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.
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.