From Sailing to Performing

We didn’t mean to go to sea for quite so long (nearly two years in fact) but having returned from our Caribbean adventure we immediately found ourselves embroiled in yet another silent-movie caper.
Having fulfilled one ambition, of sailing across the Atlantic and back, our two teenage sons quickly set about fulfilling another – that of us all performing together in their favourite Bash Street show.
So within days of reaching terra firma, we were back in rehearsal, busily revising Bash Street Theatre's most popular show CLIFFHANGER! – a real-life silent-movie, and truly it’s a family affair
The new show, which made its debut at Port Eliot Festival in Cornwall, featured Lochlann on piano, with his brother Finbar and cousin Kesha performing alongside mum and dad, JoJo and Simo

Homeward Bound by JoJo

Passage Horta, Azores to Penzance UK - June/July 2016

It is so hard to choose the right moment to leave on an ocean passage. This last stage, of 1,200 nautical miles, was potentially the most problematic. It was highly likely that a frontal system would cross our path, bringing adverse weather conditions at some point. We had already prepared to leave about three times, only to cancel at the last moment because I was not happy with the forecast. This is very hard for us all as we psyched ourselves up for departure. Finbar and Lochlann were missing their friends back home, and were particularly keen to leave, but it has to 'feel right' before the final decision is made. Finally, after a frustrating few weeks, a decent weather window made the decision possible, though we would have to motor across the Azores high to get to the SW winds that would blow us home. It was unusual for us to motor at sea, but motoring was better than waiting, and we had been waiting long enough. 
So in high spirits we said goodbye to Horta and headed North with all sails set. I was still not completely well so I had to conserve my energy, and this turned out to be the most relaxed passage since we had left Falmouth in September 2014. Simon had become so competent, and with Finbar's help they were fully capable. I was relegated to the role of adviser, and for the first time ever, I spent time reading a book on passage!

Waiting in Faial to leave for home by JoJo

Horta on the Island of Faial, Azores, June 2016

The weather in the Azores was not quite what we expected. It was cold, misty, damp and...well, not the Carribbean! But it was also exhilarating, and satisfying and we were very happy to arrive, not least because another frontal system was about to hit the islands. We were happy to have got into harbour in time to be anchored snugly when this wind arrived. Weather was not normal for this time of year, the harbour master told me: "We never get NE wind! It's almost always from the South." All the talk with other yachtsmen was about the weather - how everyone's passage had gone, and the outlook for the next passage onward and home.

Island Swift (left of picture) at anchor in Horta with Pico volcano behind.

Peter's Bar 46 years on by JoJo

Horta on the Island of Faial, Azores, June 2016

Arriving in Horta on the beautiful Azores island of Faial was very emotional for many different reasons. Twenty eight days at sea was our longest ocean passage and we arrived at the same port as my parents had done 46 years ago, on our family boat Mjojo. At that time, I was only 4 years old and sadly have no memories, but there are many family stories about our time here in 1970. Thanks to our new modern communication gadget (Delorme Inreach) my mother was following us at every stage of the journey and was as excited as we were on our arrival.

Atlantic Crossing Antigua to Horta in the Azores by JoJo

Passage Antigua to Horta on the Island of Faial, Azores, May 2016

After Antigua Classics it was time to focus on getting ready for crossing the Atlantic back to the UK. There was a long list of jobs to do.  First of all was the smelly task of fuel filtering.  We had already taken a sample of diesel and found a lot of dirt at the bottom of the tank and also dead ‘diesel bug’.  So with a 12 volt pump and a wonderful filter (thanks Tim) we spent a few hours pumping the diesel through the filter until it was clear and clean.  Now we could have faith in our engine in case we had to motor on the windless days across the Azores High. Mmm… it did not work out quite like that.
Island Swift all sails set

Antigua Classics by JoJo

Antigua, April 2016

For many years we have heard about Antigua’s Classic Yacht Regatta. Everyone said we should try to be there and join in, so we did. We did not expect to win anything, but we were looking forward to having loads of fun and seeing some wonderful traditional boats under full sail.  We spent the few weeks before the regatta sprucing the boat up ready to cross the Atlantic shortly after the Classics, but also secretly we all wanted Island Swift to look her best!

English Harbour - Parade of Sail

Marie Galante to Antigua by JoJo

Caribbean, March 2016

Marie Galante was the perfect place for Lochlann to get better.  He had a low fever that would not go.  We visited a doctor, but he could not figure out what the problem was.  Simon and Finbar found a wonderful walk that we all enjoyed.  It took us through the remains of a sugar factory.  One of hardest things about the Caribbean is the history of slavery.  This was a peaceful and welcoming island with friendly people. No volcanoes for Simon to climb but Marie Galante was enchanting, quiet and as the wind blew we started to work on the boat getting her ready to cross the Atlantic.

At Anchor in Grand-Bourg, Marie Galante

Bequia to Marie Galante by JoJo

Passage Bequia to Marie Galante in the Caribbean, February 2016

From Bequia we sailed over to St Vincent and anchored in Keaton's bay. 

I had been told that here it as possible to anchor, because it was not too deep also there is a friendly cafe and we were promised less agro from the 'boat boys'. They are called 'boat boys' because they work from their boats 'helping' visiting yachtsmen  we really wanted to visit St Vincent because it is such a beautiful island, loads of rain forest and a volcano to climb. 

