Snapshot – week 26 onboard

October 27, 2021

Reading time: 24 minutes

Wow, time is passing at a crazy rate at the moment.

I’m seriously hoping it slows down a little when I finish working at the end of October. As it gets closer to winter and we get the Caribbean equivalent of the nights drawing in, there doesn’t seem to be much day. I finish work at 1pm, on a good day, and by 4:30pm it’s already starting to feel distinctly like early evening. Coupled with now being in France, where many businesses close between 1-3pm, and having a 9pm curfew, there’s not a lot of time for living.

But we’ve been doing our best…

Since the last snapshot…

Our last snapshot saw us leaving Grenada and heading back to Bequia. I gave a little update about the week and a half we’d spent in Bequia up to publishing as well. From there it was more of the same – socialising, kayaking, enjoying being back somewhere we knew and loved.

We had a little mini-break in Canouan (mostly to do a full battery charge on shore power) and Tobago Cays/Mayreau. We had the amazing experience of having Tobago Cays entirely to ourselves for a night, though it was a windy one so we moved around to Salt Whistle Bay on Mayreau at dawn. We had our fastest and most exhilarating sail to date, back up to Bequia.

The last hurrah in Bequia

Back in Bequia, we enjoyed yet another beach party at Lions, had “the gang” (Bear and Ray, and Marie and Steve with their kids Violet and Joe) round for a pot luck dinner. We had SO MUCH food we were all on leftovers for days. We had a farewell night out at Papa’s and the Bequia Underground before Marie and Steve started moving north. I discovered how to make the BEST boozy banana bread.

Cats (the feline kind, not the boats) came back to our lives – at Mac’s, aboard Turtle, and as we’ve travelled.

Sailing north

Turtle under the rainbow, just before leaving Bequia

We left Bequia on 13 October, and Bear and Ray left the day after us. Marie and Steve on Turtle had left on the 9th. Part of the joy of being there was the group we’d formed.

On our sail up to Blue Lagoon in St Vincent, we had a bit of a shock when something fell from the direction of the foresail onto the bimini. We found a pin, which thankfully was clearly not rigging related. Just in case, we used our two spare halyards (lines that run up the mast to the top, then back down) to stabilise the mast. The experience was horribly familiar – on our first bareboat charter in 2018 a rigging bracket snapped on exactly the same passage! Thankfully this time no damage was done (Colin inspected on arrival), and we amusingly moored up safely next door to the very same boat we had been on for that disaster charter!

We had one night at Blue Lagoon, enjoying dinner at Driftwood where we ate the last time we were there, and clearing out of customs/immigration. The next stop was Chateaubelair, on the northwest coast, for barely more than 12 hours.


On Friday 15 October we set off under a blanket of stars at 4am, for our first night sail, and the first totally new passage we’d done. It was perfect, every minute. We had fresh, comfortable winds without too much swell so it was very comfortable. We watched the sun rise in the Atlantic, and dolphins joined us for a while. After a full rainbow over the Caribbean Sea, we sailed under the shadow of the Pitons as we made our way up the coast of Saint Lucia.

Before noon, we were anchored in Rodney Bay. After a nap, we went ashore to clear in and find a delicious lunch of sushi, washed down with Piton lager, before a visit to Island Waterworld.

The next day was spent exploring the area on foot, including visiting some very good Massy supermarkets and watching a glorious sunset. And that’s where you’ll find us at the start of this Snapshot.

Sunday 17 October

We wake up to a beautiful morning view of Reduit (pronounced “Red-ooey”) Beach, and some blissful calm. It’s a lively beach, with lots of jet skis and speedboats pulling inflatables. It even has an inflatable assault course in the water. It can get pretty loud!

Today, things are different. Saint Lucia has a Sunday curfew, so the beaches are officially closed. We still see some people swimming or fishing, but there are no organised activities and no noise from the Mystique Royalton hotel on the beach.

