After leaving our hurricane season cocoon, Prickly Bay, Grenada, on 15th November 2015, we headed for Carricou, where we arrived safe and sound after a rather long day in very lumpy seas and stronger than predicted winds. It was here where we said goodbye to TiSento (Agnes and Bas) until Christmas, where we planned to meet in Bequia. Our thanks go out to them for contributing to a great hurricane season, one of numerous laughs and plenty of fond memories to take with us, as well as looking after Paw Paw for us while we were in the UK. That said, Carricou will be remembered for the enormous lobster we enjoyed for dinner prior to our departure, but also, unfortunately, for the custom and immigration personnel, who were not only extremely rude to Elaine and other cruisers who were clearing out, but who also passed on an infection that resulted in Elaine having a relapse of her psittacosis pneumonia soon after our arrival in Martinique on 18th November 2015.
We did, however, enjoy an amazing day and overnight sail from Carricou to Martinique prior to falling ill. Besides a text book execution to predetermined coordinates supplied by our weather routing software, we had it all - Strong winds, no winds, flat seas, confused, heavy seas, large tankers, very large tankers, cruise ships, fishing boats, fishing pods, some moon, no moon, rain, no rain. It was, however, the brilliance of the stars in the pitch blackness, the whales that passed us to starboard as the sun set, the day breaking as we sailed into St Anne's anchorage, dropping the hook as the sun peered over the horizon and the grande cafe au lait et pain au chocolat which we enjoyed for an early morning breakfast after a hot shower, that made this passage memorable indeed and one that makes this lifestyle all worthwhile!
By 22nd November 2015, however, Elaine was “man down” and it was definitely no fun being sick in paradise. She was hoping her body could fight off the infection without any aid, but when her temperature hit 102.2F, it was time to take the antibiotics that we had on board. This was the price to pay for not being vigilant with the sick immigration officer and, in her annoyance after having words with him, forgot to wash her hands when she got back to Paw Paw. Lesson learnt – After all these years Elaine’s psittacosis pneumonia is not to be taken lightly! Unfortunately, whatever had triggered Elaine’s relapse, rendered Roy “man down” a few days later. The silver-lining was that we had both fallen ill in the beautiful, protected anchorage of St Anne’s with first world doctors and hospitals close at hand.
As a result, we had to forfeit a dinner outing with Puddlejumper (Karen and William) whom we had only briefly seen in Grenada after their return from the UK, but with hopes of catching up with them again while in St Lucia. In the midst of all of this, however, we did receive a godsend from Exit Strategy (Rose and Dan) who happened to stop by to say hello after seeing our dinghy at the town dock – Ricola to help sooth our coughs! We had been in town in search of these little suckers or something similar, but to no avail. They had come to the rescue for the second time in a matter of weeks; the first being the use of one of their dive tanks so that Roy could fix our new propellers which had inadvertently been incorrectly installed. This saved us the expense and inconvenience of having to haul Paw Paw again, having just come off the hard in Grenada Marine a few days earlier.
Before long it was Thanksgiving which was a pitiful affair for us this year, to say the least, but we were simply grateful for the fact that we were both still “this side of the grass” and on the road to recovery!
By the 29th November 2015 we were both starting to feel human again. We managed an afternoon on the beach and a lunch with Exit Strategy (Rose and Dan) before they set sail for St Croix. We also enjoyed a surprise visit from Gavin (my saxophone teacher) off Secret Smile, swiftly followed by the arrival of Wind Kat (Nelia and Johan), whom we first met in Bequia towards the end of our last sailing season, then enjoyed many a SA World Cup Rugby game together in Grenada. It is nice to know that even though this life is so transient, there is always a friend close by.
Given our recent illness and not wanting to infect anyone until we were sure we were over the contagious phase, Wind Kat shared a piece of their fresh Mahi Mahi which they caught on their sail from St Vincent to Martinique with us in lieu of us joining them aboard Wind Kat for dinner that night. Roy put his culinary skills instead to good use and we both enjoyed a delicious piece of barbequed Mahi Mahi – Thank you Wind Kat!
By 9th December 2015, three weeks after falling ill, Elaine was still coughing, but only when she laughed, which was frequent in the company of Wind Kat. Life was slowly returning to normal in paradise as we were able to join Nelia and Johan for a lovely hike over to Anse de Salinas on the east coast, as well as enjoy a beach barbeque the following day. We had also managed to complete most of our provisioning for our sail from St Lucia to Panama City, including the Panama Canal transit. What remained were a few odds and ends as well as our fresh and frozen produce to be purchased in St Lucia. Paw Paw's halls were also decked with a little bit of Africa, Ireland and Arizona thrown in. Another year over and what had we done? Well, it is fair to say we lived it to the fullest. There wasn't another thing we could have jammed into this past year even if we tried. The excitement was mounting, especially since every yacht we were seeing in the St Anne's anchorage was European flagged, having just completed the Atlantic or Atlantic Plus ARC. The World ARC was next. Seven years in the planning and preparation and we were only a month off the start of our adventure.
After enjoying another hike to Anse de Salinas with Nelia and Johan and their friends visiting from South Africa as well as a delicious braai on board Wind Kat, it was, however, time to say our goodbyes, as they headed north to St Martin. Who knows whether or not our paths will cross again, but we take fond memories with us of our time spent together in Martinique, including their hospitality and sharing their last tin of guavas with us!
