Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Final Countdown

So in preparation for our boat survey we pimped the boat over 7 days. We fixed minor foibles-which anyone that has ever owned a boat know constantly exist. We packed up as much of our stuff as we could. We cleaned parts of our beloved boat that we never knew existed, washed, polished & used more vinegar spray than I ever want to see again.

Obviously a few days before our list grew. After a year on anchor our windlass connection decided to be dodgey & literally hours pre-survey when Chris was polishing the starboard push pit it broke! Law of sods & all.

We banished the kids from coming anywhere near the boat post clean. After a v sleepless pre survey night in the unusual surroundings of a marina, we were up at 445am finishing the last preening before the renowned surveyor arrived. If you are buying a boat this is the guy you want. Search & rescue dogs have nothing on what this guy can find! Needless to say we had a new list to get fixed pre-sale.

We headed up to Tobago Cays for Elvira’s birthday & a final hurrah before we step back onto land 11 days later. We took Gaia from “Entelechy” with us for the ride. Our first stop was a overnight catch up in Tyrell Bay with the pixie pirates of “Marie des Isles”. The kids were thrilled to discover Sol’s beloved boat base hidden in the mangroves.

Then we ventured onward through some current to Tobago Cays. That place never disappoints with its crystal clear waters. Fish & turtles are the only things littering the underwater scene. Our Spanish friends put on a feast to celebrate Elvira’s birthday before she ships out to the US of A.

Our old haunt of Frigate Island was where we moved onto next with Pablo and the Merlady Elvira of the deep. The anchorage was empty & so was the kite spot. Perfect day spent with a Harry body dragging, Gaia getting up & me finally making it back to where I wanted to go.

After some sad goodbyes to our Elvira & Pablo we caught back up with the Cornish Pixie pirates after dark in Ile Ronde. Early the next morning we shipped out with them & down for their first trip to Grenada and into relative safety for the rest of hurricane season.

Pulling up in st George’s some of us were ready to get our whine on for carnival. Another eye opening and slightly deafening afternoon for the kids. What I loved about carnival was every size/ shape of women giving it everything as they chipped and grinded through the streets. Whilst both kids saw a whole lot of butts & graphic dancing I hope that this underlying message wasn’t lost on them?!

Monday night mass was a whole lot of fun with Sam, Erin & Dave from Roam. Special thanks to our 15 and 10 year old local chaperones for helping us find our groove & showing us how it’s done! We & all of St. George’s was lit up for another heart pumping, bass driven dance off.

Suddenly it was time for our final sail as we prepared to sell the boat. Another pack up was upon us.

So the day of final clean passed & Chris & I slept in a walk around bed onboard a beautiful 52 ft cat. The kids were at another farewell sleepover with friends and we missed them a tonne. Out of the kids Harry was definitely found things hardest & was all of a funk as he anticipated the transition.

Anyone that’s moved frequently knows what a pain in the ass the last few days are. You think you’re done & another load of random seemingly insignificant items arrive & amount to another 23kg. It’s infuriating & slow but it does all happen in the end. I thought I’d be better at it by now, but I’m not!

Once again the boat has been cleaned & I was happy to eat off any surface of it. I reached the point you arrive at in every move…the one where you just need to go. I reached reset & had moved onto all the things that need to be organised in the Uk. There was little time for emotion in the frenetic last few days…..That was until some very dear cruising friends made the 21st c equivalent of a mix tape!! Cue balling from us all.

The boat sale with our US buyer definitely wasn’t as simple and quick as our broker purchase but thanks to two great lawyer we got there in the end. Hannah at Yachting lawyers & Sarah at Bentley’s we couldn’t have got through this private sale without you! Would I sell this way again- 100% if we are with the boat. I think the main pain has been the pack up & boat prep for survey- all things you’d have to do with a broker anyhow. Plus the 10% saving is pretty major for the relocation. Also the open dialogue with the buyer was great.

We took Kathleen on a test sail and showed her all the systems, nooks and crannies before handover. We wish her all the best on her new adventures on the newly named “My Grace”.

