Friday, April 30, 2010

Nicolette's illustration...

To any of you interested in viewing some real talent, look at the section of my blog titled:

"Botanical Gardens Guadeloupe, Tree Walk"


This is just one of many of the illustrations from my book

Yeah I can swim!

Sunday 7th September
We moved Daisy out of the marina this morning and put her back on a mooring in the bay. The Bike Bonaire weekend continues; with hundreds of bikes all over the island, it’s really quite noisy.

After lunch the three of us snorkeled off the boat. This was a first for me, as I swam to the shore, snorkeled for a while then swam back to the boat. I’ve always been so frightened of deep water I’ve never had the courage to swim more than a few feet from the boat, and even then I used a noodle. I seem to have finally lost my fear of swimming in deep water, and for the first time I wasn’t scared, I even enjoyed it.

Unfortunately I enjoyed it a little too much as I spent so much time in the water I burnt my back. It’s easy to forget how strong the sun is here especially when you’re swimming. I made my hot chicken curry for dinner, and Niki joked about me being hot inside and out, with my sunburn and the red-hot curry.

After dinner and we watched “Harry Potter, The Order of The Phoenix.” True to form I fell asleep in the middle of the movie, all the sun and snorkeling had really worn me out.

Bonaire Day


Saturday 6th September
Bonaire day.
Biker enthusiasts arrive from Curacao and Aruba shipping their bikes over for the weekend, Harley's, Ducat’s every possible bike you can imagine here for this weekend. Then they all tour the island in convoy, it’s quite spectacular to watch, but you really need ear plugs as it’s deafening to listen to.

I woke up at 3am and left the boat at 4:25am, Nicolette’s plane was due in at 5am. The plane landed at 5:10am but it took over an hour to clear everyone through customs. Niki and I arrived back at the boat around 6:15, she was tired and hungry so I made her some scrambled eggs, then she went back to bed for a couple of hours.

After lunch we both went across to the local beach to snorkel. Nicolette was as amazed by the marine life as I had been on my first snorkel here, there’s so much to see, and not just the fish. The reefs around Bonaire boast spectacular gardens of coral, underwater flora, crustaceans and some really incredible varieties of sponge’s, we saw some massive purple stove-pipe sponges, and hundreds of feather duster worms (or fan worms).

It was hard to tear ourselves away, but Bob was due back and I didn’t want to be out when he arrived.

Niki and I got back to the boat around 2:30 just as Bob arrived. Once he was unpacked and changed we had a cocktail then we all went back to the beach for another snorkel. The snorkeling is so wonderful here, I can’t seem to stay out of the water.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Alone in Bonaire...



Sunday 31st August - Friday 5th September

Alone on the boat in Kralendijk harbor marina, Bonaire.

I spend my days, painting, snorkeling, laying on the beach, generally relaxing and being lazy, OH what a lovely change.

The weather was extraordinarily hot, and at times unbearable, I sweated all the time, it was quite disgusting. I thought having lived in the islands for a year I would have been used to the heat, but this was intense.

I walked to the Internet café every day, until I found a contact in town that sold me an Internet connection for the boat.

Marina Cock Up!

Friday 29th August
I was up early this morning, before anyone else, a chance to work on my journal. We plan to move the boat today…

Bob got in the water and cleaned the mess off the side of the boat that had been left by the storm. Having moved the boat around to the fuel dock in the marina, we filled the tanks and Bob went into the office to find out which slip we were booked into. It turned out, that they had forgotten we were coming in today, despite the fuss he made four days ago about them losing our reservation, and their assurances that they would find another slip for us today.

It turns out they had given our reserved slip to another yacht that had arrived two days ago… So Bob made yet more arrangements for us to bring the boat in tomorrow at 9am before he leaves. We took the boat back to the mooring for the night, and went ashore for dinner to the restaurant at the resort.

Saturday 30th August

Bob got up at 5am to drive Daniela to the airport. When he returned we moved the boat around to the marina at 9:30, surprise, surprise, they weren’t ready for us, but it didn’t take them long to find us a slip. Having got the boat situated Bob packed his bags, and I made him a quick lunch before he left for the airport.

Another surprise was in store for me from the Marina, there was no Internet, despite their advertisement saying they did, also, no laundry on site, they did however offer a service of pick up and delivery.

There is an Internet café just a 5 minute walk up the road, so I can use that, bit of a pain not having Internet on the boat, however, this will have to do.

There is a really beautiful beach here, and the marina is quiet and safe.

I’m going to relax and do some painting for the next 3 weeks…

More Bonaire



Wednesday 27th August

Hooray, we survived the night intact, with no damage done, other than my being exhausted from a totally sleepless night. That’ll teach me not to have more confidence in my husband’s decisions regarding Daisy.

The car we rented yesterday was supposed to be delivered to the pier at 9:30, it eventually arrived at 10:30, after completing the paperwork we went to the local supermarket to do some provisioning, we took our groceries back to the boat, had a quick bite to eat and set off to tour the island.

As we drove around the island we saw many flamingos, wild donkeys and the islands parrot, a small but beautiful little bright green and yellow parrot called Prikitchi. The island is very dry and covered with many different kinds of cactus. Bonaire is supposed to have some of the worlds best dive sites, in fact every bay we stopped we saw divers.

We drove on up to the National Park, but it was almost 3:00pm when we arrived and the gate man said we were too late in the day to complete even the short tour of the park. We decided to visit the park another day and continued our drive around the island stopping at a large lagoon, with one of the islands popular windsurfing beaches.
It was really crowded and I wasn‘t impressed (I don't like crowds). We ordered margaritas at the bar, the barmen seemed to have difficulty understanding that Daniela wanted a frozen one and I wanted one on the rocks, eventually they sorted it out and served us the most disgusting, undrinkable margaritas we have ever had, Daniela returned hers and asked for a beer, she told them it was nasty, I simply left mine, and determined never to return to that beach or particularly that bar again.

We drove back to the boat and Bob helped me prepare dinner. He cleaned up as I was so exhausted, I went to bed right after dinner, and prayed for a good nights sleep.

Kralendijk, Bonaire



Tuesday 26th August
This morning I cleaned out the fridge; in our haste to get away from Los Roques a bowl of soup that I had carelessly placed in the fridge upturned and caused a horrible mess. This made a good excuse to clean and sterilize ready for re-provisioning later.

We took the dinghy across to the marina late-morning, Bob wanted to check the slip he’d booked. Unfortunately the office was closed, everywhere shuts here between 12 & 1:30 - 2:00pm, so we walked around the marina and sat at the bar on the front of the resort. There were some huge iguana’s moving around between the tables, one of them was very large and Daniela took some photographs.
We ordered margaritas and Daniela and I shared a dish of nachos. After we had eaten we returned to the office to discover that no slip had been reserved for us, as they had promised, the marina manager, who had made our reservation six weeks before was away on vacation and they had nothing reserved for us, despite having taken Bob’s credit card details over the phone when he had booked the slip… They promised to find room for us and that we could definitely move onto a slip on Friday;
We took the dinghy over to the airport later, to arrange a rental car for tomorrow. Once the car was organized we went into town and walked around to do some sightseeing, we arrived at the Mona Lisa restaurant, reputed to be the best restaurant in Kralendijk. They were able to allocate a table for us, and we had a lovely meal; Daniela was in high spirits, the food was good and we were all having a fun evening.
The people from the boat moored next to us in the bay were also in the restaurant, and asked us to join them for a drink later at one of the local bars, they left the restaurant before us, and after dinner we walked all around the town looking for the bar they had mentioned, but couldn't find it, so eventually we gave up and went back to Daisy, for coffee and an episode of CSI …

After a couple of hours of failed attempts at sleep, we both got up to check outside, the boat was rolling quite violently and the dinghy, which we had unusually left down due to it having been such a calm quiet night, was now crashing and banging against the stern, Unfortunately the wind had once again switched to a south westerly and we were stern in to the sea wall, the boat alongside us had swung 180 degrees on it’s mooring, and was swinging dangerously close. We watched for a while, as the lightening continued to flash spectacularly all around, the waves built and the dinghy bounced and crashed about on the stern. Bob decided to bring the dinghy up on the davits before it got damaged. I ran around putting fenders out and Daniela came up on deck to help Bob with the dinghy. It was quite a difficult operation, the dinghy was bouncing wildly about and it was very hard for Bob to maintain his balance while he attached the davits. Eventually they managed to get it up safely.
Daniela returned to bed, but Bob and I stayed up on watch for a while longer.