Following Wind Kat’s departure, Captain Roy enjoyed a lazy day in paradise, while Elaine, on the other hand, had a very productive day. Baking Banana Bread from a recipe using nut flour given to us in Grenada when Olga and Denis visited and wrapping our Christmas presents, but she had to improvise on the wrapping paper as none was to be found in the shops – very strange. Instead a festive decorated paper tablecloth was used - What can we say - A "boer maak a plan". Elaine also set up a music room in the starboard forward cabin and, after managing to make a pull-through cleaner for her saxophone which was used to clean and service it, she was back playing - Her coughing had eventually stopped!
By 13th December 2015 Paw Paw was locked and loaded. Diesel tanks were full. Ship's stores were full with provisioning to last until Panama City. All WARC requirements were satisfied and ready for the inspection. The short-handed crew were ready and we were heading to Bequia via St Lucia for Christmas. It was a little sad to leave Martinique as we knew we wouldn’t be back for a few years. We did, however, enjoy our last day with our usual breakfast of grande cafe et pain au chocolat. Then lunch at Otantik Ti Resto Nature and a walk on the beach, followed by sundowners aboard.
En route to Bequia we stopped in at Rodney Bay, St Lucia to check out the anchorage and marina in preparation for the WARC start and then enjoyed one of our best sails ever in perfectly flat seas and light winds en route to Soufriere Bay, St Lucia, where we enjoyed the towering Pitons as the backdrop in our anchorage, as well as watched a beautiful sunset with a cruise ship "drive-by". Our sail onward to Bequia was the usual mix of strong winds, no winds, confused seas, flat seas, but we enjoyed our "race" with Royal Clipper across the channel from St Vincent.
Not long after settling in, the seasonal festivities began in earnest with all our cruising friends who had made their way to Bequia for the occasion - Galene (Rowena and Richard), TiSento (Agnes and Bas), Maia (Ann and Pete), Infini (Sue and Mike), My Way (Charlie), Suzanne (Beverley and Lew), Mahalo (Delwyn and Tom) and Seraphim (Philippa and Tim). Festivities included:
· Sundowners on the beach.
· Rum punches at the Frangipani Hotel with TiSento.
· Bequia's Christmas Lights ceremony, island style and definitely on “island time” - The lights were eventually switched on after 10pm when it was advertised to be at 6/7pm, but it was worth the wait!
· Delicious freshly baked muffins from Rowena and hand delivered by Richard
· Another first on Paw Paw – a freshly baked Ginger Bread complements of Roy - T'is the season to be jolly and eat!
· Sundowners aboard Suzanne (Beverley and Lew).
· A walk to the Hawkbill Turtle Sanctuary with TiSento.
· Pre-Christmas drinks aboard TiSento, followed by the Christmas Eve BBQ at the Frangipani Hotel.
· A potluck Christmas dinner at the Fig Tree Restaurant, where Paw Paw’s contributions included a Fruit Trifle, a Sponge Trifle, Cranberry and Port Sauce and Bacon Wraps – A great big “THANK YOU” goes out to Cheryl for the use of her facilities for our festivities on Christmas Day and we were delighted she was able to join us.
· A delicious dinner aboard TiSento in celebration of the Dutch, 2nd Christmas.
· A fun afternoon of dancing at De Reef fuelled by one too many rum punches!
Of course, life is not all roses and, while we enjoyed all the festivities by day, we were on anchor watch by night as we contended with some poor holding in the anchorage. This resulted in a number of boats dragging in the high winds and, in some cases, either finding themselves on the reef or colliding with another vessel located behind them. On one occasion we had to call the coast guard for assistance as we were unable to wake up the occupants of a vessel that was dragging towards us. Elaine also spent many an afternoon helping numerous credit card sailors anchor while Roy actually boarded a huge Oyster yacht, at the request of the owners, to help them anchor.
All in all though, it was a memorable Christmas in Bequia but, while we got to spend Christmas with great friends whom we have met since becoming cruisers in a beautiful location, it was still difficult to be away from family, especially since this was the first Christmas that we did not see Keenan and we missed our beautiful grandson's first Christmas. Be that as it may, it is the lifestyle we have chosen and one we appreciate every day!
And, alas, the time had come for us to say goodbye to Bequia and some more of our cruising friends, who have given us such wonderful memories of our time here in the Caribbean, as we headed to St Lucia and the WARC start line - So surreal - 35 years in the waiting for Roy and 8 years for me! Particularly, Rowena and Richard on Galene, who are unable to see us off in St Lucia due to unforeseen circumstances, but who gave us a lovely surprise before leaving Bequia – Rowena made a beautiful gift for us – The sea sand is from St Lucia, the sea shells are from Antigua and the sea glass is from St Pierre, Martinique. The second gift is accompanied by strict orders not to be opened until we have crossed the Pacific – Thank you for the friendship we have enjoyed since first meeting in Bonaire – Let’s hope our path cross again at some point in the future. Fortunately, we did not have to say goodbye to Agnes and Bas on TiSento as yet – Looking forward to seeing them in St Lucia before our departure.
And now, as our countdown to the World ARC starts – 10 days to go - and 2015 draws to a close on this New Year’s Eve, with Roy cooking up a storm in the galley for our celebrations aboard Paw Paw, we would like to wish you all a healthy and happy 2016, as well as fair winds and following seas to all our cruising friends and World ARC participants.