Final farewells were hard. There was a lot of rum involved in the last 2 months. We were very touched that around 30 people gathered at the dock to see us off.

We wrapped up this unforgettable chapter & we can’t wait to get stuck into the next one.


Holding on

So the parents left but not before we had the chance to enjoy the underwater sculpture park. We then found a few slices of heaven up north at Petite st Vincent & Mopion. I may have also accidentally lost our kitesurfing board which was a little average!

This last 2 weeks the realisation that we’re off to the UK has set in & we’ve jumped into relocation mode. Just before Chris’s last trip we managed to squeeze in a meeting with a local yacht broker. A reputable company with a good name they wanted 10% of the sales price in commission. We also wanted to offer a broker friend of Chris’s in Oz the opportunity to market it, as they’d given us so much help in the lead up to our trip.

Whilst we waited to look at their contract I decided to get pro-active & advertise our home privately on and fb. Within 24hours we received an acceptable offer for our gorgeous home! It remains to be seen if the offer will go all the way, but a survey & lawyer are booked & we’re ploughing on HD yacht broker style with plenty of interest still coming in.

Not so smugly we also dragged anchor for the 1st time this trip. Obviously Chris was away & I happened to be visiting friends in another harbour-doh! Fortunately the cruising community has each others backs & our neighbours contacted our friends on “party of 5” who got hold of me. Travis & Matt kindly helped me re-anchor. This time there was no scrimping on chain & we threw out 6:1. Mini- drama averted & everyone was happy.

One of my best friends has joined us hot after navigating around the world for the second time in the Volvo ocean race. Whilst she is a racy number I think life on board “Fille de Joie” may be a little different, although she may be missing freeze dried after a few days of my food. For the whole of day 1 Lily was also quite literally attached to Libby’s hip. Some classic Lily quotes included “Have you done any sailing? I can show you what to do”.

We’ve also taught the kids a few new words in the lead up to UK life they include “blazer” and “shoes”. Alien concepts both. It turns out though that they will be in the “pirate tribe” at their new school, which is fairly apt.

Harry’s been perfecting his turns on our local mini-wave in Prickly Bay and he & Chris have been getting some good double rides of the “Minty B”.

We made another mini-gaunt back upto the Grenadines this week. First stop was the empty anchorage of ile ronde, where Sv”Entelechy” were greeted us. Some donuting and Lily’s “bestie” 15 yr old Gaia kept the kids entertained until dark. A reef snorkel gave us some great finds.

A long beat up wind took us onto Frigate Island. It’s a spot that ticks all the boxes for us. Flat water for kiting, few boats, great snorkel potential, a den on the beach & lots of shells which Lily loves to arrange. A action packed day of oppie sailing, Lily getting up for the first time wake surfing, more successful kiting without loosing any boards, snorkelling with spotted eagle rays, a million starfish, squid & cool trunk fish. All shared with friends on “Entelechy”. Having created tired kid bombs we then pushed our luck a little further with a rare dinner out round in Clifton, Union Island.

After a relaxed morning in Clifton we reached over to Mayreau being reunited with Pablo & the multi-talented woman of the sea, Elvira-If I were a fish I’d be terrified of her. Fickle wind prevented much kiting but a fab reception in Salt whistle bay from special friends on Sv “Nomadica” and the original pirate ship of “Marie des Isles” who we were pleased to see were unscathed after a mild skirmish with the first hurricane of the season.

One morning there was a hubbub in saltwhistle. Right around the time Harry decided to swim over to see his friends on “Marie des Isles”. What he didn’t envisage was the fishing net which he became encircled by! Without freaking out he swam on & over the net to his destination, hopefully not too concerned by whatever was being caught! Just another morning for a boat-kid.

We had a magic few days up in Tobago Cays swimming with more turtles than you can shake a stick at & snorkelling around a few islands and a great gaunt over a reef to see a wall that fish woman Elvira had found. Again cruiser friends turning it on with potlucks on the beach and lots of laughs.

