Snapshot – week 35 onboard (Christmas!)

December 26, 2021

Reading time: 28 minutes

After weeks of inertia, could this be it? Could we be doing something?

Yup, we’re starting this week still in Simpson Bay, still lacking motivation. This is one of those times when I really don’t have anything to update since the last blog.

But this is Christmas week, something has to happen. Right?

Sunday 19 December

We sleep late as we’ve both had a poor night’s sleep. There are a couple of bars/nightclubs in Simpson Bay that will play music until 3 or even 4am at the weekend. It’s rough.

I get a message from new friend Debby that she, her husband Fraser and our friend Ray are at Mary’s Boon and we’re welcome to join them. As much as we like hanging out, I’ve just slathered my hair in an Olaplex treatment and really don’t feel like the swim ashore from the dinghy.

Burrata for lunch

We spend our Sunday reading and watching TV. I suppose it’s nice to do, and typical laziness for a Sunday. The highlight is the Burrata and tomatoes I prepare for lunch. Colin is at least a teeny bit productive and clears the log which records our speed. I spend some time looking at photos of our friend Heather. It’s the anniversary of her death – subconsciously that’s probably why I hadn’t felt like a social day at the beach.

It’s a very windy day and evening, so we don’t even sit outside for dinner, which is pasta and pesto. Very windy so not great to sit outside. We catch up on Fear the Walking Dead and watch some Outer Banks, then have an early night.

Monday 20 December

We both slept better. It may be because we turned the fan off – it was needed when the weather was hotter and we’ve gotten used to it blocking annoying noise, but we’d been getting chilly. We have a rare alarm set for 8am as we need to drop off our gas tanks to be dropped off to be filled by 9am. Colin does this while I use the internet to finalise/post a blog. We’ve been managing to stay some shore wifi, but it only works when the bar is closed and I know by noon it’ll disappear.

An errand day

A lovely cosy new blanket

After breakfast, we dinghy to the Island Water World dock and walk up to the ACE Megastore. This is a massive homeware and DIY chain which we became familiar with in Grenada. I get what I wanted – new kitchen tongs and a blanket for cooler nights. Colin can’t get the drill bit he wanted, but he thinks he can manage without. We also get some things to help us better in keeping the deck/hulls clean – sponges, a squeegee, and a pressure washer.

Back onboard we rest for an hour, then we go out again.

Boat work at the pub

We head to Lagoonies, our favourite bar/restaurant. Before we can eat, we have a task. I steady the dinghy while Colin fits hydrofoil fins to the outboard. He bought them this morning, and they will basically make the dinghy more stable and stop the nose from rising when one of us drives alone. Dinghies are just as unique and temperamental as cars when handling – Dog is happiest with the two of us, and me as far forward as possible to bring the bow down. When there’s only one of us, the bow raises so high we can’t see until we get her on a plane (fast and level). With more than just us, she chugs away and will never plane.

Hydrofoils installed, we have lunch. The spinach and mushroom pasta is amazing, I can tell it’s completely homemade. Everything I’ve eaten here has been perfect and we love that the menu changes daily. We hang around after eating because of the wifi, taking our time. It’s probably our last visit to this excellent bar and I see a vest for sale that I like, so I get it as we pay our bill. We pick up the gas, then get to test the hydrofoil as we drive home. It’s an instant improvement.

Resting and planning

Back onboard I’m getting a headache so I watch a couple of episodes of Below Deck. I also chat with our friend Livio about plans for when he and his Ragazzo Mark visit in January. Colin has a got at using the pressure washer on BBQ.

A beautiful sunset

After I emerge from my cave and shower, we see the sunset we’ve had in a while. I spend some time talking over plans for the coming week with Bear and Debby on Messenger. We’re forming a sociable Christmas which is lessening the disappointment of not seeing our Christmas family.

After the big lunch, we’re not that hungry so we watch The Rookie then have some fried halloumi and crisps, and we finish watching Outer Banks.

Tuesday 21 December

Today was going to be the day. We had originally planned to take the dinghy to clear out of Dutch Sint Maarten, and into French St Martin. The plan was to go to Marigot the long way round, a near circumnavigation around the Windward side, so we could see the coast.

We wake up to what might be the greasiest, wettest morning we’ve seen onboard since the rainy season. It calls for hibernation. I’m not sad – I really miss December hibernation mode!

