The Lovely, the Historic Cartagena

Written by Mia:

A visit to Cartagena de Indias was high on our list of must do’s in Colombia. The city was founded in 1533 and is a walled old town of 13 glorious square kilometers of quaint, narrow cobblestone streets and beautiful stone buildings with balconies and potted plants. It was built on the site of an old Carib settlement and is often called the pearl of the Caribbean coast. There was a fire in 1553 which encouraged the inhabitants to rebuild the city in stone to our delight today. The wall was inspired by the pirate sieges the city suffered, five in the 16th century alone, with the most infamous by Sir Francis Drake who was paid 10 million pesos on the promise not to level the the city to the ground.

The guide books tell you to just wander and that is basically what we did. And we loved every minute of it! We traveled with the lovely crew of Sugar Shack by bus to Cartagena on the day of their independence and we enjoyed the fiesta. There were happy people everywhere, a very colorful parade around the outside of the city wall and a fabulous buzz of excitement. And I think Teo would tell me off if I didn’t mention the “espuma” which are cans that shoot out foam like silly string. A teenage girl noticed the gleam of interest on Teo’s face and handed him one and told him to attack her boyfriend that were probably his favorite part of the day! There were espuma wars going on and Teo was right in the thick of it!

We stayed across the Independence Park from the Old Town and the area was full of fun places to eat, sleep and play. We loved checking out this area called Getsamani had a wonderful atmosphere and we wish we had been in early in the property market because it reminded us of Santa Catalina in Palma. It had a wonderful laid back atmosphere with funky bars, restaurants, hostels, street art and graffiti. We wandered through right before lunchtime the day after the party but it was shiny clean and quiet but still hummed with energy. Later we returned for a wonderful meal with Sugar Shack.

We were of course drawn back to the Old Town for another wander. We had cake for lunch a gorgeous place called Milas and otherwise wandered and took lots of photos. The buildings and especially the gates are painted wonderful colors and there are signs of care everywhere. Even the street vendors seem sweet. We stopped into many artisan shops, found a sweet shop where they were rolling lollipops by hand and spent time in a chocolate museum that was just a tasting palace with an assistant that wanted Teo to move in with her so he could help her improve her English and it seemed like a good deal since she promised to teach him Spanish, too.

We couldn’t leave town without a trip to the looming fortress and we had fun exploring the vigilant bodyguard of the city. The approach is jaw dropping and steep and we had fun with the stairs and tunnels, twists and turns. And by the way, those tunnels get dark, itchy ankles for me and nervous giggles from Teo. We loved our trip to Cartagena!

Itchy Foot Crew Gain a Continent

Written by Mia:

We took our own sweet time getting from Willemstad, Curaçao to arrive in Santa Marta, Colombia. This marks the first visit to South America for any of us. What does this mean for you? There will be lots of blogs ahead, because Colombia is amazing and we have a lot to say about it and I might as well warn you now, there will be lots of superlatives, this place deserves lots of crazy adjectives.

Our first taste of Columbia was an anchorage at Cabo de la Vela located at the northwestern tip of the country. It is the first place Europeans set foot in South America and an area that indigenous tribes call home. We really wanted to go ashore and check out the dusty village and the lookout point, but the wind was high and we were not checked in so we just admired it from deck and enjoyed a swim in the crystal blue water before heading to Santa Marta.

Stay tuned for blog posts about living in the marina in Santa Marta, a trip to historic Cartagena, impressions from Medellin and at least a couple from our road trip, mostly because we have lots of photos to share. Jon and I are both armed with cameras and both have burned through batteries already three days into our trip…

 

But just in case you have missed us, here come a few first impressions of Colombia:

The cities are big and busy busy, lots of people, lots of traffic and so many things to see and hear. And there still seems time to wish us foreigners welcome. There are 48 million people living here at last official count in 2005 and everyone is going somewhere and doing something all the time.

The countryside is beautiful and the towns in it very colorful. The people seem proud of their homes and painstakingly paint them all the colors under the sun.

 

The Wild West is alive and well in Jerico and Jardin.

People work hard, at whatever they do, wherever they are doing it. We just bought coffee from a woman walking the queue of the construction site traffic jam.

 

It takes a lot longer to get from point A to point B, because you twist up up up and then twist down down down but there is so much fun, beautiful, incredible stuff to see on the way. Jon did the math and on our trip we covered 800 kilometers in eight days and averaged only 28kph.

