Snapshot – Week 31 onboard

November 28, 2021

Reading time: 31 minutes

It’s not been long since our last snapshot, but so much is happening right now that we’re already due another!

As we picked up on in the last blog, Colin’s brother Alastair and his wife Rose joined us on Tuesday 16 November. This is their first trip to the Caribbean, and they’re our first guests. After some time in Le Gosier with Laurie, we headed to Iles les Saintes. We had a fun two days there, hiring e-bikes for a day. We somehow managed to eat out four times that day. Two breakfasts, a bokit for lunch, and a gourmet dinner at Au Bon Vivre with Bear and Ray. Memorably, we spot a rat skitter along a ridge in the open terrace at the restaurant – it doesn’t bother us, but we joke about being catered to by the rat from Ratatouille!

On Saturday we said goodbye to Les Saintes and had a very peaceful, albeit soggy, motor up the west coast of Basse Terre.

Sunday 21 November

We wake up anchored off Plage de Malendure, at around 8am. I enjoy my customary half-hour poking my phone in bed, pleased to have a signal after two days without. We all start the day slowly, and I see news of riots and roadblocks in Guadeloupe. They aren’t affecting us, but things sound very tense around the Le Gosier/Marina area where we were just a few days ago. A 6pm to 5am curfew has been implemented, and extra police sent in from metropolitan France.

Bear and Ray have arrived in the north ahead of us, and let us know that the Jardin Botanique in Desahies is sadly closed. The roadblocks mean the staff couldn’t get to work. We’ll have to think of a new activity for Colin’s birthday on Tuesday. We had originally intended to hire a car for a couple of days and none had been available. Given that it turns out we wouldn’t have been able to go anywhere, it’s worked out for the better.

We all go into town for a short walk and to pick up breakfast, forgetting that it’s Sunday so the boulangerie is closed. We walk to Carrefour and don’t fare much better, but at least get some extra nibbles. It’s 11am by the time we get back to Mirounga, and I’m starving. We munch cereal bars and then prepare for a snorkelling trip.

Under the sea

Pigeon Island is part of the Jaques Cousteau Marine Park. We dinghy the half-mile over and tie Dog the Dinghy to a mooring ball. This is Alastair and Rose’s first snorkelling trip, and it doesn’t disappoint! The water is amazingly clear, and we see lots of large fish including beautiful pairs of parrotfish. We’re glad we wore our fluorescent snorkelling floats – we’re in a ‘no propeller’ zone but that doesn’t stop kayakers nearly taking us out!

After around 45 minutes, we have a run-in with an annoying local guide. She’s telling me off for wearing gloves because they are apparently banned. Apparently wearing gloves makes it more likely that people will try to touch things. For a start, I’m wearing hand fins, not gloves, and I’m not daft enough to touch things… One of her snorkelers tells us off for standing on clear sand (perfectly fine), and that’s when we decide we’ve had the best of the experience. We haul ourselves back onto the dinghy like tired walruses and go home.

A change of scenery

Back on board we rinse off and get a couple of baguettes in the oven. We raise the anchor and set off, making and eating sandwiches underway. It’s only an hour and a half’s motor, and we arrive in Deshaies around 3pm. We pass Bear and Ray and have a chat as we move into the bay. I see a turtle just as we anchor, which is a great sign. Rose and Ali are straight into the water to get a better look – it’s a huge turtle!

After their swim we decide we’re swinging too close to the nearby boats on mooring balls, so we raise anchor and reset close into the beach. We’ve chosen the perfect spot, just outside Le Madras. This is the bar used as Catherine’s Bar in the TV show Death in Paradise, which we’re all big fans of. The whole town and area are used for filming so there will be far more familiar sights to see.

Le Madras

After a quick shower, we head ashore, checking our anchor on the way. The water is so clear and shallow we can easily see it. It’s around 4.30pm, and we know there’s a curfew for 6pm, so we go straight to Le Madras for drinks. We also make a reservation for lunch on Tuesday – our original plan to have dinner won’t work with the curfew. We’re all a bit giddy to be sitting sipping rum punch in a stunning bar, with Mirounga moored right in front and a beautiful sunset. Duly, we order another. The bar doesn’t close at 6pm sharp, so we have time to enjoy them.

