Caribbean Sailing by JoJo

Caribbean May 2015

As I write this blog we are anchored in Soufriere Bay, below the stunning Pitons mountains on St Lucia in the windward islands of the Caribbean. Simon has just climbed to the top of Petit Piton. We could see him through the binoculars! Finbar is studying his OU Maths course, learning about calculus. Lochlann is playing the piano, teaching himself how to play The William Tell Overture. We have been in the Caribbean for nearly two months now, and life is good.

St Lucia Mountains Los Pitons - JoJo

Since buying the boat we have not had much time 'cruising,' which is very different from sailing offshore passages. We jumped in at the deep end, with a mission to get to the Caribbean while the boys still wanted to go sailing with us. So my focus has been making sure that the boat is prepared for offshore sailing with little or no focus on day sailing.  Since we arrived in the Caribbean we have had no overnight passages, only a few dawn starts. Life is very different here and it has taken some adjustment. The mission to arrive was completed but....what next? It feels very strange not planning a summer season of work - the first time since 1992!

Happy Boy - Finbar

Sailing from anchorage to anchorage on the west of the islands is plagued with a mixture of no wind or heavy gusts, a head wind or wind right behind. If you are close inshore the sea is calmer, so it's possible to tow the dinghy, rather than haul it on board every trip. Between the islands is a completely different story. It's ocean sailing with big swells and strong wind. So far all our island hops have been either close reaching or reaching.  We have rarely had the mainsail up unreefed. The tides are also a bit tricky. No nice accurate tide tables that one finds in the UK. The rise and fall is only a couple of feet, but the water rushes around the islands in an unpredictable manner. 


We have now been living on the boat continually since August last year, that's 10 months. Two adults and two teenagers on a small 35 ft. boat, with only one dinghy and no a outboard. How have we managed?  Well, I think we have managed very well. It is often difficult to work on the boat while living on it. The galley is on the small side, but I have managed to keep us alll well fed and healthy. In fact the boys are now eating a much more varied diet, I have more time than ever before to cook. They even like eating hummus now! As a family we have always been close, but I think this time together has brought us closer.  

These are amazing trees - Finbar and Lochlann

We all enjoyed Martinique, partly because of the availability of apples, cheese, wine and baguettes. But on all the islands there are bananas, pineapples, mangos, and of course plenty of coconuts (I'm the only one who likes fresh coconut juice, although I have to admit it's better in a rum punch!).  Everywhere we go Simon is off on long, long walks, and we all snorkel around the boat most days. We have seen so many multicoloured fish, and also turtles, lobsters, massive star fish, sea snakes, lion fish, squid, puffer fish, and lots of different types of beautiful coral. The boys did their Advanced Scuba Open Water qualification in Martinique. It was good for them to improve their diving skills. Sadly we can't always use our own scuba equipment to dive on our own, because many places will not let you scuba without using a local diver. This is partly to protect the marine environment, but also a good source of local revenue, I think.

It's a wonderful life for our boys. We often put the sailing rig on our dinghy to go back and forth to the shore.  It's a tight squeeze, but we have found that it is possible to sail little Swiftlet with all four of us aboard! Most other cruising yachts, of course, have inflatable dinghies with outboard motors, and we are a bit of an oddity even rowing ashore, let alone sailing.
Getting good at sailing Swiflet

We have met some wonderful people on our travels. But sadly not enough other young people for the boys to socialise with. But we have heard that there are more cruising boats with families in Grenada. 
We spent time with Richard and Eilish, on another Wylo, called Yacht Granuaile, in Dominica. We had first met them in Porto Santo, in Madeira, and then again in Las Palmas on the Canaries. They were heading south while we were still heading north. Shortly after saying goodbye to them we finally made the difficult decision to fly back to the UK this summer, rather than sailing back. We just could not bare to leave until we had seen more of these beautiful islands. So we are now just behind them on our way south. The hurricane season starts shortly so we need to get south of the danger area. 

Island Swift under one reef
While in Dominica we met some more lovely people - Gill and John on their steel ketch, Petronella, and Jack and Fizzy on Carpe Diem (and their dogs Lucy and Ben).  They are also heading for Grenada, and we have spent a great couple of weeks in their company, socialising and walking. Jack even fixed our vhf ariel, so our vhf radio now works properly for the first time (we still don't like it, but if can be useful). I have also finally managed to get the SSB radio to work successfully. I can now pic up Chris Parker's  morning weather analysis. He gives a really good Caribbean and Atlantic forecast. It's very interesting watching the Atlantic weather, and I'm glad we are not sailing back this year!
Before we left England I bought a secondhand (45yr old) Reads sewing machine. It's both manual and electric. and will do straight and zig zag stitches. So throughout our trip I have been sewing different things for the boat. I have made a big awning for those hot days at anchor.  It works really well, even in a stiff wind, and also helps to keep things cool down below. 
Our awning works brilliently

 I have also made many storage pockets - for the boys in their bunks, for flags and also for chart table instruments. We now have  mosquito nets for all the hatches which are also useful for keeping flys out of the boat. Other projects include new lee cloths, general mending, covers for the topsail dinghy sailing rig and awning. I have been very surprised at how quickly our clothes have deteroriated, rotten away by the ultra violet light. So much patching of shorts and trousers has occurred.  My current project is sail covers for the staysail and jibs, but I'm running out of material. I definantly did not bring enough material with us. So when Simon goes off walking and while the boys study I am often sewing. 
Competition for the use of the saloon table is high. I need it for sewing. Lochlann uses it for his piano playing. He has a midi I keyboard that plugs into his computer. It is sadly not a patch on a real a piano. This is one of the key things that Lochlann misses from home. Finbar prefers to study his open university course on the saloon table, there is more room and he can plug in his computer to the power point from here. 
Pelican looking down at us distainfully

What our future plans are we don't really know. We fly back to the UK at the end of June until the beginning of November. We are all looking forward to seeing family and friends and spending some time in Cornwall in the summer. Then it will be back to the wonderful rainforrests, beautiful clear water with different types of coral, the amazing frigget birds and ungainly Pelicans.
We are so very, very lucky!
written by JoJo, April 2015

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