It is a little difficult to capture how we feel right now. Our first sailing season as full-time cruisers has come to an end. We will never have another first and this brought about a sense of sadness after our arrival in Prickly Bay, Grenada on Tuesday, 9th June, 2015. On the other hand, we had a great sense of achievement mixed with relief, particularly on Elaine's part, as we'd actually achieved another goal! (Go Liverpool! – Roy’s editing). On reflection, it was a tough season. Strong winds, high seas, numerous northerly swells that turned normally protected leeward anchorages into washing machines and where a simple task like getting in or out of our dinghy was hazardous. But, we have wonderful memories and enjoyed experiences we never imagined in our wildest dreams - Learning to dive in Bonaire as well as meeting a host of wonderful sailors who are all now safely across the Pacific Ocean. Diving with dolphins in Curacao. Enjoying the hospitality of wonderful friends while in Puerto Rico, Campechano (Babbie and Ronnie), who welcomed us into their family's home for Thanksgiving. Our first family Christmas with Keenan aboard Paw Paw, as well as a fairyland New Year in North Sound, British Virgin Islands. Enjoying both Elaine's and Roy's birthdays in St Martin in the company of newfound friends, Ondular (Isabel and Mick) and wailing away many an evening teaching them to play Mexican Train Dominoes – something that has become somewhat of a tradition on Paw Paw after being taught to play initially by Cattiva (Maria and Maurice) in Bonaire. Learning to play Wizard and enjoying plenty of laughs in the process aboard Galene (Rowena and Richard) in White House Bay, St Kitts, where the waves were so huge in this normally well protected anchorage, that Elaine thought she'd end up in the water while trying to get back to Paw Paw. Roy catching our one and only fish to date, a Longbill Spearfish, en route to Antigua as well as celebrating Justine and Paul's birthdays in style aboard Paw Paw while there. Visiting Montserrat and witnessing the devastation of Plymouth firsthand. Swimming with some wild dolphins who decided to spend an afternoon with us in Deshaises, Guadeloupe, as well as swimming in the pool of a waterfall for the first time followed by a picnic lunch alongside a picturesque mountain river with Justine and Paul before their return to England. Swimming in the coldest water ever after a hike to the Syndicate Falls, as well as savouring the bounty of the land and the PAYS Sunday night beach barbeque in Dominica, where we first met TiSento (Agnes and Bas). Fresh baguettes, pain au chocolat, grande café and Sainte Pierre, more specifically, the ruins caused by the eruption of Mt Pelee in Martinique as well as a lovely visit from Karen and Dave, who, before we know it, will be moving aboard Paw Paw in a few short months. A tour and lunch at the Firefly Plantation in Bequia, where we sampled the sweetest guavas, learnt about the many different varieties of mangoes, which we can testify to and tasted wax apples for the first time. Finally, witnessing the nesting of leatherback turtles soon after our arrival in Grenada. All simply amazing experiences and, while there are many more, these, we believe, were definitely our sailing highlights of our first sailing season!
The experience, however, that trumps all of this was the birth of our first grandchild, William, who arrived after much ado on 18th May 2015, but not before he had us all scrambling to get our "ducks in a row". It was just three weeks earlier when Brooke went into labour while Keenan was flying a plane full of passengers to Dallas, that then had to be diverted to Houston due to bad weather and he's planned move from Washington DC to Phoenix was only taking place a week later. We were in Fort-de-France, in an anchorage where it wasn’t feasible to leave Roy and Paw Paw alone while Elaine returned to the United States and where our condo, which Keenan, Brooke and Capri were due to move into at the beginning of May, was still occupied by our tenant. Well, needless to say, we all eventually got our act together and then, surprise, surprise; William decided to wait before gracing us with his presence. A wait that was most definitely worthwhile. We did, however, end up with "two for the price of one" when Capri, Brooke's daughter entered our lives earlier in the year and stole Elaine's heart from the moment they met; a moment when a beautiful, blonde haired, blue eyed six year old came bouncing out of the bathroom, threw her arms around Elaine and proclaimed that she knew who Elaine was - "You're my Grandma!". With that, the deal was sealed!
So now, as we settle into another hurricane season and begin our final preparations for the World ARC, we can reflect on our time in some of the Windward Islands.
