Reading time: 25 minutes
How have we spent 8 weeks onboard already? It feels like no time since I wrote our week 3 snapshot.
At this point, we’ve only left Bequia for a couple of weekend trips. Most of the cruisers we’ve met have left, or will soon move on. We’re ready to leave too, but we have a barrel of goodies on the way from Scotland which should be with us in early July, so we can’t move on yet. We’re torn between making the most of our remaining time in Bequia, and being a little burnt out from socialising. I’m in a new job, so some chilled out time to go with the new routine is needed. It’s been incredibly hot and humid. And we’re preparing to take our PADI Open Water Diver certification soon.
At the start of this week, I really thought this would be a pretty boring week to journal. We basically had nothing but a hike, work, and one dinner out planned. Of course on enduring truth about living onboard a boat is that nothing ever goes how you expect it to…
Sunday 13 June
Despite it being a Sunday, we’re up at 7am with an alarm. We have extra big bowls of cereal for breakfast before packing rucksacks and preparing for a long overdue hike. I love hiking and walking. It’s one of the things I miss the most about living on land. We’ve been told by so many people that we must hike up to Ma Peggy’s Rock, but never got round to arranging a social hike. With our remaining time on Bequia getting shorter, we had to take the initiative and go it alone.
Luckily I found the app Wikiloc, which people can use to track, save and share hikes. It’s pretty effective and meant we could easily follow a hike saved by our Insta-buddies Sailing Luna Sea.
Sunday morning strolling
We set off at 8:30 by driving Dog the Dinghy to the dock at Princess Margaret Beach. Cutting through up through Jacks Beach Bar and up the road to the main road is a slog and a tough start. Next, we follow Belmont Road, the main road on the island, round to Friendship on the Atlantic side. Luckily, it being a Sunday morning, there aren’t too many cars. People nod and said hello as we pass. Except for one stern-looking man in a novelty tie. It’s a pleasant, comfortable walk, which wipes away the nasty hill at the start as we pause often to take in the views. It’s lovely to look over to Petit Nevis and see some of our friends anchored on their first stop on the journey south to Grenada.
We miss the turn to the hiking trail at first, but not by much.
We start by walking up a rough and partly collapsed road, which is good for nothing but people and goats. The next stage begins with a rope tied to a bank, leading to a wooded trail. This is steep and hard work, but at least shaded. The forestation is much drier than the rainforests we’ve hiked in before, with less undergrowth. My favourite part is all of the air plants living on larger trees. It makes me smile to compare them to the baby specimens I left behind in Scotland.
We step out into a clearing with spectacular views of Friendship and the East Coast. Quickly moving on to avoid the sun, we carry on back through the woods along the ridge. Part of this includes a bit of gentle bouldering, which is great fun. I’ve always preferred a scramble to walking on steep inclines.
Worth the view
The view from the top is worth all of the hard work, and we have perfect weather for it. Admiralty Bay is lit up beautifully, with patches of turquoise water and white sand giving us full Caribbean postcard realness. After taking in the view, we turn our walk back on itself. Instead of heading all the way down retracing our footsteps, we turn towards Lower Bay, on the Caribbean side, when signposted. This route took us down a steep, dry river bed. The going is difficult because of loose soil and leaves, but Colin finds fallen branches we can use as walking sticks which helps. As we walk, Colins stops every so often to gather trash, having brought a bin bag for the purpose.
As we near the end of the river bed (and our patience) we reach some houses, and a woman kindly shouts over to say we can save ourselves some effort by cutting through her garden. We’re soon on paved paths and emerging at the end of Lower Bay road. Overall, the hike takes around 2hrs 45 mins.
We pop in for an early lunch at Dawns Cafe, which has been recommended by friends. Having arrived between breakfast and lunchtime, our only option is a sandwich, but it’s tasty and the cafe beautiful. Satiated, we walk back along Lower Bay and Princess Margaret Beach to our dinghy. We have the usual canine escort, and stop to help a goat whose tether has gotten caught on a branch.