 

This country has more shades of green than Ireland and an incredible diversity of landscape.

People are so, so, SO friendly and proud of their country and happy to have visitors. We get lots of smiles from people we meet and we hear “bienvenido” (welcome) and “con mucho gusto” (with much pleasure) all the time. Teo is very popular with his blonde hair, and older grandmas cannot gush over him enough and just today 15 girls in school uniforms all wanted his attention, practicing their English and giggling when he talked to them.

 

Lucky for us, a little Spanish goes a long way.

 

There is SO much to see and do and it is painful to have to choose what to do with our time. Colombia has had a complicated past and we have our fingers and toes crossed for a very bright future!

 

Here is very short history of Colombia. All the way back to the beginning Vizzini! Colombia was named after Christoffer Columbus even though he never set foot in the country. The indigenous people were covered in gold adornments and early European visitors kept searching for the source and this strongly influenced the Legend of El Dorado. The first major settlement was founded in Santa Marta in1525 and followed shortly thereafter by Cartagena in 1533 with its substantial city walls and impressive fortress. At this point it was still being ruled by Spain; enter Simon Bolivar, known as “el Liberatador” because his battles across northern South America eventually lead to the liberation of Venezuela, Colombia, Panama and Ecuador. These countries later formed “Gran Colombia” which is remembered as a period of peace and economic boom, especially in the coffee industry. The coffee boom that was born in the early 20th century is alive and strong in Colombia today although there seems to be a strong desire to catch up with the coffee house barista movement we know and love. I am going to leave the Colombians to argue over their own politics and religion and bow out now.

 

And since this is being written mostly during a traffic jam, I’ll leave you with a list of missed photo ops:

 

Pimped up vintage trucks from Dodge, Mac, and Volvo decorated with Mary and Jesus and of course painted bright colors.

 

Street signs warning about road kill animal crossings including their Latin names. Our favorites were ant eaters, iguanas and armadillos.

 

Old men using ancient Singer sewing machines to create original leather Jerico saddle bags and shops selling bags of grain.

 

Kids on bikes holding on to the back of semi trucks.

 

Fifteen school girls in uniform practicing their English on Teo.

 

And the best one was a cowboy with a straw hat riding a horse up the road checking his smart phone.

 

 

 

 

Colombia, safe and sound

In the end we decided to stop in Cabo de la Vela in Colombia for a night, a beautiful little bay near a small village in the very north of Colombia. We arrived in the morning after a nice night sail. The day was spent pottering around Itchy Foot, I fixed the gas and we had a swim.

A quiet night’s sleep was rewarded with a lovely calm morning and a slow breakfast. With 140 miles ahead of us to get to Santa Marta we had no reason to rush. So coffee, fluffy pancakes (my best yet – less milk seemed to help) and a swim in the refreshing waters. It seems that as we sail west and south the sea temperature has dropped, from a bathtub 25C down to a refreshing 20C – much nicer.

We didn’t have much wind, so motored for the first two hours but by lunchtime we were sailing along nicely. Poled out the headsail and running before the wind and sea, is a pleasant way to travel. I spent the time reading a book about fishing and adjusting my standard fishing lines accordingly. It paid off! Shortly before lunch we managed to catch and land a couple (literally as they are a mating pair) of Dorado. A very tasty white fish from a beautiful and colorful fish. So lunch became fresh fish fingers!

The wind and the waves continued to build and into the night we had 20+ knots of wind. After dinner Mia headed off to bed, but it was a bit rocky and rolly so she didn’t managed to get much sleep and was up on deck again shortly after midnight to help me adjust the sails and head out of the cockpit, something we only do when we have two people awake and on deck.

About 4 in the morning Mia started her watch and I went to grab a few hours sleep before we arrived in Santa Marta. We arrived in the city around 10:30 am and were tied-up in the marina by 11am. It’s a lovely modern marina, hot showers, clean bathrooms, excellent security. They even have biometric security on the door, opened with finger prints, which Teo hasn’t got tired of yet!

We took a walk around the town in the afternoon, finding a supermarket and hardware store. The restaurants are cheap (5 usd for a main course) and the food seems excellent. The town is rough around the edges and I’m not sure how far we will wander at night, but during the day the police are obvious and the locals we’ve met a very friendly and welcoming. Speaking Spanish as always is helpful and earns goodwill. We’re looking forward to exploring the city and country over the coming weeks.

