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.

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.

Itchy Foot has a SIX year old onboard!

Written by Mia: 

There has been a lot of counting down to the first of April this year! Then when the answer to the question “when is my birthday” finally was “tomorrow”, he squealed and crossed his toes. The day unfortunately started with a goodbye. We had hoped to have a lot more time with Bright Eyes once they got over to this side, but alas it did not come to pass. They very generously took us in and made us feel like family when we were in Menorca and we met up along the way enroute to Gibraltar and they were there to wave us off in Tenerife and then our paths were askew over here. We did however manage to meet up in the middle of the sea and waved to each other on the morning of Teo’s birthday. Teo waved with two hands because he is now six and you just have to use two hands for six fingers.

Breakfast for the birthday boy was crazy Sugar Bomb cereal. From the set of mini cereal packets, Teo chose Froot Loops just like Mark and I did when we visited Mossa and Oke when we were small. There was a pile of presents and crown with a 6 on it. The Norwegian tradition of giving the birthday hero a crown is such a great one and I think a Teo is finally warming to the idea! This year it was made out of blue foam with yellow foam letters and a giant 6 of course. Sta Vast were with us in spirit and left a generous bag full of gifts which Teo declared were his favorites of course. There were lots of hand made treats and cards and we also had phone calls with family and we are touched that everyone made the effort to wish him a great day!


As we arrived in Falmouth, Antigua, Bonaire came out in the dinghy singing happy birthday and as we were anchoring Blue Zulu were singing, too! Teo was very very happy, smiling from ear to ear! He spent the rest of the day visiting friends and then we went to the beach, too. We put up the dress overall signal flags and made Itchy Foot look fancy and in the evening we had company. Blue Zulu, Bonaire and Dana de Mer came over for a movie night. The kids sat down in the saloon and ate pasta with pesto (Teo’s choice) and watched Pirates of the Caribbean (also Teo’s choice). The adults drank Rum punch and ate Spaghetti Bol ala Anna. It was a lovely evening!


The birthday celebrations continued and next day we celebrated Fin and Teo with a pirate party on the beach! Teo was picked up by some small pirates in an Optimist sailing dinghy. There was a treasure hunt on the beach, that the dads put together with clues hanging from trees and submerged in the water. Anna made a pirate cake, complete with paper sails that all turned into an inferno when the candles were lit which the boys loved! We grilled food, there was a painting project, a bonfire and lots of giggling. All of that adds up to very happy kids! Teo especially loved the bonfire he helped a Jage build and was pretty proud to be the last one to leave the party on the beach! The wonderful friends we are making in the cruising community made Teo’s day very special and the Itchy Foot crew feel very lucky to have them.


We’ve had the pleasure, joy and fortune to spend Every single day of Teo’s fifth year in his company. He is a lovely little man who brings daily joy to our lives with his affection, sense of humor and imagination and we feel incredibly lucky to spend so much time with him this year.

St Martin – a loss for words

Written by Mia

St Martin was not at all what we anticipated before we arrived. There are rumours flying that it is the best shopping in this part of the world because it is tax free, but we found they have just adjusted their prices and on the whole aren’t really much better value for money than anywhere else. But there is an extensive cruising community and everyone seems friendly and helpful. They have a cruising net on VHF channel 10 that is a wealth of information and a place to to buy and sell as well just catch up with people. Even if I don’t have an issue to solve, I love to listen just for the boat names and the personalities on the radio. But all of this reveals itself in time.

We arrived into Simpson Bay just before the last bridge opening for the day. It is a strange place with a lifting bridge into a Lagoon that has a Dutch side and a French side with a big, illuminated, multicoloured causeway bridge running down the middle. Sta Vast arrived about an hour earlier than we did and were ready to enter, plus they had important work to do on the boat and wanted to be close to the chandleries that are mostly located around the Lagoon. We decided to remain outside in the anchorage so we were flexible because we also were hoping to finally meet up with J-Squared, who made the crossing to Barbados in January. We met Jeff and Julie and Lucas in Marina Lanzarote and were fast friends, they were the ones who gave us our first real glimpse of the spirit of cruising community. They are incredibly generous with their time and love and we are so lucky to have them in our lives. Within 24 hours, Teo was pretty sure he helped Jeff fix his boat, we were invited to sundowners and we had lots of shared laughs. I love it when you meet people that GET your humour, no matter how bad it is!

Anyway, we found them on the French side in Marigot Bay and as a bonus got to check in there which turns out to be easier and cheeper, so YAY! It was a three-hour mission to make the journey to over there on foot, and it was all worth it to spend time in the company of these gems. Teo and Elise wasted no time and were building forts all over the boat. And when it was time to go, it took Jeff 10 minutes to drop us off in his rib. Teo hit the nail on the head when he said ”I tried to be serious but Jeff’s dinghy goes giggle speed!” We eventually moved over to anchor next to them. This encouraged Teo to work on his swimming because he just flung himself in the water to visit Jeff when his parents were just too slow in his opinion. And being in Marigot Bay is better swimming so we had the Sta Vast kids for a visit and Jon put out the spinnaker pole and the kids swung Tarzan style into the sea. Teo also had a go and swam all the way to the back of the boat on his own!

