Tobago Cays – Turtles, Trunk Fish and Squalls.

Early in July we left Mayreau and went around the corner to Tobago Cays.

Since we decided to cross the Atlantic I’ve been excited about visiting Tobago Cays. I could explain why but it’s simpler just to show you an aerial photo of the area:

OK – now we’ve established why we wanted to come here, we can talk about what it was like!

The weather wasn’t perfect, a little overcast and a bit too windy to get the crystal clear waters we were looking for. But it was safe enough to be there and we weren’t sure we’d be able to return this far north again when Clive came to visit, which was our plan.

Tobago Cays is protected by a huge horseshoe shaped reef with several little islands jutting out of the shallow sandy sea behind. Nowhere in he area is deep and it’s all sandy so anchoring is easy enough, there are a couple of areas yachts are prohibited from entering to ensure that the turtles which breed in the area aren’t disturbed, but mostly it’s open. We picked a spot windward and oceanward of the islands, with only the reef, hidden below the sea between us, the Atlantic and ultimately Africa. It’s very strange to anchor in a spot that looks so open and exposed, but the reef does an excellent job of eating the swell from the ocean and other than being open to the full force of the wind it is a great anchorage.

We anchored and before we even had time to get into the sea we were greeted by the local turtle population. Along with the ever so fearless trunk fish these guys were constant companions. Getting into the water we were rewarded with so much sea life and good visibility. With out a doubt some of the best snorkelling we’ve experience so far on Itchy Foot.

One of the unusual side effects of not being anchored behind land is that you can see the squalls coming from a long way out. They roll across the ocean and bring with the huge torrents of rain and strong winds – nothing to worry about but exciting nonetheless.

 

After a couple of days enjoying this magical place it was time to head south to Union Island – the last port of entry for St. Vincent and the Grenadines and where we had to check-out. Then a lovely sail down the windward coast of Grenada and into Prickly Bay where we had agreed to meet Clive who was arriving in a couple of days.

We loved Tobago Cays and thankfully got to return again with Clive. I’m very glad we came here off season and instead of when the usual 50-100 charter boats area present. When we were there, we were one of only ten in the whole area.

More about Tobago Cays and the other islands in this area when we post about Clive coming to visit.

Mayreau – lots of vowels, little money.

Written by Jon:

Back in late June we were still making our way south to meet Clive and stopped in Mayreau on the way. Mayreau is picture postcard pretty. Our first stop was Salt Whistle Bay which has a reputation as being one of the pretties in the Caribbean. What I wasn’t expecting was that it would also be one of the poorest places we’ve visited so far.

We arrived right around sunset and a friendly, chilled out boat boy offered to rent us a mooring but we were happy on anchor. He hung around for a bit making jokes with Teo. He told us that he is from St. Vincent and it is pretty normal to go work on the islands. We watched a gorgeous sunset and really soaked up the magic of the moment.  The next morning we headed ashore and took a walk to the other side of the island, there is a road from one side to the other and the bit in between  is known as ‘the village’. The people on this island don’t have much money, it seems that their only source of income is tourism and the season for visitors is quite short, November to May. We got chatting to a local guy, Phillip, who was friendly and was happy to show us around, he remembers when he was younger and they had no fresh water on the island, drinking from a very small pool of water, not even big enough to call a lake, more a pond. Now the houses on the islands collect rain water from their roofs and store it in large black bins for the dry season.

We continued down out of the village onto the far side of the island and found a beach which we had largely to ourselves. This is the bay the cruise ships anchor in during the season and gorge out the source of income to the island – all quite now.  That afternoon we played on the beach and swam in the clear waters. Teo realised that if he had his mask and snorkel on he didn’t need to stop for air and could keep swimming indefinitely, so up and down the bay we went. We also made friends with a local stray dog which we helped after it got tangled in a fishing net on the beach.

Then back to the village and we met Phillip again from earlier who took us to a bar where he hangs out and was kind enough to teach Teo how to play the drum. After a musical interlude we wandered back through the village and he showed us his family house, their kittens and even a baby goat that was less than a day old. He walked us back down to our boat, chatting about life on the island and the government in Saint Vincent.