An impromptu “kite camp” then unfolded in Frigate Island with a hoist of cruisers giving it a try under Elvira & Morgan’s instruction. All of us were blown away watching a local guy called “Pokemon”. The tricks this guy choreographed were insane!

Before play time was over we managed to take Libby to the marine sculpture park back in Grenada. 12hours of biblical rain brought playtime to a abrupt end as we dropped Libby off for her flight home. We had a week to get packed & ready for survey.

There is definitely a background of low grade stress stirring up on “Fille de Joie”. (Ok it’s been fever pitch at times). Waiting for lawyers to communicate over the boat sale is driving me slightly batty. Finally with 2 awesome Brit lady lawyers now on it we are getting sorted. I think we’re getting the 11th house set up since Harry was born which is slightly scary….maybe there’s a reason “No roots” is my new favourite track??!!

For some reason I’ve begun to care about what paint is on the walls, what furniture I will park my rear-end on, what car is right for us. All material stuff I’ve really enjoyed not caring about! Oh & then there is my “school” fear – the gates, the school run Mums, the overscheduling & all things kid related that us Mums love to stress over…..

For the moment we’re holding on & squeezing every pleasure from our last weeks aboard.


It’s coming home….

So here cocooned in my dream life whilst gearing up for a monumental adventure across the Pacific we’ve been chilling in Grenada & are still managing to keep abreast of the footie & the fact it’s clearly coming home…..

My parents have been visiting and we’ve been reconnecting with cruising friends & as ever meeting new families & sharing great moments.

Harry’s been cruising the bay hunting out play dates & picking up bread in his oppie & scoring some waves a few hundred yards from the boat whilst Lily has been a minx.

We gave Mum & Dad a “Cutty” tour of Grenada learning about all manner of fruits & stellar spots along the way. We sipped on 75% rum having watched its rather hazardous production at “Rivers” rum factory. They make the kind of strength useful for cleaning out cuts because “we can”. Kind of lucky no kids ended up in a boiling vat of cane sugar!

Another highlight of the day was finally enticing some wild Mona monkeys out of the trees by Etang crater lake on the middle of the island.

We had hurricane Beryl fizzle out & head north yesterday, so things are swell in Prickly Bay. But as ever in hurricane season you have to stay on your game.

We envisaged heading west & moving on through the Pacific early next year. However, life takes funny turns & in the last few weeks we’ve made the monumental decision to put our cruising plans on hold & move back to the UK. This means our stunning home will soon be on the market…..can’t type for tears!!

Chris has been offered a fantastic opportunity to go back to his first ever job working in McDonald’s………just kidding! At the end of the day the point here is that as a family we’re moving away from sailing & in a new direction for a while.

Life is never dull that’s for sure & I do love a international relocation! I may also regret promising the children another pet if were ever moved back to land, thinking I could put it off for a few years!!

We are very lucky that during the last week our tenants have kindly agreed to move out and we’ve managed to find a school willing to take our mildly feral boat-schooled children in Dorset.

Whilst this move is certainly going to be a shock to the system I’ve reframed it in my mind. Not many people are lucky to follow their dreams for a year, even fewer are lucky enough to do it again. This is a pause not a full stop. It might be many years before we complete our trip but we’ll be back because this lifestyle has stolen our hearts. It was a decision we shall never regret.

Whatever the next adventure is….we’re jumping in.

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Juiced up in the Grenadines

Having dropped the hook in the dark on the Saturday before last we wandered along the picturesque boardwalk of Bequia & stocked up from the locals on veg. We then spent the afternoon at the reading clinic, where I took a group of 10yr olds & the kids joined in. Sheryl has been running the group with passion, smiles and an ability to engage kids for 12years. Local kids and cruiser kids meet and learn. Not only does Sheryl see it as a learning opportunity but also a chance for cultures to mix. She’s a diamond.

The evening saw us head back to “Lennox the Lions den” for a BBQ rasta style on the beach with a handful of our cruising friends. Despite a minor head injury it was another top evening where the kids roamed the beach, caves and dens.