We start to walk back to the dinghy when Rose decides that we’re so close to Mirounga she’d rather swim, so she strips down to her bikini and takes a quick swim in the light of the full moon. We wait to check she’s onboard before going to retrieve Dog, and Colin quickly helps a fisherman get back ashore before we take the short ride back. While he does so, his friends spot a phosphorescent glow in the water and point it out to us. It’s the first time I’ve seen something approaching bioluminescence anywhere but the toilet bowl!

Back onboard, Rose cooks pasta arrabbiata with chickpeas and black olives for dinner, and we enjoy a cheese course. It’s a two-bottle-of-wine night, and we’re in high spirits. Such high spirits that when I knock over a Ti Punch Ali and Rose take it in turns to lap up the spilt rum – I’m glad I’m keeping the worktop clean! That’s a good sign that bedtime is approaching…

Monday 22 November

For a change we have no set plans for the day, so we can get up and get moving whenever we feel like it. Colin and I pop ashore at 9am to the boulangerie. Unfortunately, it’s closed because of a death in the family. We check both supermarkets, but neither have bread. We buy some more biscuits/snack foods and plan to ration the bread we have.

It’s an admin kind of morning – after breakfast we all catch up on bits of work while we have good wifi. Colin manages to speak to the relevant people in both Montserrat and St Kitts to confirm we can ‘yellow flag’ overnight on our journey north. We also arrange for a taxi driver to take us to a couple of nearby beaches/sights and a larger supermarket tomorrow morning. Then Rose gets to learn about how we use a washing machine on board!

On shore in Deshaies

We go ashore and eat lunch at L’Amer at around 1pm. Amusingly, there’s only one vegetarian option on the menu, and that’s a salad which Rose hates. We’ve been having fun finding ways to feed her when we’re out… She orders a plate of frites and the waitress insists that she’ll want ‘beaucoup Frites!’. A bowl that is somewhat petite comes out and just as Rose tucks in the waitress whisks it away declaring that it should be much bigger.

After lunch we have a little wander around, visiting the main set of Death in Paradise. This is a church hall that has been dressed up to become a provincial police station. Then we clear out of France (for Wednesday) at Le Pelican, wander to the harbour, and head back to Mirounga.


The afternoon is spent swimming with turtles – there are around 5 or 6 not far from Mirounga. Some speed along, and others lazily graze on seagrass. I manage to float along keeping pace with one using my hand fins. Another is chilled out enough with my presence to come up for air near me.

After swimming it’s actually feeling quite chilly. While Rose finishes her laundry and Colin looks at his GoPro videos, I curl up to read in bed. I emerge for a beautiful sunset, then bake a chocolate cake from a packet for tomorrow. Rose makes an omelette for dinner, and we have a sensible night.

Tuesday 23 November

It’s Colin’s birthday! Somehow he’s 42. He is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. I can’t help but think about his 40th, which we spent in Lapland with friends. That year we rode snowmobiles, met reindeer and huskies, sat in a hot tub in the snowy wilderness, and partied in a traditional kota (fire hut). This year’s plans couldn’t be more different.

Breakfast Pandoro

We have an early-ish start as we have a taxi booked for 9am. We find out that Mirounga has swung all the way around so her stern was to shore. We’re safe but it’s a little close for comfort, with 5ft under the keel, so Colin puts out a stern anchor. We just have time to eat some pandoro for breakfast before heading ashore.

Seeking Sainte Marie

Outside the boulangerie, we meet Jude, our taxi driver. We’ve enlisted his services for three hours. He’s a little confused about what we want to do until he realises that the couple of places we want to go are from Death in Paradise. He takes us first ent to Anse La Perle to see “the shack”. As it was on our last visit in 2019, it’s surrounded by fences to protect it from vandalism. We enjoy the view and take some touristy photos. Next, we drive to the Langley Fort Royal hotel, which is where the cast/crew stay and is used in many episodes. It has a pleasant boardwalk along the water, and we enjoy seeing how the other half holiday.