Teo had been asking to make a sword for a few days, so before going back to the boat we went around to the windward beach to look for drift wood. We sat, enjoyed the view and then carried our suitably sized drift wood home. Unfortunately, on returning to the dinghy we discovered that somewhere during the day we’d lost the dinghy keys! Teo and I rowed the dinghy back to the boat while Mia retracted our steps. Thankfully, she found the keys where we’d sat on the beach looking for drift wood, but that was only after walking the entire length of the island again!

The poverty of the island is striking with the only sign of new development coming from a christian mission which was expanding. The island has a population of 271 people and three churches. Electricity didn’t come to the island until 2002. What surprised us most was that the seemingly rich and fertile land around the locals huts and houses wasn’t being used to grow anything. We wondered why the common areas weren’t planned with fruit trees to supplement the local diet. No doubt there is a complexity or detail we’ve missed, but it struck us as strange.

Despite the hardship and dependance on tourism, the locals we met were generous, welcoming and very laid-back. We’d gladly return.

After a good night sleep we woke up early to head around to Tobago Cays and hopefully some of the best snorkelling in the Caribbean.

Canouan – a rude awakening.

Written by Jon:

We left Bequia back in late June and time was marching on as we had to be down in Grenada to meet our friend and semi-regular crew Clive who was flying in from Norway early in July.

Leaving Bequia we had a lovely little sail down to Canouan. We dropped the hook along a stretch of coast next to a couple of other yachts and started to make dinner. Just before Teo went off to bed the wind shifted and picked up in strength. It wasn’t a dangerous situation but we we’re too happy with the anchorage so we decided to move along the coast to the bay outside the main town. We’re not too happy anchoring in the dark, especially somewhere new to us, but on the charts it was straightforward and I could see that the navigation lights were working. Anyway, 30 minutes later we were safely anchored near the only other sailing boat in the bay, a catamaran. Then off to sleep.

I woke up early, to the sound of an urgent voice on the VHF radio. The skipper of the catamaran was calling all the other boats in the bay (us) to warn them that they awoke to someone walking around on the back of their boat. The opportunists had swum out to their boat in the early hours of the morning and when they were disturbed by lights coming on they jumped back into the sea and disappeared into the dark. I stayed up on deck with a torch for a while, until the sun came up, and it was clear that there wasn’t anyone around. As it turns out, nothing was stolen from the catamaran and everyone was OK. But, it was a reminder why we leave our VHF on overnight, why we put our washboards in (doors) and lock them, and why I’ve just installed an alarm on the back of the boat.

The places in the world where poverty rubs shoulders with the wealthy, where many of the local people often have so little and their government is corrupt and favours the wealthy at the expense of the poor, you will have crime and these paradise islands are no exception. What makes it particularly sad is that 99% of the locals we meet on a daily basis are friendly, welcoming and generous with their time and smiles – irrespective of how little they have.

We found a private little beach on Canouan with some lovely snorkelling and swimming. We had a great day together enjoying the sea, picnicking and relaxing. We were lucky enough to find a private hotel beach, staffed only my security guards and maintenance staff – it was closed for the season – but they were very welcoming and let us use the beach if we wanted. Rather than stay another night we sailed onto Mayreau and Salt Whistle Bay.

Itchy Foot enjoys Bequia, Twice

After leaving St. Anne in Martinique, packed with the provisioning and kids boats, we started our journey south. We made a short stop at Rodney Bay in St Lucia and Jon and Teo went to speak with a distributor about a water maker and few other errands. The next day gave us good conditions for a sail to St Vincent and the Grenadines.

We had to make a technical stop in Marigot Bay which is right around the corner but managed to get everything sorted in a short time and were off again. Thankfully the horrifically expensive sound our engine was making was just a bit of plastic rubbing against the alternator – phew. But our stops slowed us down and as the sun was setting, we were just outside a small anchorage in St Vincent and we thought we would stop instead of arriving at Bequia in the dark.