Our sail over to Martinique was in rather strong winds and high seas, not forecasted as per usual. This was emphasized when we passed another Leopard catamaran heading in the opposite direction, where, at times, we could only see the roof of the helm station which is 13 - 14ft above the waterline, when 4 - 6ft seas were forecasted. So, it was another delightful sail - not! The reward, however, for our efforts was our arrival in Martinique and the lovely anchorage of historic Sainte Pierre, previously know as the "Paris of the Caribbean" until it was completely destroyed on 8th May 1902 when 400,000 year old, Mount Pelee, erupted killing 30,000 people and sinking all the ships in the anchorage. This was after numerous signs that something was amiss - A sulphurous odour early in 1902, boiling water that filled a crater lake on the mountain, a plantation that was buried by boiling water and mud in the Spring, belching ash and a series of lava flows that engulfed part of an estate killing 25 workers on the 2nd May 1902, followed by a tidal wave on 5th May 1902 that threw ships onto the shore and destroyed some buildings. We think we would have got the hint at the first whiff! The eruption was unusual in that, instead of lava, the whole south side of the mountain blew out from the pressure of the 1800 - 3600°F gasses that vaporised everything in its path, except one man who was locked in the jail, where the gases couldn't penetrate the thick walls. Is that luck or fate? We also visited the museum which houses the various artefacts uncovered after the eruption, including “before” and “after” photos of Sainte Pierre. It was astonishing to see that everything left was either melted or petrified, including the remains of all the people who perished. The proximity of this mountain to the current town is still very precarious indeed!
"In Rome, do as the Romans do", although, in this case, it was "in France, speak French", which Elaine took on as another project. By 21st April 2015, with French lessons coming along nicely, Elaine managed a full sentence at La Boulangerie (Bakery) - "Bonjour Madame. Je voudrais deux grande cafe au lait, deux pain au chocolat, une pomme camalle et une baquette s'il vous plait" and we actually got what we wanted. Of course, when paying and being told the total cost, Elaine hadn't a clue, apparently still needing to learn her numbers.
Following our arrival in Fort-de-France, we reconnected with TiSento for another fun evening aboard – one of many occurrences, since as we were all heading for Grenada. Then, after an initial exploration of the town, we joined them and folks from Flightplan on a tour of Fort St Louis, constructed in 1639 and still an operating French naval base. This fort sits as a prominent landmark on the bay and the anchorage is right off the town, so we had a beautiful view of the skyline as well as shops and restaurants of every variety on our doorstep. However, with all the ferry traffic it was extremely uncomfortable and somewhere where one couldn't spend more than a night or two. So, with all the pandemonium around Brooke going into early labour and needing a better anchorage, by 28th April 2015 we'd high-tailed it to St Anne and in the process discovered Le Marin, which has to be the largest anchorage in the world. We'd never seen anything like it and we certainly weren't disappointed by the facilities available to sailors. It is fair to say that, with the close proximity of Le Marin, St Anne quickly ranked amongst our favourite anchorages. But, it wasn’t just Paw Paw on the move at that time. Simultaneously, Keenan was undertaking a gruelling 34-hour drive across country, towing all his worldly possessions. The day ended safe in the knowledge that he had arrived back home in Arizona without incident.
After getting settled in St Anne and while we awaited news from Arizona on the impending birth, as well as the arrival of Karen and Dave for a two week visit, we rewarded ourselves for a 2 1/2 hour roundtrip hike from Anse Caritan to Anse des Salines by taking a nap under waiving palms, on golden sands, while listening to turquoise waters crashing on shore. It had been some time since we’d had a beach day! We were certainly spoilt for choice though when deciding on a beach, since each Pointe we rounded revealed another picturesque scene. Of course, being a French island, there was the usual splattering of nudists en route. The downside of St Anne, if we really had to dig deep for one, was that we had to start the first stage of our inoculations required for the World ARC - Tdap (Tetanus, diphtheria, Pitissus) and Typhoid. Nothing like being a human pin cushion and a walking laboratory!
A lovely surprise a few days later was bumping into Ondular (Isabel and Mick), while walking around town after Elaine thought she'd recognised their yacht anchored behind us the previous evening, but wasn't sure. We hadn't seen them since leaving Antigua a few months earlier, so, party time it was again aboard Paw Paw to celebrate Mother's Day and enjoy their company before they headed to Grenada and then westward to Ecuador via the ABC Islands. Of course, the obligatory Mexican Train Dominoes, taking the opportunity to teach Karen and Dave at the same time, had to be played. Before long, we were saying our goodbyes to Ondular with promises to see each other next year in the Galapagos. Before leaving St Anne for an exhilarating sail to Petite Anse D'Arlet, we hired a car and did the touristy thing around Martinique's east coast. The only mishap of the day, following our arrival in Petite Anse D’Arlet, was loosing the boat hook while trying to moor. Since this was definitely not the first time this had happened, we were already equipped with another – No harm, no foul!. Fortunately, on this occasion, Dave managed to snorkel and retrieve it. From there it was on to Grande Anse D'Arlet, but not before we unravelled our knitting and released the unintended sea life we'd caught. We'd decided to drop our fish trap in the hope of lobsters, but alas, all we had caught were three Moray eels. An exploratory walk followed by lunch ashore in Grande Anse D’Arlet included Elaine's favourite, Mussels in a Creamy Wine Sauce, while the boys enjoyed a local dish, Lamb Colombo and Karen preferred to be less adventurous and opted for a Nicoise salad - delicious regardless!