E. Leclerc

Our next stop is E. Leclerc, to provision for our journey north. On our drive, Jude negotiates three half roadblocks, remnants from the protest activity. There’s a fairly long queue outside. From the signs, I deduce that it’s because the store is closing at 14:30 due to the continued civil unrest. It could equally be as they’re restricting numbers in the store with Covid in mind. After a 15 minute wait, we’re admitted. It’s busy and chaotic, but we manage to get a shop done between the four of us. Colin makes a beeline for the bread, and we’re glad to be able to stock up. Weirdly though, the cheese shelf has been very thoroughly cleaned out.

The dress, the next day

When we get back to Deshaies, the boys take shopping onboard while Rose and I scope out bin locations (Er, there are none). We also pop into a shop to buy a dress I’ve been admiring. Colin collects us for a quick trip back to Mirounga to change, and then we go back ashore.

A birthday lunch

We’re at Le Madras for lunch by 12:30. It’s slow-dining in the packed restaurant, but it’s cool and the view is beautiful so we don’t mind. Colin, Alastair and I share a marlin rillette, and we chat as we wait for pour mains. Colin and Alastair opt for a creole goat, and I have chatroû, or octopus. It’s not something I automatically choose but I remember it being excellent here, and it is. Vegetarian Rose basically gets a plate of sides – rice, cassava mash, and salad. She doesn’t do salad, so ends up with a small meal. Guadeloupe is not vegetarian friendly at all!

A chilled rest of day

Birthday paddling

We pop to the shop for loo roll then head home. I have a headache so I take painkillers and lie down and watch a couple of episodes of Sex and the City. Once I’m feeling better I lie on the nets to read as the others snorkel and paddleboard. Then I make an effort to clean up the saloon ready for travel.

We all sit down to watch the sunset with a glass of fizz, and Colin gets his presents – a fancy Vacuvin corkscrew from Ali and Rose and some dominoes (that he made noises about in the supermarket) from me. We eat cheese and bread for dinner, then I bring out Colin’s chocolate fudge cake. After a few rounds of dominoes we’re all tired and aware we have an early start, so we turn in before 9. We watch an episode of Bob’s Burgers then conk out.

Wednesday 24 November

Our alarm goes off at 6am, and we’re up and getting ready straight away. I let my dad and friends know of our sailing plans for the next few days as a safety measure. Because of the stern anchor, we’re not off quite as quickly as usual but we’re motoring away from Deshaies comfortably before 7am. I’m pleased to see one final turtle as we pill up our main anchor. The mainsail is out but we have 2kts of wind so we take it in again pretty soon.

A slow passage, with a surprise!

We don’t really get much wind all day, but we do have enough to motor sail so we have all three sails out in time. It’s a long day, but not unpleasant. At around 10:30 I decide to do some laundry and housework as it’s so calm. Of course, as soon as I do Rose spots a pilot whale spouting just off our bow. Colin and I get out in time to see it surface a few times, but we still wish we’d seen more. It’s our first whale in 7 months onboard and Rose and Alastair have been spoiled seeing one after only 8 days onboard!

Colin finally flies the drone underway – we’ve never really had the conditions or the spare bodies onboard to do so. It’s ideal as although we’re barely sailing, we do have all three sails up and everything is super-calm.

I manage to get three loads of laundry done and hung out in the end, and clean the galley, master bathroom, our cabin and saloon. I also have time for a little reading, and catching up with friends. As we approach Montserrat and come into its lee we all pay attention to the landscape.


Montserrat is very important to Colin and I – we first visited in 2012. It was a magical holiday that helped us truly separate from reality, and I’m convinced it played a role in our decision to get married. That year we were lucky enough for the then Premier to arrange a private tour of the former capital Plymouth, which was abandoned during the eruption of Soufriere on 25 June 1997. At that point, no tourist trips went into the volcano’s exclusion zone, so it was a unique experience. We went back the next year for our honeymoon, and again briefly in 2016.