The cruising community is rarely found in a marina, so it was strange to be welcomed by people from five or so boats within two minutes of arriving. Before an early night we stopped at the marina bar for happy hour and met another 10+ boats worth of cruisers, all very welcoming. Now time to find more kids for Teo!

So, safe and sound in South America.

Off to South America

Written by Jon:

Leaving behind the ABC islands and heading to Colombia means a new continent for Itchy Foot and her crew.

Once Mia’s mum and dad left Curaçao we weren’t inclined to stay around much longer ourselves. We had the lovely company of Maple and Gaia while we waited for a weather window. The first chance to leave come too soon and then we had a long period of too much wind, followed by too little wind and it was at the first glimmer of suitable conditions we left.

Early on Monday morning we motored out of Spanish Waters and headed up the coast of Curaçao under engine. Not enough wind to sail but with some light cloud cover the passage up the coast to the bay of Santa Cruz was uneventful. We anchored in nice quiet little bay, which we had to ourselves, and spent the afternoon swimming and snorkeling.

Tuesday morning we got up late with time for coffee and quick snorkel unsuccessfully looking for turtles before departing westwards towards Aruba around at 9am. The light wind we had died completely when we were about half way to Aruba and we ended up motoring for a coupe of hours until it came back. The afternoon was filled with a lovely audio book of ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ read by David Tennent. Just after dinner and sunset we caught a fish, sadly a little too small a tuna and a little too late to start the process of cleaning and filleting , so back he want. We also agreed to stop in Aruba for the night, figuring we would arrive around 11pm. We don’t normally like to arrive in the dark, but with OK charts, good buoyage and a full moon we decided to give it shot. Picking our way down the west coast we were motoring between the coast and the oil tankers anchored a little farther off shore. The brightly lit hotels and casinos made it very hard to see other yachts and their anchor lights but finally we managed to spot a boat on AIS and found it with the binoculars, picking our way towards them we found a good spot to anchor for the night and were all asleep by midnight.

Wednesday morning started fairly promptly as we weren’t really allowed to be in Aruba without clearing in with customs and immigration so we didn’t want to dawdle. A quick dip, coffee and bagels to start the day before lifting anchor and heading past the oil tankers and fishing boats towards Colombia. Thankfully the sailing conditions today were perfect, 10-15knots of wind, downwind, following sea, clear and perfect. We’ve made a steady 4-6knots and the day was spent doing boat school with Teo, reading, listening to music. A few nights earlier we’d watched Finding Nemo again, and Mia thinking back on this asked me today if I thought they didn’t put Dolphins in the movie cos they don’t actually exist! It seems like since coming over to the Caribbean we just don’t see them anymore. As if on cue, there they were, a pod of about 20-30 of them joined Itchy Foot for a couple of hours of paying on our bow wave and jumping out of the water. They stayed with us until after sunset and provided quite the show!

The rest of the evening was not quiet so enjoyable, as in the middle of dinner the gas bottle ran out. No problem I’ll switch to the second one, only that didn’t work. So, cold food for us and no tea/coffee until we get to Santa Marta. There is the option of heading into a bay we will be passing early Thursday morning to have rest, relax and swim before heading onto Santa Marta the next day… maybe even fix the gas valve!

We shall see.

The night watch is beautiful. Teo and Mia are sleeping. The wind is warm and coming from the right direction. The sea is mostly calm and comfortable. The moon is full and the sky is clear. One of those nights where you take the Bimini down, which I just did.

Along come Mormor and Grandpa

Written by Mia:

We stayed in Bonaire as long as possible and then were excited to see Mormor and Grandpa who flew from California to visit us in Curaçao. As we were entering Spanish Waters where all the visiting boats are anchored we caught a glimpse of the gorgeous resort of Santa Barbara that we would come to know and love over the next eight days. It was bathed in golden light and beckoned us, but first we had a day of logistics with Customs and Immigration in Willemstad. They were friendly in both offices and we really enjoyed the town, too. We rushed back to move Itchy Foot to a boasting place on the hotel dock. The beach right on the other side of dock is gorgeous and were enjoying a swim in the perfect water before long. Then we waited and waited and waited because we were excited and time passed slowly…. they came with a beautiful Police escort, Teo was well impressed.

We had a lovely time together, doing a little exploring and enjoying the luxury that comes with a resort hotel. Mostly it was wonderful just spending time together. On our first morning they came aboard to check out Itchy Foot who got a seal of approval. We took Itchy Foot out for a sail to Klein Curaçao which is gorgeous day trip destination with Bonaire colored water and snorkeling and an abandoned lighthouse.

