A paradise found …

Indian Summer so close to the beach.

When the air was a lot cleaner and the boat stopped looking like a grey blanket we headed up to the island of Mayreau. We had been told that Saltwhistle Bay was the most beautiful anchorage in the Grenadines and we wanted to check it out. They were not wrong and we ended up anchoring closer to the beach than ever before and were immediately invited to some beach games by Julia and Mercedes who we had met in St Vincent.

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The Gorgeous Grenadines

Not a bad place to spend 2 weeks quarantine… St Vincent.

We arrived in St Vincent after an uneventful 2 day sail from St Martin, missing out Guadeloupe, Monserrat, Dominica and Martinique on the way. All islands we would have loved to have visited but they are closed to us due to COVID, so we will spend a couple of months in St Vincent and the Grenadines instead. We have to do 12 days quarantine, as they take days at sea into the equation (Take note Australia) so we hoisted the yellow quarantine flag and sat back and waited for instructions. A guy came round in a dinghy and sold us a SIM card and we were advised that on day 7 we must go into town for a second PCR test. 12 days sitting in a gorgeous anchorage with plenty to eat, drink and occupy us. Not too shabby – we can swim off the boat and finish all those niggling little jobs that have been building up.

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A sail to Sint Maarten

Phillipsburg

With Antigua going into curfew mode, the rumour mill is speculating the next move is a lockdown. Having been told our last lockdown in Turkey would last a couple of weeks and it turned out to be 4 months, we headed north to the much busier island of St Martin. St Martin has the distinction of being the smallest island in the world divided into two nations – the French and the Dutch, each with their own capital.

The southern section is Dutch and was open for us to land. The French side was closed as were all the French overseas territories because France is now shut. We arrived at Simpson Bay expecting the third degree, but found a delightful police station where all the pre-approved paperwork we had submitted a few days ago was lodged and all we had to do was have our passports stamped and sign a piece of paper. No fee, no test, no quarantine and all done at one desk – unbelievable.

Simpson Bay is huge and has a bridge that opens to allow the boats to enter the large lagoon inside. All the chandlers, sail makers, electrical retailers, riggers etc are on the lagoon and all have their own dinghy docks. This has made this island the most boat-friendly island we have ever been too. Even the bars have dinghy docks! As we cruisers don’t have cars, sometimes getting to a chandler can be really hard and time-consuming… and because St Martin is a duty free island you can get everything at a good price here. Ian is literally in heaven!

The Lagoonies bar with their dinghy dock

While Ian spent hours in the chandlers buying bits and pieces, I found a place that sold sewing machines. I had been wanting one for ages, and as most of our canvas work needed attention I purchased a heavy duty machine and spent the next few days fixing stuff. The boom bag needed attention, the chaps (dinghy covers), the barbeque cover, the gas bottle covers, the list went on and we reckon it’s paid for itself already.

Our friends Robin and Paul came in from Veni Vidi Vixi and so we spent the next couple of weeks with them.

Love these prices!
The best Rum selection – and best prices…

We worked on Indian Summer and enjoyed the social life of St Maarten – with all the bars open we are enjoying mingling with other yachties and hearing all their stories. The main topic of conversation is which countries are open, what the requirements are for entering and where we are all going to spend the hurricane season.

The 7 of us decided to visit Toppers Rhum distillery – a privately run distillery which makes unique rhums. We really enjoyed the tour, which included so many tastings we all felt tipsy when we left! We ended up in their restaurant down the road for more Rhums and lunch – where we were joined by Topper himself- he has huge plans for the distillery but with Hurricane Irma and Covid over the past couple of years, he has had them stalled. Hopefully soon he can start to activate them, one of which is moving his restaurant to a gorgeous rotunda over the water behind the distillery.

Some of the huge range of Rhums at Toppers
The bottling of the rum. The stills on the right are full of Rhum
Having lunch with Topper in the tourquoise t-shirt

One of the most exciting things to do on St Maarten is to go to Maho beach and watch the planes come in. The runway backs onto a fence about 10m from the beach and you stand in the slipstream behind the plane as it takes off and you are literally blown down the beach. We didn’t realise how immensely strong it was, and the first time we all ended up in giggles as we were tumbled down the beach. The other aspect is that you can stand under the incoming planes and feel their power as they fly overhead. We had a great fun afternoon and went home covered in sand….

Waiting for the plane
And here it comes…
Waiting on the beach for the planes..
Not the most welcoming of signs..

The next day we hired cars and went round the island. It’s not large and easily done in a day. First up we visited the hardware shop (always the hardware shop!) Where we bought a new bbq. Ours had been slowly dying and all the knobs and handles had disappeared into the ocean so we treated ourselves to a Weber. We went to Oyster Bay where the kids were thrilled to find some donkeys – and crossed into the French side. The border crossing was just a sign on the road- the easiest border crossing I think we have ever crossed!