Once we did return to bed, I couldn't’ sleep as the boat was still rocking and rolling violently pulling hard on the morning lines, and my ever imaginative mind was hard at work mentally creating every possible disaster waiting to befall us.

On route to Bonaire...


Monday 25th August
Bob woke me at 6am to take the morning watch while he grabbed a few well-deserved hours of sleep. Storm clouds lay heavily behind us, but fortunately the direction we were headed looked promising. I could just glimpse the Islas de Aves on the horizon. Barlovento and Sotavento are two archipelagos separated by about ten miles of deep water. They got their names from the large number of birds that make them their home. The larger of the islands have dense mangrove forests. There wasn’t a chance in a million that I was going anywhere near those areas, after my experience in Los Roques with all the mosquito’s.
The water was quite calm as we motored along, but we still had the South Westerly wind making it impossible to sail. We were however making a steady 8 knots.

A school of bottlenose dolphins swam alongside and behind the boat, one of them leapt out of the water right alongside me. I will never cease to be excited each time I see these magnificent creatures in their natural environment. We found a flying fish on the deck, it was dead so Daniela and I decided to use it as bait, we put the fishing line out, and after about an hour we managed to haul in a beautiful Tuna. “Yeah we both exclaimed excitedly, sushi for dinner”. We had to haul the Tuna aboard as quickly as we could before the gathering flock of Frigate birds circling the boat above us swooped down and stole it. We were quick to kill it by pouring vodka into its gills, and then pack it in ice to keep it fresh. All tuna quickly deteriorates, especially once cut into steak portions, refrigerate immediately, preferably whole, cover with crushed ice and use within 1 day.

A comical group of three flamingos flew past and I couldn't’t help but wonder where they were headed, so far from land. They always look as though they are in such a panic when they fly, as if they are about to crash at any moment, but it was lovely to see them.
As the sun came up and the heat increased I fixed a blanket up behind the helm to protect us.
Bonaire appeared through a misty haze on the horizon around eight am. Approaching from the east the high land is well in the north, reaching a maximum of 238m. The southern part of the island is very flat with little of the land no more than 2m above sea level. As you approach the island the water shallows tremendously to twenty feet very quickly. Both Bonaire and Klien Bonaire (little Bonaire) are surrounded by continuous fringing coral reefs from the shoreline to depths in excess of 70m. The entire coastline of the island has been declared a marine sanctuary, preserving local marine life.

We motored around the west coast of the island to Kralendijk the capital of Bonair, where we picked up a mooring and headed ashore to visit customs and immigration. The coastline of Bonair is absolutely beautiful, brightly painted condos and houses, beachfront restaurants and bars all bustling with people. Palm trees and colorful plants line the roadside along the coast.
After customs and immigration we walked around the town a little then sat and had a cocktail on the pier before returning to the boat for dinner. At dusk the mosquitoes swarmed the boat so we had to shut up quickly and put on the air con. We had a quiet evening watching television.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Caya de Agua, Los Roques

Bob woke me at dawn to come and look at two enormous fish swimming just off the transom… I wasn’t very impressed as I had been woken from a deep sleep, after having had very little sleep throughout the night, and would have been far more impressed had he caught the fish so we would have had something other than frozen or tinned food for dinner. However, he was very excited about the fish so I made the effort to show some enthusiasm.
At 10am after breakfast, we set off for the end of the island chain, this will leave us just 35 miles from Aves Barlavento our next planned stop. The weather is very cloudy and gray this morning. We had a lot of rain in the night and strong winds, Bob had to get up a few times throughout the night to check that we were still ok with our holding.

We raised the sails with the hope of sailing without the engine, but it was difficult navigating through the shallows with winds that were constantly changing, so we brought them in and continued under motor.

Sunday 24th August
We arrived at one of the far islands Cayo de Agua, early afternoon and dropped anchor as the book instructed, close to the beach in the sandy bottom. We took the dinghy ashore and swam off the beach, a sandy spit joined the two tiny uninhabited islands where the waves crashed from either side, creating a magical effect, you can walk through the waves from one island to the next. We were the only boat in the bay, and there was nothing around us for miles but water and the two tiny deserted islands, it was absolutely beautiful. This was more my idea of paradise.

Later that evening after dinner, a couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine, we were about to go to bed; when Bob went up on deck to check the anchor and secure the dinghy. To his horror the unthinkable had happened… a rare south westerly wind had picked up and swung the boat 180 degrees, stern towards the beach with only 12 inches of water beneath us, we were almost aground. I ran up front and brought some chain in to take us further out, but it made little difference and as the wind and waves picked up we started to ground out. We immediately decided to get the hell out of there while we still could. I brought up the anchor and we set off in total darkness.

Our next planned destination was to have been the Las Aves Archipelago, in particular Aves de Barlovento. Unfortunately they were only about five hours away, and as it was only eleven at night, that would mean we would arrive around four am and it would still be dark, making it unsafe to search for a safe anchorage, so we made the decision to keep going all the way to Bonair, that would make our arrival time late morning. We couldn’t raise the sail due to the abnormal South Westerly winds so we had to motor again and it was quite rolly, once again I was seasick. I went to bed leaving Bob to the night watch.

More Los Roques...

Saturday 23rd August
I didn’t get much sleep last night; the insect bites all over my body were driving me insane. Thank goodness for the mosquito net over the bed at least I was safe from further attack through the night. As soon as I left the bedroom to make coffee I was bitten again, OH dear God, am I destined to become mosquito buffet?

In her consistent effort to exercise daily and keep fit Daniela swam off the boat to shore and back again several times, we’re anchored about 500 yards off shore so it was a fair amount of exercise. The water is turquoise in color, clean and inviting. We had a large Boxfish swimming around the boat which we were able to watch clearly as once again there was no breeze, so the water was still and clear as looking through glass.

We motored back across the Gran Roques this afternoon, navigating our way precariously through the shallow waters, at times we only had 1 – 2 feet under the boat. I stood on the bow helping Bob navigate through the passage, the sun was blisteringly hot, and with no breeze to cool us we were burning up, the temperature was stifling. Once safely anchored in the bay Bob went ashore to check us out.

When he returned we took the dinghy ashore to the far end of the village and walked. The houses were built in a Spanish style, solidly built in stone, and painted in bright cheerful colors; with pretty inner courtyards full of colorful flowering plants and trees. All the houses had beautiful intricately carved wooden doors and shutters, which added to the beauty of the little dwellings. The streets are sand, and there are no cars on the island. The beach was very busy with all the locals and tourists returning from their day outings. All along the beach there were restaurants with tables spilling out onto the sand almost to the shore. The atmosphere was one of a relaxed latent Latin carnival.

Los Roques

Friday 22nd August
We anchored the dinghy well off the beach and snorkeled for about half an hour, there was not a lot to see so we decided to search for another spot, climbing back into the dinghy we continued around the bay between the islands. While crossing over to another small island and paying attention to the fish and beautiful coral beneath us we ran into some rocks. The water here between the islands is very shallow with areas of coral and rock that are deceptive in their distance beneath the surface, you really have to pay close attention while maneuvering around. We slowly approached a large area of mangroves and spotted a beautiful secluded little beach through a small archway, Bob headed the dinghy carefully through the shallow water attempting to reach the little beach, as we passed through the opening in the mangroves that lead to the beach we were all paying careful attention to the water for signs of raised coral or rocks under the surface, none of us were paying any attention to the mangroves that we were quite innocently entering, and as we eased our way through there was a slight audible buzzing in the air, that, had we been paying attention to would have recognized it as “dinner is served,” we were under attack, on all sides from millions of mosquito’s, swarms of them, it was like a scene from the movie “the birds” they were everywhere all over us, the air was black with them, it was terrifying.