Once we get back to Mirounga, we take well-deserved showers. We usually aim to shower at dusk and only shower once a day, but we were definitely due an afternoon hose-down. We save ourselves a second shower later by spending the afternoon resting in the shade. I take up my favourite spot under the wind scoop on the sofa to watch Legendary. Colin opts for PADI studying on the wind bed, christened ‘the banana’ by our cruising friend Kia. I also manage to fit in some reading and napping on the nets, then studying.
Dinner is excellent – beef burgers from Maison Baroz cooked on the BBQ. We’ve barely eaten red meat since moving so finding an excellent French butcher is a real treat. We only wish we’d known sooner!
A wild night ahead
We settle down to finish watching In the Heights, which we began the night before. We’re soon interrupted when the wind picks up and blows a wind scoop loose so violently it bangs around wildly. We decide it’s safest to take the sunshade we’ve erected over the nets down, so have a fun few minutes doing battle with it in high winds. In the hubbub, Colin cuts the sole of his heel open for the second time in a month. We have these little nubs to attach window covers to and a couple of broken ones are lethal. It’s starting to rain, and it’s clear a weather front is coming, so we clear the deck properly. After finishing the movie, we close up all the hatches except the ones in our cabin and turn in.
Monday 14 June
When we wake up for work we’ve suffered some broken sleep because of the rain. Thankfully though, it hasn’t become too stuffy with the hatches closed. We’re now both working essentially full time, so that takes up our mornings.
Colin’s alarm goes off at 4:45 for him to start work at 5. He works until around 12. My alarm goes off an hour later, for a 6am-1pm shift. We don’t really take a long break, but we do sit down together for 15 minutes at around 8am for breakfast. This is only my second week in my new job. After spending a couple of days training, I’m glad to be getting some work fed through to me.
All the errands
We have fried egg rolls for lunch, and then turn our minds to errands. We load up Dog with two crates of empty bottles and cross the harbour to the Hairoun depot. Here we can return each full crate for a 10 EC credit, and buy new crates of beer and bitter lemon soda at the cheapest price on the island. After taking the drinks back to Mirounga, we head into town with our trash and to Knights Supermarket for a few items. We decide on a whim to get ice cream bars from a local brand and regret it – they’re awful.
The rest of the afternoon is spent studying and reading. Colin takes the PADI Open Water theory exam we’re working towards and passes with a superlative 92%
An unexpectedly social evening
We havn’t planned on going out, but our friends Vera and Jeroen from SV Philos suggest meeting at Jack’s as they’ll be leaving soon. After showering we head along at 6pm, knowing we may be earlier than them, as we need to try to eat earlier and get back soon after 8pm for our worknight bedtime of 9pm. Unusually for Jacks, there’s no sunset – the weather just isn’t up to it. We’ve seen other friends arrive and eaten our starter of conch fritters (the best on Bequia) when Vera and Jeroen, with their Miniature Pinscher Bruno, arrive. We’ve ordered taco bowls, which are amazing. We feel quite guilty when it turns out the chef has run out of salsa, meaning that the elaborate meal everyone else is eyeing up is off the menu. We have an enjoyable evening chatting and eating, and of course bedtime slips somewhat.
Tuesday 15 June
Another day of work slowly picking up for me. For a change, I take a mid-shift break to take my PADI exam and also pass with 92%. Colin has been getting inventive with new designs for wind scoops, which work to pull air down into the saloon. In repositioning one, it blows off into the water and promptly sinks. We try to rescue it from the dinghy after work but fail, so I get my fins on and go in with the boat hook to retrieve it. Usually, Colin would, but we play it safe with injuries and seawater.
We’d planned to use some leftovers to make pan pizzas for lunch but the dough seems distinctly past it so we end up with some fettuccine from a packet. We then have a visit to town on more errands.
An unpleasant bump
I get a nasty shock on the way. I’m sitting on the dinghy seat for the drive when another dinghy passes us going the opposite way. To avoid the wake tipping us sideways, Colin steers into it. I promptly get bounced so high off the seat that when I come down it snaps in half and tears its fixture from one side. In the process, it scrapes down the back of my left ankle and heel. I’m shocked, cut, bruised, and rather embarrassed that it was my bum that smashed the seat (even though it wasn’t the most solid to start off with).