The border crossing Holland/France
Oyster Bay

We ended up at Grand Case, a lovely beach region to the north which is lined with beach restaurants. The kids spent their time jumping in from the jetty while we had a long lazy lunch…

We have caught up with so many lovely people here, some of whom we knew from Antigua and some we met here. We had spent boxing day at Pepe and Bears house with Liz and Jim from Whisper and also Bob and Bev from Icarus and we all had ended up in the lagoon in Sint Maarten. We shared many drinks with them at the Soggy Dollar Bar and on each other’s boats. We also enjoyed the company of Stuart and Sondra from White Wings but sadly they are heading north so unless we go to the US or they come to Australia it’s another case of saying goodbye… one of the downsides of cruising. We will catch up with Icarus again in Grenada which will be nice.

Sondra and Stuart from White Wings

Robin and I decided to go on a brewery tour one morning, and found the delightful SXM Brewing company. We were met by Rob, an American who has just arrived as master brewer. We got the guys to come and join us – they would have not been happy to miss a brewery tour!! Rob was so knowledgeable about beer and beer making and gave us a very informative tour. Overlooking the brewery itself was a great bar where we somehow managed to spend 6 hours, tasting all the beers and putting the world to rights. Many beers later, we left and we even had our photo taken for their website!

The SXM brewery
Our photo taken for their website.

To get to the French side, you could just take your dinghy over and leave it in the harbour at Marigot. One day we decided to have a girls day out shopping, and so Ian dropped us over and we hit the shops. I bought a gorgeous dress, completely unsuitable for a boat of course but… We also stocked up on their unbelievably cheap rum and stopped for a glass of wine. There is still a feeling of emptiness with many places closed and no tourists but in St Martin we have felt much freer than Europe or Antigua- here they had a high COVID transmission a year ago and now they are one of the lowest in the Caribbean.

Enjoying a glass of wine in Marigot

We spent many lazy days on the beach, shopping and listening to some of the amazing bands that frequent the bars. 6 weeks flew by and we realised our time was coming to an end. We needed to get a wiggle on to get to St Vincent and the Grenadines as we needed to do a 14 day quarantine there before we could even start to enjoy the islands there and hurricane season is only 3 months away.

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Antigua & Barbuda

Pigeon Bay Beach, Antigua

With so many Caribbean options closed to us due to COVID, we have decided to stay in Antigua for a few weeks as its one of the least affected places. We spent a few more days in Jolly harbour sorting out some of the things that got broken whilst sailing here and catching up with Pepe and Bear again. It’s not as hot here as we thought so I’m not in the water as much as I should be but some of the beaches are just gorgeous, so we take the dinghy in and wander along the waters edge.

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Another ocean and we’re half way round the world….

Our track across the Atlantic. The blue markers were 6am recordings

We left Europe from Las Palmas in Grand Canaria on 4th Dec to cross the 2,700nm to Antigua. Our longest sail to date and our first crossing with crew. With food for 3 for at least three weeks, fully fuelled up and with everything checked and re-checked, the last thing we did was look at the weather and to our delight we had a steady 20-25knts Easterly which would give us a lovely sail.

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The Great Escape

La Linea marina

The sail to the Canary Islands is roughly 600nm south west of Gibraltar, so we have been checking the weather daily to find a good window. Our batteries were due to arrive on 29th, which meant we could fit and test them easily before setting off around the 2nd Nov, but on arrival we discovered only one had been delivered. We checked the website again and saw that the other 3 were not due until 4th – another delay but not too serious. Trifecta arrived and Bilby came in a couple of days later so there are now 4 cats all waiting to cross. Sisu are already in Lanzarote waiting for us and the next good window is 9th November.

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Italy and her islands.

The Colliseum

We arrived in Sicily early in the evening, dropped anchor and poured ourselves a glass of red. We were the only boat in the anchorage outside Licata marina, which for Aug 10th must be a first. We had been warned repeatedly not to be in Italy in August as the crowds were horrendous but 2020 is proving to be a year of change and tourist-free is one of the very few benefits. We caught up with Matt and Cristy from Trifecta for a late brekky and to check in – all very easy and a free check-in – bonus. Continue reading

Malta

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The Malta approach

We were met at the pontoon of the Royal Malta Yacht Club by Mike and Proud and two other boats from the Covid-free Odyssey group after a frustrating sail, including one day of lovely 25kn winds where we sailed at 8.5knts all day and a couple of days solid motoring with headwinds.  The group now consists of two Australian and two American boats and that evening we had drinks on board the other Australian boat Ikigai. continue reading….>