Father’s Day saw us head out early to Union Island. We anchored behind Frigate Island. After we moved a starfish who narrowly avoided being squished by our chain, oppie sailing and kiting commenced for the perfect family day. We were reminded what this trip is all about as the kids explored the anchorage by themselves in their boat.

We had wander through Clifton and bumbled through the local stalls. We had a bit of rain squall dodging before we set off for Grenada. A great sail on the gennacker to the west coast of Grenada (25miles ish) until we were met by a glass off and a need for the motor. A big pod of dolphins, presumably hanging out , playing and feeding like teens on the street made our afternoon. We pulled up in Prickly Bay at sunset.

Chris headed off on the Tuesday to an event in the states for the week leaving us to get reacquainted with Grenada. We reconnected with locally based friends on Sv“SAGO” and met another great new family over in secret harbour. With the chance to see turtles laying eggs on the cards we made a road trip with Luuck, Darcey & their 2 boys. A trip to Etang crater lake never disappoints, but for us no amount of Mona monkey calling brought them out to play. We moved on to the bustling town of Grenville for a quick gander and chance to buy ribs before heading north.

Next stop was Pearls airport- a former airstrip now home to the odd drag race and a heap of cows/bulls. This is where we found where those penguins downed the Madagascar plane!!

In actual fact the kids new playground were an old crop duster and a old Cuban plane. The Cuban plane hailed from (the previous) Cold War in 1983 when the US briefly invaded Grenada to see off Cuba. The kids appreciated the eerie feel and stomp through the planes.

With “hanger” on the horizon we stumbled across “By the Sea” a restaurant run by a German/Greek couple with a relaxed family feel and great garden/beach for roaming. Bloody love finding these gems dotted around the Caribbean.

We made the turtle watching on Levera beach for a 730pm call. In true Caribbean style we waited an hour for the rest of our party to arrive but we got there eventually & then we were told to hurry up & wait for action! Naps in the car by all were rudely awoken by turtle action. A hurried walk to the far end of the beach hustling sleepy kids at 10pm was tricky but our efforts were rewarded. It was pretty magical to see 2 huge leatherbacks laying their eggs and covering their tracks with a lot of effort before shimmying back into the rough sea. Nuts to think they would have hatched on that beach & may have returned to lay their own eggs from cold water areas as far a field as Alaska or Europe! The kids were suitably impressed and they demonstrated their turtle know how, barely letting the poor guide get a word in as they gave facts and asked tonnes of questions.

An hour and a half trip back to Prickly Bay was a sleepy affair. But I made it back to the dinghy and boat unscathed thanks to Luuck & hoped the kids wouldn’t dob me into Daddy for not hoisting the dinghy up for the night!

A good few nights socialising with our friends from secret harbour were had with a few too many mojitos. Possibly the most memorable was the drugs bust and prompt closing down of the make shift bar we were drinking at on Grande Anse beach! Definitely providing the kids with some kind of education. It was awesome to see Stormer and the other kids doing their own hustling on the beach selling his skin-ups for $2ec for 8!

We also celebrated Lily’s favourite person, Gaia’s, 15th birthday at the stunning Calabash resort for a leisurely lunch. So great to have Sv Entelechy here in Grenada too. Sharing these experiences with great friends is what it’s all about.

Chris arrived back home on Monday afternoon in time to make the most of a tiny pulse of swell with the kids on the reef. It’s a great wave except on the inside where it’s bloody shallow, with a lot of reef & urchins. Everyone was prepped to practice the starfish fall. I’d say we had the best family surfs so far on our own and with friends from Sv Laskair and Sv Pura Vida. 9 year old Chloe was nailing it after just a few weeks of surfing.

With another week before he’s off again we nipped up last night to Ile de Rhone a small island off Carriacou, where a quiet anchorage awaited. We were met by a figure demonstrating the international sign for “Do not anchor near me”. It involves standing as tall as you can, puffing your chest out & you must have your hands in fists resting on your hips. It’s a shame crap neighbours don’t do this when you look around a house- I swear it would prevent most neighbours from hell moments.