JoJo, off St Lucia

Sadly it was not to be. As we arrived in the bay a boat boy came out. As usual we were friendly but did not need his services. We anchored and he at first said we could not anchor. We had to take a bout. When that failed he said we had to pu out a stern anchor, and we should 
Island Swift off St Lucia
Island Swift off St Lucia
Island Swift off St Lucia
pass it to him. We declined and said we could do it if there was any need. Then he started to get angry! The boys and me went down below, but it was pretty unpleasant. I used the vhf (we finally have one that works!) to radio the bar and check with them that we anchored ok. This probably made matters worse.   He eventually left us alone, but by this time we were feeling quite vulnerable. 
We decided to leave so we headed up to Chateaubelair to clear customs and leave for Martinique. I retrospective could have sailed straight up to Martinique without clearing customs as they don't require a clearance form. When we arrived in Chateaubelair we anchored beside two other yachts, sower owed over to introduce ourselves and see how they were finding St Vincent. They had also left Waliabou after feeling intimidated, had been here for two nights and not had much bother. So we shut and locked all our hatches and went to sleep. Lochlann refused to come ashore or swim or come on deck throughout our few days in St Vincent. We had hoped to leave the next day but the customs office did not arrive until the afternoon. So we left first thing Tuesday morning. 
We arrived at St Anne's in Martinique on Wednesday the 2nd February after an overnight stop on St Lucia at Rodney Bay. It was fun to have French bread and cheese! The sail up from St Vincent to Martinique was a brilliant reach, so good to be sailing again. 

Arriving in St Lucia, anchoring under sail
Fun and frolics off Dominica
Fun and frolics off Dominica
Fun and frolics off Dominica
Fun and frolics off Dominica
We met up with David and Catherine again in St Anne, who had introduced themselves to us in Bequia. David built the first Wylo in New Zealand after Nick Skeates built Wylo II. They have bought a boat in Greece and are sailing her back to New Zealand where they were going to build an eco house on an island. Going through the Panama Canal this April. This inspired us all. Wouldn't it be brilliant to sail across the Pacific! Maybe in a few years time.
I wanted to get stores in Marin which is an excellent and an easy place to stoke up. I also wanted to get some of the things on my list for the boat. was Mardy Grai! Shops shut! We could not wait because we wanted to get round to Grande Anse and meet up with Jack, from Carpe Dium, who was coming back from England, and he had no transport out to his boat! 
Luckily when we arrived in Grande Anse our little anchor spot, that we had used last year was free. It's tucked right under the south of the bay and it's a good spot because it dose not roll like the other spots do. 
Jack arrived back tired but well with lots of important things for us. OU course books for Lochlann a couple of good harnesses for the boat and a Delorme Inreach. This is much cheaper than a sat phone, only dose texts messages, but will work all over the world. The main reason for getting this is to get weather updates as we travel back to the UK. But it will also be useful for medical emergencies and our friends can track us across the ocean. 
We spent a happy week with Jack but I was keen to get further north. So we left for St Pierre and then Dominica. We did not stay long because in Dominica you can't scuba dive with your own equipment! Simon and Finbar have been going out regularly to snorkels and find good dive sights. 
The next islands were Les Saints which are just south of Guadaloupe.  This was a nice interlude but like so often the guide books don't quite paint the right picture. It was just a bit too touristy for us, but I had hoped it would be good diving. We did find a nice anchorage, but the ferries create a big wake that violently rocked the boat, breaking anything that has not been stowed. 
One evening a little double ended sailed into the anchorage.  Kate and ... On .... A Venus 35. It was nice to have company! The next evening Adix sailed into the anchorage and we met up with Leo again. Last time we saw him, Lochlann swam out a piece of Finbar's birthday cake In Las Palmas January 2015. Just as he was setting out to sail his folk boat solo across the ocean. Now he is Bosun on the prodigious boat Adix!
Fun and frolics off Dominica
As we had not got provisioning done in Martenique I thought we should sail over to Pitre-Point in Guadaloupe. Bad plan. We did not like it here. Very expensive, not good shops, dirty and it rained.  But our new outboard motor was used to good effect to fill up with shopping. The weather was mild so we set sail for Marie Galante. This island is less visited by boats because it lies to windward of the other islands. We had a brilliant sail out and dropped anchor off St Louis as the wind dropped even further. The next day we headed round to Grande Burge to find a safe spot go the wind increase that was forecast. This is our sort of place, small, manageable, friendly and comparatively cheep. 
A place to get jobs done. Fill up with water, washing, shopping and fixing the self steering (we hope!).

Walking in Marie Galante
 Provisioning in Guadaloupe 

Walking in Dominica
Film making in Les Saints
Leaving St Pierre
Walking in Dominica

Post note:It is very sad that the beautiful islands of St Vincent and St Lucia are not very safe for sailors. We are so very vulnerable in our boats. Sadly since then a terrible incident has occurred in Wallilabou (St Vincent), where a German sailor was shot and more recently in Soufriere, St Lucia, a group of 7 sailors with a security guard were attacked. Thankfully nobody died in this incident. It used to be like this in Dominica but they have formed an organisation to make sure the anchorage is secure. The boat boys are all regulated, very polite and friendly. It is very sad because our impression of the local people on both St Vincent and St Lucia was that they were friendly, helpful and kind.

Island Swift Back in the Water by JoJo

Grenada, Caribbean January 2016

After spending five months back in the UK, it was very strange to find ourselves back on the boat. Island Swift was absolutely fine sitting out of the water on a hurricane cradle in Grenada Marine. There was no mildew, no bugs and all the bedding was fine in their dry bags. What a relief! Many thanks to Jack for changing the crystals every month, to reduce the humidity in the boat. 
We were met at the airport by Jack and John in a pickup truck, this was a good start as Fin and Lochlann were very happy to sit on the back. We dumped our stuff on the boat and made our beds then walked over to John and Gill's boat Petronella for a lovely  supper. What a wonderful welcome back to the Caribbean. Thank you Gill and Fizzy for the lovely feast, and John and Jack for collecting us.

On our way back to the boat!