Sailing alongside Montserrat

We get a great view of the abandoned southern part of the island and pass some familiar beaches. Around an hour before we reach our anchorage for the night, as I’m enjoying a slice of chocolate cake on the coachroof, Ali notices the fishing line is taught. We’ve finally caught a fish! This is a big deal – in the past, we’ve caught all of one fish on a charter. Regular readers will remember that it was our own fishing line that led to an expensive haul out a few months ago. It’s a barracuda, and once we’ve passed him a chopping board and bradawl Colin gets it onboard and quickly dispatches it. It’s 22″, which is an ideal size for dinner, and sits beside Colin in a bucket for the remainder of the journey.

Rendezvous Bay

After calling the coastguard to check we can stay there, we motor into Rendezvous Bay at around 3pm. Having only visited by kayak (it’s that or hike), the view we get from the cliffs is incredible. And there are pelicans, so many pelicans. I count at least 30 at one point. We get anchored easily, the only boat in the bay, and take it all in. Again, it’s amazing to be back. We had our first swim with a wild turtle here and a couple of memorable afternoons with the beach to ourselves.

Once we’ve respectively had a swim, a beer on the nets, and showers, we gather for a sunset G&T. I’m wearing my lovely new rainbow tie-dye dress, having tried to wash a fusty shop smell off it. The marine police pop by to check we’re okay and say hi. After drinks, I write and Rose makes pasta.

Colin grills the barracuda outside but we have to retreat inside to eat because we’re under attack by small flies. They’re everywhere, and we need the proper bug screens up on every porthole and the companionway door shut! We eventually brave a check outside and the frenzy has stopped, so we have a drink on the nets to look at the stars before bed.

Thursday 25 November

This is a date I hate. I’m not sure if it’s that, the nightmares I had overnight, or the early start, that has me in a bad mood. On November 25th 2019 I found out that my mum had terminal cancer. To add insult to injury, it was also the last day I saw our dearest friend, Heather when we didn’t know that her cancer had returned and was also terminal. Fuck cancer. And November 25.

We’re on our way by 6:45, with absolutely no wind. We don’t even consider raising the sails; there would be no point. What follows is a veeeery long, hot day of motoring, basically becalmed.

I spend some of it below, watching TV, even though the fan just moves warm air around. We all struggle to keep in the shade, and cool. It’s too hot to consider any housework or laundry. It’s not a grumpy journey, but it’s certainly not exuberant like yesterday. To add to the tedium, we’re a little concerned about how well our diesel supplies will last.

A view back to Montserrat and Redonda

Finding the fun

There are some highlights at least.

Sailing past Redonda, we get a good look at the craggy cliffs. Its vegetation is light, and the island wouldn’t look out of place in Scotland. I puzzle over what route people must have taken to the one building we can see. As much as it reminds us of the Bass Rock, off the East Lothian coast, it doesn’t have nearly as much birdlife.

At around 11am Colin kills the engine and we take advantage of the glassy seas to swim and paddleboard. We’re around halfway between Redonda and Nevis. It’s lovely to cool off and have a break from the incessant thrum of the engine. When we stop there’s 1300ft under the keel, and we drift 1.7 nautical miles in the 40 or so minutes we stop. We’ve never done this before and it’s exciting to tick the experience off the list. We of course make sure that someone is either onboard or tethered to the boat at all times. While we’re stopped, we have baguettes for lunch, then it’s back to trundling along, though my mood has lifted.

We also catch a few glimpses of backs and fins. Nothing surfaces more than once, but we’re certain from what we see that we’re in the company of whales and dolphins (you’re welcome, Terrorvision fans). Colin has the fishing line out again and at one point snags what is probably a small tuna, but it gets away.

An official welcome

We’re passing Charlestown on Nevis, the birthplace of Alexander Hamilton when we get a visitor.

It’s not unusual at all for the coastguard to carry out spot-checks on board in their waters, but it’s not happened to us yet. Today it does. They motor up to a polite distance and we both cut our engines. They call us on the VHF and Colin relays our boat registration and crew manifold to them. We’ve already received permission to yellow flag, and we reiterate this plan to them and they raise no objections. Then they wish us safe sailing and are on their way.