A lazy day

We take full advantage of the quiet, with a lie-in, lots of reading, and a little sunburn. Having been able to buy the best produce we’ve had in months, I make a chicken salad for lunch, using leftover grilled chicken from last night’s dinner. Colin, always industrious, fits two 12v fans – one in the saloon, and one in our cabin (we had previously been plugging one into a 12v socket).

A less lazy evening

In the late afternoon we have a video chat with Colin’s brother and his wife Rose. They’re due to visit us in mid-November, so we’re keeping in touch regularly about plans. After the call, I drag myself through a fitness test – I’ve enlisted the services of a personal trainer friend to help build my strength and stamina, and this is the first step. After 60 seconds of each of squats, pushups, lunges and star jumps, I’m a sweaty mess despite the setting sun. I had to do as many as possible, so it was harder than it sounds! A beer at sunset felt earned.

Even after a shower I just couldn’t cool off, so I end up cooking the veg for our beef & broccoli stir fry in my pants. Risky, I know. Apparently, I’ve found out what it’ll take to become one of those nudie sailors… After dinner and another shower, We watch a Final Space and a couple of episodes of Brooklyn Nine Nine before a Sunday night bedtime.

Monday 18 October

As is my way, I start the day with work, taking a break to move Mirounga into Rodney Bay Marina mid-morning. We’re originally given a side-on berth on the end of a pontoon but it won’t work for our needs. I’m very proud of Colin as he carefully moves into a stern-to position between finger pontoons, which will give us the correct access for the work we’re here to do.

Let there be light! (-powered electricals)

Ah yes, the work. The reason we’re in Saint Lucia, and in the marina, is so that we can upgrade our solar panels. The ones we have are just not doing enough for us, and we’d like to not worry about power use. We’re collecting two here, and will get a third in St Martin in November. Colin dutifully heads to Island Waterworld to collect the new panels and pick up a wind scoop and new loo seat while he’s there.

A local man, Albe, who helped us to tie on, asks us about our plans for the old panels. We quickly agree that if Albe helps us to remove the old ones and fit the new ones, he can take the old ones for free. Albe is able to borrow a ladder, which we would have really struggled without. He and Colin set to work together while I finish my working day, and I end up being spared the trauma of running a new cable from the solar arch at the back, through the engine bay, our cabin and various dark spaces, to the battery bank. They get most of the work done by mid-afternoon. Mid-morning, a man from Regis Marine Electronics comes to take a look at our wind vane which has stopped working.

I help where I can, which is mostly acting as a relay when they can’t hear each other. My personal triumph of the day is fitting the new loo seat, as the brackets on the old one had started to crumble. I also make wraps for lunch, a quick and easy meal.

Errands and egrets

I head out at around 3pm to visit Excellent Stores & Johnson Hardware. I’m on a mission to buy Christmas lights and a new Moka pot. I arrive back to the men drinking beers on deck, clearly pleased with their day’s work. Colin is horribly red from the day in the sun.

I read for an hour sitting on the nets, distracted by a beautiful brown egret that perches on the opposite bow to preen and call. The entire boat is a mess, so we have a big clean up, and I shower on shore just to check out the facilities. I love that with air-con I’m almost a bit chilly afterwards. As we’re on shore power, we air fry samosas for dinner, before watching The Rookie and our bedtime episode of Bob’s Burgers.

Tuesday 19 October

Gregory’s boat

As I work, Colin finishes the solar installation. He’s installed a new smart shunt, which allows him to use an app to monitor battery use and charge. We suddenly have plenty of power and no longer need to use the wind turbines (which can be noisy) as much. Gregory, who drives a dinghy covered by something that is half tent and half garden, comes by the sell us some fruit. We’ve said no a couple of times because he’s caught us at the wrong moment, but this time I buy little bananas (called figs locally), limes, and grapefruit.

I make wraps again for lunch and haul a bag of laundry across the marina to Suds Laundrette. It’s apparently closed for the day, but Gregory is nearby and offers to get it done and delivered back to us tomorrow morning. In my haste, I tell him we’ll be on C dock forgetting that we’ll have left the marina by then!

