26/12/13 – Out with the old……

It has been an interesting summer during which we decided to move house. Of course, the way things go, the months passed very quickly and the sale finally went through in November, with one week between exchange and completion on our new house and 8 days in the new house before the flight out to launch ‘Aztec Dream’. We also didn’t move anywhere near where we intended….I blame the internet!
Out with the old….though we were very sad to leave………….
…in with the new..Eastbourne, we hadn’t even been there before!<12au.jpeg>
So leaving behind piles of boxes and unanswered questions about layouts and furnishings….we left for Grenada in late November to launch the boat. All seemed to go pretty well but, after last years experience we stayed around the south of Grenada to ensure that everything worked. Just as well really, as it took a few days to fix an unreliable bow thruster, a recalcitrant outboard, an uncool fridge and a leaky watermaker component. Still, it was great to see a bit more of Grenada…we particularly enjoyed Phare Bleu.
Moored in the beautiful Phare Bleu marina……….
…….looked like ‘Pirates of Caribbean’ had been here first….
……and if the stress gets too much, there was always this.
…….some local fisherman loaded a few too many fish
As we headed up island to revisit some familiar places, it was very rewarding to get the boat back into top condition, especially with a bit of help from Vision to clean the decks in St. Lucia. Weather was a bit mixed though and the crossing of the Martinique channel proved to be one of the most challenging sails yet, but we tested the cockpit drain plugs pretty thoroughly and we’re pleased to report that they work!
Some dodgy weather at the Pitons in St. Lucia……
…..the fabulous Rain Forest Hideaway in Marigot Bay…..
We made it up to Antigua in time for the yacht club Christmas Dinner. I’m not sure we’re ever going to get used to eating roast turkey (with pumpkin) surrounded by Christmas trees in 80+ degrees….it just doesn’t seem right…. But it was an excellent night and great to meet up with friends, some just arriving and some just leaving. The atmosphere in Antigua seems very upbeat and there is lot’s of building work going and new establishments opening, hopefully a good sign that the recession is tailing off.
Christmas trees in the tropics…not sure…..
….another local fisherman on our dock at Jolly Harbour….


Before we knew it, it was time to come home for a quiet Christmas in our new abode (I don’t think we’ve ever been so ill prepared for the festive season). As it turned out, it was a lot noisier than we anticipated, with 50-70 mph winds whistling along the harbour and torrential rain. A fitting backdrop for the ongoing battle with British Telecom….I mean how complicated can it possibly be to install a phone line and connect it to the internet……very, apparently.


Balmy Boxing Day on  Beachy Head………
The calm in between the storms….due to ramp up again shortly…


So, we look forward to returning to Aztec Dream in a couple of weeks. Plenty of things to keep us occupied in the meantime….still so many boxes……
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07/05/13 – Repairs and Regattas

Somehow I missed posting an update for a while…..so, sorry if this one is a bit long.
After 3 weeks in the BVI, we moored Aztec in a marina and returned home for a couple of weeks, which was refreshing! The unseasonally cold weather was certainly a shock to the system but it was fantastic to have a traditional family Easter at Woodbrook. Due to a communication breakdown, both Amanda and her mother (Beth) had baked, so we had quite a bit of Simnel cake!

Looking out over our very frozen pond…is this Spring?……….One of the legendary Simnel cakes….low calorie, of course

Back in the BVI, I had picked up a horrible bug, so we spent several days at anchor in ‘quarantine’ but still visited a few more beautiful locations. We really enjoyed our time here and have decided we will return, as there is so much to see and do. The wildlife is amazing but, most of the time, has proven too challenging for me to capture with my limited photograhic skills.


The first time the spinnaker has been up in the Carib………..Amanda on Sandy Cay after swimming ashore….