And another bit of luxury… we had a rental car so zipping into town was quick and easy. What a charming town, and you can have it almost to yourself when the cruise ships aren’t visiting! On our first visit we found a great place for lunch called Boheme, with friendly staff and tasty goodies we stayed quite a nice long time. Later, we visited the fruit market, which is picturesque and full of excellent produce mostly from Venezuela. We also browsed in the shops and admired the architecture. On our second visit we went to the museum  which boasted some cool kitchen gadgets from the last century as well as a carillon that looks like a piano but plays bells on the outside of the building. We stayed until it got dark and enjoyed the lights of the Queen Emma floating bridge and also went out to a delicious, upscale dinner at Gouverneur with their green egg specials. The food was amazing as was the courtyard was charming so we sat and enjoyed a good chat for quite a long while.

On our big day out, we took a long drive. We crossed the big suspension bridge to the sound of Teo’s delight and drove north. We drove around the island and soaked in the feel of the island. We went for a welcomed swim in the crystal clear water at Kanepa beach. Next we drove to Westpunt and watched the turtles at the fisherman’s bay. I can’t believe I forgot the snorkeling gear! We explored the island and loved all the color in the neighborhoods and they took their manchineel trees a step further up there and painted them into giant octopus warning signs.

At the resort we loved the pool and the beach, even having a picnic lunch there one afternoon under the trees at a picnic table. The balcony as perfect for a couple low key dinners. And Teo moved in and soaked up the endless water for showers followed by wrapping up in a robe in the air con and extra cuddles that come with visits from grandparents. Grandpa was tempted by the course and played a great game of golf one afternoon. He is probably happy to answer questions about it if you ask 😉 All in all everyone was happy and it felt like vacation for the Itchy foo crew.

Itchy Foot herself was also spoiled by my parents, she stayed in a fancy marina and got some TLC.  We took advantage of the fresh water hookup to wash lines and clean upholstery since the weather was warm and dry.  And since we were away exploring, we redid caulking around the sinks that were not being used and on the deck that was not getting walked on. It felt great to check some boat jobs off the list.

The hardest part of our chosen life is being so far from family, made worse by the difficulty of just hopping on a flight to go and see them. So for us, this week with those we love has been Christmas and birthdays rolled into one. We are very grateful they made the effort and were so generous for coming to visit. Hopefully we’ll see them again in New Zealand or Fiji!

Bon dia Bonaire!!

Written by Mia:

The obvious reason to love Bonaire is the WATER – the color, the crystal clear clarity, the amazing and abundant fish that live there and the perfect temperature. We simply cannot get enough of the water in this place! It was the first thing that grabbed our attention and I don’t think we were tied up to the mooring a full 5 minutes before Teo dropped the swim ladder, ripped his clothes off and jumped in. Our three day passage from Grenada was enjoyable and even though it was the longest we have done just the three of us, it was smooth and uneventful and we were grateful to arrive. The crew from Maple came out and met us by dinghy and directed us to the last vacant mooring and helped us get tied up. Teo was super excited and immediately made plans to visit his friends.

As we began to explore this place, we fell for it more and more. We love the Dutch vibe and the laid back island feel. We have eaten amazing food at Bobbyjan BBQ, empanadas at the upstairs lunch bar, devoured the ice cream, internet and air con for boat school at Luciano’s and Gio’s and enjoyed wandering through town which seems to have everything you could need, plus it also boasts cool land wildlife in the form of donkeys, iguanas and flamingos!  Bonaire have secured themselves as a diver’s paradise and that means respect for the sea and the creatures that make it their home, especially the coral. Bonaire rightfully protect their environment and have forbidden anchoring so all boats use the moorings provided. These moorings are in the center of town, albeit the sleepy one of Kralendijk. We spent lots of time on the boat and around it in the gorgeous water surrounding us and time just floated away. We loved watching the sailing school sail the little boats that resemble ducklings, and our breakfast entertainment often included the swim team practice or the water polo tournaments, complete with goals and whistles. And we met a lovely couple who are currently building a house here and we are envious. This would be an amazing place to retire…so we are hoping they share their experiences with us. Hanging out with them gave us some perspective on our lifestyle and some thought provoking chats which we always welcome.