A cosy day

We spend the morning pottering and eat leftovers in wraps for lunch. Even though it’s dried up outside we settle down and watch Santa Who? in the afternoon. I pulled all the Christmas movies I could find off our hard drive and we chose one at random. This is the only one which we’ve never seen and I can’t quite work out where it came from. I’ve never even heard of it. Despite being made in 2000 and looking 15 years older it’s not awful.

Market Garden

Stocking up

We emerge from hibernation for a trip to Market Garden, a grocery store not unlike Whole Foods. They sell loo roll I like and want to get more of. We end up making a start on buying booze for Mark and Livio’s visit – Debby has warned me about the high alcohol taxes in the BVI, where we’ll be meeting them. Excitingly, we also find a good selection of frozen Beyond Meat products. We aren’t vegetarian, but we often choose good vegan products over dubiously farmed beef. Of course, I forget to buy the loo roll.

Happy hour pub crawl

We drop our shopping back onboard, then we’re straight back out the door. Since we’re here another day, we get another chance to go to Lagoonies! Ray has got Bluewater back in the water after a few days of having the bottom painted, and Bear isn’t back from a. trip to the US, so he’s happy to join us. We happily dive into the $2 rum punches.

The happy hour nibbles menu is looking a little too meat-free for Bostonian Ray, so we decide to leave to get food elsewhere. There’s the added appeal that it’s always happy hour somewhere. Very carefully, as I forgot our dinghy lights, we trail behind Ray through the lagoon to a bar named Dingy Dock. We’re glad to get a chance to visit as it had been on our list.

Dinghy Dock

Dinghy Dock is perfect, They have a great beer menu with a lot of familiar US craft beers, and we enjoy getting reacquainted with Dogfishhead’s 60 Minute and 90 Minute IPAs. The snacks are also great – the three of us share bacon-wrapped shrimp with jalapeños and cream cheese and pepperoni pizza fries. Ray satisfies his craving for meat with a fried chicken sandwich, but we’re not hungry enough for a main.

By the time we get back onboard, soon after 9pm, we’re still not hungry. Instead, as is the tradition, we fall asleep watching Bob’s Burgers.

Maybe tomorrow we’ll move?

Wednesday 22 December

Yet again, I’ve slept badly because of a nightclub, so I have a lie-in. It’s also that day of my cycle where I’d quite like to lie in bed and forget the world (you know the one girls). Even though I’m not up that early, we still decide to move. Accordingly, Colin goes ashore at 11 to clear us out and in, and I tidy up and prep the boat to move.

A dull journey

The wind has died right down so it’s, unfortunately, a motor. Soon in, we see that the Starboard engine is spewing out black smoke and liquid. It’s done this on our most recent journeys – fool us for not getting it looked at. We realise this is happening on high revs only, which is why it had seemed fine whenever we’ve checked it on anchor. We can still use it, but only on low revs. I cook some half-baked rolls and we have Turkey/cheddar subs underway. Other than that, it’s a very uneventful 2-hour journey.

And a surprise

Near the end of our journey, we get a little shock when the helm seat falls away from under Colin. I jump up to help, simultaneously taking a photo as I can see he’s not hurt. The seat sits on a single pedestal, like a bar stool, and the metal has completely corroded at the base and sheared away. Great. Another thing to have fixed.

We anchor mercifully easily, and Colin immediately heads ashore to talk to a mechanic and a welder. He comes back with the news that the welder doesn’t think the seat can be fixed, and the mechanic will call back to say if and when they can help. Fab start to being back in France. At least we now have good working data. And, because we’ve been running the engine and water maker, I make a start on doing a couple of loads of laundry.

I’m surprised by the quality of the water and the relative peace of Marigot – most opinions we’ve read or been given suggested it was dirty, too busy, and not very safe.

I potter and read while Colin figures out the broken seat, stopping to help when he needs it. After a shower, I curl up and watch some Sex and the City, which is what I’ve wanted to do all day. We’re feeling subdued and a little beaten.

More hibernation

Dinner is some nems (French spring rolls) warmed in the air fryer, and our viewing for the evening is The Princess Switch 3. It’s the right movie for the evening. Through Heather’s last days we just watched endless Hallmark/Netflix Christmas films as we couldn’t absorb anything, and they’re still a source of comfort.

I also find some comfort in chocolate. Dad sent us a Lindt advent calendar out with Rose and Alastair. Because chocolate melts at room temperature on the boat, and our large fridge is very wet, we had to dismantle it and put the chocolates into our chock bag (a ziplock bag in the big fridge). The smaller chocolates are long gone but I’d been saving the big one for Christmas Eve. We decide it’s close enough.