CIMG2722CIMG2746Sunset at Cane Garden Bay on Tortola…………………..having lunch on the ‘Willy T’ schooner in The Bight, Norman Island

CIMG2685CIMG2742Pelicans on the beach at Anegada….they don’t want to move……..Finally snapped a turtle, always a great sight….
We could delay our trip back down to Antigua no longer and we set off in what we thought was a reasonable weather ‘window’, with not too much swell or adverse wind. However, the wind was always just too shy to sail and the waves were short enough for a rather uncomfortable crashing motion. So it was an unpleasant overnight trip of 165 miles. Having reached Antigua,the bow thruster failed and the generator wouldn’t run. The watermaker had also being playing up, but fortunately we had brought out parts from theUK and we were ableto fix that in a few hours. The bow thruster was also a fairly easy job but the generator had a part sheared off underneath, so we had to head for the dock and call in an engineer to lift the engine out and make a new part in stainless steel.

The main reason for getting back to Antigua was to see the wonderful sights of the ‘Classics’ regatta. So many stunning boats. I was also fortunate to be have opportunity to sail on ‘Wild Horses’ a 76 foot modern classic (thanks Russell!). To add to the occasion, we won our class….by 12 seconds in the final race.

With Russell on ‘Wild Horses’ after a race………….’Wild Horses’ moored in Falmouth Harbour Marina….
44871_10152800684325492_1808500389_n-1CIMG2929 Trimming the mainsail during the last race…wild crew shirts!…..Amanda at the ‘Classics Tea Party’ at English Harbour
Amanda had been kindly dealing with engineers on board Aztec Dream during this time and took nearly a week to finally complete the generator repairs. It was straight into preparations for Antigua Sailing Week, the final regatta of the season. Jonty was coming out from the UK to sail Sleeper VIII, which we had previously raced in the Caribbean 600. Crew were flying in from the UK and Holland and there was a bit to do to get the boat ready, launched and entered. The day before the regatta we also entered the ‘Round The Island’ race to check the boat out, but we did this very short handed as some crew had yet to arrive. In the end, it all worked out well and we achieved a creditable 5th overall in the RTIrace and 4th in class for Sailing Week, despite suffering a collision on day 2 that removed all our wind instruments from the masthead. Jonty persuaded Amandao sail with us as the ‘Sewer Rat’, an endearing term for the person responsible for dragging the spinnaker below and repacking it before the next leg of the course. She absolutely loved it….had a great time……I think she’s hooked!!
Onboard ‘Sleeper’ with our scratch crew……………..some close racing at the start of our class…too close on one occasion!

Amanda gets into swing of the regatta partying………….Tim, Frosty, Jonty, Rood, Russell, Jade, me…and Amanda (camera)

Post race party on ‘Impulse’ with hosts Russell and Tammy……Amanda and Jonty after the final race……

One days rest, a few goodbyes…..and we’ve left Antigua to head south towards Grenada and Aztec’s winter quarters.
Where does the time go………

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14/03/13 – Journeying to Plantation and Pirate Country…

We were lucky to arrive at Nevis in very calm weather and moor off the capital, Charlestown…. there are no marina’s or shelter here but it’s a very beautiful place. We spent an interesting day exploring the town, having lunch at a old plantation house in the hills, then a few hours walking up into the rain forest.

Sunsets off St Kitts and Nevis were amazing….the anchorage is a bit exposed, wouldn’t want to be here in rough weather!

Nature is slowly taking over the old plantation buildings…..walking high up in the rain forest.

Sailing across to St Kitts didn’t take very long. The southern end of the island was very reminiscent of Croatia, low hills and quite barren but lovely deserted bays to anchor in. Unlike other Caribbean islands, the sugar industry continued here long after slavery, so the plantations are amazingly well preserved and are fascinating to visit. The turbulent history of co-existence and wars with the French also means that there is an incredible fort on Brimstone Hill, a huge and forbidding structure.

The short sail from Nevis to St Kitts….definitely eyeball navigation…….anchored in a bay in the south.

A very complete example of a sugar plantation estate……..the boiling kettles used for refining the sugar….

Brimstone Fort is so big, it’s difficult to do it justice by photograph…..one of the many cannons commanding the approaches

Looking south towards Nevis from the ‘Shipwreck’ bar………St Kitts is quite unspoilt and ‘authentic’ in places….