Otherwise, Sta Vast spent a few stressful days doing serious boat jobs and we spent as much time together as we could. We enjoyed an incredible meal onboard with them, including tuna sushi and perfectly prepared tuna steaks. How do they do it I ask myself? We always have these wonderful meals onboard Sta Vast with the kids table downstairs and the adults up on deck.

Our plan was to have a few days on a beautiful beach to bid our close friends, well more like chosen family, farewell. And despite all the boat jobs and complications, we made it! We sailed to Tintamarre, a beautiful little island just off the northwestern coast and as we approached we got a fabulous dolphin show! Turtles bid us welcome in the bay. We swam and had a BBQ on the beach in the evening and hung our Luci lights in the trees for lighting- thanks Mossa and Susie! The following day we got almost a full day on the beach as the kids skipped school and instead spent the day planting trees and swimming and laughing together. We didn’t get enough time together, but when you love someone a LOT when is there enough time?! As they sailed away it broke the three hearts of the Itchy Foot crew. We watched the lights through our tears until they disappeared over the horizon.

 

We anchored in the lovely bay of Grand Case and J-Squared swooped in to lift our spirits. We always have a wonderful time with them! Teo was paddling around in a kayak with the ever-patient Lucas, who even smiled when Teo nicknamed him “Lucci”. Also, Teo was trying to impress Lucci so he jumped off the front and that is quite a distance to the surface of the water! He even held my hand when I was a little too scared. We spent a morning doing a little snorkelling together and all of this is doing wonders for Teo’s swimming confidence! Jeff has this electric smile that you spot form miles away. He always helps us solve a boat problem or two and this time it was our gas locker and hull polishing. After we have worked hard we play at their place. J-Squared has a magic blender and BBQ and we are just spoiled to hang out there. These lovelies have incredible hearts and souls and we miss them until we see them next year! You guessed it, they too have left for the BVI’s…  

The people we have met along the way are my favourite part of this adventure. The lovely family aboard Pier Ina invited Teo aboard to play and taxied us ashore when we were waiting for the glue on Nemo to dry. They too left for the BVIs and we hope to see them again later in the season further south. Also, we were treated to a couple of lovely dinners onboard Slow Motion who we met the first time way back in Cartagena. We were spoiled with French cooking and chilli and Teo loves Moody the cat and even made some toys for him. We also spent a great day in Simpson Bay doing a kids’ science workshop in the morning, lunch at a chicken stand for lunch and a trip to ice cream parlour called the Carousel with Laridae and B&G. We also got to visit with Anyway before they too headed further north. As we waved bye to them the morning that we left, it felt like closing the chapter on our Atlantic crossing.

St. Martin seems to be a place where you decide how far west you are prepared to go and we need to head south again, so this was our turning point. The good byes were painful and we were happy to get a fluke night of wind that enabled us to sail back to Antigua and lots of kids to celebrate Teo’s birthday.

Nevis and St Kitts – in that order because Nevis is SO much better

Sta Vast and Itchy Foot are sticking together as long as possible and we left Barbuda early in the morning and headed for Nevis. The sea state was quite bouncy, (especially where there is an underwater shelf where the depth goes from “it’s too deep to give a reading” to 30 meters) but we listened to audio books while keeping our eyes on the horizon and ate cheese and crackers which are my favourite snack choice in rough conditions and we arrived just before dark. Sta Vast are faster than we are and even when we leave earlier, they arrive first. They found two mooring buoys next to each other just off Pinney Beach and we were very happy to be safely tied up as the last light of the day faded away. We all found our comfy sleeping places early that night.

After boat school the next day, we went ashore to check out our new neighbourhood. What we found were beach bars aplenty and Sunshine bar is a legend in these parts with a trampoline, a bonfire a very nice rum punch they nicknamed “Killer Bee” and puppies- one called Mary has many fans in this group. We didn’t find all that out until later as our first trip ashore was a walk into Charles Town. The place is very cute – many of the buildings have wooden and iron lattice work and were never taller than two or three stories. We searched for the customs office to check in and stopped in a few shops and noticed immediately that people greet everyone they meet whether it is entering a shop or passing someone on the street, just as you often find in very small towns. We really noticed that the whole island was very friendly and bought street food from a guy who was a vendor in the same spot for 25 years. We ate our picnic in Memorial Square with lots of locals and enjoyed our day, even if we missed the customs office by 15 minutes.

While we were on the mooring buoy off Pinney Beach we did some boat jobs and did some boat school and enjoyed our afternoons ashore. Jon fixed our tap – hooray for easy water flow in the galley and Vincent patched the Beast (Sta Vast’s dinghy) and has been doing fault finding on their auto helm and compass that failed them on the last crossing. With other people living aboard we talk about boat jobs a lot and swap ideas and solutions or just commiserate when something goes wrong and cheer when it is easily solved.