We now have matching limps. On this trip, we’re looking for cutlery, which is a fail. We really hate the plastic handled stuff onboard as it seems unhygienic, but we can’t get a decent solid set here. I do at least manage to pop into Bequia Threadworks to collect a dress that I’d bought a couple of weeks ago and was having taken in to fit properly. We also buy a stash of Coke Zero from Knights and fill the petrol tank at the gas station.
Same old, same old
It’s another afternoon of watching Legendary, reading, and writing, but we get a little tidying up done too. I have a headache, which may be from the shock of the dinghy incident. I’m also annoyed to find that a favourite bikini top has somehow blown or been knocked off our rail despite it not being windy. We’ve had some unwelcome visitors – the dinghy is inexplicably covered in bird poop. It might be something to do with the small sparrow-type birds that seem intent on making a nest in our boom…
Dinner is a basic crisps and samosas affair, and we watch the season finale of Fear the Walking Dead. We’re actually in bed on time, and watch our customary episode of Bob’s Burgers.
Wednesday 16 June
Work is busier, and I like that. Vera and Jeroen come to say goodbye – they’re heading south, but we should see them in a few weeks in Carriacou. As the morning goes on, it’s raining on and off and very muggy. I make myself a coffee at one point, and lament that I only have bog-standard M&S mugs even though I make espresso. A plan forms.
We have scrambled eggs, beans, bacon and flatbreads for lunch. Just as we sit down the local marine service boat, Daffodil’s, comes by to collect our laundry. We gave up on the bucket and plunger weeks ago. We’ve been using the laundromat in town, which is vaguely self-service but overseen. It’s staffed by a somewhat dour woman, and the machines are poorly maintained so nothing gets clean. We’ve been taking the wet clothes home to dry on the boat, but this has also been challenging. The whole process is so frustrating that we’re trying Daffodil’s wash and line dry service.
After lunch, we head into town and take a half-hour walk to the Bequia Pottery after calling to check we could have a look. It’s a nice walk, not too strenuous, and just nice to have different views. Mike and Maggie are very friendly and show us around, even though they’re preparing to head back to the UK. We love seeing Mike’s experiments with using the volcanic ash as a glaze and hope to get something in the future (as it’s sold out). In the end, I buy two matching stoneware espresso cups and a coffee mug, and we enjoy the wander back.
We pop into Dockside Marine, the chandler, to look at spikes that we can use to spear lionfish. We don’t buy one as the only ones in stock are too long, but I get some mask de-fog for my scuba mask. As we head back to Dog, a little boy we see often runs up happily, as he often does when we arrive, for a smile and a fist-bump.
After writing a little, I wash my hair and coat it in coconut oil then lie on the nets reading to let it work its magic for an hour and a half before showering. Dinner is veggie burgers, using yellow peppers instead of buns (yummy but hard to eat!). The viewing for the evening is Kim’s Convenience, and of course Bob’s Burgers.
Thursday 17 June
We’ve been awake half the night with heavy rain. We can tell, around 3:30, that we’re drifting. Soon after 4:00, we get up because we’re swinging on our mooring ball towards the Dive Adventures boat next to us. Either our mooring or their mooring has been badly set, and they use a stern anchor which means they don’t move with the wind (or lack of it). Their mooring line ends up caught on our propeller, so at 4:30 Colin jumps into the pitch-black water to try to free it. It doesn’t feel like he’s budging it, but somehow the line drifts free a few minutes later.
Unfortunately, Colin has been stung badly by sea lice, which are microscopic jellyfish and seem to be worse in the dark. I dutifully dab vinegar onto the stings. Colin attempts to set a stern anchor, but it ends up wrapped around our prop. Luckily it’s not an issue for long, and we get to confirm that the cutting blades on our props work – the anchor is now 7ft down, on the sea bed.
Escaping the drift
We decide we have no choice to move away from the dive boat, so as soon as it’s light enough we motor to Princess Margaret Beach and anchor. Once it’s clear we’re solid we relax a little. The downside is we no longer get shore wifi, so all work has to be done over LTE. It rains on and off all morning, ranging from drizzle to heavy thunderstorms. A warming bowl of ramen seems like an appropriate lunch.