Trapped in the small confines of the bay with coral and rocks beneath him, and two frantically screaming women alongside, Bob was unable to perform the miracle 180 degree turn or to reverse out at the required speed. In desperation Danni flung herself into the water and with super human powers up-ended the dinghy and dropped it down with the bow now pointing in the right direction. Bob and stood in the dinghy, open mouthed with Danni screaming at us to “go go go”. I hauled her back aboard as Bob gunned the dinghy out through the same opening we had so gingerly picked our way through just a couple of minutes earlier, trailing what seemed like half the worlds population of mosquito’s in our wake. We were frantically waving our arms, screaming profanities, and crazily beating the insects off each other with towels. Two local fishermen watching us with wide-eyed astonishment from their boat, must of found the spectacle highly amusing. In hindsight, we should have realized that with the dozens of people around we were the only ones on that part of the island and obviously it was because they all know what we now know, that, that particular island’s mangroves are a breeding ground for mosquito’s. The minute we got back to the boat we showered and covered ourselves with calamine lotion, We were covered in bites, everywhere, from our faces down to our toes.

La Blanquilla to Los Roques


Thursday 21st August
At 9:30 the island of Orchilla was just visible off the port side, we kept a good distance away as Orchilla is a military base, and boats are not allowed closer than 5 miles. As the first of the islands of Los Roques crept into view on the horizon we still had heavy cloud cover, not the best way to approach what are reputed to be some of the most beautiful islands, OH well, hopefully we’ll stay a few days and the weather will brighten up.
Los Roques Archipelago National Park was created in 1972 to protect a marine ecosystem of exceptional natural beauty and ecological value. Coral reefs, mangroves and grassy seabeds dominate the area. Los Roques has the reputation of being one of the most beautiful natural areas of Venezuela. We were all very excited at the prospect of experiencing these fabulous islands.

I read that the coral reefs here host some of the most beautiful underwater flora and fauna throughout the Caribbean. The park boasts exceptionally beautiful beaches of powdery white sand and crystal clear water, making it a snorkeling, sailing and fishing paradise.

Los Roques harbors around 60 species of corals, 200 species of crustaceans, 140 species of mollusks, 45 species of echinoderms, 60 species of sponges, and 280 species of fish. In addition there are 92 species of birds, which can be seen in the park, 50 of which are migratory, also 4 globally endangered species of sea turtles nest here.

We motored around to the west side of El Gran Roque, the largest island of the group, and dropped anchor in the bay outside the town. After lunch Bob and Daniela went ashore to visit all the required officials, coast guard, Inparques, National Guard,
and the Los Roques Authority, in that order, they are very specific with their instructions as to how one is required to check in. Its quite expensive here, in comparison to other islands. They charge $2 per foot for the vessel, and $12 per person. You are only allowed to stay 15 days, but you can extend that to another 15 days with special permission.

A Pelican landed on the pulpit, and I got some great shots before shooing him off, I don’t like bird poop on the decks, and Pelicans are like geese they poop all the time.
Looking over the side of the boat into the water I could see clear to the ocean bed, which was littered with hundreds of beautiful cushion starfish.

When Bob and Danni returned we motored around to a different island. It was slow going navigating our way through the shallow water and between reefs, I had to stand on the bow to direct Bob through avoiding the corals and shallow spots, it was a slow and precarious passage. We finally dropped anchor off the beach and were immediately invaded by mosquito's; swarms of them, retreating inside we locked up the boat and put the air con on.
I baked the red snapper for dinner and discovered that there is indeed an art to filleting a fish, an art I don’t seem to possess. The snapper had great flavor, being so fresh, but there were a lot of bones.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

La Blanquilla to Los Roques


Wednesday 20th August
We had some thunder and lightening in the early hours, followed by heavy rain, it continued to rain until mid morning when we decided to go snorkeling. We had only been out a few minutes when we spotted the National Guard approaching the boats, so we swam back to Daisy to wait for them. they visited the two new boats that had arrived in the night, then waved to us as they passed, but didn't stop to come aboard. After lunch we were approached by a fishing vessel, we traded a bag of Starbucks coffee for 3 beautiful freshly caught red snapper, the fishermen wanted cigarettes, but as none of us smoke the coffee had to do, but they seemed happy with the exchange. We were kept very busy for the rest of the afternoon getting the boat ready for the next leg of our trip to Los Roques which we estimated would take about 15 hours.
Unfortunately one of the davits broke while Danni was bringing the dinghy up and Bob had to spend a couple of hours fixing it, Andy and Roger came over for a drink at sunset, and Roger helped Bob with the repair. As we watched the sunset, we saw the "green flash" it's only the second time I have seen it, but it was quite clear, dispelling all the myths that it doesn't exist. After a quick dinner we finally weighed anchor at 9pm, much later than we had hoped to leave, and there was no moon so we motored slowly out of the bay in total darkness...
Bob took the 9pm to midnight watch, while Danni attempted to sleep on deck, then Danni took the midnight to 3am watch, when she woke me to take watch until 6am. The seas were very calm, and there was no wind. Lightening storms flashed constantly behind and to starboard of us, I was a little nervous, but fortunately they didn't come close. The moon had finally risen so we had good visibility at last. The lightening continued all through the night and at sunrise the skies were heavy with cloud and the thunder continued to rumble all around us. I went back to bed at 6am and Bob took the watch.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Delay

to anyone who reads my blogs, I will be at sea for a week and have no Internet, but will continue to post my story next week, thanks for your following and your patience.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Frigate bird and TOO friendly Pelicans


La Blanquilla


We spoilt ourselves this morning with a big cooked breakfast, Bob had bacon, sausage, mushroom and eggs, and Danni and I had scrambled eggs, grilled tomatoes and smoked salmon. We ate up on deck while admiring the beauty surrounding us. I've never seen water this color, or so clear. After breakfast Bob and Danni went ashore for a hike, I stayed to do laundry and cleaning. The national guard said they would pay us a visit today, but I don't actually expect them, they often say they are coming out and they rarely do. I sat under the shade of the bimini and repaired our frayed flag as best I could. As expected both Bob and Danni got pricked by cactus while hiking. Flowering cactus grow everywhere on the island, they're beautiful to look at, but quickly lose their appeal when one embeds its spines into you.
I made a delicious saffron shrimp risotto for lunch, then we all took a luxurious afternoon nap before venturing ashore again to snorkel. Danni stayed on board to rest, saying she had, had enough sun for one day. While we were walking the beach we met a couple from Le Phare Bleu, and Andi, a lady Danni met yesterday with her husband Roger they were also making their way across to the ABC islands. The snorkeling here in La Blanquilla is fantastic, I have never seen so many amazing fish in such large numbers. I collected some more beautiful shells from the beach, my collection is growing fast.
We were all so full from lunch I made a simple cheese plate for supper, Bob repaired the fishing pole, and I remade my necklace using fishing line and added some of the smaller shells I had collected today on the beach.

Los Testigos to La Blanquilla


After three glorious days in Los Testigos, it was once again time to move on.
Monday 18th August
The alarm woke us at 1am, and by 1:30 we were underway. We had a full moon, and flat seas, unfortunately no wind, so we were once again forced to motor. The trip took us 12 hours, and we arrived a little after 1pm. It had been quite an unpleasant trip as the boat was rolling and pitching for the entire leg. Both Danni and I were nauseous on and off for most of the journey. Our first land sighting was of Isle Margarita way off port side, just a faint outline on the horizon. The next land we spotted were the Los Hermanos Rocks, the highest point being 600 feet high, and easily spotted from a long way off. They lie just 6 miles east of La Blanquilla, which in contrast is a low laying island, only 50 feet at the highest point. La Blanquilla is a 72 sq mile limestone island, shaped like an arrowhead. The island is 60 miles north of Juan Griego, and 70 miles northwest of Porlamar, Isle Margarita.
La Blanquilla is the home of Venezuelan wall diving, sitting as it does on the edge of a deep open trench. The wall starts just 65 feet off shore and plummets straight down more than 3000 feet. The walls are famous for the magnificent black coral found there. Black coral is becoming increasingly rare and difficult to find throughout the world.
We arrived at the bay Playa Falucho close to the national guard, where we had to check in. We made 3 attempts to anchor unsuccessfully, we just couldn't get it to set. We decided to move around to the next bay and try there, but the national guard must have been watching us as they came running out waving their arms, we tried to contact them on the vhf, but they spoke no English and we spoke no Spanish, so you can imagine the conversation. So Danni and Bob got in the dinghy and went ashore while I motored around the bay waiting for them.
After customs we moved on to Playa Yaque, and anchored off a really beautiful beach, the water was crystal clear deepening off shore to aquamarine before darkening to the deepest blue. The visibility must have been about 30 - 40 feet, you could see clear to the sea bed beneath us. The sea bed is a mix of sand and coral, some of the coral heads lay only inches below the surface of the water, so you have to be extremely careful while looking for a safe anchorage. There were 4 other sail boats anchored in the bay when we arrived. After lunch we went ashore to snorkel off the beach, and saw a huge variety of fish, among them; a brown spotted trunkfish, an enormous puffer fish, large (1 - 2ft) yellow and blue trumpet fish, enormous colorful parrotfish, a French angelfish, many different butterfly fishes and so on, too many to mention, it was spectacular, but what was really amazing was the sheer number of fish, we were literally swimming through shoals and shoals of them. The fish showed no fear and inquisitively swam up to our masks peering at us as we swam through them. Fortunately Bob had is underwater camera with him so we got a couple of great shots.
Later back on board we sipped our cocktails as we watched the most amazing sunset. This place truly is a real little corner of Paradise, a jewel, only to be enjoyed by the very fortunate. Access to the island is by private yacht or small plane as there is a small landing strip on the island.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Collecting Coconuts