We joined the crews of Maple and Element for a couple of days of car rental so we could explore this island properly. There is unfortunately no public transportation system so renting a car is the way forward. We visited the Washington Slagbaai national park. At the entrance to the park there is a hands on open-air museum which was perfect to give us a little insight to the island. And then we started on the longer of the two drives and it was incredible! We were impressed with all the cactus we saw, the proper ones that look like the ones from the cartoons which they even use to build fences, but they do this very carefully with special tools! We were all impressed with the rugged, lunar-like coral covered windward side with its blowholes, pounding surf and dramatic views. Everyone loved lunch at the dramatic beach with body surfing and shady coral overhangs. In the afternoon the highlight was the sighting of flamingos which really are as pink as the plastic ones you find in yards in Florida. They are awe inspiring creatures and we just stood and watched them, I would have stayed for hours. On the way back through Rincon, the other major town of the island, we stopped at a very cute distillery called Cadushy, where the owner creates small batches of yummy brews to honor all the Dutch Caribbean islands, and the royal couple even came to visit and gave a wink of approval. The guy behind this gem really loves what he does and he uses ingredients from the island, like cactus. We got to test taste them at their adorable bar. No car trip is complete without some provisioning and we stopped at the luxury that is Van den Tweel on the way home.

 

On day two we explored windward beaches, with gorgeous coral and shells. To our delight there were more salt plains with more flamingos and so we lingered and took lots of photos. The nearby slave huts are still intact to remind us of the bleak history of the Caribbean in general and this island in particular. It’s an important part of the history and we have been touching on it in various places along the way. I felt I had to pinch myself as we ate a relaxing picnic lunch in the shade of a lighthouse. As we came around the corner we saw lots of different colored pools where they harvest salt and explored the area around the salt pier where the ships come to load salt. The whole area is a crazy rainbow of color, light and flying foam and there were giant salt crystals to harvest. Bonaire has 86 dive sites with 57 species of soft and stony coral and 350 species of fish, so no day out is complete without a peek under the sea. Many of these sites are delightful for both diving and snorkeling, and they are marked by rocks painted yellow with the name written in black. We dragged ourselves out of the sea and headed on a donkey search. We got lucky and on our way to the Donkey Sanctuary, we had our own up close donkey encounter on the side of the road. Looking into their eyes, it seems you can sense their calm and wise souls. We made one last stop for a swim in a huge, waist deep bay in a place that begs you to come back with a bbq and a lot of time. Bonaire had another great treat in store for us and two flamboyances (the perfect collective noun) of flamingos flew over. They look stunning with their black tipped feathers and distinctive black beaks. It was breathtaking!

We loved this place both on land and in the sea. One day we joined Maple to 1000 steps, a favorite dive site, where the snorkeling was incredible. The soft corals were gorgeous and we hung out with a baby turtle for a long time. Teo and I really enjoyed swimming in the divers’ bubbles which look gorgeous and tickle like a jacuzzi. And upon returning to our mooring I even got the chance breathe through a regulator which allowed me to stand on the bottom of the sea-what a peaceful, surreal experience! One day we took Itchy Foot to Klein Bonaire for the day. We sailed both ways and enjoyed a wonderful day of snorkeling and empanada lunch. We enjoyed the sailing for the sake of it and we returned with a Boat.lad of happy faces. Jon managed to check a few boat jobs off the list while Teo and I had the pleasure of joining Ad Astra on two occasions. They generously open their boat to a collection of people wanting to dive. These days were lovely to see new places to dive, meet people, and to share lunch or dinner together. It was fun to hang out with the divers and even though we were just snorkeling, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement as the prepare to descend. The sense of community in Bonaire is really lovely and it is a good thing we had a good reason to leave because otherwise it would have been hard to pry ourselves away.

Grenada gets a Do Over

Written by Mia:

So, as I said we didn’t give Grenada a fair chance… and then the stars aligned or refused to and we found ourselves waiting instead of sailing away right after relaunching after the haul out. We are sorry that we will miss the chance to buddy boat with new friends, but there are a few things to take care of first. Spice Island boat yard had to haul us out a second time to fix the bow prop which was broken during the antifouling process. And UPS could not locate one of the two parcels of our order and then they was the after they make the pick up process so convoluted that it took many days to finally get our stuff. In fact, we are now pretty sure it was here the whole time everyone has been searching for it, maybe it was a foot rest or a coffee table?