On a windless day we motored the 45 miles to the smartest of the French Islands, St Barts. We had arranged to meet Pat & Stuart on Brizo there and had a very happy evening. Stuart also helped me test the water being produced by our watermaker and we finally had to admit that we have a problem….with 10 times the amount of salt still being left in the water than there should be! The next day we sailed on to the French side of St Martin, where we spent 2 days provisioning and preparing the boat. You can get pretty much anything here, with its huge chandleries and shopping malls…all those things that you struggle to find elsewhere.

2006Oct 311CIMG2481
Gustavia, the glamorous main harbour in St Barts………it was great to catch up with Pat & Stuart on ‘Brizo’.

Taking the dinghy through the cut into Simpson Bay lagoon…….where there are dozens of superyachts parked!

Again we  were lucky with the weather for our night crossing to the British Virgin Islands, calm seas before the forecast 5 metre swells were due to come down from the north (we later heard stories of others having a very uncomfortable time on the same route leaving a day later). I had not been to the BVI for about 15 years and was a little nervous as to what we would find. However, Virgin Gorda, our first stop provided a charming introduction and Amanda fell in love with it…..phew!

Relaxing at the Bitter End Yacht Club on Virgin Gorda….the charming Saba Rock close by (Necker Island in the background)

Moored off the picturesque Marina Cay (phone box?!)…….Great Harbour on Jost Van Dyke, another great spot

We arranged to meet up with Tim & Lucy from Chilli Chilli……at the famous Foxy’s Bar…

Main Street Jost Van Dyke….yup, the road really is sand……..a reminder that this is pirate country….RRrrrrrrr.

There are still so many places to visit and time seems to be passing very quickly. The next challenge is to find somewhere that is showing the match on Saturday……..come on England!!

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24/02/13 – Life in Antigua

On our return to Antigua we found about 2 inches deep of water sloshing around in the bilges of Aztec Dream. It took several hours to pump and sponge it all out and 2 days of investigation to find the cause and convince ourselves that we weren’t in any danger of sinking! The problem was in the generator water pump, where a rubber impeller had disintegrated, blocked the outlet side, causing back pressure in the pump which in turn pushed the seals out, enabling water to pump straight into the boat. I now know much more about the construction of water pumps than I ever wanted to or thought possible! Fortunately the spares kit onboard and email support from the UK helped enormously. So, finally we were able to take a couple of trips and revisit some of the stunning coast.

The stunning west coast produces unbelievable sea colours……..Amanda’s favourite bay in the southeast..

After last years efforts constructing a rather cumbersome ‘battleship’ for the Tot Club’s entry into the Wobbly Boat Race, we set about the design and build of a more streamlined craft with an alternative power plant. Initially all went well and we even picked up a sponsor….the local Italian restaurant…who supplied us with prosecco and kebabs to keep us going during the 3 hour build. Unfortunately, they were a little disappointed with the prize that we won……’First Boat To Sink’!


The initial build went really well, with pedal powered paddle wheels…..dry dock trials all looked good too….


Ooops, forgot about the power cables on the run to the launch beach…..some very innovative designs….



All ready to launch with high hopes of a swift race……………disaster strikes!!

John Duffy was summarily sacked the same evening as the Tot Club’s Naval Architect. Oh well, it was good fun and raised a lot ofmoney for the Antigua and Barbuda version of the RNLI (ABSAR).

We continue to find interesting new and strange things around Antigua, especially with all the comings and goings. There is a new superyacht this year called Ace but it also has a support vessel that follows it around called Garcon, which carries the helicopter and other toys. Apart from the aviation fuel and diesel, she also 5000 litres of petrol….I hope no-one onboard smokes!



Garcon, with her mother ship Ace in the background…….Amanda finds a new friend….


Fish Stop…..the local Routemaster fish and chip shop…….can anyone identify this fish? It was tasty anyway….