Danni collecting coconuts on the beach. I found some more beautiful shells for my collection.
We had a great swim off the beach this morning and returned to the boat for a barbeque lunch and afternoon nap. Cocktails were on Luci and Johns boat this evening, and Luci really put on a wonderful selection of hors de ouvres, chicken sate with peanut sauce, mini pizzas,fishcakes, callao pancakes, and margaritas. We all drank and ate way too much as everything was delicious, but we couldn't stay late as we were so tired. As we drove the dinghy back to Daisy under a starfilled moonlit sky, I couldn't help but feel blessed.

More Los Testigos


Danni with one of the many Cushion Starfish we saw while here. We also spotted a Lemon shark, not uncommon and I'm told they are shy and quite harmless, although I won't be putting that theory to the test anytime soon.

Fun in Los Testigos


I can't begin to describe what its like waking up in paradise, it takes my breath away and leaves me speechless, something that rarely happens.
The morning sky was cerulean blue, the breeze warm and gentle as it caressed the skin, the ocean still like glass, both turquoise and clear at the same time. The beach we were anchored off had pearly pink sand and was littered with some of the most beautiful shells. It was so peaceful and quiet, with only the sounds of the waves gently lapping the shore.
Bob took Danni ashore for an early morning run while I stayed to clean and tidy the boat. After breakfast we took the dinghy and followed Rene and Cheryl to a small inlet where we anchored our dinghy's and waded ashore. We had to climb a very steep sand dune. Some of the dunes in Los Testigos reach over 100 meters high (and I think this was one of them!) I thought I was going to die as my lungs threatened to explode, I was sweating profusely, and had to stop every few steps to get my breath back. The day was already becoming stiflingly hot, and between the steepness of the slope, and the powdery sand slipping beneath my feet, it was a difficult climb to say the least. Once we reached the top, the view was breathtaking, we could just make out the Venezuelan coastline on the horizon through the heat haze. I stayed there admiring the view and desperately trying to regain my composure, I could hardly take a breath I was so exhausted. Eventually we followed the others down the other side of the dune to the most incredible beach I have ever seen, now this has to be "the best beach in the Caribbean", without a doubt. The sand was so powdery soft, pure white like snow, and immaculately clean, The beach was very wide sloping gently down to the shore where enormous waves crashed upon it. I couldn't wait to get in. The waves were strong and knocked me off my feet more than once, and it was difficult trying to swim as the current was so strong, but the water temperature was perfect, cool and refreshing and clear as crystal. Luci and John from one of the other boats in the fleet were there with their 2 boys Simi and Theo, they had their boogie boards and were having a blast surfing the waves. Two fishermen were not far from the shore in a little fishing boat, and we watched them haul out a huge stingray. Danni had a go on the boys boogie boards, without too much success but it was fun to watch.
We stayed and played in the water for an hour, everyone had brought their waterproof cameras and we had fun taking each others photographs, until we realized that our skin was starting to turn to charcoal in the intense heat, we needed to head back to cover quickly. We gathered our things from the beach and started to make our way back to the dinghy. The sand had become so hot in the last hour it was like walking on burning coals, Danni was in tears with the pain as the sand was burning the soles of her feet through her flip flops. we ran to the shade of the trees making as hasty a retreat as possible. Kris and the boys used the boogie boards as sleds to slide down the dune back to the dinghy's.
Once back on the boat we popped open a bottle of champagne and enjoyed a delicious crab salad for lunch, before taking a lazy afternoon nap.
This was Heaven, indescribable beauty, delicious food and wine, great friends, no mosquitoes or flys, I think I could stay here forever.
Late afternoon Bob got in the water to clean around the waterline, and check under the boat, while Danni and I were busy in the galley, we had everyone coming to our boat for cocktails and hors de ouvres tonight. We made tapenade with toast points, gorgonzola and nut samosas, cheese and pineapple sticks, Danni made her wonderful salsa to serve with the tortilla chips. Luci brought a selection of her fabulous home made sushi, and Cheryl brought a large bowl of popcorn for the boys, We had a lovely evening, everyone had a good time. It had been a truly memorable day in Paradise!

Los Testigos At Last!


We made the trip from Grenada to Los Testigos in just over 13 hours, not exactly record time, but it had been a pleasant trip.
The islands of Los Testigos are located 45 miles Northeast of Juan Griego in Margarita, and are the most remote of the Venezuelan islands, inhabited by a small group of interconnected families, around 160 people in all, who jealously protect the rich bounty of their islands. The islands are blessed with enormous sand dunes, gorgeous unspoilt beaches, and an abundance of marine life and lobsters. There is only one way to get here and that's by private boat. There are no ferries, airports or cruise ships, consequently the islands remain natural and totally unspoilt, for this reason Los Testigos is my favorite place in the Caribbean. They are the first islands to benefit from the Orinoco Delta run off and are awash in open ocean swells and current.
We caught sight of some fishermen, in very colorfully painted boats with enormous high pointed bows. There were many of these boats doted along the shore. The palm fringed pearly white sandy beach with small brightly painted wooden buildings that lay in a line behind the beach. Apart from the palms, the islands appeared very dry, lots of varieties of cactus, scrub, conifer type trees and bushes covered the interior. The rocky outcrops were swarming with the local birds, Pelicans, Boobies and Frigates.
Bob went across to the coast guard station with Rene and Kris, a couple of guys on the other boats that we sailed with, to check in. After customs we all motored across to one of the neighboring islands where we all anchored together. Daniela and Bob went for a swim around the boat to cool off. The water here is unusual in as much as it's color, its green, its very clear and clean but because of the thick vegetation covering the sea bed the water appears very dark. The vegetation is due to the run off from the Venezuelan river Orinoco. In the evening we all went across to Gypsy Blues for cocktails where we met the other members of the fleet. We returned to Daisy later for me to cook dinner, I made a frittata and green salad. Our only disappointment today was the discovery that our satellite phone would not allow us to call out, we still have the ssb (single sideband radio) and the vhf. Hopefully we'll get it fixed tomorrow.

Grenada to Los Testigos


Wednesday 13th August 2008
There were so many little last minute jobs to do in preparation for the trip, unfortunately Daniela was poorly and we ended up having to take her to the local hospital, following the usual 3 hour wait, then tests, then waiting again it turned out that all was OK. With Danni feeling better we had no reason to delay our departure. As we said our goodbye's to everyone at Le Phare Bleu and motored quietly out of the harbor at 5pm, it felt as though I was leaving home. I'll never forget my stay here, or all the wonderful friends I made. We motored around to Prickly Bay, and dropped anchor amongst the other boats that were sailing with us.
I made my Hot & Spicy Shrimp for dinner with Green Rice, and then we worked until midnight completing last minute tasks.
At 45 minutes past midnight we were the last of the fleet to leave the bay (nothing new there), but as Daisy was the largest and fastest of the boats we had no problems catching up. During the entire trip we had to go slow to stay with the fleet, Bob was concerned about running the engine so slowly, but unless we wanted to leave them all behind we had no choice. It was a lovely trip, the air was warm with light breezes, and calm sea (my type of perfect sailing.
Danni and I took the 3am watch until Bob relieved us at 6am. After breakfast we were able to raise the sails and turn off the engine. It was a really beautiful morning, clear blue skies, calm seas and around 7 - 9 knot of wind, not much, but in the right direction enough for us to maintain a steady 5 knots of speed. Danni put the fishing line out, but didn't catch anything, I don't think we have the right lure, although, having said that I wouldn't recognize the right lure if it was put in front of me. I made a mental note to learn more about fishing.