We’ve taken on 2 minging 35knt squalls and beat upwind to get to one of our favourite places this morning. Salt Whistle Bay in Mayreau is a special place & where we were for our 10th wedding anniversary.

We have a kid-boat hook up planned and some kiting to fit in. I also had a random call on Tuesday from my parents who are making a last minute trip between my Dads hospital appointments so we’ll dive back down to Grenada to pick them up on Saturday.

Cannot believe we got onboard a year ago. It feels like yesterday and that our journey is just beginning. We all feel so at home on this stunning boat of ours and privileged to be spending this time together. Magic memories are being made everyday & we don’t ever forget it.


Over the rainbow

It’s been a busy month of extensively not sailing anywhere but there has been plenty to keep us on our toes! With Chris in Europe for 2 months there have been periods with a serious lack of adult company. Being back on board by 6pm with 2 energetic kids chatting Pokemon and diffusing sibling tiffs can be pretty lonely and wearing at times with no one to chew the cud with or vent to! A visit from an old school friend Jules and her family nicely broke the spell.

We threw ourselves into island exploration in Martinique. We saw salt petrifications, botanical gardens, banana plantations, rhum factories, they went on dolphin hunts, we fished, oppie sailed, swam, jumped, swam some more & snorkelled on reefs all whilst trying not to delay the healing of a fractured arm for Lucas (5) and not loose anyone overboard. The kids took to boat-life really well & save for the communicable disease we left them with & the general pain in the arse this continues to cause we hope they enjoyed their holiday as much as we loved having them!!

We also tried to hunt out a waterfalls in Didier with 2 other kid boats and it pretty much summed up our life as cruisers! We went searching for an area of natural beauty with tit bits of information on direction, challenges we’d face and stories of what awaited us.

The not insurmountable route took us in a different direction than planned, we clambered with young kids through the riverbed over boulders and down slippery paths, we took risks that some of the group found questionable & the weather didn’t tow the line. Everyone ended up soaked and we didn’t find exactly what we thought we would but the journey with a great group of friends chalked up a great experience. In true goal-orientated fashion we returned for another crack of the whip the following week with “Party of 5” to find the elusive falls! This time a stunning nearly 10km hike through dense foliage & past sheer drops awaited & the kids pushed each other on without a murmur of complaint. This time we found a waterfalls but still not “the one”…did it matter? Not a scrap. We loved the journey with both its frustrations, it’s ups & downs & general ability to make us sweat & feel alive. Everyone was equally as pleased to get out of my hire car!

We’ve then unexpectedly been in kid-boat heaven, seeing old friends & meeting new great families, who may have questionable DJ skills but are a lot of fun. Having 5 other kidboats in close proximity is pretty much like kid crack, but unlike crack it keeps everyone happy and with positive mental health. From renaming ceromonies and 90s disco on “Roam” to hikes to Salinas and days in the waterpark everyone has been kept thoroughly entertained.

S/v “Roam” was officially renamed this week in St.Anne. I was mildly concerned that a key feature of renaming a boat had been missed. It’s commonly known that someone should pee in the bilges upon renaming. Fortunately a small blonde child was slightly too short to reach the heads quickly so kindly obliged & wee’d in the bilges…”Roam”will be forever grateful I’m sure.

Daddy is now back onboard which caused squeals of excitement from us all! We are back to family boatlife and what we signed up for. Our trip is now back underway.

We suddenly jumped into a frenzy of boat-work to get the boat ready for a 3-day (500nm) sail to the ABCs. We were shoehorning this much anticipated trip into a weather window whilst Chris was back for 7 days. The day before departure, I was out for a run with a bit of time to think/take advice, then Chris & I actually had 5 mins for a conversation! After 7 weeks of not sailing the boat or checking the systems we were pedal to metal to get things sorted, right the wrongs I’d been left in charge of! A much more chilled option was a leisurely sail through the grenadines where we knew there will be a highway of kid boats fleeing the hurricane belt to the relative safety of Grenada and some chance to do a bit of kitesurfing.