In a moment of madness I had agreed some weeks ago to join Jonty Layfield and a number of ex Brighton Marina Yacht Club crew (flying in specially) on the J39 Sleeper VIII to race in theRORC Caribbean 600. Preparations started several weeks in advance and Jonty did an amazing job optimising the boat. It’s a very young race but entries had risen from 39 last year to54 for 2013 and it’s now considered as tough or worse than the Fastnet. We managed to write off the spinnaker pole on the first leg and there proceeded to be an alarming number of breakages as the race proceeded. The crew of Jonty, Rob, Mark, Joe, Ben, Frosty, Jack,George and Jervise (a local sailmaker) were very competent and managed to make up for the mediocrity of the ‘naviguesser’ (me) to come in first in class. Fantastic result.



The start of the Caribbean 600…see you in 4 days……morale was always high onboard….

CIMG2252IMG_0056Accommodation below was interesting……..Amanda stayed with Vicky, a bit of a contrast!


Sleeper moored next to Aztec Dream after the race….. The crew receiving the trophy for IRC Class 3…….

It’s been a busy few weeks and it’s always tempting to stay in Antigua, as there’s always so much going on. However, we are now moving on to travel further north over the next few weeks……but we will be back in late April. Looking forward to it already……

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17/01/13 – A bit of a contrast…

So Juno arrived in St Lucia after a smooth, fast crossing on the ARC, so Paul was very pleased after all his careful preparation paid off. He’d thought of everything, including the specially designed crew shirts that would hide the rum punch stains! The WAGs were just delighted to have them all back on dry land. Everyone seemed to have had a great time and Andrew had dropped into a Buddha-like state of serenity behind his newly grown whiskers…..does strange things to some people these ocean crossings!


The reception committee, happy to see the boys back…….Juno crew enjoying that very special first rum punch…

After a few celebrations, we finally set sail north from St Lucia, enjoying a couple of quiet days in the Saintes before heading up to Antigua, our chosen destination for Christmas and New Year. It was to be our first Christmas together in a hot climate and on the boat, so we were not too sure how we would like it.


Landing a decent sized Dorado enroute to Antigua……….outclassed as soon as we arrive in English Harbour…

We were berthed in a busy Nelsons Dockyard and spent Christmas Eve putting up the boat decorations. The original plan was to put lights all the way up the mast, in the shape of a Christmas tree but I had sprained an ankle rather badly the night before, stepping off the pavement…..and, yes, alcohol was involved….but not much….honest. Full recovery was to take a number of weeks, so sincerely hope that won’t happen again.


Aztec Christmas lights, all around the boat…at deck level…….amazing local carol singers on Christmas Eve…they were really good.

It was a sunny, hot Christmas Day and we enjoyed a traditional brunch before heading off for the midday rum Tot in the historic dockyard Copper and Lumber Store, also attended by a group of sub-mariners and RAF guys we invited who were sailing on a joint services training yacht. Christmas lunch was turkey with an interesting Caribbean twist to the cuisine….very different, but very good too.


We still managed to open presents from under the tree……Mike Rose, the closest thing to Father Christmas..Bah Humbug.


All this festivity in the sunshine…it’s hard work you know…….Christmas lunch with John & Lindsay at the Admirals Inn.

All of a sudden the New Year was approaching, along with our guests SueAnne and Ross arriving for a week onboard. On New Years Eve we entered Aztec Dream in her first Caribbean sailing event, the Nelsons Pursuit Race, recreating an event from history. A slower boat sets off from English Harbour, flying the French Tricolour and about 50 yachts set off in hot pursuit, trying to catch her before she reaches the finish line. On of the larger yachts took it quite seriously, with all the crew in periodic dress and a cannon firing at intervals from the fore deck. The Dockyard party that night was fabulous, with the music and dancing carrying on till dawn.
A very Happy New Year to you all.


New Years Eve Nelsons pursuit yacht race, being overtaken…….The crew rum Tot after the race, at least we caught the Frenchie!


The party warms up, with plenty of dodgy hats………and even dodgier dancing…..Gangnam style…..