Later while I was on watch, and Danni and Bob were taking a nap, I was surprised and delighted to see two False Killer Whales swimming alongside Daisy, gracefully leaping out of the water together; this is the first time I have ever seen these magnificent creatures, I was thrilled. They leapt out of the water alongside the cockpit, and I would swear I made eye contact with one of them, it was one of my most exciting experience ever.

False killer whales can grow up to 19 feet in length, they have long slender heads and slim bodies. The dorsal fin looks like a young Orca's - prominent and curved back and not wide at the base like a Pilot whale's. The flippers are quite unique, they have a prominent hump that resembles an elbow halfway along the leading edge of each flipper. They are extremely fast acrobatic swimmers, acting more like dolphins than whales, they are sometimes referred to as "Blackfish" which is quite extraordinary because while they certainly appear to be black, they are not fish.

As we approached the islands of Los Testigos, enormous flocks of Frigate birds, and Boobies circled overhead fishing in the waters around us. The Frigate birds don't actually fish, unless they can carefully scoop a fish from the surface of the water, without getting wet, they are unable to dive for their catch like other birds, and if they should accidentally end up in the water they would probably drown as they are unable to take off if they happen to accidentally land on the water. Their general method of feeding is by steeling fish from other birds, they have often been seen catching a bird by its tail and shaking it mercilessly until it drops its catch. These incredible birds can have a wingspan of up to 7 feet. The females are recognized by their white throats, while the males appear totally black but have a bright red throat that they blow up like a huge red balloon when attracting a mate.

Grenada Carnival



Carnival in Grenada is a huge deal, and the people spend all year in preparation for it. Our cab driver picked a group of us up at 1pm and drove us into St.Georges, where we all spent the afternoon sipping cocktails and watching the procession. Everyone was in party spirits, adults and children, locals and tourists alike all joined in the fun. The costumes were spectacular and the party atmosphere wild.
I took hundreds of photographs, it was the most amazing spectacle, and a really fun day, I'm so happy we decided to delay our trip by one day so we were able to stay and see it.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Journey Continues...



Tuesday 29th July
After two weeks back on dry land, it was time to return to Grenada and Daisy. My return trip to Grenada was a nightmare taking a full 29 hours door to door, between the cancellations, an unplanned overnight stop in St.Lucia, some rather unpleasant arguments with some very rude airline staff, and lost luggage I was about at the end of my tether. I was so grateful that I didn't have Nicho-San with me. I eventually arrived back at Le Phare Bleu at 10am and was so warmly greeted by everyone, I think my cab driver thought I was a celebrity. I was exhausted from the stress of the trip but happy to be back, it felt like coming home.
For the next ten days while I waited for Danni and Bob to arrive, I kept myself very busy working on the boat, cleaning, polishing and baking for the trip. I also managed nightly games of Mexican train with friends at the resort.
Monday 11th August
After a very tiring trip, Bob and Danni arrived at Le Phare Bleu at 10pm last night. I was so happy to see them both, after 10 days alone I was missing my family. We spent a quiet day relaxing at the resort, sipping cocktails by the pool, and just doing simple jobs around the boat in preparation for our trip. The evening was spent at the bar with all our friends, and enjoyed the oildown on the beach. Oil Down is a traditional dish served on special occasions, its similar to a stew, made with local vegetables, fish, chicken, pork and beef. I thought it was a little like a winter stew made by someone who couldn't make up their minds what to use, so they emptied the contents of the fridge into a pot and heated it. However, everyone appeared to enjoy it, and the festivities on the beach were a lot of fun.
After much discussion regarding our route across to the ABC islands, we made the decision to avoid not only mainland Venezuela, but also Isle Margarita; there have been so many reports of piracy in and around Porlamar, it seemed foolish to put ourselves at risk, when it could be so easily avoided.
We planned our route traveling directly from Grenada to Los Testigos, where we planned to spend a few days, before sailing on to La Blanquilla, Los Roques, the Aves, and eventually Bonaire. With our route decided upon we were free to relax for a day and enjoy the carnival.

Life at Le Phare Bleu



Edi, Justin and I quickly made friends with the marina/resort staff, as well as the other yachties resident at the marina. We relaxed and swam during the day and played cards in the bar at night with Angela and Steve, another couple resident at the marina on their boat. Edi and Justin became friends with the young guys that worked behind the bar, and even had a couple of nights out on the town with them. The resorts chef Max, overheard us one night talking about how much we all loved curry, something that was not on the menu. He said he would be happy to make it for us, and from that day forward we had curry on demand, and Max made a really good curry. In fact Max would make anything we wanted as long as the kitchen had the ingredients. One evening Angela and Steve introduced Edi and I to the game of 'Mexican Train'. a game of dominoes, which we both quickly became hooked on. Following our introduction to the game we got together almost every night to play. Over time many of the other yachties joined in, as it's a game that almost any number can play. Those nights drinking the local beer, eating Max's curry and playing Mexican train are among some of my very favorite Caribbean memories.
On June 15th I returned to the States for a couple of weeks. Angela and Steve very kindly offered to take care of Nicho-San for me while I was away, so he wouldn't have to undergo the stress of traveling.

Grenada


Monday 23rd June
I woke first this morning and crept quietly out to take a swim before breakfast. I showered on the light boat, the showers here in the resort are fabulous, each shower has it's own bathroom with loo, they are all beautifully fitted out and immaculately clean. After preparing breakfast for my crew I went up to the bar and snuggled in one of their over sized squashy couches and enjoyed two cups of delicious cappuccino while I worked on my journal. Later after lunch at the bar we all drove into town to customs to clear in. Once that was done we drove out to explore some of the coastline villages. The colors on Grenada are amazing, everything from large rocks at the side of the road, and ramshackle buildings to the most elaborate mansions, are all painted in vibrant colors. Gardens overflowing with magnificent tropical flowers that seem to grow wild everywhere.
We seemed to attract quite a bit of attention from the locals as we passed through their villages, particularly one village, which due to our total lack of direction we passed through 4 times in the space of 10 minutes.
The locals stood at the side of the road waving their arms in the air with quizzed expressions on their faces "stupid tourists" I could almost hear them saying.
We headed out along the coast road for a few miles before heading inland towards the rain forest. The drive was exhilarating as we climbed higher and the road became narrower and narrower until it was Little more than a rough rock strewn path through the trees, barely wide enough for our little car. Meeting and passing the occasional vehicle coming in the opposite direction was interesting to say the least, its a miracle we didn't have a collision, even on these roads the locals drive at speed. The forest was full of color along with the scents from all the flowers, fruits and herbs its easy to see how Grenada earned its name "Spice island". We stopped to pick mango's and nutmegs which hung heavily from the branches overhanging the road, as did avocados, oranges, breadfruit, papaya and cocoa.
Grenada is the 2nd largest producer of nutmeg in the world. Its production has been the backbone of Grenada's economy and agriculture since 1843 when it was introduced from India.
We arrived back at the boat early evening, and I made a very spicy curry for dinner, unfortunately I got a little carried away with the spices and it was so hot I couldn't eat it, but the boys woofed it down along with several bottles of beer. After dinner we all crashed. Bob has to leave tomorrow morning to return to the States on business for a few weeks. Fortunately I have Edi and Justin to keep me company for a little bit longer.