So not too many goodbyes needed. We did have to say goodbye one particular boat of stars who I’m going to miss anchoring right next to after 8 months. I’m positive they will enjoy the peace and quiet without me bothering them every 5 minutes like an over-excited puppy who hasn’t had human contact. So long “Nomadica” we’ll miss you lots.

This morning we got up with the sparrows and had left Martinique by 530am. Friends on “Entelechy” are on our starboard hip. Technically we’re just ghosting them as we only have a AIS receiver & they can’t see us. We’re running the stinky sargasso seaweed gauntlet and after 5 back downs to clear weed and a sneaky squall that woke us up we’re on the move.

We’re heading past St.Lucia and St.Vincent to Bequia in 15-20knts of breeze. The gennaker has been out for half of the day but progress has been slowed by a tonne of head on current. We hope to throw down the hook into Bequia this evening.

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Waving in the tropics

Sat here enjoying the first tropical wave of the season…sounds far more warm and cuddly than the reality of the pouring rain. However, it still is pretty toasty here in Martinique.

Short & sweet trip back to Europe mostly so we could catch some time with Daddy who is sailing in Europe for 2 months.

We spent a stunning week in Lake Garda. With every type of weather, it definitely wasn’t the week to have no luggage. I’m confident we will be reunited one day….maybe next month! There were castles, bikes, zoos, kitesurfing, sailing, dinners and meets with friends.

A hop and a skip & we were back in the UK and on to my hometown of Burnham-on-crouch, Essex. A muddy tidal creek that is dear to my heart & the only place that I ll ever think of as home.

My parents have been off cruising in the med for 10 years, only moving back into their house last year in prep for my Dad having a complicated jaw replacement for a necrotic jaw. It was great to see him 8 weeks post surgery & on a bumpy recovery road he’s still mildly cantankerous but being very British about the whole affair! NHS heroes have sorted him out once again. See he now looks 30 odd years younger with a stylish moustache and shorts…

The kids were mildly enthralled by all the pageantry of the royal wedding Lily decided we couldn’t go as Harry didn’t have a suit & she didn’t have a pretty enough dress with her. Nevertheless it was great to be in the country soon along up the positive atmosphere of this great British event, especially whilst the sun was out.

As I wandered down Burnham sea wall and passed the salt marshes, I realised that one day I really would like my kids to lay down some roots, but not before they’ve crossed a few oceans and realised that there is a whole diverse world out there for them to explore.

As we are now back to a place where life is a lot slower and it’s trickier to get things on demand. I’m appreciating the return to the simple life. Ok I did fit in a spirilizer, so maybe my cooking utensils just doubled…

On my last eve in Burnham I managed to meet up with some old friends. The night was too short & in a gorgeous cocoon of a familiar place and people there simply was not enough time! One friend asked what the crap bits of boat life were, so I need to reply. In truth there are very few. There are things that take more time & are a little more convuluted, but in a world full of convenience I love the fact that a hot bath can feel like you just picked up willy Wonkers golden ticket.

Very quickly the novelty of a hot bath and a stacked fridge can wear off, but hopefully when we do pitch some roots down we’ll all still appreciate those things… But after nearly a year of no school run I no longer have that balled up knot inside of perpetual lateness for the school run or work, or both, or that feeling of having overcommitted mine or my families time day after day. I also don’t miss the feeling that I’m letting people down due to lack of time or organisation. If we meet up I want to have time to actually listen to you!

For now here is a quick off the top of my head list of mildly irritating boat life realities. We endure these whilst living in stunning locations on the hook:

⁃ Water is treasured commodity, no long showers or frivolous washing up. But shouldn’t we be mindful of this anyway?

⁃ Hot showers are possible if the engine has been on or if the generator has been on & we’ve made enough water. Marginal personal hygiene (even of 8year old boy) is mitigated by jumping in the sea/ocean.

⁃ Charging of phones/laptops needs some planning. If you haven’t done it while you have good solar power input then you may be sans battery life unless the generator is actually needed. But tv for kids is only at the weekends anyhow. Just read a book.