Anse Mitan was our next stop where our beach day started with breakfast at The Baguette, followed by a snorkel of a wreck, crepes for lunch and then topping off the day with some Facetime with Keenan over dinner and champagne as a pre-celebration for the imminent arrival of William, since Roy and Elaine would not be together for the momentous occasion. With that it was back to Fort-De-France to drop Elaine off for her trip back to Phoenix, while Roy enjoyed the continued company of Karen and Dave.
And so the big day arrived and for some reason, although Elaine hadn't slept much in the preceding two days, she was wide awake that morning. A nice surprise awaited her though the previous day at the airport. She was expecting to meet Keenan curb side, but instead both he and Capri were waiting for her in the arrivals area. There was “no rest for the wicked” and “no time to waste” though. En route home, we popped in on Lisa and Joe to pick up a few things and received beautiful gifts from them for both Capri and William – A lovely surprise and very thoughtful. Then it was off to the storage unit to unload all of Keenan's baby things which we had kept all these years for just such an event. The day was topped off with a family dinner - Great times, great memories! By 11H00 on 18th May 2015 we were all at the hospital, eager to meet William at last. After a tumultuous day, he was born healthy and full of the joys of life at 21H56, weighing 6oz 14lbs. With Brooke and William doing well, it was indeed cause for celebrations, helped along by a bottle of whiskey, compliments of Harrison. Being present for the delivery and witnessing Keenan becoming a dad for the first time was truly a memory to last a lifetime! Of course, watching him change a nappy for the first time was hysterical and all captured on video with Mango Groove's "Moments Away" playing in the background.
However, after enjoying another wonderful day at the hospital with William, it was down to the next matter at hand - Keenan's captain training, which started two days after William was born - Couldn't have planned it better if we tried! So, after a bite to eat at home, Keenan and Elaine spent the evening revising, with the added benefit of Elaine receiving an education on jet aeroplanes. Happy, but exhausted we crawled to our beds. The next day, with Keenan in training, Elaine had the honour, albeit a nerve-wrecking one, of driving Brooke and William home – The last scene of the movie “Knocked Up” pretty much summed up that drive! It was the day though that Capri got to meet her baby brother for the first time and then it was a case of "while the cat's away, the mice will play" - Nana, Brooke's mom and Grandma had everything under control - Party time!
The following days were filled with all sorts of family outings, including Capri's graduation from kindergarten and Brooke's grandparents meeting their 28th great-grandchild, as well as a welcome break for Elaine to enjoy dinner with Lisa and Joe at their favourite restaurant in down town Chandler - Filet Mignon as the order of the day, as usual! During all this merriment we did also manage to connect with Keenan’s grandparents to introduce them to their 3rd great-grandchild and, of course, with the new Granddads, Roy and William, Brooke’s dad – The wonders of modern technology!
Before long, it was time to say those inevitable goodbyes with Kim's departure initially, Capri in tow, to spend part of her summer holidays with her Nana, swiftly followed by Elaine's, for her return to Paw Paw. Saying goodbye is never easy, but so much more difficult this time for Elaine, since she now had three more sweethearts to miss. Such is the price to be paid for the lifestyle we have chosen, but Elaine looked forward to getting home, seeing Roy and sleeping in her own bed, albeit one that floats on water. She did, however, enjoy her rather stylish journey back to Martinique – First class all the way - Required in order to obtain the additional luggage allowance to accommodate all the boat parts and equipment which Roy had Keenan accumulate over the preceding months. Looking like a packhorse at arrivals, she did, however, get to see Karen and Dave at the airport and catch up with them before their departure. The day was wrapped up with a little celebration aboard Paw Paw with TiSento before going to bed with a Granddad for the first time, while the surreal feeling of being a Grandma continues too last!
