount of coconuts - ripe for the picking as well!

There were beautiful views to neighbouring Devil’s Island, where unfortunately landing was prohibited. Monkeys, agoutis, lizards and birds darted around as we walked the full circuit of the island, and we were fascinated by a trail of leaf cutter ants carrying pieces of leaf twenty times their size. We didn’t leave the island until dark, at which time we had a chorus of toads escorting us off the island. Sleep came easy and was wonderful that night!

Today saw us back exploring more of the island and its old prison buildings and little museum, and then visiting the third island, Ile Saint-Jospeh. This island hit deep and hard - after walking around the beautiful island, visiting the cemetery for the staff and families en route, we arrived at a small swimming cove where we cooled off a little. Then we headed inland to the prison on top of the hill. It was hauntingly eerie - mother nature had woven her way through the old buildings, walls, and cells, but we could see how horrific it must have been. The solitary confinement cells - a concrete square hellhole with no light. Mother nature keep weaving your way through this with your beauty.

So beautiful. So haunting.



Five Cross the Equator

Heading out from Brazil, five on board, was time consuming! It took all day to get clearance to leave and so we had a pretty sunset departure heading straight into a night of keeping a close eye out for pesky fishing lines and crab pots! But it was also exciting - the excitement being that we were soon to cross the equator - and all five of us were ‘equator-crossing virgins!’

The first 24 hours were uneventful with good winds and the genoa poled out all day, but on the second night we were back in the ICTZ and thus the squall zone. We reduced sail at dusk to just a fully reefed main and sailed easily through the many squalls dumping heavy rain in the night. I was on the 3-6am shift and hence got the sunrise (yah!!) and what were now clear skies, so unfurled the genoa ready for the day.

As it turned out we had a fantastic days sailing, accompanied by dolphins a number of times, having a mini quiz with Aurora Polaris, some heavy rain showers, which meant we all got a good shower and scrub on deck, and three boys making music and singing with the ukulele - all being a good fun day! We found out that other WARC yachts had lost spinnakers and broken battens in the night so were super cautious and fully reefed again at dusk. It was a good idea as we were back to plenty of big wind squalls for the second night!

One more day of fun and squalls, - we even put the hammock out for a bit of fun with the boys. That night it started off well, but of course as soon as I got on shift it went from ‘starry starry nights’ to ‘thunder and lightning, very very frightening!’

Finally, it was the 11th March!! A day of anticipation as we watched our position on the Raymarine like hawks!

Finally, taaaadaaaaaaa!

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The equator!!

Despite the sea being a bit rougher than we would like, we were all determined to swim across the equator, so stopped the boat turning to make sure we crossed the actual line! We of course had to pay homage to the king of the deep so the boys sacrificed the last of their prized Tim Tams (a favourite fought after biscuit treat brought all the way from Australia), plus money from many nations to the man in the deep, while chanting a powerful appeasement they had concocted over the last few days. Of course they had to do this wearing my various pieces of swimwear, and then the moment came when we jumped overboard (in two groups for safety!).

I have swum across the equator!!

Mardi Gras Madness

We had timed our arrival in Cabedelo to give us time to get to Olinda and Recife, nearby-ish towns famous for hosting the most traditional and one of the biggest Mardi Gras celebrations. Off we headed with the rest of the Gobows for a few nights and days of mayhem.

What can I say? There are not enough superlatives for this excess in a crazy cacophony of sound, colour and dance! Added to that, these towns are colourful at the most dull time of year - artists colonies and hipsters live here and the vibe is a friendly artistic one. You couldn’t not enjoy these towns.

We did experience a crowd crush at one point , and it made me realise exactly how people die in crazy crowds. Im pretty big and tough in a crowd, but this took all my skill to get through safely. It was crazy!!

Back at the boat afterward, I felt like there was no place like home. It was good to spend a bit of chill time there before we headed north to French Guiana’s Salvation Islands!


Magical Music ♫

It was a relief to move on to Cabedelo on the Brazilian mainland, and away from the terrible rolling at anchor! It was a two night one day sail, complete with masses of squalls, masses of dolphins, and masses of ships!

The squalls were due to us being in the The ICTZ (intertropical convergence zone) which is a narrow zone near the equator where northern and southern air masses converge, typically producing low atmospheric pressure (and thanks for that definition wiki!).

That kept us busy and made the journey very quick. We left at sunset and arrived at sunrise into the relaxed and lovely riverside marina in Cabedelo run by two French expats in the the sleepy little town.

Matt and his boys - Josh and Alex!

Matt and his boys - Josh and Alex!

It is a town that comes alive at sunset every night however, thanks to a local man, Jurandy. Twenty years ago, Jurandy started taking his boat out on the river at sunset and playing Ravel's Bolero on his saxophone. He never misses a night and now no tourist comes to nearby João Pessoa without heading to Cabedelo for this magical sunset serenade over the river. A whole little tourist area has been built on the riverbanks for it, and enjoying a classic cocktail while listening to the music float along with the sunset in the background is magical. Listen in here.