We were approached by some boat boys and they, as usual helped us pick up a mooring. During the process Jon asked how much the mooring would cost and who he needed to pay, it was a reasonable price and he was told by the boat boys that they would take the money. Later, as Jon went ashore to check-in with customs, he got chatting to the bar owner who’s mooring we’d taken as he was told that he would have to pay him the same again. Jon explained that he has already paid and wasn’t going to pay twice… and then tensions rose and the mood of bay turned sour. The bar owner got angry (not at Jon, at the boat boys) and was talking about taking matters into ‘his own hands’. Not wanting to be in the middle of something nasty, Jon came back to Itchy Foot and said “We’re leaving!” The beauty of living in a moveable platform is that if a place doesn’t feel good, or safe, then you can just pick-up and leave. In fairness to the rest of the locals, they were very apologetic about the behaviour of the boat boys and reassured us that we could get our money back if we complained in the town. But, we felt it wasn’t worth getting in the middle of something for 15 USD. So we had a lovely night sail down to Bequia.

Night sailing isn’t always ideal as we are careful to avoid all the fishing gear, but as it turns out, the temperature and the conditions were perfect and we enjoyed our sail, so much so we decided to do a planned night sail again soon.

We arrived in Bequia just in time to get an early night and we were all excited to see Blue Zulu and Pierina the next day. Everyone really enjoyed seeing each other, so much so that Pierina changed heir plans and stayed an extra week, how lovely! The women thoroughly enjoyed slipping away for walks to explore the island. The walking and talking being equally important! And we all got together for Tim’s birthday which was great fun, especially  watching the kids try to keep it a secret! I love that birthdays in the cruising community are filled with hand made cards and small tokens of affection and small surprises.

The kids were also very happy to see each other again, too! so much so that Pierina changed their plans and stayed an extra week, how lovely! We had a super time in Bequia with the kids visiting each other, playing, running around,  and doing lots of swimming and snorkeling. Teo is really enjoying the snorkeling and is getting very good at swimming. Also, we did lots of good boat school and started using an online program for math which is great if we are online because Teo is very motivated to earn points to upgrade his dragon. We even had an educational seminar on Blue Zulu with the topic “Ocean” where the kids did some research and held presentations. And another highlight in Bequia for this kids is reading club organized by a lovely local woman called Cheryl. She invites all kids to come to the Fig Tree restaurant and do some reading, draw a book report and later tell the group about the story. She splits the group up by age group and usually gets some adults to volunteer and the kids really respond to reading with adults who are not their own and fun day is had by all.

We spent extra time in Bequia as we gave Itchy Foot some extra love as well. Jon was approached by a man with a van, I mean a boat. The price was right, we got a recommendation and hired Winfield to help us do some varnishing. Every morning he came and sanded and added a coat of varnish as we spent the rest of the day avoiding the companionway (which is our only really doorway. We also didn’t want to leave Itchy Foot out of our sight as we couldn’t lock up without our wash boards. Anyway, Winfield did and excellent job and was a wonderful presence as well (there is something special about someone who whistles or sings as they work) and he gave Mia some pointers and let her try her hand so she can take on a few varnishing jobs in the future. And Winfield and Teo really hit it off, they have plans to take his boat into space to pick mangoes.

We stayed in Bequia longer than planned and had a short break in the middle to hide from Brett back up in St. Lucia, but very much enjoyed this lovely community and would happily go back sometime!

Our Village on the Sea

Written by Mia

Back in May, Jon went home to Newcastle for a short week and before he left we spent some time deciding when would be the best time and where would be the most suitable place for Teo and me to look after Itchy Foot on our own. On a macro level we wanted a protected place that would shield us from any weather that could come our way and we wanted the trip to be sooner rather than later because we are rapidly approaching hurricane season. And we wanted to have some boat company so I could ask my hysterical questions. So, end of May in St. Anne, Martinique with lots of friend boats nearby.

On a micro level, there are a lot of things to think about when you live on a boat: Are the batteries charged to a healthy level? Is the anchor light on? Have we remembered to turn everything unnecessary off so the batteries are happy when the solar panels start charging them in the morning? And is that catamaran anchored WAY too close?