The weather had been a little windy but the forecast for the first few days of 2013 looked good, so sailed up to peace and tranquility of uninhabited Green Island for some quiet time, BBQing, swimming and snorkelling…..to give our guests a bit more of the Caribbean experience.
After Ross and SueAnne heading off to the airport, we only had a few days before we too would be on our way home. There was also some maintenance to be done on Aztec and arrangements to be made to have our fridge and freezer serviced whist we are away (as they were literally falling apart). There was, however, one more party to attend, as Terry (a founder Tot Club member) was hosting his nieces wedding in Antigua.


Studious Sue….actually found time time to write an essay…….Ross on a desert island, so tempting to just weigh anchor!


Amanda helps a grumpy guest to enjoy a dance………Maltese Falcon was among the influx of yachts to Falmouth Harbour.

Wow, somewhat of a shock to return to the UK, just in time for the snow. The temperature went from 30c to -8! However, it was great to catch up with friends and, especially, family….and our local butcher even managed to source a turkey for a belated, proper roast. Simon and Helen kindly invited us to spend a long weekend in Switzerland, which made the contrast even more extreme (-15c!). We had a fabulous few days skiing in great company and wonderful scenery.


Taking a break above the charming village of Morgins……..the girls in the ‘Fighting Cows’ hut.

So now I’m finally getting over a cold and a swollen ankle, we think about returning to warmer climes. The bags are packed to the weight limit with spare parts and books, not much room for anything else….

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10/12/12 – We’re off again……

Following an interesting summer(ish) in the UK, enjoying the Jubilee pageantry, the exciting olympics and paralympics, catching up with family and friends, films, theatre and concerts……as well as numerous jobs, maintenance and projects around the house…..it was back to boatyard in Grenada to find out how Aztec Dream faired in the hurricane season. All looked good and we spent 3 days preparing to relaunch (always a nervous time for certain people!). Unfortunately, it was only when we had sailed 50 miles, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, that we found a seacock that had been missed by the boatyard during servicing….it was seized solid. Back we went and the poor boat had to be lifted out of the water again for the offending item to be replaced. There followed a series of heads (toilet) related issues, that required a number of unpleasant operations to fix…..but enough of that….all is fine now.


Project 1 complete…finally….the barn restoration….    ….and Project 2….the outdoor kitchen, all ready for next summer.


The nervous (1st) relaunch…….                    The offending ‘heads’ seacock…..

Ross, my brother, joined us in Grenada for a couple of weeks cruising and we started off his visit by going Sport Fishing as a birthday treat. It was a great day out but unfortunately there was little action on the lines, just a couple of bites, so nothing to show for that fuel expended. So we set off north towards the Grenadines, put the fishing line out from Aztec and catch a Dorado within 10 minutes! Very tasty it was too.


Well he looks the part, even if no fish were caught…………..the Dorado before it became supper…
Ross seemed to slot into the laid-back Caribbean lifestyle quite well, enjoying the sunsets and associated sundowners. He’d always wanted to have BBQ lobster on the beach and he appeared to enjoy it so much that he became a bit of a celebrity on Union Island. ‘Crusher’, as the locals nicknamed him, did seem to spend an awfully long time ensuring that all the lobster meat was accounted for!


Spectacular sunset in Bequia……………………….and the sundowners were pretty good too at the Whale Bar….


‘Crusher’ enjoying the Caribbean lifestyle……….and in action, living up to his nickname….

There are always some sights along the way. On Grenada, they are trying to create a unique marine park, which involves a series of sculptures on the seabed that you can dive or snorkel on (what’s wrong with fish and coral reefs?). It did create a bizarre spectacle where they are craning a load of life-size statues into the the water.
There are always reminders that help you pay attention to the navigation too.


Creation of the ‘Art’ marine park in Grenada, looks crowded already………his guy just missed the gap…

All too soon it was the end of ‘Crusher’s trip and we spent a log day travelling up to St Lucia so that he could connect with the flight home. It was his second visit….the first one involving wedding rings, but he didn’t seem to mind revisiting the scene of the crime. The final evening was a happy one, celebrating at the Rainforest Hideaway in Marigot Bay.