When it rains we can’t really go outside. Our bimini can’t withstand tropical showers and everything is soon soaking, so we have to stay in the saloon. The one upside is that we finally manage to get a decent rainwater fill of one water tank, saving some money. I occupy myself sketching out what my dream house would be. I don’t quite know why I’m suddenly fixated on buying a plot of land and building, but it may have something to do with the soggy boat.
As 3pm approaches, I have no choice but to dinghy ashore for my chiropractic appointment – half a mile in the rain, on my own. Something I couldn’t imagine doing just a few weeks ago. I also pop to Knights for some groceries, before bailing out the rain that’s fallen in the half-hour I’ve been on land and casting myself back into the bay.
Attempting to go “home”
All of the boats in Port Elizabeth seem to now be sitting in the right direction, with the wind being ENE, so we decide to go back to our mooring. As we motor along, I hear a “Ha!”, and look up to see boobie happily sat at the top of the mast, hitching a ride. I get a good look from the coach roof at where our spare anchor is sitting. As we arrive flying ants are everywhere – it’s hatching day, or mating day, or whatever it is that makes them do this. We’ve had the pandemic, the volcano, and the biblical rain, now it’s the plague of insects.
The storm gets heavier, and we soon start to drift again. We could go back to anchor, but I suspect we’ll be worrying about it all night. Instead, we decide to take a different mooring ball, where we would stay clear of others. It’s our first time taking a random ball and using our own mooring lines to do so, but it goes fine. As is often the case, the owner is there almost instantly, out of nowhere, to say he’ll come by tomorrow to work something out. We know, of course, that there’s no such thing as a free mooring.
The one upside of all the motoring is that we get hot showers. After corned beef stovies for dinner, we watch Superstore and Bobs Burgers, and I chat to an old friend who has reconnected on Facebook. The fishing boat next door is playing music and we worry they’ll keep us up, but they respectfully turn it off when they see our lights go out. I’m delighted to be asleep by 20:30.
Friday 18 June
It’s been a mercifully peaceful night. Work is quiet, to the extent that I have to send a reminder that I’m there and ready to pick up more work. In the meantime, I do the PADI training on RDP tables that we needed to add to our ‘passes’ before our practical training can start. It’s back to dry sunny weather, with the wind picking up.
Colin finishes work before me and goes to town to pick up a meat order from the French butcher – steaks, sausages and pate this time. Before lunch, he also takes the dinghy to try to rescue our spare anchor. He can’t find it, so I have to go help him locate it. It is of course exactly where I said it was. As he hauls it onboard, I see a sea urchin fall off the sand the anchor has pulled up, just a couple of inches from his hand. I make a mental note to get Colin some diving gloves.
We inhale fried egg and bacon sandwiches for lunch, and I settle down to write. The owner of our mooring ball drops by, and we pay for 3 nights at a very reasonable 40 EC per night. We had been considering a weekend sail, but agree the weather is too unpredictable, hence staying put. We’re hoping that by Sunday night the wind will be back to a reliable ENE and we can go back to our home mooring. The mooring manager also suggests that he has a good product for polishing our deck, so we say we’ll try what we have but chat to him on Monday if that doesn’t work.
Our laundry is returned to us, a day later than planned because of the rain. There’s a surprising amount of stuff that isn’t ours so we let Daffodil know so she can have it collected.
I spend a little time clearing the deck of flying ant wings, which are everywhere. Then I read on the nets. I’ve noticed that my tan is fading and I don’t want to loose it so much that I burn when we sail. Colin prepares mac and cheese, but has to make an emergency run to Knights as we have weevils in our pasta. Just another fact of life in the tropics.
We’ve decided to go to the pot luck dinner at the Open Deck, owned by Daffodil, for the third week running. It’s always an enjoyable night, and Daffodil is a lovely host. The mac and cheese is our offering, after feeling we should change from our usual hummus and flatbreads. There are some of the usual faces – ex-pats, resident sailors, and Romeo who works at Jacks. There are some cruisers we know, and a fair few we don’t. We BBQ the steak we brought from Maison Baroz, and enjoy the tasty buffet alongside it. The steak is delicious but I find it a struggle after months of not eating red meat.