Tobago Cays to Grenada


We weighed anchor at dawn for our sail down to Grenada. With 30 knot winds gusting to 50, and large swells it was not a pleasant sail, I spent the majority of the journey laying down with my eyes closed, leaving all the sailing to Bob, Edi and Justin. As we continued south the weather cleared and the wind dropped to a much better 20 - 30 knots. We enjoyed another encounter with our friends the dolphin's, they're becoming a very familiar sight. We approached the Grenada coastline around 3pm, and continued on to the southern end of the island to look for a suitable bay for the night. We finally dropped anchor in a secluded little bay at Martins Marina, and having secured Daisy we took the dinghy ashore to hire a car, and drive around the island, stopping on route to pick up some provisions. Before returning to Daisy we stopped at Martins bar for a cocktail, but didn't stay long as the mosquitoes moved in on mass at sunset. Bob decided to give me a night off from galley duty and took us all out to the local Chinese restaurant for dinner. The food was great, and we were all in good spirits, it was a fun evening.
Sunday 22nd June.
We drove around the coastline looking for a home for Daisy for the summer season, and came across Le Phare Bleu, a brand new truly beautiful little marina and resort still partially under construction. Bob met with the owner of the resort, and the contractor. Bob was interested in the hurricane plans for the marina. The bay appeared secluded and well protected, with mooring balls strategically placed in the bay for just such an occasion. While Bob talked to the contractor, Edi, Justin and I checked out the rest of the resort. The lovely pool and sun deck overlooks the bay next to the bar. At the end of the dock is a lightship, housing a residents lounge with over sized TV and selection of DVDs, books and magazine's. Shower's and rest rooms,a fabulous a'la carte restaurant, the marina offices and a lighthouse. the resort has some beautiful beach side bungalows, the owner took us to see one they are luxuriously furnished with decks overlooking the bay.
Having inspected the docks, and looked around the resort we left to continue our drive around the island and look at some other marinas. Following an afternoon of visiting one marina after another we all decided that Le Phare Bleu was absolutely the best, and were we wanted to be, so we drove back and had a late lunch at their beach restaurant, and made arrangements to bring Daisy around later that afternoon.
Once we were safely alongside Bob fired up the barbecue and grilled lamb chops for dinner and I made some of my special Passion fruit trifles. After dinner Bob had some work to do while I cleared the dishes then joined Edi and Justin at the pool bar for a couple of beers.
To learn more about this marina and resort go to: www.lepharebleu.com

Tobago Cays


We arrived at the Tobago Cays at 4:30. Ed and Justin got in the water and cleaned the hull of the boat while I prepared dinner. After dinner that night we played Balderdash, WOW do we know how to have a good time! We were all looking forward to the next morning exploring the great snorkeling areas of the Cays.
Friday 20th June
We woke to a very gray morning, and peered out to see a gray tropical haze, this didn't look promising for our planned snorkel. We watched with great disappointment as yet more dark clouds rolled in, along with boat loads of tourists from neighboring islands. Bob, Edi and Justin took the dinghy over to one of the little islands to attempt to snorkel, while I stayed on board to do laundry. The guys didn't stay out long, as the weather was deteriorating fast with heavy rain and strong winds, it was churning up the bottom and making visibility very difficult, so they gave up and returned to the boat. We all retreated below decks closed up the boat and put the air con on. After lunch I got out my paints, and despite the wind and the rain hammering the decks above me I spent a very relaxing afternoon painting, while Edi and Justin read, and Bob worked on his computer. The rain continued all day so I decided to make a special dinner to cheer everyone up. I cooked a delicious Parmesan crusted rack of lamb, with roasted vegetables, and chocolate mint pot de creme for desert. It turned out to be a very restful and pleasant day despite the dreadful weather.
The Tobago Cays are a group of tiny uninhabited islands sheltered by a horseshoe reef. In an attempt to protect the delicate reef, the St.Vincent government declared the islands a marine park. The waters here are exceptionally clear and boast a diverse selection of marine life, which attracts thousands of visitors each year. The only way to reach these islands is by boat, and the delicate coral reefs have sustained much damage due to many of the visiting boats anchoring carelessly. A few moorings have been placed here, but not nearly enough. Its asking a lot of one small, economically strapped nation to efficiently protect this beautiful area. In order to protect this magnificent coral reef, we as visitors can take a few simple precautions to aid in its protection.
Don't drop anchors either boat or dinghy near the coral, take a little longer to locate a sandy area for anchoring, it may mean anchoring further away than you would like, but if everyone made this small effort, the reefs will survive for years to come, and be there for many others to enjoy in the future.
This is something we can all do.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Young Island to Mustique



Young Island is a 35 acre privately owned island that truly fulfills the expectations of the "Caribbean Dream"
The island is virtually a tropical garden with all it's lush green foliage, fruits and flowering plants that grow with splendid abundance everywhere. The luxurious thatched cottages with their garden hammocks swinging gently among the tall palms, delicious cocktails served in fresh coconuts, and powdery soft, white sandy beaches, make this island as close to Paradise as you will find in the Caribbean.
To learn more about this little paradise go to www.youngisland.com
We had another early start this morning. The sail from Young Island to Mustique was quite rough once again, with large swells, and winds gusting up to 35 knots. Edi and Justin manned the stations for Captain Bob, while I slept as always pathetic in these conditions.
We arrived in Mustique just around lunchtime. Ed and Justin swam off the boat while Bob went ashore to customs to check us in. Bob returned before too long and we all went ashore to look around. I bought some local vegetables from one of the pretty little market stores on the sea front, the vendor cleverly used a brightly paiinted fishing boat as his store. Many of the fruit and vegetables were very unusual fruits that I was unfamiliar with the friendly store owner let us try some, they delicious, and yet, like nothing I have ever tasted before.
I couldn't resist the aroma of freshly baked bread coming from one of the local stores, I bought a large loaf of sour dough bread hot out of the oven, yum!
Mustique is a small island only 1400 acre's, and privately owned by the shareholders of The Mustique Company representing 17 countries. This island is absolutely magnificent, immaculatelt maintained, and has a strictly controlled development plan. The island currently has 100 private residences, and 72 villas, that re avaliable for weekly rental.
This is one of my favorite Caribbean islands for many reasons. A couple of years ago I fulfilled one of my dreams here, horseback riding along a beach, and Mustique really has some magnificient beaches. The island and its properties are maintained to the highst possible standards, its no coincidence that royalty, film stars and billionairs own homes here. You won't find any ramshackle half finished buildings with corrugated iron roofs, broken down cars with trees growing out of them, or infact any signs of povety. The entire island is pristine, groomed to perfection and quite magnificient.
The majority of the local workers on Mustique live in Lovell village, a small community created in 1964 by Colin Tennant. He built homes (for the dozen or so families that remained on the island following its sale by the Hazel family), where there had once been only fishing shacks.
Besides the homes in Lovell villlage there are a couple of bars, a restaurant, boutique, church, library, school and police station. To learn more about Mustique go to : www.mustique-island.com
We had hoped to go to Basil's Bar for cocktails before returning to the boat. Basil's is idyllically situated, perched on stilts over the Caribbean sea, and has a far reaching reputation as one of the worlds best bars. Basil's is also home of the Mustique Blues festival held here January 27 - February 10th each year.
Unfrtunately for us they were in the midst of extending and refurbising so the bar was sadly closed. Dissapointed we all returned to Daisy.
I made some delicious sandwiches with the fresh bread for lunch which we enjoyed with a couple of bottles of the local beer 'Carib.' After lunch we set sail for the Tobago Cays.

Bob, Ed & Justin

Saturday, April 10, 2010

St.Lucia to St.Vincent, & more Dolphins




We arrived at Rodney Bay, St.Lucia at 3pm. Rodney Bay is a port of entrance, and a good place to clear in. Once we were safely anchored in the bay Bob went ashore to clear in and make a conference call, while Edi and I stayed aboard to clean the boat and get ready for Justin who was due to arrive that evening. He arrived promptly at 7and we all had a wonderful dinner on board, I made my recipe for Szechuan Pork Caribbean style.
Tuesday 17th June
Following a short visit ashore to provision and look around the harbor we returned to the boat at 11:30 and weighed anchor to sail down island. We picked up a mooring in a beautiful setting right between the Pitons. Edi and Justin went snorkeling while Bob and I prepared dinner. Bob grilled fillet mignon steaks on the barbecue while I stir fried some vegetables. We were approached by several boat vendors offering for sale fish, t-shirts, and locally made jewelry among other things. I ordered some vegetables from one vendor, who agreed to bring them over in the morning. After dinner Edi discovered that we could pick up Internet, who would have thought sitting there in a little bay at the foot of the Pitons we would be able to pick up a signal!
Bob was able to get some work done, and I sent e-mails to my Mum and the girls. There was a lovely breeze in the bay that night and we all slept like babies.
Wednesday 18th June
We were all up early to move the boat to the other end of the bay for Ed & Justin to snorkel again. The local vendor brought my vegetables, among the selection was a vegetable I was unfamiliar with, namely 'Cassava' I've never cooked with it before so I'm looking forward to trying it tonight.
While the boys were snorkeling I watched a pair of Swifts that appeared to be looking for a nesting place, they seemed very interested in the hollow in our boom.
I watched them for a while until the Edi and Justin returned, and we set sail for St.Vincent, eating breakfast on route.
Once again we were lucky enough to see our friends the dolphins, as well as a Marlin that jumped clear out of the water. Flying fish were everywhere, amazing us with their ability to fly over the surface of the water for long periods of time. The sail was quite rough with winds gusting to over 30 knots. About an hour from shore we had yet another visit from a school of dolphins, this time I identified them as stripped dolphins. These beautiful creatures look almost hand painted. With an upward brush stroke toward the dorsal fin, the light gray flank divides the dark back and the white or pink belly. The easiest identifying feature is a thin dark stripe extending from the black beak around the eye patch to the underside of the rear flank. They were leaping and swimming along either side of the bow of the boat, one of them was zig-zaging in the front as we all stood on the bow watching them, both Justin and I were trying to take photographs, it was difficult and all I really got was allot of splashes, I don't think David Attenborough will be offering me a job anytime soon, although Justin got some great shots.
We arrived at Young Island off the tip of St.Vincent at 6:45pm just as the sun was setting.