We go to bed at least having had a couple of laughs and with a full belly.

Thursday 23 December

We’re feeling brighter and more determined today. We’ve had no word from a mechanic, but Colin has worked out what is needed to fix the seat. That’s a relief, as we don’t want to be without one on long passages, and a new one is £2k. He takes a part over to the welder who agrees that he can replicate it with some measurements.

Once said measurements have been taken, we pack up ready for some grocery shopping and head ashore, dropping off part of the seat with the welder on the way. We decide to go into the lagoon and park the dinghy outside a cafe. We always chain up but this gives some added security. We’ve been into Marigot briefly on the hunt for recycling bins, but this is our first proper visit. Like the bay, it hasn’t been spoken about that positively in the cruising guide. The suggestion was that the post-hurricane repairs had been slow, leaving it very scruffy. There are certainly pockets of dereliction, but on the whole, it’s pretty and pleasant, with a great range of shops.

We pop into a small supermarket that hadn’t been mentioned in the cruising guide and find it has much of what we want. It is, however missing the crucial stock of Coke Zero, so we walk on to the Super U. It’s around a 15-minute walk from the dinghy.

Surprises in Super U

Super U is excellent and has everything we could want. It’s busy, but not too bad. I only get overwhelmed a couple of times. There are some specific thing’s we’re after.

I’m hoping to find a particular flavour of Bret’s crisps that are basically butter crisps. No joy, but they do have the Jura cheese flavour I like.

Next is the rum aisle, where I’m hoping to find a rum called Maroon that we found in Guadeloupe. We still have half a bottle but it’s the closest thing to my favourite Kraken and Dark Matter rums we’ve found. There’s no Maroon, but amazingly there IS Kraken! There’s only one bottle on the shelf, otherwise, I’d have bought more.

I’m reeling from that surprise when my eye catches a very specific blue across the way, amongst the Christmas gift packs of booze. It couldn’t be… it is! A gift box containing two bottles of BrewDog Punk IPA and a glass. We’re floored, and instantly decide that’s our Christmas present to ourselves. We’ve been shareholders of BrewDog since 2010 and in the UK rarely drink anything other than Punk.

As I head toward to main beer aisle I’m in for another shock – they actually have Punk in 500ml cans! And at just under €4 a can it’s not insanely priced. We take the 5 cans that are on the shelf. A staff member spots us and asks if we want more from the stock room and we say yes. He comes out with a case expecting us to just take a few from that but we decide we’ll take the whole thing.

A more conventional shop

With that excitement over, we check wine prices. They’re pretty good, and there’s a Cremate de Loire for around €6.50 so we buy plenty. We should now be able to avoid those high alcohol costs in the BVI.

We buy plenty of long-life bread and pastries, again because these will be useful in January. Other than that, we buy very little fresh food, just a little ham and cheese for sandwiches, some fresh bread and pain au chocolats, and ingredients to make a festive banoffee pie.

Once we station Colin in a queue I run to a cash point as we have no euros, and I’m back before he reaches the cashier. The festive music pumping out of a shop while I queue for the ATM makes me smile. In the end, our decadent festive shop has cost us €350, but €125 alone has gone on the beer. Ali and Rose gave us a little treat money as a thank you for their stay onboard so now we’ve spent it on a treat!

Customer services calls us a taxi. He can’t drive us all the way to the dock because there’s no road access, but he gets us close enough. It takes a surprisingly long time as traffic is so heavy, and costs €20. We’re a little shortchanged when Colin hands over a €50 note and gets $30 back – using the € and $ interchangeably here sometimes has its downsides. I carry everything as close as possible to the water’s edge and Colin retrieves Dog to be loaded.

Recovering from the shop

It’s a fair job unloading and stowing everything, and we’re exhausted. I make burrata and tomatoes for lunch again, and this time we eat some of the tasty organic bread I picked out on the side. I want my hair to look its best for Christmas, so I slather on my favourite hair mask and sit reading in the sun for an hour. In the meantime, Colin spray paints our boat name on the dinghy. This is something we should have done months ago as some countries consider it mandatory, we just hadn’t worked out a method. The first side he paints ends up smudged but legible. The second is clearer. I look on lazily, then finish the rather involved hair washing process and go back to the nets to let it dry in the sun.

Colin grills some sausages and corn on the cob for dinner. We’d intended to eat the sausage in pitta bread but the bread is poor quality and just falls apart so it ends up being a light meal, with some bread for the fish. I shower and get ready for the evening, but we don’t need to go out for a while so we sit down and watch Elf. It’s funny, now we watch everything at close range on a laptop instead of a big TV, I’m picking up on details I’d missed. It’s still guaranteed to make us laugh as well.