We rented a car and I took Jon to the airport. Sometimes it’s a long way around when you book a ticket using bonus points… still it was funny that he was in South America before I got back to the dinghy.  Teo had a sleepover on Emerald Bay so we didn’t have to wake him at 4:30 am, for Jon’s early flight out, and he barely batted an eye when I got back at lunchtime. The lovely Emerald Bay fed us and later took us to the beach On the way back I wanted to see if I could haul the dinghy up on the back of Itchy Foot all by myself…. and I did. But still I was very happy that Emerald Bay were waiting patiently nearby in case I needed a hand. They also brought pastries and bread on Mother’s Day.

We had just gotten back to Itchy Foot on our own and I was wondering if that catamaran WAS too close and what Teo and I could do to lighten the mood when we got back to the empty boat when Pierina appeared to check on us and offered to take us ashore for ice cream…HOOOORAY! The kids have paper airplanes in common and spent a couple of hours flying them in the village square. The adults had a lovely chat, too and we enjoyed ourselves so much we stayed for dinner.

Element were nearby and they checked on said catamaran for us, also they hosted an evening onboard and the kids watched a movie and staged a performance for the adults. We also swapped teaching materials and earlier I hitched a ride with them to do some shopping.

Blue Zulu went out of their way to come and watch over us as well. We were all invited onboard for pizza. Le Marin has a pizza boat that comes out to St. Anne on the weekends and jumped on that opportunity. Teo has a ball playing with the kids and thrives in a smaller group of kids. We had a wonderful afternoon with them walking through the little town, eating Floups (French popcicles) and walking to play on the beach for the afternoon.

Our new friends on Flip Flops were also lovely company and picked us up and took us to the beach, stopped by and called on the radio to make sure everything was OK.

These lovely people checked on us and looked after us, it was incredible! They offered to do our shopping if we were missing anything, made sure we had lots of opportunities to get off the boat to stretch our legs and that Teo had lots of time with other kids. I feel SO fortunate to be part of this lovely community and it really showed when Teo and I were on our own. At this time of the year it also seems that everyone has a lot to do as we all move towards our chosen hurricane season places, especially in Martinique which is the place to provision before heading to other places. But despite having lots to do, everyone made time for us and we are very grateful 🙂

 

Hurricane Season

Written by Jon:

Hurricane season in this part of the world is officially from June to November, but not all months are created equal with the chance of hurricanes forming in June or November being very small indeed. In fact, mostly you need to sweat in August and September. The graph below shows the frequency of hurricanes by month and you can clearly see that June is very unlikely.

NB: this is number of storms over 100 years, not each year!

However, that doesn’t stop it happening occasionally. Which brings us to the current weather forecast and the nervous chatter on the beach which followed it. So what is going on? And how worried should we be?

There will be many of these ‘potential somethings’ over the coming months and the vast majority won’t be anything of concern for us. This is just the first so we wanted to put a little explanation together and share it with you.

About 2000 miles east of the south Caribbean there are some clouds which look ‘funny’ in a bad way. They aren’t a storm, they aren’t even a depression really, they just look like they could turn into something in the next few days. What could they turn into? A tropical storm? A hurricane? Nothing? All of the above are possible. At the moment NOAA are giving these clouds a 50% chance of turning into ‘something’ at some point in the next 2 days.

Doesn’t look like anything yet!

These clouds are currently moving at about 20 mph and they are about 2000 miles away, or 100 hours (meaning at that rate they will arrive in 3 days, or Monday night here). At the moment GFS (one of the forecasts) is saying 45+ mph of wind on Monday night all the way down in Trinidad. The same forecast for Bequia, our current location, is 25 mph or as we refer to it on Itchy Foot ‘too windy to hang up washing’ and nothing to worry about at all. So there is a lot of complacency here too. But it is simply too early to say, so everyone is sitting and waiting to see what happens in the next 24/48 hours.

If something does form, where will it go? Again, too early to say as they don’t know what ‘it’ is yet. However, the only ‘path’ which has been discussed by forecasters is well south of us down by Trinidad, even lower than Grenada.