One of our favourite afternoons was a walk through a rainforest, past an old sugar plantation with an amazing view. The kids were doing Mogli tricks and Jon made Teo a bow out of vines and the crowning glory was the monkey show we saw at dusk as we were walking back through a tract of vacation homes. We must have seen 50 to 100 monkey in small groups crossing the road to the jungle on the other side. The Four Seasons has a golf course not too far away and I am convinced the monkeys play a round once it is dark.

We moved to St Kitts as the very windy weather arrived as we were trying to make some ground north. First we anchored in Whitehouse Bay, but it was very deep there and the boats all had to put lots of anchor chain down as we were all dancing around with the gusts. We stayed onboard our boats most of the time but did visit each other and had a few wavy swims. We moved around to Majors Bay for a night and went ashore to check out a wreck on the beach and the surrounding area. On our walk around to the next bay we met Sweet Pea, who is local and told us all about her island. She even tried to hitch us a lift but we were enjoying stretching our legs. We made it to Reggae Beach just in time for the last beach bar to close. We were disappointed and finally nice people who run the Spice Mill on the end, served us even though they were hosting a private party. There was a very sweet Spanish speaker who served the kids “Rhum punch” and let them choose the music. They even arranged for a ride back to our dinghies. They really did save the day and would have loved to go back to enjoy a meal, but we left the next day for St. Martin.

Barbuda – paradise for everyone

Off to Barbuda! We have been particularly looking forward to this island. It is located just next to Antigua and we traveled there with a fleet of SEVEN kids boats. Indulge me as I list them, because boat names make me happy. in our fleet there was Dana de Mer, Blue Zulu, Emerald Bay, Sandy Cheeks, Pier Ina, Sta Vast and Itchy Foot, plus Bonaire were meeting us there. You could feel the excitement radiating from the kids. The winds were light and most of us got spinnakers or other light wind sails up – these are usually the most colourful sails and we were looking very pretty as we travelled across.

The approach is also exciting because the area is surrounded by bommis – isolated bits of coral reef that need to be avoided. The trick is maximising visibility, which you do by having strong sunlight directly overhead or behind you. We have marriage protectors on board, also known as bluetooth headsets that motorcyclists use – they enable us to communicate between the cockpit and the bow without raising our voices. So, as it is impossible to raise your voice without sounding angry or at least hearing a raised voice without interpreting it as angry. Our headsets allow us to have a conversation in normal voices and that is a lot nicer in potentially stressful situations. We might have looked a little like Madonna on tour, but the hour approach did not turn into an hour of shouting at each other.

As soon as we got there, kids were on paddle boards, in kayaks, using boogie boards as bikes to convene on the different boats. At one point, Tom from Bonaire fed six or seven boys pasta on Bonaire and Dana de Mer had a selection of girls on board. Blue Zulu were doing kids movies with popcorn and there was a sense of community.  All the adults convened on Blue Zulu, some paddled, some arrived by dinghy and some swam and we were having so much fun, we might have overstayed our welcome. Pat popped down and magically made spicy pasta for everyone. We might have felt a little sorry for the boat that was anchored solo in the bay when we started to arrive.

The next few days were much of the same bliss, everyone visiting each other and spending time together. There was amazing snorkelling and exploring ashore and almost everyone had a go jumping off the roof of Dana de Mer. Bonaire prepared the sailing dinghy and taught the kids to sail it. And there was a joint birthday party for Stella and Phoebe on the beach complete with a cake Anna decorated with the girls snorkelling and lobsters on the very professional BBQ pit assembled by Lindsey of Sandy Cheeks. Phoebe was creating elaborate stories with characters from the party. Poppy ran up to me and gushed that she and Teo married and bought a boat of their own to travel the world with their 15 kids!

Time flew by very quickly and all of a sudden, time was short to drop people at airports and make other appointments. We were all invited Sat Vast for sundowners and snacks and movies down below for the kids on the last night. It was such a feeling of bliss chatting and giggling with a wonderful and generous group of friends.  There were lots of giggles and grins and more than that we trade ideas and support when we need it. The level of friendship is heart warming.

Sta Vast moved to an anchorage outside the lagoon at Codrington, the capital of Barbuda and where we had to check out. As we arrived we saw Pier Ina again. We spent a couple of days anchored off an breath taking beach, which is 11 kilometres long! Even after a long walk, Katrien and I didn’t feel we made a dent in it. We spent some lovely time on this beach, building an epic sand castle, having a lovely picnic and one morning Simon took Elise and Teo ashore in the dinghy on their own for a swim. The main town of Codrington was across a lagoon from where we were anchored. The conditions while we were there were windy and crossing the lagoon in our own dinghies was going to be wet and wild. Pier Ina were smart and organised a water taxi to get across the lagoon and they generously included us so we had an e-ticket ride to Codrington. Once we got there it felt like a Wild West version of the Caribbean. There were goats at the customs office, horses on the street and chickens every where. We had a fun explore and great walk around the place and a wonderful grilled chicken dinner before we zipped back across the lagoon.

Barbuda, we will be back!