Revisiting the ‘scene of the crime’….talk us through it ‘Crusher’………….dinner at the Rainforest Hideaway…

Amanda and I had also decided to revisit old haunts and headed up to Rodney Bay for the finish of this years Atlantic Rally for Cruisers, which we participated in last year. In a rash moment we volunteered to be part of the ARC finishing line team, talking to the incoming yachts after their 3000 mile trip across the Atlantic, timing their race finish and guiding them in for that all important first rum punch. I write this as we wait for the next arrival, half way through a 48 hour duty stint, still trying to figure out when we’re supposed to get any sleep.


Aztec Dream ‘on station’ on the ARC finishing line……..hang on a minute, there’s paperwork too…

The incredible enthusiasm (and often relief) of the arriving crews is always amazing. Some have a relaxed crossing, with all the comforts of home and a gourmet chef, others focus on speed and the hell with everything else. The first boat across the line was ‘Vaquita’, a small (40 foot) but very fast racing machine…no room for cup holders or anywhere to chill the champagne!


The interior of ‘Vaquita’….yes, that’s where you sleep too!……..even the finish line has it’s compensations.

Our friends on the yacht ‘Juno’ are due to arrive tomorrow night….and their WAG’s are here already, so I suspect there will be some partying involved too later in the week, before we head off north again.

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28/04/12 – Finally heading south to Grenada

We have had such fun in Antigua and the time to leave came around a little too quickly. We spent a few glorious days at Green Island and were fortunate enough to catch a 3kg Spanish Mackerel on our way back to Falmouth Harbour, so were able to say our farewells and have a fabulous last night fish dinner, kindly hosted by John & Lindsay Duffy at their home.

Moored at the historic Nelson’s Dockyard, English Harbour……….glorious isolation at Green Island

Our first destination was Deshaies on Guadaloupe where Amanda was particularly keen to visit the Botanical Gardens, as on our previous visit a few years before, it had been in torrential rain. It was definitely worth the trip and the gardens are probably the best we’ve ever seen, in variety and the way they are presented. From there the next stop was Les Saintes, before we then set off on an overnight sail to get back to St. Lucia.

The Deshaies Botanical Gardens in the sunshine…..the beaches in the Saintes are beautiful…

In Rodney Bay, St. Lucia, we had a couple of days to provision before meeting Simon and his crew of family and friends who were coming out to spend Easter on their boat, Casamara. We set off with them to continue south, stopping in Marigot Bay and the Pitons before crossing to Bequia to visit the turtle sanctuary. Then on to the paradise of Tobago Cays where we swam with turtles and ate barbecued lobster on the beach under the stars, an amazing experience. However, all too soon, Casamara had to head north again to catch their flight home.

Casamara at anchor in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia……coming back from a trip ashore at Marigot….

The turtle sanctuary in Bequia…………….the Casamaras off to swim with the turtles in the Cays

We spent a few lovely days touring around Union Island and the Cays, meeting a few local characters along the way, as well as managing to gate-crash Peter and Paula Norris’s honeymoon on Palm Island (I’m sure they’ll forgive us eventually)!

The local Jumbo coming into land on Union……the honeymooners on Palm….up close and personal!

The dock at Chatham Bay,  Union Island………..Happy Island, built on a foundation of Conch shells

Janti, builder/owner, barman and DJ on Happy Island…..Sydney, a ‘boat boy’ in Tobago Cays

On the trip down to Grenada, we caught our last fish of the season, a good size tuna, which we enjoyed very much. The lovely weather finally changed and we experienced 3 days of rain but by the time the yard lifted the boat, the temperature soared, which made the last few days interesting.

The final fish of the season, a tasty tuna……….arriving at Spice Marine, Grenada…after the rain

Out of the water till November, wow it’s hot….OK, it’s not that tough, our ‘digs’ ashore at True Blue

So, it was then a flight home, a quick change of bags and up to Edinburgh for the ‘Tot on Tour’, an event on the Royal Yacht Britannia organised by the Royal Naval Tot Club of Antigua and Barbuda.

A fitting end to the season. To the Queen, God bless her!