Dominica to Martinique to St.Lucia, Dolphin encounters



We had lunch aboard as we made our way south to Martinique, we needed to be there before dark. About 4 miles off shore we spotted a school of dolphins, jumping and playing not far from the boat, we slowed down to watch them for a while before moving on. We had a wonderful sail across covering the 65 miles in just less than 8 hours, arriving in St.Pierre, Martinique, just before sunset at 6:15pm. We dropped anchor in the bay, and because I was tired I made a typical cowboys dinner, burgers and beans, we really know how to live.
Monday 16th June
Our schedule didn't allow time for to us to even go ashore at Martinique, and by 8:30am we were on our way again. Just a couple of miles off shore we encountered another school of dolphins, this time it was a huge school of Spinner dolphins, maybe as many as 100. They were leaping and jumping all around us, I was trying to take photographs but there were so many, they were swimming and racing with the boat either side of the bow. Bob slowed the boat down so we could get a better look, but the dolphins got bored and swam off, so Bob increased the engine speed and within a few minutes they all came back to race alongside again. They were so playful, jumping, performing acrobatic feats, and spinning in the air, which is how they came by their name. It was exhilarating watching them show off, leaping so high out of the water and racing along in the wake of the bow. We laughed out loud as one of the dolphins leapt high in the air by the side of the boat playfully slapping the water with its tail as it dived back in. They swam with and around the boat for about 15 minutes before moving on. We watched sadly as they all swam away. What an exciting start to our day, watching these incredible creatures so closely in their natural environment will never cease to thrill me.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Dominica, Indian River


A little motorboat came out to greet us as we approached the anchorage, the guy at the helm introduced himself as Martin. We dropped anchor in Coconut Bay, Portsmouth. Martin is a local tour guide and offered to take us on a trip up the Indian river. We arranged for him to pick us up at 7am in the morning. We need to be underway again before mid-day so we are on schedule to meet Justin, Ed's friend who's flying into St.Lucia the day after tomorrow.
Sunday 15th June
Martin arrived promptly at 7am and transported us to shore where he left us to collect another group. We had hoped to have the tour exclusively to ourselves, however. He arrived back a few minutes later with another group of 7 people including 2 children. We all climbed into his wooden row boat (outboards are not allowed on this river) and set off up the famous Indian river.
Dominica has a population of 70,000 people, and boasts 8 dormant volcano's that provided the island with very rich soil, just about anything will grow here, and does. The list of fruit and vegetables is too long to list, just about everything you can think of, including just about every tropical fruit. Dominica exports its fruit and veg to most of the other islands, although Sugar, limes and many different varieties of bananas are the main crops.
Unlike other islands Dominica has no casinos,or multi chain resorts, at least not yet. The island is so unspoilt that it's said if Christopher Columbus were to return to the islands today Dominica is the only one he would recognize.
The attraction for visitors here would be the waterfalls, rain forest pools, and the 365 rivers. There are great hiking trails through the rain forest, also the diving is reputed to be spectacular. I wish we could spend more time here, to explore, I must plan for us to come back.
The Indian river we were on was named after the Carib Indians. As we made our way slowly up the river, Martin pointed out hundreds of red land crabs, that could almost be mistaken for fallen flowers on the banks of the river with their bright red backs and white claws. Hundreds of gray mullet swarmed in schools around our boat
we also spotted the occasional barracuda. The flowers from the wild hibiscus that had fallen into the river from the overhead branches floated like Lillie's on the surface. There were so many hummingbirds, Martin pointed out a nest which wasn't much bigger than a golf ball, he told us the chicks are so small when they hatch they look like large fly's. Hummingbirds are very high energy birds,needing a constant supply of nectar to keep their energy levels flowing. They cruise at 25 mph, and dive at 85mph. They are also very territorial and can often be spotted in battle defending their territory. Martin pointed out the 'Heliconia Caribea' a magnificent flowering plant that collects water that the hummingbirds use as drinking troughs. He pulled the boat over to the riverbank, and got out to demonstrate his skills at skinning coconuts, then gave one to each man on the boat for 'Fathers day'.
The river was picture perfect in its natural beauty, with shafts of sunlight breaking through the overhead canopy and reflecting off the water. The only sounds came from the insects and the gentle splash Martins oars as he rowed us further up the river. We passed an area used for filming scenes from Pirates of the Caribbean 2 The site had been completely restored to its natural setting following the completion of filming. We pulled in at one of the forest gardens and we all went ashore so Martin could show us around and talk about the plants and wildlife.
After our river trip we went to customs to clear in and out again, within the hour we were underway sails raised, and on our way to Martinique.

Iles Des Saintes to Dominica,


Our sail across to Dominica was really exciting as we spotted a humpback whale; the whale was basking in the sun blowing water from its blowhole, which is how Edi first spotted it. We watched for a few minutes before deciding to try and get closer, we brought the sails in as the wind had dropped to only 5 knots, and turned in the direction of the whale. The enormous flippers seemed to wave at us as it rolled and splashed among the waves, before diving, waving goodbye to us with its enormous tail. What a spectacular sight. A few moments later we spotted two waterspouts about 1000 yds behind us. Bob slowed the engine and we watched for a while as they appeared to be coming in our direction, we waited expectantly, hoping to get another up close and personal encounter with these magnificent creatures, but it wasn't to be, after a few minutes the whales turned and swam back out to sea. Bob cranked up the engines and headed for the shore. Some 3000 whales visit the warm waters of the Caribbean during the winter months to breed and calve. The Humpback is the most frequently sighted whale in these waters, and is often happy to put on a performance for passing boats, as did the one we spotted. The males can grow up to 57 feet in length, and the females up to 62 feet. They will often approach boats with little evidence of shyness towards humans. They do not pose a threat and there is no need to fear them should they approach, if you turn your engine off you may even be able to their eerie songs through the hull.
In 1988 Dominica was the first of the Eastern Caribbean islands to offer whale-watching tours. besides the Humpback, there are also Sperm whales, Pilot whales, False Killer whales, Pigmy sperm whales, Spotted, Spinner, Bottlenose, Risso's and Frazer Dolphins that regularly frequent these waters.
As we approached the coast of Dominica we all stood silently on deck, taking in the incredible beauty of the island. This was definitely the prettiest island so far, mountainous, lush and so green, the rain forests looked incredible, I couldn't wait to go and explore.

Guadeloupe to Iles Des Saints, food glorious food.


Friday 13th June
We weighed anchor and set sail at 11 am for Iles des Saints, a delightful little group of small islands, just 5 miles from Guadeloupe. Terre D'en Haut being the largest, with the only town, Bourg des Saints.
I served a quick lunch while underway, as the clouds were gathering and the skies growing darker by the minute. The wind was blowing hard from the south and building in strength, we weren't even a mile off shore when we suddenly found ourselves dealing with 40 knot winds, gusting to 50, heavy rain, thunder and lightening, it was too much for me. As always during inclement conditions, I bolted below, like a rabbit down it's burrow to the safety of my bed and buried myself under the sheets, pulling the pillows over my head, where I stayed until we arrived. I'm not a great sailor, I'm not even a good sailor, I can raise the mainsail now without tearing it, and even manage the jib with some semblance of professionalism, but I can't deal with bad weather, I'm terrified of storms especially when underway. Fortunately Edi was aboard and able to manage the boat with Bob. We eventually arrived at Terre D'Haut and dropped anchor in the bay. The rain continued to pour and the skies continued to grow darker. We locked ourselves below in the confines of our floating refuge. Bob was able to pick up an Internet signal, so he was able to work all afternoon, Edi lay on the sofa watching West Wing, and I spent the afternoon in the galley making some of my favorite dishes, french onion soup, asparagus quiche, blue cheese coleslaw, creme brulee and banana bread. The rain continued to hammer the decks until the early hours.
The next morning we awoke to discover the storm had passed, and in its wake was brilliant sunshine, streaming through the hatches.
I prepared a jug of freshly squeezed orange juice, made scrambled eggs and smoked salmon, and some buttered slices of banana bread with strong coffee, yum!