The details of the why we are still in Grenada don’t matter as much as the lovely treats we got in exchange. We got to spend lots more time with the fun kids boats here, and that is one of our favorite things to do. This included a magical evening on Trismic, catching the tail end of the dinghy regatta, a sail around the harbour for Teo with the big boys and giggles as the kids zoomed by on the new water toys Pierina bought. Plus, Itchy Foot got a 20th birthday present. The lovely, generous family on Nahanni toiled and helped us sew hatch covers, a wind scoop and a table cover. We have had the fabric to do this job for just over a year and it is amazing to have it finished and everywhere I look I admire how fancy Itchy Foot is looking!

The Itchy Foot crew went on an island adventure. We ended up taking five locals buses each with its own flavor to explore the northern part of the island. The buses of Grenada deserve a chapter of their own. The vehicles themselves are like mini-buses and it looks like the drivers own them as they usually have special decoration to show their personality. There are a handful of lines they follow to cover the island, and usually there is a conductor that will take money for tickets and make sure everyone has a place to sit and that the driver knows when to stop to drop off or pick up passengers. Even though the lines are somewhat laid out, the buses will stop anywhere along the way and the drivers are usually happy to divert a bit to pick someone up or drop them off nearby. There seems to be a democracy of sorts going on as the other passengers on the bus are usually consulted if they agree to the diversion. Our trip the northern part of the island gave us quite a different view of this place than we have had in the anchorages we have frequented. There is national pride everywhere you look in the form of everything including curbs, trees bridges, rocks and walls painted red green and gold to match the flag. Also, the billboard advertisements are hand painted and along the way we saw some men painting new ones, with narrow brushes a very careful lettering. The jungle scenes were breath taking and the colorful bustling centers we caught glimpses of from the bus windows gave us more of sense of Grenada than the rest of our time here. The locals loved chatting with Teo along the way and gave us lots of Grenada tips.

The first destination we had in mind was the Rivers rum distillery on the river Antoine. They have been making rum there since 1776 and they are still using much of the same equipment. Winfield gave us a wonderful tour starting with a fabulous view of the wheel that crushes the sugar cane and then it was going through a process of evaporation to make the sugar water more concentrated and then fermented and finally it goes through a heat exchanger to finish the process, bottled when it is stronger than 70 proof. Most of the distilleries have equipment like this but it is kept around only as a museum. This place was still using it and we learned that sourcing replacement parts is one of their biggest difficulties. The tour gave us a great insight into the history of rum and it was lovely to hear the questions Teo had along the way.

Next stop was the Belmont Estate and we were here to see the process to make chocolate! Kelly was our guide here and he was very energetic and enthusiastic. He used to play basketball for the Grenada national team. He took us first through the gardens and we got to smell and taste the herbs and fruit. In their fields all the trees grow together and it is gorgeous to observe. After we had a look at the resources, we saw where they ferment the cocoa beans for six days, one batch at a time, they are turned every four hours. Next we visited the green houses and where they dry the beans for another six days. Then they are roasted and the smallest beans are used to make a drink with cinnamon and mace. The last stop on the tour is where the chocolate is mixed with cocoa butter (oil from the beans) and sugar/milk if desired. Finally it is put to rest for three months, minimum. Not a quick process!

Our trip back took us up and over the volcano which was misty from a torrential rain storm. It was a wonderful way to round off our day of adventure. It was a full day and great treat. And we chatted about our day as we drank lemongrass tea from our herbs after dinner when we were back on Itchy Foot in the evening.

Another treat of our extra time in Grenada has been a few lovely days in the lap of luxury. We made some new friends on a boat called Somewhere when they graciously offered to store our frozen food during our haul out. They introduced us to the University Club which is a slice of paradise in our paradise! It has a gorgeous pool with a shady area and it is a perfect way to spend the day, and by chance they also do yummy lunch and drinks. We have really enjoyed a few afternoons hanging out and chatting and floating with our boats bobbing in the sparkling water beyond.

As it turns out, I got to celebrate my birthday with these lovely people too. In the morning I was spoiled with bagels for breakfast and presents and cards. Sta Vast left a package for me way back in March! And so many friends made an effort to come around and anchor near us. Drakkar even came back from Carriacou and fished on the way so they brought us tuna they caught. We had a beach party with sushi and rum punch and brownies and cake. I love the hand made cards and gifts like loom band bracelets and yarn dream catchers that this lifestyle brings with it! The evening brought half price pizza and ladies night dancing at the brewery. It was a fabulous day!