Onboard Britannia with Sandy & Beth for the ‘Tot’

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27/02/12 – ‘TIA’…….This is Antigua…..

Well……where to start…..it’s been an interesting and busy time in Antigua…..who said the Caribbean was going to be relaxing?! The stream of amazing yachts coming in and out of Falmouth and English Harbours has continued throughout, always something going on.

Watching the Superyacht Challenge regatta…….two classic gentlemans yachts…’Talitha’ and ‘Nahlin’

It’s also been great to catch up with old friends who are now living out here or just visiting. It has meant that we have had the opportunity to explore more of the island and its history too. A memorable day trip on Aztec with Jonty & Vicky and their visitors from the UK (Jonathan & Jackie), swimming ashore for lunch. A fabulous day with Neil & Stella during their holiday at Hawks Bill….

Lunch at OJ’s, Aztec at anchor in the background……the working sugar mill at Betty’s Hope….

Visiting Devils Bridge on the Atlantic coast……….. a very civilised afternoon tea with Neil & Stella

The consistent ‘Christmas Winds’ finally dropped for a while too, allowing us to explore some of the more remote anchorages. Mungo arrived for a week’s visit, so we were able  to give him a flavour of the Caribbean and a relaxing time prior to his exams.

Anchored alone off Green Island, lovely spot…….Mungo & Amanda at Pigeon Beach….he’s grown!

Mungo catching his first fish…a 5lb Spanish Mackerel……..sunset, anchored off Jolly Harbour

During this time I was initiated into the Royal Navy Tot Club of Antigua & Barbuda (many thanks to my sponsor John Duffy)…..an interesting experience involving a lot of rum and learning about naval history, specifically around Nelson’s career. The club does a lot of good work in Antigua to maintain historical sites and pathways, providing entertainment for Royal Navy crews locally, amongst many other things. Shortly afterwards, I was asked to join the Tot Club Team for the Wobbly Boat Race…..where the objective was to build a boat in 4 hours and race it around a course for charity.

Performing the final part of the Tot Club initiation……initial framework for the boat build…..

HMS RumRun & its motley crew, including mermaid Lindsay…….launching from the beach…

Some varied designs in the 14 entries………………cheating was actively encouraged…!

And so to one of the maddest decisions I’ve ever made……accepting an invitation to race in the RORC Caribbean 600, one of the toughest current offshore races…..in the smallest boat to enter…a Mumm 36!

Mumm 36 ‘High Tension’ casting off for the 600…watching the start on ‘Impulse’..the 218ft ‘Hetairos’

…..we’re off…..that tiny boat in the foreground is us……..after the finish, heading back into harbour

…..It’s finally over….a great reception…………….at the prizegiving with owner/skipper Bernie…..

In the meantime, ‘Aztec Dream’ was moored at the Antigua Yacht Club, the centre of the shore action, and Amanda was busy helping with the finish line monitoring, as well as being adopted by the Tot Club…..and finding time for some dinghy sailing…

Monitoring the finishing line at Fort Charlotte……dinghy sailing in Falmouth Harbour…

It took 4 days and over 700 miles for ‘High Tension’ to reach the finish, but the reception was fantastic, with horns blaring from the superyachts in the harbour and chilled cases of beer on the pontoon….even it was only 9 in the morning…..and the best bacon sandwiches ever!

So we’re having a few quiet days to recover. Spent a lovely day walking around the historic forts and graveyards around the harbour and up to Shirley Heights with Russell & Tammy. They leave for the islands further north tomorrow and we are back in the UK for a week from Sunday.

….following the dry riverbed between historic sights…….the high point of Shirley Heights….

Oh well, better sign off before this gets too long and clogs up everyone’s email…..and we need to go to the beach…..

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24/01/12 – The ‘Windies’ live up to their name….

After a wonderful and rather busy trip home for a very traditional Christmas, it was great to return to the sunshine and start our Caribbean adventure. Having completed some maintenance tasks in St Lucia, we finally headed off to the French islands, with the first stop in Le Marin in Martinique. The main port is a busy place, full of yachts and boatyards but a bit tired and dirty…..so after clearing in we moved out to the beautiful anchorages in the bay.