We mostly chat with a young couple in their early-20s from California. The guy is temporarily sailing with his mum, who is a sailing marine biologist, so we’ve seen them a lot recently, and his girlfriend is visiting for a few days. Even though they’re much younger than us, we have far more in common with them than the older crowd so it’s a really nice change.
The sociable evening is fun but I get spooked by cockroaches, and a bit fed up with drunk people. I’m not drinking as I’m on a course of medication for a heat-related skin problem that prohibits it. Colin ends up playing DJ, to mixed reception. It starts with New Jersey Girl by Nerf Herder, which cracks us up. Thankfully nobody notices the lyrics…
It’s a late night, and we’re not back on board until 22:45. The drive across the bay is always a bit nerve-wracking in the dark, with me hanging over the bow wearing a head torch looking for hazards. We of course fall asleep watching Bob’s Burgers.
Saturday 19 June
A blissful lie-in starts the day. We’ve had light showers overnight, and there’s rain and wind alternating with sun all morning. It’s not as stormy as predicted though.
Saturdays on Bequia have a soundtrack. I now hear it when I don’t even hear it. The Ice Cream Truck plays its tune. All. Day. Long.
We’re tired, and don’t get much done in the morning. We’d considered a walk but with the weather being unpredictable we decide today isn’t the day. Instead, we go into town to see if the lumber yard is open so we can get wood to replace the dinghy bench (it’s not). We also visit Knights, Darkie’s fruit and veg shop, and the chandlery.
We eat the delicious pate from Maison Baroz on toast for lunch, then I have to finally address Colin’s hair. He last had it cut by a local barber in April, a terrible cut as it was, and it’s now getting uncomfortably hot. The process isn’t helped by the comb falling into the sea when I’m only a quarter of the way in – the rest of the cut is done with just my hands and scissors. Otherwise, we mostly relax. I finish my second book of the week. The bad weather doesn’t emerge aside from some calm spells and one shower. I sit on the nets for half an hour to get some sun, but wear new bikini bottoms that fit horribly and am rewarded with a sunburned bum. I have a quick go at using some stain remover on the deck, a fail, but otherwise spend the afternoon writing.
A sunset to write home about
Because we aren’t on our usual ball, we can actually see the sun setting over the water for the first time in weeks. In theory, anyway – it’s too cloudy in the distance. We assume it’s another no-sunset night, and then the sky lights up beautifully. It’s almost a 360º sunset, reflecting off the calm water. It’s breathtaking.
As we sit down to eat leftover mac and cheese for dinner in the last of the light, I see a shooting star. I’m reminded that these moments are what I’m here for.
As has become custom on a Saturday night, we’re actually too tired for a late night. After watching Kim’s Convenience, Superstore and Bob’s Burgers, we’re asleep by 21:30.
The weeks ahead
This week was the same, but different, to week 3. It’s interesting to see how some aspects of living onboard evolve, and some stay the same.
In the intervening weeks, I went through a great spell of independence. I was driving the dinghy most days to Princess Margaret Beach to enjoy yoga with cruising friends. They’ve all moved on now, and even if they hadn’t work would prevent me from going. Work is enough independence for me, for now.
Our social life really picked up in that time too – having cruising friends means never knowing when you’ll get a message with a suggestion of doing something. We’ve made it a habit to not say no, as social time is so valuable. Even with our cruising friends gone, we’ve fallen into having regular social plans. It has its downsides though – I started to feel like I was drinking too often, and eating out adds up.
In general, we’re making more of an effort to get out and do things. But we still find the heat difficult and most enjoy the hours after 4pm. If anything it’s worse now, as the summer humidity and tropical waves take hold.
We’ve done a lot of thinking and made some decisions about the future.
Over the next few weeks, we’re hoping to get our barrel, which is full of things to make life onboard easier. We’re going to complete our PADI Open Water certification, with at least 4 dives. We should also be leaving Bequia at last, and finally taking delivery of our watermaker once we’re in Carriacou. The plan is to be in Grenada a good week before the end of July when I have a flight home for a much needed 3.5-week visit.
It’s hopefully going to be a busy and exciting few weeks, but you never know…