Mustique

Another new island for us. Of course Mustique is known as the playground of the Rich and famous, think Mick Jagger or Princess Margaret, all started by Colin Tennant (Lord Glenconner). There are 90 or so exclusive luxury villas on the island, some of which can be rented, but they do allow passing yachts to visit. There are secure buoys in Britannia Bay, which seem expensive but your 210 EC $ does cover you for 3 days. Everywhere is very clean and well tended, the water is beautifully clear, great snorkelling straight from the boat, lots of turtles. There are several good walking trails on the map we got from the library. As well as visiting Basils Bar, we climbed up to the local village to an establish,met called The View to have lunch. And what a superb view looking out over the bay and the anchorage. Service was not speedy so plenty of time to enjoy it and a beer cost the same in in EC$ as it would in US $ at Basils. Having parted from our rally mates from World ARC we started flying our Ocean Cruising Club burgee, and have been impressed by how many fellow members have met, including Davina and Antony on Divanty in Mustique.

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Leeward to Windward Islands

After the very interesting visit Montserrat we need to make progress south so we quickly sailed on past Guadeloupe and Dominica, stopping for shopping at Fort de France Martinique and for a couple of days cleaning the boat alongside at the Marina at Rodney Bay. If you start at 6 am its amazing what progress you can make in a day.

Photo shows the last look at the Pitons for the year.

Montserrat

It was a hard and lumpy beat cum motorsail from Nevis to Montserrat, it took all day to do the 30 miles or so. We anchored off the town at the Port of Entry, Little Bay along with catamaran Glorious Daze (USA) who had stopped due to gear failure. Montserrat is a British Overseas Territory; the island was first discovered by Columbus in1493. The first European settlers were Irish, including political prisoners after the defeat by Cromwell and the Irish influence is reflected in place names and surnames of current inhabitants. It is referred to as the Emerald Isle, partly due to the vegetation. It is now most famous for the Soufriere Hills volcano which after being quiescent for 400 years erupted in spectacular fashion on 1995, and continued to do do on and off until 2011. We had arranged by email to do a “Volcano Tour” with guide/driver Joe Phillips, who came highly recommended in the Doyle and also by friends Wendy and Dave of Mischief. Joe brings the whole thing alive and imparts a wealth of information with his enthusiasm and his collection of photos from before the eruption. We persuaded the two crew of Glorious Daze to join us on the tour, thereby making new good friends in Anne and Norman. We visited the Volcano observatory and the exclusivo zone at the south end of the island including the old capital, Plymouth. The people were moved out of the south part in 1996. They were told this was just a precaution, just for the weekend. They were never allowed to go back. Damage was caused in some places by Pyroclastic flow which incinerates everything in its path, in others by mud and sand swept down by the volcano and volcanic dust literally burying the land. 3 storey buildings now only have one showing, the golf course is buried 6 m deep, the coast at Old Road Bay has moved 200m to seaward, the airport was destroyed. Other damage has been caused just by the jungle taking over again after the houses were abandoned. There is only a third of the original population now living at the north end of the island (many left for U.K. or other Caribbean islands) there is a new airport and a new main port (Little Bay) where we are anchored. A new industry has arisen from the destruction – they are selling sand and gravel collected from where it come down the mountain, huge machines and trucks go about at the empty end of the island and fill ships at the outer end of the old pier. Some people are going back to,restore their homes. As we sailed away down the Leeward side of the island viewing the sights from the water the wind off the land brought a strong smell of sulphur.

Nevis

We had a good motor sail to the island of Nevis – but it’s pronounced Neevis, not like our Hill. At 980m Nevis Peak is about Munro height. I was trying to get a photo of the Ben Nevis map (on towel) with the peak in the background. This island is administrated with next door St Kitts, and got independence from Britain in 1983. It was the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton (1757) so we went to see his house and museum, also Horatio Nelson Museum (he spent time here defending against American privateers) and an amazing hot spring by the old Bath Hotel. The main town of Charleston has attractive old Caribbean buildings and quite a good shop – the supply ship had just arrived. Next we made a trip inland to the Botanic Gardens. There are also many old sugar plantations.

South through the Leeward Islands

We checked out of St Maarten and left on the first bridge opening next morning, waving to Adrienne who were in the outside anchorage and on deck to see us off. Wind of course has gone SE now we are heading south. We motored the short distance to Isle Fourchou, an uninhabited island north of St Barts. We’ve been here before, there were less buoys than there used to be so anchored, but still a beautiful place. There are still lots of Turtles and Rays on the bottom. Also some v large hermit crabs (I think), one seemed to live beside our anchor. Great snorkelling. Ashore it is very arid with lots of large cactus, which have very sharp thorns – stepping on even a small one is a bad idea as it goes right through he thick sole of you sandals or crocs. Next we visited two islands we’d not been to before – Nevis and Montserrat.

Sint Maarten

We ended up spending a whole week anchored in the lagoon on the Dutch side of the of the island. This was partly because we arrived on 2 days public holiday, you pay harbour dues for a week anyway. The place was pretty empty, it would normally be home to rows of superyachts but has not recovered from the hurricanes of 2 years ago. Many docks are still in a state of disrepair and there are many sunken boats visible, or others you can see have been on the bottom by the coating of mud. Every time we dropped the anchor we brought up some debris – a huge canvas cover, various ropes. The fancy yacht in the picture was built for Steve Jobs, but he did not live to see it finished.

We were very pleased to meet-up with some of our World ARC rally mates here – Jill and Dave in AirPower and Tanja and Thomas on Adrienne. We also spent time and money in the huge chandleries. We finally got our new mainsail fitted (in a rare calm moment) – the one we should have had in Cape Town in January. Rob and Karl at Ullman Sails St Maarten were very helpful. And the sail seems to be OK.

Moving north up the Caribbean chain

Still can’t believe the World ARC Rally is over, the saving grace is that there is always something else to look forward to. Gradually our rally mates departed from Rodney Bay, a couple heading back south to lay up in Grenada, most north, some heading back home to the US, some home back across to Europe or U.K. Many sad goodbyes but hopefully many of us will meet again. We had to wait a couple of days for our mainsail to be repaired – the clew ring blew out during the parade of sail – so we were among the last to leave. First stop, Le Marin, Martinique, lots of shopping for the boat and of course French bread, wine and cheese etc. And several rally boats there too. We celebrated Howard from Misto’s birthday with Howard and Ros, also crews of Adrienne and PretAixte. It was also Easter and each boat got a wonderful Easter gift from Adrienne, decorated egg, choc eggs and bunny, madelines, all in a lovely nautical box with guardian chicks. Next stop was Grand Anse d’ Arlet where we spent Christmas 2015 (memorable party arranged for ARC+friends by Liam and Liz of Odyssey, and also Christmas 2016 with Steve’s sister Margaret. There are still turtles swimming all around the boats, and Misto and Adrienne also there.

We moved on to Dominica, Mero and then Portsmouth, then Guadeloupe, Deshaies (where they filmed Death In Paradise). So we are alternating currencies – Euros and ECD, also language French English, and flags. It’s strange doing short hops, we keep trying to buy too much food expecting to be at sea for a few weeks or so. So far we have had the usual Caribbean blast between the island with some calms in the lee but mainly sailing despite a forecast of little wind.

Next we will make the 130 mile passage to Dutch St Maarten to collect our new mainsail.