With that, it was back to business aboard and plans again for pastures new - Yellow Fever, Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B and Cholera inoculations done, provisioning done, laundry done, dinghy fuel purchased, dentist done, officialdom done and anchors aweigh as we headed south for Grenada and another hurricane season, but not before stopping en route at Bequia and Carriacou for some respite.
Another anchorage and another island - Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, but it definitely wasn't just another sail. Our overnight was the first time we’d sailed just offshore of islands at night, which unfortunately came with its challenges. During Elaine's first watch she heard a massive engine noise, but for the life of her, could not see where it was coming from and there was nothing to alert her on our AIS – Unbeknownst to us, our recent software upgrade had reset all our safety alarms! Eventually, after waking Roy, we discovered a huge cargo vessel overtaking us to port, totally camouflaged by the background lights of St Lucia; in itself not an issue, but disconcerting nonetheless. Not long thereafter though, we had to take a collision avoidance manoeuvre as a huge tug towing a huge barge at a rate of knots, with no AIS, continued to plough right towards us even after we flashed our spotlight, lit up our sails etc, all to no avail. So with both motors at full speed we headed diagonally away with minutes to spare. It seems idiots get employed to work on water as well!
Anyway, after catching up on some much needed sleep, we had another opportunity to explore a new island and participate in some entertainment ashore as well as enjoy some lovely dinners aboard TiSento and Paw Paw, taking the opportunity to teach them to play Mexican Train Dominoes. Outings included a walk to Friendship Bay, where we enjoyed a cappuccino at the exclusive Bequia Beach Resort, a beach braai a.k.a. barbeque organised by a group of South Africans in the anchorage, where Elaine reconnected with many of the ladies whom she had first met in St Martin at the Ladies Lunches - Who would have thought! Breakfast was enjoyed at The Gingerbread as well as numerous coffee mornings while we wailed away the days under the large trees, not to mention their ice cream - Great advice from Babbie off Campechano – Delicious indeed! Happy Hour at The Fig Tree, where we enjoyed some live entertainment provided by some of the sailors - A solo session by Gavin from Secret Smile on the saxophone, followed by a jamming session by a few others which comprised another saxophonist, two guitarists and a pianist - Brilliant evening! A hike to the Firefly Plantation, where we participated in their tour and got to sample all sorts of fruit and nuts picked straight from the trees and savour a delicious late lunch of curried goat roti, made with produce from the plantation - Can't get fresher than that! All of this accompanied by their organic house wine, which, surprise, surprise, is produced for them in Stellenbosch!
By 2nd June 2015, this "travelling wilburys family” had managed to break its own record - Being spread across six different countries, albeit for a brief period while Keenan was in Denmark completing his captain training and while William remained in the USA with Brooke and Capri.
By 4th June 2015 we had arrived in Tyrell Bay, Carriacou after a “champagne sail” - One of the best sails we’d had all season - Beam reach, flat seas, and blue skies all the way - Perfect! As an added bonus, although we usually meet other cruisers at anchor, on this sail we had the pleasure of meeting Puddlejumper (Karen and William) en route when we ended up sailing together from Bequia at speeds of 8.5 to 9 knots. After a chat on the VHF radio and anchors set, we all formally introduced ourselves and enjoyed a dinner outing together at the LazyTurtle, given how impressed we were that this was the first monohull to give Paw Paw such a run for her money! I guess there are all sorts of ways to meet people, but this was a first for us. Before leaving Carriacou we got to enjoy a barbeque / potluck dinner at one of the local restaurants, arranged by Out of Africa (Joann and John) for all the cruisers.
Before we knew it, we were getting ready for our final inter-island sail of the season and on 9th June 2015, after another “champagne sail”, we arrived in Prickly Bay, Grenada, our home for the next few months, having completed 2123 NM. What a season it has been, both on the water and off! We certainly weren't short of tough sails, but all great experience. Time now for some respite, recharging and spending time with family and friends while in Ireland and England, as well as completing our final training course in Hamble, England. Before long, it'll be time to start the final To Do’s in preparation for the World ARC!
There was, however, no better way to end a wonderful sailing season. While out celebrating we received the news that Keenan had successfully completed his training by passing his check ride and was officially a Captain, receiving his applets and wings shortly thereafter. A fantastic achievement indeed, considering the timing and circumstances of it all! Of course, this called for a celebratory dinner aboard - Bangers and Mash accompanied by delicious Bordeaux! The icing on the cake was glancing up over dinner and seeing the Southern Cross hanging in the night sky, a sight we hadn’t seen since leaving Bonaire - A perfect ending to a perfect day and a fabulous sailing season!