Farewell Soggy

At 8.15pm we pull ourselves together (5 minutes before the end of Elf) and set off on a looong drive. It’s 3 miles into and through the lagoon to get to Soggy Dollar. We would probably rather have skipped rock night tonight, but I’d spoken to the band about requests and we don’t want to miss it just in case. The drive is bearable, thankfully, because the wind is low, but we do nearly end up on the bow anchor line of a massive yacht just outside the bar.

We have a subdued evening. This is the fourth time we’ve heard the set, and the third week in a row at the bar. This week we don’t get a seat because the furniture has been moved, and we’re taking it easy on the drinks because of the drive home. It could be that, or hearing the same set of songs yet again that means it’s a bit dull. It’s also a surprisingly cool evening. We don’t NOT have fun, but we might have been happier curled up watching Die Hard tonight. The highlight of the evening might be the random moment a woman produces a partial carrot from her bra and pops it on our table for safekeeping while she dances. After a couple of songs, she retrieves it and stows it back down her top. We’ll never know why.

We’re glad the set is almost over when a drunk guy named Buddy (apt) starts to harangue us, determined to get Colin to dance. Colin bops, but he does not do dance floors.

Driving home for Christmas

We leave as soon as the band finishes up, not surprised that they didn’t manage to learn our request. The drive home is stressful for me as I’ve had to remove my contact lenses – they were just too dry. All I can see is the bridge starts that form around each light we see. We make it back without incident though.

We’re hungry after the light dinner so snack on a little bread and watch the last 5 minutes of Elf. I take the time to properly remove my makeup and do my skincare routine. The nice thing about the cooler nights is that I can actually do this – when it’s warm the products refuse to soak in. It’s nearly 1pm by the time I’ve read a little of my book and fallen asleep.

Friday 24 December

It’s Christmas Eve! I sleep till almost 10am, which feels suitably Christmassy. Colin is heading out as I get up to check on the welding situation. He gets a surprise in the dinghy – a ballahoo has landed in Dog at some point and expired.

Because we’re moving the boat today, I tidy up (it’s a constant effort). Colin returns with the news that we should get the repaired seat after the weekend. We eat the pain au chocolate we bought yesterday for breakfast, it’s been a while since we had one. I get some joy knowing another Christmas card has arrived – I ordered some to be sent last week and over the past few days I’ve loved knowing they’re reached their destinations. Colin has been doing some more detective work on the engine issue and it looks like the issue occurs when it’s under load, so he jumps in and cleans the propellers just in case that helps.

I sit down to write and finally decide it’s time to play my favourite Christmas songs. Growing up, there were two sounds of Christmas in our house. All through December, we would have the sound of a set of bells that hung on the tree. They had little mechanisms and actual gongs, and I doubt anything of that quality exists anymore. I loved the traditional carols they played. Then on Christmas Day, I would crack out “The Best Christmas Album in the World… Ever”, which much have been released in the late 80s or early 90s. This is still my go-to album for feeling festive.

A change of scenery

We set off at around noon, and it takes around 45 minutes to motor to Grand Case. Without a helm seat, Colin has to improvise. Again, it’s a nice easy anchor drop almost exactly between Bluewater (Bear and Ray) and Everlong (Debby and Fraser). We’re just starting to prepare lunch when Deb and Fraser pop by to say hello and have a quick catch up.

After we eat hash browns, sausages and eggs for lunch I do some tidying up while Colin makes salsa verde and starts preparing mac and cheese. He’s going to make Mac and cheese balls for tomorrow’s pot luck. I spend an hour reading on the nets, and then shower and get ready to go out. We decide it’s a night worthy of nice clothes – a silk dress for me and a shirt with a collar for Colin.

A social Christmas Eve

We head ashore just before 5 and complete our glamorous look with some bin bags in hand – we need to deposit some rubbish before dinner. We meet everyone at a bar just beside the dinghy dock for a couple of pre-dinner drinks while the sun sets. Grand Case is beautiful and lively, with lots of open shops, bars and restaurants. As we start to make our way to Le Temps des Cerises for dinner, I spot some fridge magnets in a shop and rush in to buy one. I can’t resist a bracelet to add to my collection. I’m now wearing bracelets from Union Island, Canouan, St Barths and St Martin.