And then we caught a glimpse of the “Camp Grenada” we have heard so much about. First, all five families were anchored in Prickly Bay and we spent another lovely social evening aboard Trismic before they went home to Canada for a bit. And one afternoon as we were paddling around and had a swing on the spinnaker pole, we were joined by another family boat called Mahia, a great Australian family with three boys. Everyone had a close eye on Irma and in her wake we had different weather in Prickly Bay and it got bouncy so we all moved around to anchor off Hog Island. With all the boats anchored in swimming distance we fell into a lovely rhythm. The kids I’d some boat school in the morning and had the afternoons to themselves. They explored the island all on their own and came back exhilarated, chattering of their base and all the excitement that comes with real freedom. The older kids always look after Teo and he comes back to the boat right before dark with tons of stories to tell us. They have a row boat and handheld radio and show such responsibility. We have become really close to these families with the ladies walking most mornings and hosting various social afternoons. The crew of Itchy Foot were quite touched by the lovely cards and gifts for Teo as we prepared to leave for Bonaire. We will carry these friends with us in our hearts and hope to see them again soon!

Bonaire trip – day two.

Written by Jon:

Everyone was a bit sleepy today. Teo woke early as he was hungry for staying up too late, and then couldn’t get back to sleep. And Mia and I aren’t into a new sleep pattern yet, I suspect we’ll just get into a rhythm when we arrive, as is the way with short passages like this.

Other news, the sailing has been good today, enough wind and a nice downwind run for most of the last 24 hours. The only squall was earlier this morning and wasn’t much more than 20 knots of wind and some rain. We all had a lazy kind of day today, I tried a little fishing without luck, Mia was fixing clothes with needle and thread and Teo watched a bit of educational TV and listened to an audio book.

Just after dinner the wind died and we had to start e engine, so currently buzzing along on a calmish sea. We’ll see how long the wind is down for, according to one forecast it could be most of the night unfortunately.

Looking over my shoulder I can see the green starboard light of our buddy boat, also motoring tonight. Other than spotting the odd oil tanker on AIS some 40 miles away we’ve not seen any other boats. Which, given the neighborhood, we’re ok with.

That’s all for now.

Grenada to Bonaire – day one.

Written by Jon:

It was only a coupe of weeks ago that we realized this would be the longest passage we’ve done as a family of three. Everything to do with crossing the Atlantic we had at least one extra adult as crew. But we felt good about it and we’re looking forward to the three day trip.

Grenada to Bonaire is about 400 miles, and if you draw a straight line you end up passing right through the middle of some Venezuelan island – Los Roques. Having heard how lovely these island are we were very tempted to stop for a few days on the way to Bonaire. From the cruisers we know who have visited, despite Venezuela falling into dictatorship, these quiet little island far from the mainland are safe and welcoming. Then in the last few weeks I spoke to a cruiser friend who was stuck on the islands for a day or two as the navy wouldn’t grating them permission to leave. It would seem that all pleasure boat travel has been banned in the country and these cruisers were stuck in the confusion. They were allowed to leave I the end and no harm was done, but it left us feeling that we had missed our opportunity and should skip it for now.

Once we were more or less ready to leave we were lucky enough to find a buddy boat going the same way, a nice couple on a boat named Slowdown. And with a good weather window open until Saturday we decided to rush preparations and leave Tuesday noon. And after dealing with immigration and filling up with fuel we managed to leave more or less on time.

The wind was a little light until we got out of the shadow of Grenada but just before the sun set the conditions became good for sailing and are still nice as I write this shortly after midnight. The moon just came up, the sea is fairly flat and we have 10-12 knots of wind sailing dead downwind with a poled out genoa. This gives us and easy if slightly wobbly way. Mia is sleeping and Teo crawled into bed with her a couple of hours ago, he tries to keep pappa company but I managed to pursued him to go get cuddles from mamma.

I’ll wake Mia around 3am to rake over as I sleep until hopefully 8 or 9 in the morning, on sofa as it is very comfortable and within shouting distance if Mia wants help. At which point Mia will have a bite to eat then go crash out for a coupe of hours. I’ll usually get a coupe of hours nap in the afternoon too. And so it goes for the next three days!

No photos of share as we are sending this via Satellite phone. Sorry!

Hauling out – Ready, Set, Stress!

Written by Mia:

We put Itchy Foot on land (also known as on the hard) once before and it was last year at this time. Using a crane to pull a boat out of the water and store it on land for a time is also called “hauling out” and whatever you call it, I find it terrifying! We had a few things that needed checking and replacing and we checked some prices to find out this exercise gets more and more expensive as we move west. We could get most of the materials we needed for our jobs here and there was time and lots of praise for the guys working in the yard so we decided to haul out here in Grenada.

