In celebration of our one year anniversary as “live-aboards” a.k.a. “cruisers” a.k.a. “sea gypsies”, we thought we’d try and give you a little preamble and a “behind the scenes” look into our life on a “hobby horse” before launching into our adventures of Dominica, the last of the leeward islands. But first we thought we’d clear up a common misconception – Most folks seem to think Roy is the author of these articles, but alas, it is in fact Elaine, so apologies from Elaine upfront for any grammatical errors, ramblings, misinterpretations, misrepresentations, etc. Roy does, however, critique every article before it is published. J
What many folks also don’t know is that this lifestyle and, particularly our planned circumnavigation, is a life-long dream of Roy’s; one he mentioned to Elaine more than 30 years ago when we first meet and one she promptly responded by telling him he was indeed nuts! As time passed though, we did purchase our first yacht, Gallinule, in South Africa. Elaine, however, too nervous to actually sail it, spent all her time cleaning it, while Roy spent his time racing it. At the time, Keenan was a youngster and Elaine insisted that the poor child spend 24 hours a day in his lifejacket for fear of him falling overboard or the yacht capsizing. After leaving South Africa, there were numerous attempts to purchase another yacht, but to no avail. We did have a moment of madness when we first moved to Arizona where we bought a speed boat in 2001 – Fortunately the insanity was temporary and it was sold within the year. It wasn’t until 2008 on a road trip around Ireland, having taken a ferry over to one of the uninhabited islands off the Dingle Peninsula, on the west coast of Ireland, that the plan to circumnavigate hatched. We’d hiked up one of the mountains and while enjoying a beautiful view of a deep blue Atlantic Ocean, Elaine asked Roy if he still wanted to sail around the world. Based on his reply, the detailed planning started in earnest and who better than Elaine to plan this dream! Of course, Roy’s biggest fear then was that he would be “managed” to death by Elaine. As surety against this happening, he made her sign an agreement and promise that she would not. Well, needless to say, she fails dismally every day, but she continues to try her best not to!
At this writing, we are sailing to Montserrat; the only island in the Caribbean with an Irish heritage when settlers first arrived in 1630 and a second wave in 1649 which, like Ireland, is known as the “Emerald Isle”; an island that has eluded us on two previous occasions and nearly a third time this morning. Just at the point where we were making our decision to return to Antigua for the third time and head to Carlisle Bay on the south coast in order to set sail early tomorrow morning for Guadeloupe for the second time, the winds changed much to Elaine’s delight, as this is the island on top of her list of islands to see before we start the World ARC in just over 9 months. Of course, the conditions are not what were previously forecasted, especially the sea state, so all we can do now is enjoy the somewhat downwind sail in turquoise waters with blue skies above while the “Emerald Isle of the Caribbean” awaits - For that Elaine is grateful and we only hope that our anchorage in Little Bay is not too rolly.
But, at the risk of digressing, it's been a few months since we decided to set sail from North Sound, BVI and so much has happened since then. With the "ship in shape", the last leg of our eastward passage commenced on the afternoon of January 8th, 2015. We were looking forward to sailing south along the island chain and pastures new after a short stopover in St Martin to pick up our new anchor chain and the last of the safety equipment needed for the World ARC and where Elaine hoped to get the dinghy chaps finished, not to mention enjoying morning coffee and pain au chocolat!
Well, we arrived in St Martin as planned - back to where we started in April 2014 - but after a long, exhausting trip, with neither of us getting any sleep due to the unpredicted weather conditions in the Anegada Passage. It wasn't the best way for Roy to start his birthday, but we certainly didn't complain about the "welcome home" we received, when loads of brightly coloured butterflies flew all around Paw Paw and then landed on her just after we anchored. After a shower, some lunch and a nap we headed to the Sint Maarten Yacht Club for a few drinks to celebrate Roy's birthday. The evening took an unexpected turn when we bumped into Ondular (Isabella and Mick) whom we'd met briefly in the BVI while clearing out. Needless to say, a good time was had by all and the next morning we enjoyed a much needed long walk along the beach, followed by a hearty breakfast. Shortly thereafter, we experienced another first on Paw Paw – we were boarded by the Dutch Coast Guard who were very polite and efficient - No problems detected thank goodness!
After postponing Roy's birthday dinner outing until we felt human again, we ended up at the Beirut Restaurant the following evening, where we enjoyed one of the most delicious and unusual meals we've had in a long time - Birthday celebrations were definitely worth the wait.
However, the bad weather we had been experiencing since leaving Puerto Rico and the Spanish Virgin Islands in November 2014 continued unabated in St Martin and certainly had us wondering why this was called the " high season" in the Caribbean - The weather was terrible, to say the least - High winds, rough seas, rainy, extremely uncomfortable, rolly anchorages no matter which part of the Northern Caribbean we sailed to and it got worse before it got better. Regardless, we still managed to have very productive days - We reconnected with some of the " Dutch Navy" and others we had first met in Curacao / Bonaire, enjoyed our cappuccino and pain au chocolat breakfasts as often as we could and Elaine cracked out her saxophone for the first time with a promise to play "Happy Birthday " on it to Roy next year as we set sail from Rodney Bay, St Lucia, on the first leg of the World ARC. It wasn't much fun though rolling around in strong winds and high seas in Simpson Bay and at one point we thought we'd high tail it to Ill Fourche for better protection. Eventually the weather broke and allowed us to safely move Paw Paw into the lagoon instead - calm at last! Unfortunately the slip we had reserved in order to get the last of the offshore outfitting done and one we had waited on for a whole week, while enduring the awful weather in the bay, was, alas, not made available to us. I guess the right hand didn't know what the left hand was doing and the dock we reserved wasn't available after all as work had been scheduled to fix something on it, which, of course, we only found out about on our final approach to the slip - You can imagine Elaine’s flowery language at that point. As a result, we ended up having to anchor in Simpson Bay Lagoon, where, with some creativity, we managed to get our new chain installed while at anchor! We also got our new SSB Whip antenna installed. You have no idea how happy we were that evening, since we have chased these two pieces of equipment around the entire Caribbean and waited in Curacao for 3 months for them, but to no avail. Turned out to be a great day so we went out to dinner to celebrate our success and had the best night sleep in weeks.