The final couple of hours of our journey reach peak tedium. I resort to using my yellow umbrella to create some extra shade. Finally, at 4pm we’re anchoring in Whitehouse Bay. We tidy up a little and shower, then start to graze on crisps during a beautiful, rainy sunset. We opt for an early dinner, knowing we’ll be having an early start. Rose has made stuffed peppers, and we have these with cheese tortellini and pan-fired balahoo. Colin and I at least are fast asleep by 9pm.

Friday 26 November

Today is a new day. Our alarm goes off at 5:30, when it’s still dark. I’m not sure if it’s the dark that makes us kick into action, but we have ourselves and the boat ready to go in our normal 20 minutes. It’s been taking more like 45 lately. The snubber line has wrapped around the anchor chain so I need to use a boat hook to free it, but we’re on our way at first light at 6am. There’s actually enough wind to turn a turbine and we take out the mainsail. There’s a rainbow over Basse Terre behind us and we hope it’s a good omen.

It’s only 7:20 and we haven’t even had breakfast properly yet when the fishing line tugs. It’s a small fish, 11″. At first, we think it’s a blackfin tuna but a friend online tells us it’s a couvali, a type of jackfish. Colin quickly takes it out then I get it into a ziplocked bag and in the fridge.

A long, wet day

The rest of the sail is a blur I’d mostly rather forget. I’m fighting a migraine and nap on and off, inside and outside. It’s too rolly to properly be inside; it’s just not comfortable. We’re thinking about lunch when it starts to rain, solidly. We’ve only ever experienced brief showers before so this is new. We get a brief respite to eat (much later than we’d expected to), but all in we get a good 3 hours of rain. Even with a hoodie and waterproof on I’m soaked, and cold. It’s too wet to read, so we just sit and stare out at the rain, hoping at least to see some marine life (we see none).

Arriving in St Barths

Arriving in St Barths

It’s approaching four when we arrive in Gustavia in St Barths, during a brief pause in the rain. The bay is far busier than I imagined, with an array of superyachts in the harbour. It’s somewhat amusing arriving in this playground of the rich and famous bedraggled, soggy and tired.

We struggle to anchor – anywhere that has room for us has poor holding. I’m cold, wet and fed up with doing the chicken dance on the bow. We’re all exhausted. It takes us a good 45 minutes to find a good spot. Colin and Ali race ashore to clear in while Rose and I drink tea. We have a little downtime to rest rather than head ashore as planned.

We’ve sailed almost 50 nautical miles today, and over 140 miles in the last three days combined. I have a feeling Ali and Rose might be glad that’s the bulk of their sailing time done. We enjoy a carbfest of pasta, samosas and bread and end up having an early night as we’re so tired.

Saturday 27 November

We’re all very glad to wake up without an alarm after the early starts of the past few days. That said, we all wake up fairly early because of the early night. We have a little time to do some admin and eat a bowl of cereal, and I wash my hair after putting on a conditioning treatment last night.


It’s 10:30 when we dinghy into town to explore Gustavia. We walk around, taking in the luxury brands and gradually realising we can afford nothing here. Well, almost nothing. I buy a fridge magnet, and Rose buys me a pretty little bracelet. She buys a bangle, and Alastair gets a new pair of shorts. We stop at Bar de l’oubli, thinking we’d have a pastry. They’re sold out, so it turns into a kind of brunch affair – Rose has pancakes, and the rest of us have something that’s basically a posh egg McMuffin. The grapefruit juice is fantastic. It’s busy and fun for people watching. We can see where Dior, Longchamps, Hermes and Louis Vuitton get their clients from.

After lunch, we continue our wandering. Gustavia feels like no other Caribbean town we’ve visited. It’s not like a lot of sovereign former-British islands, nor is it like the French islands. It’s not that American. It’s totally unique. And we like it, but at €18 a day just to anchor we can’t afford to be here long.

We did have it in mind to visit the only charity shop, but it’s closed on Saturday afternoons, as is the chandlery. We go to the supermarket instead, pleased to get some good bread and rare feta cheese. I also get some CBD gummies, hoping they’ll help with the headaches and tiredness.