A last visit to the shops

We get the dinghy, which has been resting on the dock to give us access to the solar arch, back in the water. Then we have one last trip to Island Waterworld and Johnson’s Hardware to buy screws, a flat pan (Colin’s pizza experiments are ongoing), and oil for the watermaker. On the way back we stop to buy gelato at Elena’s, which makes us smile as it shares a name with a lovely niece of ours. We’re straight out again, this time in the dinghy, to Bayshore Mall for one last look. We’re trying to find a lampshade and can koozies. We fail on both, but do find some nice small bowls. At the Massy Gourmet, we stock up on Coke Zero and La Croix water.

Back at the marina, we have a hunt for Gregory to let him know where’s we’ll be tomorrow but he’s gone home for the day. I ask our dock security guard to pass on a message if she sees him.

Back on anchor

All dressed up and no place to go

We cast off at around 3:20pm, and are anchored 20 mins later in our original spot opposite Reduit Beach. By 4pm I’m reading my book on the nets. We shower at around 6pm, having planned to go ashore for pizza from Elena’s. It starts to rain in earnest, but we put on waterproofs and head ashore anyway, not wanting to miss out. We arrive, drenched, only to find everything closing. We had no idea about the fact that restaurants were closing at 6:30 for a 7pm curfew. The general amount of news around protocols has been pretty low compared to Grenada and St Vincent, and I would have expected immigration or the marina reception to have told us this.

We motor back to boat, don dry clothes, and enjoy a bowl of our favourite Truffle Mac & Cheese. Our date night turns into us watching Fear the Walking Dead and What we do in the Shadows as it drizzles on outside.

Wednesday 20 October

While I’m working, Colin tidies up and drives around to the marina to collect a second-hand wind vane and clear out. The conclusion on the wind vane was that it was kaput, and a new one is eye-wateringly expensive so we’ve taken up the offer of a second hand one from Regis. Colin is delayed as the immigration clerk is nowhere to be seen, but it gives him time to hunt down Gregory. He gets back at around 10, and Gregory simultaneously arrives with our clean laundry. Because he’s had to come out into the bay, I buy avocado and tomatoes from him to make his trip more worthwhile. I then quickly hoist Colin up to the top of the mast to fit the wind vane, which instantly tells us it’s blowing 16-17kt gusts – not the nicest time to be up a 60.5ft mast!

On the move

I finish work early (thanks to some overtime) and we set off at 11am. We let our friends know, as we’ve taken to telling each other when we’re taking offshore passages for safety’s sake. It’s an easy sail, very comfy, with good wind, and we make good time. Our anchor is set in Sainte Anne, Martinique, soon after 3pm. We’ve chosen a daring spot surrounded by reefs outside Club Med on Steve’s recommendation.

We can see Steve’s boat Turtle nearby, and as we anchor a disembodies voice calls my name. It sounds like Bear, but I can’t see her anywhere so I go back to checking my transits (the points of reference on a shore that help us check we’re secure). Bear and Ray sailed straight here, skipping Saint Lucia, so have been around for almost a week. I’m inside changing the SIM on my phone when I hear Bear call again. She’s snorkelling and I of course didn’t look at the water for her! We have a quick chat, and since she’s in already she checks our anchor for us before starting her long swim “home”.

En France

We dinghy into Le Marin to get cash and go to Carrefour. It’s a 2-mile ride into a wide bay on a choppy channel, and is so bumpy we both end up sitting on the dinghy floor. The supermarket is a short walk, and it is delightfully familiar. After drawing some Euros, as we’re now in France, we dive in. It has a good, well-priced selection. Of course, as one would predict on entering France for the first time in a couple of years, we got mostly cheese, baked goods, and wine. We also found a good local IPA.