Our list of to do’s was long and there were even a few nice to haves that snuck their way in even though they did not make the list. I thought is would outline what we have been up to. We were pulled out of the water last Thursday and since then have been very busy. We decided to pay the yard to do the antifouling job this time. Jon did it himself last time but it is a nasty job, scraping, sanding and painting paint full of copper and poison. We had a long list so it was an easy decision to get some help. On Thursday Itchy Foot got her bottom pressure washed, sanded and had a layer of very fancy silver primer applied. The rigger also came to do some work on the spreader that we found had a problem just before crossing the Atlantic. We moved into an apartment in the boat yard which has air con and endless water which to us is like the lap of luxury. We have decent wifi and a TV which Teo has been enjoying – or maybe that is not the right word, he has been watching a lot of TV which has allowed us to get lots done on the boat, but I don’t think it is doing him any good, he has developed a horrible attitude and I think he has square eyes! But seriously I am looking forward to getting back onboard and having some cozy days together family time.

Jon – “it is interesting to see what happens to a child when you remove access to TV for 18 months and then give him 6 hours a day for 4 solid days of Sponge Bob Square Pants cartoons”. Not pretty.

Friday we were preparing for a visit from Tropical Storm “Harvey” and it worked out very well that we were on land. Itchy foot was given extra straps to secure her to the ground. We got lots of rain but no high winds so we once again counted ourselves very lucky. We celebrated with yellow fever vaccinations! But seriously, you must have them for some of the countries we visit next, and we just happened to have doctors and dentist appointments scheduled. The doctor gave us all jabs, Teo wanted to go first and giggled his way through three injections, when it was my turn I yelped. The doctor was nice, a Bruin Alumn, and has offered to have a look at the drugs we have prescribe anything else we might need which is much appreciated since some of our medicine cabinet is expiring. Teo visited the dentist and had his teeth polished and now has very pearly whites!

On Saturday the guys are not working and the the boatyard is quiet. We made the most of it by taking care of odd jobs. I got up early and went to prep for the first coat of varnishing. Back in Bequia Winfield helped us with some varnishing in the companionway and around the cockpit and he gave me some pointers so I was “ready” to take on the job. Since we need the sink every day when we live onboard and we can’t use it when she is on land, this seemed like the perfect time. The preparations take a long time and the more thorough you are the better the end result. SO, instead of being done at lunch time it was more like 4pm before the first coat was finished and the brushes in cling film in the freezer. Jon and Teo laid out the whole anchor chain, washed it and painted lines every ten meters to make our anchor chain markers easier to read. The anchor locker was also cleaned to get ready to store the pimped up anchor chain. Jon replaced some seams of caulking on the keel as well which can only be done on a dry keel. We try to keep Itchy Foot’s keel under the water as much as we can. And in the evening the whole family got haircuts

Sunday was a second coat of varnish, three loads of laundry including hand washing and bleaching our curtains as we started to see signs of mold. As soon as all the laundry was hung to dry the heavens opened and it took three attempts to get it all to dry. Jon polished the Itchy Foot’s hull and inspected chips in the gel coat. He spray painted our gas bottles and inspected them to make sure they are safe, unfortunately we have to replace one. He ran water into the bilges to make sure the emergency bilge pump kicks in when it should and checked the through hulls. We are trying to focus on the jobs that are crucial with the boat out of the water and when we have all this water!

Monday we woke up to the sound of heavy rain. Need I mention the laundry was still “drying”? It was also the final coat of varnish before the guys started working at 8am. Jon replaced the gas bottle that had a broken, rusty connection. The rigger installed the mended spreader and checked the tension so we know Itchy Foot has a healthy mast. I cleaned the boat including the floors the carpets, the hatches and the walls to discourage mold which can be a huge problem in the tropics. Another perk of being in the boatyard was being close to welders, they make for perfect eclipse viewing. 

Tuesday is another pile of errands, including provisioning for the next passage, another doctors appointment, and picking up our water maker. And we have to put everything on the boat back together so we can get ready to relaunch Itchy Foot into the water on Wednesday. We are hoping things will go smoothly so we  can get back in the water and sail to Carriacou on Thursday and on to Bonaire on Friday. Fingers crossed the weather is good and we can get our last coat of antifouling applied and the wind operates with our plans.