In the event that something concerning does form in the next couple of days we have options. Eight hours south is the security of Grenada’s well protected bays and anchorages. Or, 8 hours north is St Lucia and Marigot Bay / Rodney Bay, which are not only well protected but come with a luxury hotel and swimming pool!

In all likelihood this will blow over and not come anywhere near us at all. But rather than let you hear ‘weather warnings’ on the news and fear the worst we felt it was best to write a little pre-emptive blog post. Please, do not worry, there is nothing to worry about currently.

Back in the Tribe – Le Marin

Written by Jon:

A few days in the company of the lovely Emerald Bay was perfect to lick the wounds from saying goodbye to family (literally in the case of their two dogs).

The routing of the simple life: kids playing together, a BBQ on the back of the boat, an afternoon on the beach, fixing something on the boat, a morning walk and snorkelling with turtles – these easy and simple pleasures are good for the soul and why we’re out here. Our friends on Emerald Bay are easy and welcome company, even more relaxed than Itchy Foot and it is a pleasure to slow down and enjoy.

We spent a couple of nights in Anse Mitan waiting for the glue to dry on our broken dinghy. Spent another night in Fort du France picking up fuel, water, having a picnic in the park and taking a bus trip to Decathlon. Spent a couple of nights in Grand Anse de Artlet snorkelling, walking dogs and enjoying fresh french bread and pan au chocolate for breakfast every morning. Simple and enjoyable.

It became clear however that one of us wasn’t going to make it. Nemo, our dinghy so named as one of the oars is longer than the other, was a lost cause. Over the last few weeks it had transitioned from a motorised puddle, to motorised foot bath to finally a motorised paddling pool. We picked-up anchor and headed to Le Marin and the various dinghy dealers to shop for a replacement. After a bit of wheeling and dealing we managed for find a good solution and became the proud owners of Dory (the sequel to nemo) a Highfield RIB. We’re hoping that Dory will last a little longer than Nemo and with her nice strong aluminium bottom, will be better suited to life as a hard-working cruisers dinghy.

Other than the excitement of spending large sums of money which we didn’t really want to spend, life continued at a slow pace. Moving out from Le Marin to Sainte Anne with our new dinghy we found old friends. Element, who were part of the Atlantic Odyssey welcomed us back and shortly after Perina (we met them in Barbuda) showed up. A couple of days later Blue Zulu rocked up into the anchorage and we got to meet new kids boats too: Flip Flops, Mango and Ketchy Shuby all joined the gang. Suddenly and without much planning we had twelve kids running around causing trouble. A tribe of trouble!

With Mia and Teo surrounded by such good friends and safely anchored in a well protected bay with good holding it seemed like a good opportunity to take a quick hope back to the UK. During the hurricane season it would be very expensive or risky to leave Itchy Foot unattended so this would be the last chance to pop-back for a while. I had family I wanted to see and horrific amount of money to spend on ‘boat stuff’ which would be a lot cheaper in the UK than in Grenada. Plus, just enough airmiles with Air France which were about to expire. So off I went, an early flight out on Friday morning via South America (I do not recommend flying from the Caribbean to Europe by heading south first – but it was cheaper) to French Guyana and then both Paris airports and then finally 28 hours later I landed safely into Newcastle airport. I had a few days to see family and shop and on Wednesday morning I’m back on a plane headed home, to Itchy Foot in Martinique. Written at 30,000 ft, passing over the Azores and the north Atlantic where many friends with boats are making their way slowly back to Europe.

I’m looking forward to getting back to Mia, Teo and our life as we head slowly south down the island chain.

Grandma and Grandad in Martinique

Written by Jon:

Teo’s Grandma and Grandad, Carole and David, read all the nice things we had to say about Martinique and, combined with the chance to see Teo they were sufficiently tempted to come out for a week. It coincided perfectly with Adrian and Alexia’s visit so we even had a full day together on the island with seven of us in a mini-van.