The day was steaming hot as we pulled the dinghy up to the dock at Bourg des Saintes. Bob headed over to the business center to send faxes, while Edi and I wandered the town, window shopping. There are some wonderful shops on this tiny island, and fortunately Edi enjoys shopping as much as I do. I bought him a locally made ring in stainless steel, and spotted some very pretty starfish earrings for myself, but resisted the temptation to buy them when I saw the $1800 price tag.
We bought ice cream and sat on a bench at the side of the road trying to eat it faster than it was melting, it was a loosing battle.
Later that afternoon we returned to the boat for a late lunch before setting sail for Dominica.

Incredible flowers from Guadeloupe (photo)


Guadeloupe has some of the most amazing flowers, this Porcelain Rose was just one of them.

Botanical Gardens, Guadeloupe, Tree Walk!


Illustration by Nicolette Morgan

We drove on to the Botanical gardens, situated within the rain forest. They had beautiful open areas with Raccoons, Monkeys, Parrots, Tortoises, Otters and many other wild creatures.
Edi and I stopped to watch an old, blind extremely overweight raccoon eating his lunch. He sat reaching around with his paws to locate the food that he was sitting in the middle of, obviously thoroughly enjoying every mouthful, until all the food was gone, content with having eaten it all he toppled over, lay with his legs in the air and fell asleep. It was hysterically funny, Edi and I laughed so much it brought tears to our eyes.
High above the gardens strung through the trees was a series of walkways, just two planks wide. Precarious looking bridge's 60 feet above us. Without giving it any thought (one of my blond moments) I followed along behind Bob and Edi, and before I knew what was happening found myself being fitted into a full body harness, which proved to be a somewhat awkward procedure as I was wearing a dress!
I removed my shoes and climbed cautiously up the ladder behind Edi onto the first platform. I felt really silly with my dress all gathered up between my legs, although my daft appearance for once was not my main concern, "what the bloody hell did I think I was doing up here?"
I followed Edi's lead and hooked my safety line's on, and started the walk out onto the swinging bridges high above the gardens, feeling my way cautiously along with my eyes squeezed tightly shut. Concerns about my appearance were quickly forgotten as I slowly made my way precariously along the narrow, swinging walkways, I couldn't help but wonder how I had allowed myself to do this.
Bob and Edi both seemed quite at ease and for a second or two that gave me confidence, although I had to question their intelligence as memories of Garibaldi Hill came flooding back.
As you proceed the bridges get higher and higher, and as frightening as it was, it was exhilarating. Some of the bridges were quite long, causing them to creak, groan and sway as we carefully made our way along. By the time we came to the end of the walk and had to climb down the platforms I was wanting to do it all again. I wish I had been allowed to take my camera, because no one would believe I had done this without some sort of photographic evidence.

Guadeloupe



We were up early to go ashore and clear customs. The office was only a short walk from the dock, but up a steep hill. The day was already steaming hot and I was breathless and sweaty when we arrived. To our dismay the office had a closed sign on the door, but the door was ajar and I could see people inside so we went in. The officer was really nice and despite the office being closed she cleared us in. Quite possibly the sight of my sweaty purple face, coupled with my heavy breathing may have persuaded her not to send me back out into the heat where she may have had to call for the paramedics.
After customs we walked the short distance into town and sat at a little Boulangerie in the main street to have coffee and croissants. Sitting there at the side of the road we could so easily have been at any seaside village cafe in the South of France.
After breakfast, we explored the small town taking photographs and window shopping. I bought some postcards, and Bob hired a car. We bought some pain pizza's, delicious pastries, and cold bottles of Peligrino, then headed out of town following the coast road.
Guadeloupe was originally known as Karukera (Island of pretty waters) the island is part of France and has a population of 330,000. Its composed of two islands in the shape of a lopsided butterfly, with a river separating the two halves. Grande Terre, and Basse Terre which is the larger side.
We drove out through Pointe Ferry where we stopped on the coast to eat our picnic lunch, before continuing on through Baille Argent and Pointe Noire.
At Anse Guyonneau we headed inland to the interior, and drove up the mountain road towards the rain forest. We stopped beside a beautiful waterfall where two nuns were kneeling in prayer before an altar built into the rock.
We explored the area taking photographs before getting back in the car and continuing our climb on up to the Monastery St.Joseph, where the road dead-ended, and we had to turn around and drive back down. The views from the top were breathtaking overlooking the rain forest below.
From the Monastery we drove on to the botanical gardens.

Montserrat to Guadeloupe


Wednesday 11th June
Having moved Daisy around to Rendezvous Bay the previous evening we decided to go ashore and snorkel. Rendezvous Bay has the only white sand beach on the island, and is not easy to get to. On land its only accessible on foot, along a steep trail over a bluff that is not for the weak or faint hearted, or you can anchor in the bay and dinghy in as we were going to do.
We attempted to snorkel, but the sea was too rough and we had to rescue the dinghy more than once from being washed out to sea, having been unable to get the anchor to set, and there was nowhere to tie up on the beach. After about 30 minutes we gave up, returned to the boat and set sail for Guadeloupe.
We weighed anchor at midday, and had a pleasant sail across with a gentle steady wind averaging between 12 - 18 knots, and dropped anchor in Deshaies Bay, Guadeloupe at 6pm. We were too late to clear customs so stayed on board for the evening. Our South African friends were there in the bay also. I cooked Grilled curry spiced monkfish for dinner with a pomegranate cous cous, and a lemon mousse for desert.

Montserrat

Garibaldi Hill


Once back in the car we continued our drive on up to Garibaldi Hill, where we were promised a birds eye view of the previous town of Plymouth below on one side, lush green mountains of the central hills falling away to the coast on the other, and a perfect panorama of the Caribbean sea with views to Redondo and Nevis to the west.
The drive up the hill was an adventure all by itself. The road was not so much a road more the remnants of a road. George's little car tipped and struggled over boulders and rocks, dips and craters in the side of the hill as it made its way precariously on up. Then, as if the road alone wasn't enough excitement we came across a humongous sleeping bull that was sporting the largest pair of horns I have ever seen, right there in the middle of our path. George carefully maneuvered the car past the sleeping giant, and my eyes almost popped straight out of my head when I glimpsed the shear drop beneath us as we passed.
I have to say I was more than a little nervous, but Edi and Bob appeared unconcerned, or maybe it's a guy thing, you know, don't show fear, anyway I was terrified. Bob and Edi actually appeared to be enjoying the drive up the hill. As we climbed higher we could clearly see the trails of the rivers of ash that had flowed from the top of the volcano down to the ocean below. One can only imagine the horror. When the first eruption occurred in August 1995, the defenseless town of Plymouth was thrown into total darkness for a full 15 minutes as the thick cloud of ash hovered above it. Standing there on top of the hill looking down on the remnants of town beneath us, it was a sight I will not easily forget.
George gave us time to look around and take photos before returning to the car and starting our decent. I have to say I wasn't exactly thrilled at the prospect of the drive down the side of the hill, the drive up had aged me 10 years.
As I predicted the drive down was a real heart stopper for me, as George took off at speed. Bob caught sight of my terrified expression in the mirror and asked George if he would slow down for us to take photos, when he was really just trying to prevent the coronary that was threatening to occur right there in the back seat.
Visions of our little car bouncing off a boulder and taking flight over the cliff edge, with all of us inside screaming like banshees as we plunged to our deaths in the sea of ash below were vivid in my mind. I think I may have actually bruised Edi's arm with my vice like grip on the way down. After 10 of the longest minutes in my life we arrived safely at the foot of the hill, miracles do happen!
For information on Monsterrat go to www.visitmontserrat.com and for the current alert level for the volcano go to www.mvo.com