Matt had arranged for his son Josh to rejoin us here in Cabedelo, along with his friend Callan but when he went to the airport to get them, what he didn’t know was that his other son Alex had decided to join in at last minute! Luckily I had been warned so was able to plan and get extra provisions needed - even down to buying some extra pillows, which I had to explain away with some lame excuse.

We did have some fun when we went shopping for provisions in João Pessoa with the boys in tow. Callan is an actor on Walking Dead, and it seems that everyone in Brazil watches that program. It meant many photos had to be taken before we could get the groceries out the door.




Feeling Fabulous in Fernando!

There’s only one way to get around on Fernando and that’s in a buggy. However, with a pro-circuit surf competition on they were hard to come by! Eventually we found one while Aurora Polaris hired motorbikes, that and a bit of hitching and bussing meant we all managed to explore the island - not just the fabulous Bar de Maio, which we probably spent too much time in anyway!

The absolute highlight beach for me was Praia do Sancho - great walking along the cliff tops seeing the stunning land crabs (related to those in Christmas Island), and then a ladder through a cave down to the beach! It all has to be timed with the tides and there are set times for going down and different set times for getting back up - never the twain shall meet!

Also fabulous and unforgettable were the sunsets - particularly from above Boldro Beach, the walk to Baia dos Porcos (yes - Bay of Pigs) from Conceicao Beach (where the surf pro champs were taking place), walking the headland its tiny church at the north of the island near the anchorage, walking to the Forte São Joaquim do Sueste, and of course getting around in the buggy and hanging out with the guys from the other boats with us. We even had an award ceremony for the Gobows - with all taking away prizes for the likes of best fisherman, best chef, bravest crew, best hairdo, best radio voice and so forth.

All in all it was a great stop to finish off our Atlantic crossing and one we will never forget!








Darwin's Miracle & Somebody's Birthday

We didn’t really know what to expect of Ascension. Anything we had read on Noonsite (a yachtie TripAdvisor like site) had been really negative, but what a treat - Ascension turned out to be the highlight of our trip so far!

This tiny volcanic island is a British military base, partly leased and shared with an American military base. It also houses the BBC African ground station and a military runway built long enough for the space shuttle to land. With no native people, you can’t live here without a job, which means the 800 people that live here are either military, military support, or a few lucky conservationists.

It’s raw, with next to no tourism other than the odd yacht that bothers to stop (usually only about 5 yachts a year), but we all fell in love with this place. We loved the welcoming people and their helpfulness and generosity. We loved the beautiful protected bay and the highly inquisitive turtles all around our boat along with the crazy masses of triggerfish. We loved the unbelievable sooty tern colony, the crabs, the frigate birds and the wandering donkeys everywhere, and we loved the untamed incredible volcanic landscape. We loved that there were beautiful and swimmable beaches, and the most fascinating cemetery ever - full of yellow fever victims that had been left here at Comfortless Cove by passing ships to either survive and be picked up later, or to die! And like most before us - we loved the magnificent walking tracks of Green Mountain - atop of which sits the only man made cloud forest in the world – the brainchild of none other than Charles Darwin. The British wanted to be able to use this strategically located island for military purposes, but with no water it was unable to sustain much life for long. Darwin, on visiting Ascension, which incidentally he called a “hideous island,“ concocted the idea that if they planted enough of the right kind of plants atop the highest volcanic peak, they could create a cloud forest that would trap water and make the island liveable. Can you believe it?? And so with the help of Kew Gardens, they did it!! Today it is a rare day that the peak of Green Mountain is visible (except the day we landed) and when you are at the top you are generally surrounded in a thick damp mist. It’s an unbelievable story but it’s for real!

Birthday Boy!

Birthday Boy!

Meanwhile we had a bolt to discover the origins of, and to get replaced, and we had a very bent spinnaker pole. After checking in was arranged and completed, by the very capable Kitty at the Harbour Masters office, she sent us about 100 meters away to meet Dave. Oh we do love Dave - not only did he put a sleeve on the pole making it as pretty much as good as new, he welded the bolt back together and made us four more - this was no ordinary bolt , it was a u-bend bolt.

Tjere and Martin from Aurora Polaris helped Matt up the mast to work out where the bolt had come from. Horrifyingly it was a key bolt from the top of the mast holding the backstay in place! As the boys did this, I had some patch stitching on the sail bag to do!

The 6th was a most important day - Matt’s birthday! We celebrated at the Volcano Club at the US Air Base which was great fun. We also stocked up on goodies. These guys had it together - the food supplies they had were way better than in St Helena - 99% frozen admittedly, but we had a great time picking up British and US treats for the boat!

Each night, if we weren’t at the Volcano Club, one of us hosted dinner on board. Agnes and Dan’s fish fry night was unforgettable - not only can that guy fish - he can cook too! I wanted to stay a month, a few months, a year, but as always after much fabulous walking and touring of this incredible island, it was time to move on. So after an early morning visit to Long Beach, to watch the turtles leave the beach after nesting, we are about to sail off into smooth seas and perfect winds. Long may it last!!

P.S. I can’t help myself - there are just so many beautiful things and I loved this island so much, that there are a few too many pics ‘m sorry!!

A few oddities around the island - including the stone which you throw paint at if you never want to return!!