Adrian did some research and had some good memories from his last visit to Martinique and suggested a trip to famous and historic rum distillery, Clement, which was now also a botanical garden and museum. It was lovely to see the old steam engine driven machinery and with Teo’s knowledge of engines and pistons I think he understood the basics and got something out of it.

For lunch we headed to the east coast, to a cute row of beach shacks selling excellent french seafood cooking. Ironically it would have been the perfect beach to kite surf from but Adrian’s gear was all back on Itchy Foot. After an excellent lunch we continued our drive around the south coast of Martinique, taking in the coastal scenery before dropping down into Le Marin with several goals in mind. Firstly, ice cream was on the cards for the kids. Secondly, our trusty dinghy was finally falling apart from the heat and sun of the Caribbean and I’d run out of PVC glue to fix him. Thirdly, Celtic Spirit were anchored somewhere in the bay and it would be our last chance to see them before they went north to Antigua and then back over to Europe. Ice cream delivered, glue purchased and we even got to buy Ansis a beer and catch up for an hour, we were back in the car enroute to the hotel.

The next day was fairly low-key, relaxing by the swimming pool at Grandma and Grandad’s hotel and a spot of light lunch before dropping Adrian and Alexia off at the airport for their flight home. We were all sad to see them go.

Teo decided that, given the option, he would rather sleep in a hotel room than on Itchy Foot and as both hotel and grandparents were obliging he got a small bed made up. The rest of the week flew past all too quickly. Teo stayed with his grandparents overnight and Mia and I got to experience a glimpse of life as a sailing couple rather than a sailing family which was a lovely gift to us. Teo got to sleep in a bed which didn’t move and have ‘endless’ hot water showers. At one point I worried that Mia was going to move into the hotel too.

We took trips with the ferry over to Fort du France, hired a car for a couple more days and did a couple of nice trips around the island. Martinique is beautiful from both the sea and also the land. There is a particularly lovely drive which heads up into the mountains just north from Fort du France, past a stunning church on the hill and exquisite botanical gardens before entering into the rain forest on the mountains.

 

But all good things… and we dropped the Grandparents off at the airport with a tearful goodbye and headed back to Itchy Foot feeling a little sad and alone. Thankfully the cloud had an emerald lining and we didn’t have to be lonely for too long before Emerald Bay bobbed into the anchorage and dropped the hook right beside us.

As always it is lovely to have guests, especially visits from ones which we miss from our lives on the water. Teo has stopped talking about his friends from back in Oslo and now when he is quiet and a little down he talks about missing his Grandma and Grandad and Mormor and Grandpa.

Stuff we like

Moving onto a boat involves shedding a great deal of weight from the ‘stuff’ we accumulate in normal life. Space and weight are precious commodities onboard and therefore we have to live a life with less ‘things’ – something we’re actually very pleased to do – even if it does mean that the absence of a potato masher leaves us with lumps.

However, we always need a few things to make the boat and our lives work. The things we have onboard that proven themselves to be invaluable over the last year make it onto our new Gear page which you can get to from the menu above.

We’re not getting any money for these links, nor was anything donated by companies – we’re not that famous! So it is based on our honest experiences.

 

Family visiting

Written by Jon:

After Teo turned 6 on the 1st of April we spent a couple more weeks in Antigua. With great company and an anchorage where we saw turtles everyday there was little pressure to move on. The last week in Antigua we were lucky enough to find a sailing academy which was running kids activity days and signed Teo up. With the 15 or so kids being organised into sailing, kayaking, cricket, etc. he had a great time. I have to admit I was also very proud of the little man when picking him up on the last day, without prompting from me and entirely of his own devising, he ran up to the organisers and thanked them for the day, explained that he wouldn’t be coming back tomorrow and said goodbye. Witnessing these moments of growth in maturity and confidence are a big reason why we are out here.

Earlier in March my eldest brother, Adrian, organised a visit to Itchy Foot with his 8 year old daughter Alexia. He was able to come out for a couple of weeks so it made a great deal of sense to use that time making slow progress south, so we looked for a triangular route and the French islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique provided the perfect distance for a leisurely two week cruise. Adrian and Alexia would fly in on the 15th to Guadeloupe and out of Martinique on the 30th.