As we went back to the dinghy, we stopped to chat with a woman having an evening beer and smoke on the dock. Daphne works for a local rigger and was clearly happy to practice her English. I’m relieved as I’ve only just restarted Duolingo!

As we got back to Mirounga, close to sunset, we get a message from Marie and Steve on the Club Med pier. We’re too tired to join them for a beer, but we can wave from afar. We gorge on cheese & bread for dinner, finding the air lovely and cool. We finish the day by watching an episode of The Rookie before bed.

Thursday 21 October

Lucky Colin gets a quiet morning while I work as he has no chores.

Beautiful Sainte Anne

After work, we head to Sainte Anne, to Cafe Bou Bou. The plan is to clear in, and then day drink with our friends. Ray meets us on the dock, which is so high there are ladders! Bear is skipping the festivities after hurting her back. Marie and Steve are running late because their anchor has dragged and they need to reset. Marie got a nasty surprise when she looked up from homeschooling Vi and Jo and the view was totally different!

Ray leads us to the cafe, and we clear in on a PC in a side room. This is typical in the French islands. In the Caribbean islands, you’ll normally have to come face to face with a stern procession of customs and immigration officers, not to mention health officials checking for Covid. Here, you fill out a form on a computer in a cafe, and the proprietor checks and stamps it for a €3 fee.

Day drinking in France

Officially cleared in, we sit down and enjoy a Lorraine beer while we catch up with Ray. We’re excited when a friendly tomcat comes to say hello, until he rolls over and shows us that he is also, er, excited… Just as I’m taking a photo. I get the impression that things are getting tense onboard Turtle, and we’re missing Bear, so I send the photo to our group chat to cheer them up.

It’s clear that Marie and Steve won’t be joining us soon, so we order lunch. Ray and I choose Bokits. These are an incredible French-Caribbean speciality, originating in Guadeloupe. It’s a sandwich made in a bread formed in a pocket, like a pitta, then fried. It’s amazing, and Colin is jealous, having chosen merguez frites.

Evening drinking

Back together

We move on and find a table at the waterside at Pizza ‘Pei, where Steve and Marie arrive as the sun is setting. The kids have had an explosive argument. On top of the anchor dragging, they’re ready for a big hug and a beer or four. We catch up, on our 12 days apart with a few drinks. We reject the local Ti Punch, which, made with white Rhum Agricole, is violent. At one point we dissolve into laugher when we catch a man sneaking behind the bar, but remaining in full sight of us, to pee. We christen this day the Day of the Dicks.

Ray gets a takeaway pizza to take back to Bear, but we’re too late to get one thanks to a large group. We’re still mostly full from lunch, but Colin can’t help but dig into the baguette and Creme de Brie Steve gets from Húit a 8. Violet and her friend Bianca join us briefly after going shopping, then take Marie and Steve‘s dinghy home. There’s a 9pm curfew, with most businesses closing by 8pm, so have to leave the bar. The staff make it clear though that it’s fine to take our drinks and have them outdoors.

We sit in the waterfront square finishing our beer, with Colin playing fetch with a beautiful but eerie looking sheepdog. As we’re preparing to leave, a Frenchman starts rapping to the group he with, complete with a backing track. He’s so good we join the small crowd that forms, before giving Marie and Steve a lift back to Turtle.

Once again we munch on bread and cheese and watch some old favourite YouTube videos before bed. It’s been a very memorable, very French day back with our friends.

Friday 22 October

Work is a little more social than usual, with a tea break chat mid-morning which I enjoy.

Monster baguettes

Meanwhile, Colin gets acquainted with the Sainte Anne boulangerie. We make enormous subs for lunch, and quickly revise our notion of how far a baguette will stretch. We have a very relaxed afternoon after a busy few days. I catch up with UK Drag Race, do my Duolingo lesson, and read. Colin works on fixing the steering wheel, which has rusted and crumbled beneath the rubber in one section, with epoxy.