⁃ Laundry. Don’t wait to find a laundrette until you have too many loads otherwise it may take all day to get done. Just wear less clothes or hand wash/bucket wash some nick nacks.

⁃ Confined space. Our boat is admittedly a catamaran which helps, but I don’t feel like it’s a ridiculously small space. Effectively we live outside which gives us a whole world of space.

⁃ Self care- it’s not the 70s & organising the odd bush trim can be tricky in some places. Yes I may wish I’d got lasered some years back…Likewise my not really blonde hair. Roots are hideous but I don’t know anyone out here!

⁃ Kid free time. I miss it less than I thought I would! If I can somehow get out of bed and get a jog or body weight circuit for 30 mins then my mental health is good & I can cope with the kiddos. If this doesn’t happen then the amber alert sounds after 3 days….you’ve been warned.

⁃ Getting stuff sent. It’s either super expensive or a pain in the arse & means waiting somewhere for twice aslong as you think or moving somewhere you don’t want to be. Save money, don’t buy it unless you really really cannot survive without it. Most of the time you don’t need it. *NB This does not apply to my long awaited handheld dyson 110v that I still haven’t got hold of. I may well die without this lustful item of British engineering finery*

– I do end up dealing with a lot of other people’s poo! Boat heads take a bit of trickery clearly!

⁃ Loneliness- ok so we’re back on the boat as a 3 for a month. Not ideal but we ll struggle on through in the Caribbean! The nature of the husband I chose means periods alone. If that means we’re alone in exotic locations instead of grinding out the 9-5 life in my home country that works for me! Even when he is onboard yes life can still be lonely. We all know girlfriends make the world go around and there is nothing more cleansing than a random vent of what’s on your mind with a non-judgemental girlfriend. On the upside the new friends we meet are often in a similar life space. Having taken themselves on a similar adventure & are often a hell a lot of fun. There are those gobi desert periods when you don’t meet anyone but hey you’re on a boat with your nearest & dearest & that’s pretty special.

⁃ The boat work. There’s a lot of it-Suck it up. If you re lucky enough to be a engineer you re winning. If you really want to do the trip you’ll learn or find some ace cruisers who may be willing to help solve a problem. Stuff is always more expensive than you think & breaks at in-opportune moments but that’s where the adventure is. It often gets hard and you re in the grit, but it makes you appreciate a working boat all the more!!

⁃ Cutting the lines won’t take you where you thought and you won’t like everywhere. There will be a lot of change! Directions, time, friends, plans but it will be 100% worth it. Cut the lines & go….

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel · Uncategorized

Treading water in Martinique

So in a frenzy of arriving & boat maintenance Chris left for Europe last week. So now we are 3 for a while. Fortunately our good friends on Nomadica are anchored just in front of us & cuddles with 8 week old Gael are pretty special. Lily has declared as she has a baby to play with she has no need to seek out kidboats which is just as well as there are very few in evidence right now!! So we’re adapting & hit the skatepark up in le Marin with some success. The kids happily made attempts to speak some French with local kids (there is usually big time resistance to this from our Anglophiles).

In terms of adapting I’ve realised boat-life has caused us to adapt. For sure we are more aware of the finite supply of energy and water we have onboard, so we naturally adapt to accommodate that. Showers are definitely thin on the ground in relative terms! My new definition of getting up is having put a bikini on. Our evening film culture has been replaced by books that we don’t need to charge when the invertor is switched on and hours of old school card/board games. Eating in is most definitely the new eating out to keep cruising budget vaguely on point. We also actually empty the fridge and concoct odd meals out of nothing until we really really need to restock so we waste a tiny proportion of food relative to our land lives. Fortunately for my fussy eater pasta rarely runs out!