Maintenance mode…Up the mast fitting a new deck light …….and changing the generator oil…

The stunning route into Le Marin, Martinique……….and St Annes Bay.

Sailing up the coast of Martinique, we passed Diamond Rock, where the Royal Navy so infuriated Napolean by placing cannon on the summit, renaming it HMS Diamond and blasted at the French Fleet in their own back yard (it’s very close to Josephine’s home)….looks rather steep to even walk up! The trip to Isle de Saintes, the southern islands of Guadaloupe was a long day, 75 miles with a lot a wind. In fact the conditions have been sunny, very windy and some violent rain showers…..known as the ‘Christmas Winds’…..even though it’s January! It makes anchoring and sleeping a little challenging.

The historic (HMS) Diamond Rock……..anchored off St Pierre in a welcome calm spell…

Too tired to go ashore, so Fray Bentos it is!…….Charming Isle de Saintes, definitely worth the trip.

A colourful local ‘Saintes’ fishing boat………and a Dutch tall ship moors next us.

From Guadaloupe, another windy sail on to Antigua, where we met up with Russell and Tammy on Impulse once more, as well as some old chums from Brighton Yacht Club. The docks in Falmouth harbour are crammed with Superyachts, both sail and power…a truly amazing sight. We feel very small in comparison! Several are showing damage from the high winds and are under repair but all are gleaming.

…even the classic ‘J’ class yachts look small!…….Nelsons dockyard at English harbour..

Many of the historical building are still servicing boats…………..and relaxing afternoon tea at anchor….

It will be nice to spend some time here in Antigua, as there is so much to explore…..weather permitting…..and all of a sudden……we’re not in a hurry…..

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21/12/11 – St Lucia has been wonderful…..

Going ashore in St.Lucia wasn’t as strange as we expected….no swaying on your feet or ‘land sickness’. Rodney Bay marina was very well decorated with ARC flags and other flags and signs of sponsors, all very colourful. There was often a display of local dancing and fire-eating going on and many ‘happy hours’ at the numerous bars and restaurants along the board walk. We were quickly led astray, away from boat cleaning, by Simon and we went aboard Casamara for a very happy day anchored out in the bay, with lunch ashore on Pigeon Island.

Some of the local entertainment, limbo-dancing……..and fire-eating……

Getting into the pace of the Caribbean……………lunch at Jambe de Bois with Casamara…

A couple of days later we set out in ‘flotilla’ with Impulse and Casamara for a fabulous sail down the coast to visit the stunning and historic anchorage at Marigot Bay and then on south to pick a mooring in between the Pitons, one of the most famous sights in the islands. We loved it so much we stayed an extra day.

Aztec and Casamara at anchor in the Marigot Bay……….ashore for a wander….

Amanda in her swimming hat makes her way to…….drinks on Impulse…

Approaching the amazing Pitons………….moored in between Gros Piton and Petit Piton

Bob bravely drove a hire car in to the interior of the island and we visited a plantation, botanical gardens, waterfalls and took a zip-line tour through some of the jungle, which was a little different. I found the plantation particularly interesting, having just read ‘The Sugar Barons’.

The varied vegetation at the plantation……….Original donkey powered sugar cane crusher…

View from the old plantation house………………sulphourous falls in the botanical gardens..

All equipment sport this zip-lining……………..is it a bird….yes….it’s Lincy disappearing into the jungle.

We will all remember St.Lucia for the cheerful people (apart from Customs, obviously!) and the colourful sights…..and for the sociable days spent with friends, new and old (no offence Russell!).

Aztec, Impulse & Casamara out for a curry at Razmataz…buying fruit from a colourful boat boy….

So tomorrow we head back to the UK for Christmas. Should be a bit of shock to the system, as we are reliably informed that the temperature is just about zero! …..but it will be good to be home.

Needless to say, we’re a bit disadvantaged on the Christmas card front….I think we’ve missed the last post…so a very Happy Christmas to you all and all the best for New Year 2012.

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