Too close for comfort

As we get close to Mirounga on our dinghy ride home we can see that we’re swinging far too close to a small boat on a mooring ball. Basically, a boat on anchor has a much wider arc of movement than one on a ball. What can feel like a perfectly set position can suddenly get rather close when the wind changes. We get some fenders out just in case, then take up the anchor and re-set in a much more comfortable spot.

We have a relaxed afternoon. Because we had a strange small, early lunch, we have mini-sandwiches. Ali and Rose try to swim as we’ve seen some turtles around the boat, but Rose is stung by sea lice so gives up pretty quickly. I enjoy some quiet time on the nets reading, but I’ve got a headache so it’s not as restful as I need. At one point the boat behind us wants to leave and because of the wind we may be blocking his anchor, so we pull forward on the motor whilst staying anchored to give him some room.

A near-endless stream of small planes arrives. I dread to think what the carbon footprint of St Barths is.

We gather for a pretty sunset, then shower and get ready to go ashore for dinner. Having seen the process of drinks at the restaurant we’re going to we opt for a bottle of fizz with sunset.

L’isoletta, and Gustavia by night

It feels surreal to step ashore amid the St Barths nightlife, then unload a dinghy full of garbage and recycling to dispose of. We haven’t been able to have a proper clear out since Pointe a Pitre. We carry our trash bags of shame along the beautiful promenade, in the shadow of a glorious superyacht, as revellers go in seek of their next €18 cocktail.

Dinner is at L’isoletta, a lively and youthful pizza restaurant. It’s quiet when we arrive just before 7pm but quickly fills up – we’re glad we made a reservation. We’re here for the 1-metre pizza – it’s a long rectangle, and we choose buffala margherita, quattro fomaggi, porcini and truffle, and Italian sausage as our four quarters of toppings. It’s very good, and being able to get Italian wine after weeks of only having French to choose from is a real treat. It is, however, expensive, with the pizza being around €65 and a bottle of Falaghina the same. We decide we’ll go back to the boat for drinks and dessert after a short walk to enjoy the Christmas lights.

Some reflections

One thing that stands out is how busy the traffic is. Completely gridlocked, and with an oddly high proportion of Mini convertibles. All the drivers have the music up loud, hyping themselves up for a night out. It’s also interesting to note that in restaurants there seems to be no requirement for masking up, or the Passe Sanitaire. We assume rich people don’t get Covid (or don’t want to be inconvenienced by such things…).

Back onboard I find my headache is returning and I can’t face another drink or more food, so I crawl into bed to watch TV. I’ve only watched one episode of Sex and the City before Colin turns in too, and we watch a Bob’s Burgers. Amazingly, we stay awake for it.

Dreams of sailing and sleeping

That was yesterday. Today we moved around to Anse Colombier for a few hours – the highlights were the remora who enjoyed the jackfish we caught on Friday, and a tortoise we met on a walk. The latter was so tame and tried to follow us. We fed it cat biscuits, scratched its neck and checked its tummy in case it had a mark of ownership and was missing.

We’ll be moving on to St Martin soon, and I’m hoping for a proper, good sail after some really underwhelming passages. The three days of doldrums and rain have left me with a kind of sailing hangover I can’t shift. I’m also hoping that after a few days of fighting a hormonal migraine and my joints being more difficult than usual my energy comes back and I get a good nights sleep again.

Alastair and Rose have another week onboard with us. We’ll try to show them as much of St Marten as we can in that time. Our time there will begin in the Simpson Bay Lagoon where we can collect our third solar panel, and get the excitement of some very good chandleries and grocery stores. We’ll also hopefully see Bear in the next few days, I’m missing her company.

For the first time since June, when we were getting impatient to leave Bequia, I’m starting to crave a night or two on land. A real bed. It’s a wonderful change having guests, but it’s full-on, especially with my neurodiversity, and we haven’t sat still since we were in Sainte-Anne in October. I need a change and rest. Something that feels like a holiday.

Unless life becomes unfathomably exciting, my next snapshot blog will be around Christmas… who knows.