So, just as we were about to leave Antigua the generator started playing up. Thankfully, we were in the company of all round amazing guy and mechanic Jage from Dana de Mer. After quickly examining the engine from the outside he diagnosed the problem of a blown head gasket. Against all the odds I managed to find a company of on the island which had a couple of suitably sized spare head gaskets on their shelf (used, but in good condition) and picked them up in time for Jage to strip the engine block, clean everything and put the engine back together. Not before scolding me for not having the right tools and pop to his boat to get the right gear. Thanks to his efforts we had a working generator again. Off to Guadeloupe without a moment to spare. We waved goodbye to Blue Zulu who we knew we’d see soon and to Dana de Mar who we dearly hope we’ll see soon.

Jage and his daughter

We collected Adrian and Alexia from the airport without trouble and buzzed them back out to Itchy Foot in-time for an early night. The next morning Alexia had a wonderful introduction to boating life as a kid with both Emerald Bay and Bonaire being in the same anchorage. Six kids swimming, jumping and playing Pirates from the back of Itchy Foot was great fun to watch. Also, the “school run” at the end of the day was using paddle boards. The next day we all took a walk around the long beach on the next bay where the kids to play, Adrian could try to get kite surfing and the dogs from Emerald Bay could run around without disturbing others. On the way back we took a walk up the fresh water river to wash kids, clothes and dogs. I forgot shampoo but discovered that there is really nothing wrong with dog shampoo – it’s especially nice on the beard.

 

The next few days we picked our way down Guadeloupe, waving goodbye to Bonaire as they headed to the capital Pointe a Pietre to stock-up before they set off to Bonaire in the ABC islands (it would be rude not to). They laughed that they could buy crew shirts there! We hope to see them again, and if we do it’ll be on the other side of the panama canal.

We stopped for a few days in Les Saintes islands, a lovely group of islands off the south west coast of Guadeloupe. Excellent snorkelling (thanks to Slow Motion for the tip), nice food (thanks to Adrian for buying dinner out) and some nice walks to the top of the low hills and forts that are dotted around the islands.

The next island south of Guadeloupe is Dominica – one of Itchy Foot’s favourites we were excited to revisit and experience a few things we skipped the first two times we visited. Arriving on a weekend into Portsmouth we had to pop around the customs and immigration officers apartment to clear into the country (he was working overtime from home). We had a nice walk into the town of Portsmouth, with Roti and ice cream for lunch, fresh coconut to drink and a walk around the street market. We followed that with a trip up the Indian river and our friendly guide pointed out many of the flora and fauna which inhabit the area while rowing us quietly so as to not disturb the peace and scare the animals. Teo was particularly taken by the recreation of Calipso’s hut from the Pirates of the Caribbean movie which was filmed on this river.

Sailing south from Portsmouth is Roseau where we stopped to refill gas canisters (impossible in Martinique) and take a walk around a very quite capital city. We didn’t stop long, one night before having an exhilarating sail across to St. Pierre on Martinique.

Sainte Pierre is the original capital of Martinique before it was destroyed in seconds by a cataclysmic volcanic eruption 100 years ago. 30,000 people were killed in an instant, the entirely population of the city and the story goes that there was only one surviver – a prisoner locked up in the town jail and saved by the very very thick walls that surrounded him. All this and more were explained to us in the wonderful science museum above the town. It’s a long walk up there from the anchorage, especially tough in the heat, but worth it for kids providing a couple of hours of educational entertainment. As we left Sainte Pierre we managed to hook a 10kg Wahoo (it’s a type of fish not just the exclamation you make then catching one).

We spent the last couple of days with Adrian and Alexia onboard anchored off the Anse Mitan near Fort du France half way down the Martinique coast. We had a nice couple of days before they flew back to Amsterdam and Teo’s grandma and grandad flew in to join us in Martinique for a week! It is always lovely to have guests on Itchy Foot, doubly so when they are family. It was great to see Teo playing with his cousin (they have always had a special relationship) and we sure did miss them when they left.