Le Temps des Cerises is a fancy looking restaurant. It wasn’t the first choice, but it’s where we could get a booking. There’s a little confusion when we arrive as they’ve makes the reservation for 4, not 6, but they’re able to see us. Debby makes a point of showing them the reservation email and suggests that they give us all a glass of champagne to apologise for the mix-up. To my huge surprise, they do! We have cocktails after our champagne, and take our time over dinner. We chat about what Christmas Eve usually means to each of us – for me, it’s the anticipation of the next day and the company of friends and family. I’m still badly missing our friends in Denver but enjoying the evening. The food isn’t great for the price, and it’s probably a rather light meal for the amount we drink, but we’ve had a good time and that’s what matters.

Keeping it traditional

When we get back onboard it’s barely past half 9 so we decide to watch Die Hard with a bottle of Punk IPA. It’s too good an opportunity to pass on our Christmas Eve tradition! We make it through most of the film and go to bed around midnight.

Saturday 25 December

It’s Christmas! And it feels nothing like it!

I wake up not long after my 8:30 alarm and I’m in the process of sending some Christmas messages when Dad video calls. It’s the first time we’ve spoken face to face in months because of general issues with connectivity. I get quite a surprise to see he’s grown a beard! He shows us our Christmas present – a Lego catamaran that he found in the Middle of Lidl! Combining three things we love. I show him the rain that’s falling outside, and he shows us the garden in the weak winter sun.

Keeping our traditions

After we finish chatting I make boiled eggs and soldiers for breakfast – another tradition, and we eat watching the end of
Die Hard. Then I write a little until we get word that the others are heading for the beach. We put on swimsuits and load up dry bags and head in. Colin drops me close to shore with the bags then goes out to anchor Dog near our friends’ dinghies.

Christmas on the beach

Debby has reserved a set of beach loungers for us at the Rainbow Cafe, right on the water. The six of us are joined by Jeffrey and Donna, Ray and Bear’s friends, who are on a day stop from a cruise ship. We spend a very pleasant few hours sitting chatting with the waves lapping at our toes, drinking cocktails and beers, and eating sushi and French fries. We manage a short video call with Colin’s family whilst bobbing about in the water. It’s a lovely day – not so hot it’s sweaty, with blue skies and beautiful clear water. We’re pleased to be joined by a lovely dog we met yesterday evening, and this time we can feed her bits of Ray’s cheeseburger.

It’s around half past 3 when we decide it’s time to get out of the sun and prep for the evening. It’s also the best time to leave the Rainbow Cafe as the DJ is starting to pump up the volume. Colin retrieves Dog and Bear helps hold her steady while I clamber aboard. Back on Mirounga, we shower and I’m amused by the rather large tan lines from my swimsuit. Colin fires up the Christmas tunes while I make mini banoffee pies for the evening’s dessert and he cooks the mac and cheese, along with Paxo stuffing balls for a taste of home. It’s non-stop, but we do pause to watch a beautiful sunset.

A sunset to stop for

Pot luck on Everlong

We dingy over to Everlong, Debby and Fraser’s 2018 Leopard 40′, at 6pm. It’s exciting coming onboard a much newer catamaran in our size range for the first time. It’s got much more useable outdoor space and we love the ‘front door’ and the lovely protected dual helm seat. We’re also very taken by Fraser’s ‘Nebula’ portable projector. We add our dishes to the greek mezze they’re prepared, and our wine to the ‘bar’. Bear and Ray arrive soon after and do the same.

Colin and Bear get comfy on Everlong

We have a lovely evening enjoying delicious food and comforting company. My banoffee pies are death by sugar and we’re all a little wiped out after the night out last night and the day at the beach, so it’s low key and chilled out. As Bear points out, we’re a very mixed group who wouldn’t usually find each other in life but we fit so well together. It’s true, you make so many acquaintances sailing but when you truly find your people it’s very special. Darling Bear has even brought us Christmas gifts of tasty food and drink which is surprising and touching.

It’s around 10pm when we head back to Mirounga. I’m very hot and thirsty so after a shower I focus on getting plenty of water in me. We don’t stay up too long before turning in.

Watch this space

And that’s it, our first Christmas onboard.

It’s been our first Christmas away from the familiar, in a new country, with people we’ve only known for months or weeks. Despite missing family and friends, the cool weather, a real tree and a stash of presents, we feel like we’ve had a Christmas filled with love and joy. It was perfect.

I can’t leave it there – we have no idea what the next week will bring. Will our engine and seat be fixed? Will we make it to the BVI? Or will we have New Year in Grand Case as well?

I’ll just have to do another diary…