Drinks in the dark

We have a quick shower as the sun is setting then head over to the pier to have drinks with Marie, Steve, Brian and Marta. Amusingly we’re not allowed to tie on to the Club Med pier, so Steve anchors just beside it. We then all daisy chain our dinghies to his. We get told off by the security guard for our “picnic”, which is, in reality, the last two bites of the wraps I’d quickly made for dinner. He doesn’t seem to have an issue with alcohol though.

We spend a quiet few hours drinking, talking and smoking in the dark, enjoying the laid back atmosphere. We only slightly break the curfew, heading back to Mirounga soon after 9:30pm. We watch one episode of What we do in the Shadows before bed.

Saturday 23 October

We get a bit of a lie-in, but probably not as much as we need. We’re excited about exploring the shops. Le Marin is probably the most built-up area we’ve been since we left the UK.

I’m really keen to get to La Galleria in Lamintin and the nearby Decathlon store. We really want to buy a stand-up paddleboard as a lighter alternative to the kayak. We love the kayak but don’t always want to hoist 70lbs in and out of the water! An SUP will be light enough for me to lift in and out on my own. After an hour spent researching buses, I give up. I know Violet went recently, so I check the route with Steve for another day.

Le Marin

Colin replacing the outboard

We decide instead to visit the marina area and get fuel, then see if we feel like doing more. The dinghy drive is awful and long. The water is even choppier than on Wednesday. To add insult to injury, we run out of fuel. Luckily we’re not too far from the fuel dock, only 100 yards or so. Colin rows while I navigate. “To port. Still to port. A touch to starboard…”

We fill both our dinghy tank and our spare just in case. Then we take a walk. We have a quick look in a couple of chandleries, but it being Saturday everything closes at around noon. We do at least manage to get a couple of can koozies. We get our first visit to Auchan for a few groceries, then take the bone-shaking ride home. It’s so rough I actually get a headache from my brain bouncing in my skull!

New old friends

I have a message from Diana and Sorin, who own Tet Rouge in Saint Lucia. Tet Rouge is our favourite hotel in the world, and we’ve been on friendly terms on Instagram for years. Diana spotted Mirounga in passing, so wanted to say hi. We invite them over for a beer and tidy up in the meantime. It’s really great to meet them, and we chat happily for an hour or so. They’re just up for a short break, so I’m glad we coincided. Hopefully, we can see them again in March on our way south.

After they leave, I read for an hour and a half. Never one to rest, Colin puts epoxy putty on the wheel to cover his repair work. The plan is for me, when I have time, to cover it with knotted cord. This is called coach-whipping or hitching. I have the cord, just need to decide on the design.

The WHOLE gang at last!

We shower, then head out just before 5pm. We’re back at Pizza ‘Pei with Bear, Ray, Marie & Steve, this time sat on the roadside where we can people watch. Hopefully, the people watching will involve less genitalia this time… We’d planned to have pizza but once again we’re too late arrived too late, and by the time we leave at 7:20pm everywhere is closing. We opt to go home for yet more bread and cheese and an episode of Lucifer.

Settling in to France

We’ve now been in Martinique for a week. We’re still living on bread and cheese. Our anchorage in Sainte Anne is perfect. We avoid a lot of the wind and rough water in other anchorages, but we also catch a breeze. The water is clear and inviting – I even jumped off the bow for the first time.

After four nights out in a row (we hit the pub on Sunday too), we’ve been taking it easy. Instead, I (and Colin one day) enjoyed a couple of afternoon walks with Bear out to Anse Caritan and back. Bear and Ray have now set off to explore the rest of Martinique.

My relaxed mood of a few weeks has gone, largely because of work. Luckily, I only have two days left.

There’s a lot to look forward to – some Halloween celebrations, hiring a car to explore the island next week, and more time with friends. We’re planning to move on late next week to dot up the coast before we make the crossing to Guadeloupe in a couple of weeks’ time.

I think, with how varied life is becoming, and no work taking up my time, I’ll write these snapshots more often. It seems like a missed opportunity if I don’t.

Au revoir!