What is frustrating me on the Islands is the amount of plastic that we still get sold at every shop we find & the seeming lack of awareness of the damage single-use plastics are doing on these islands as highlighted by so many campaigns in the UK including a friend’s “final straw Solent” project in the UK. I get the irony that we live on a plastic boat and appreciate its highly likely a cost implication in many places to find/use alternatives but please don’t offer me plastic everywhere we go!! One of Harry’s long term projects has been to get a leaflet printed up so we can hand it out to each bar we go to. Until that happens I have to guiltily admit that saying no to plastic isn’t always on the tip of my tongue with every order in a new place. I’m only then annoyed with myself and the merchant who hands a plastic water bottle or straw etc! I’d love to arrive in a marina or cruising area one day where you can only refill your bottles & not be served plastic at every turn. Since we all seem to have phones on us I’m thinking a phone cover or sticker with a “no plastic” message might remind me to flash the message….going to get the kids on a design.

Spontaneity and flexibility of plans is another sign of our adaptations. Stuff changes all the time for all manner of reasons. What we decide now may be different tomorrow. This is put into sharp focus recently by people who clearly think we’ve lost our minds! Yes we go up and down the Eastern Caribbean like it’s the M27 but that’s how it rolls right now. Also yes generally there is no plan on a daily basis…. If we achieve the laundry in one 24hour period that is a bonus.

Our slowed pace takes me back to having a newborn when achieving any 1 thing in a day is a massive achievement. This approach often does not apply to boat maintenance though. Every cruiser knows that the reality of cruising is boat bimbling in nice places.

The big news this week has been Harry turning 8. We were hoping to find him a cheap oppie to allow him to sail around the anchorages and go all “Swallows & Amazon”, but it seems cheap knackered oppies are tricky to come by in the Caribbean!! He was pretty excited with a mini multi-tool instead as well as the chance to go on his first scuba-dive. As a budding marine biologist this has been a dream we thought would have to wait until he was 10+ but in both Antigua & the French islands it seems 8 is fair game.

Nathalie of Kalinago plongee, who a friend remarked looked like an original baywatch cast member, was his instructor. A warm enthusiastic lady, she promised to guard him with her life! He had basic mask and equalising skills to learn on the beach before he took a boat trip out to a shallow reef. Having thoroughly enjoyed it, I feel like I’ve now opened Pandora’s box!!

Socialising the kids, like new puppies, was part 2 of the birthday. We’d managed to connect with seemingly the only other boat cruising with kids in the anchorage via a marginally named group called “Kids4sail”. A useful source of all things kidboat related, we’d not actually meant anyone via the page before.

Richard and Rafaella are a UK/Italian couple who’d been living in the US with 2 boys 8/11 until they set off cruising from Canada last year. Better than just being in the same anchorage they are a great couple & we had a great time hanging out on the beach followed by homemade Italian pizza & cake (Harry heaven). The kids were delighted to have new friends to wrestle with on the beach and show around. Harry’s first words every morning since have been when can we see Matthew & Sebastian!

It would seem utterly alien these days to knock on a door in our neighbourhood in the UK invite the family out for the afternoon & then back to ours for the evening, then see them everyday for the next week!

The other great thing that we’ve been making use of is “People beach” just by the laundry dock. A chilled area that is rarely busy, we can do school here, play and dip in the plunge pools.

Also at the weekends a water park has opened right by the anchorage which even caters for those of tiny stature- Lily was thrilled after being denied entry in St.Lucia!

We’ve kicked back into school -after 2months of visitors we desperately needed to get back on track, having done the bare minimum with people here. When we had planned a 18month trip I was slightly more blasé about the curriculum, but now that seems to rapidly be turning into 3 years….. Time to up the game & start planning for next year.

We headed to a local botanical garden, I’d say it was more like a nursery but nether the less a very kind worker gave us a guided tour and we tried to keep up…

This morning the kids started their first French lesson with the lovely Marianne!! If nothing else they will be having to pay attention to another adult for 5 hours a week. As you can see Harry was delighted, while Lily had prepped her bag and lunch by 7am….

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

We’ll be back

So we left Family Ward back in St Barths, where Chris had been sailing with a great sailing team & a super friendly owner at La Voile St Barths. We did some exploring and found some stunning spots and view points.

The kids and I had tried to remain invisible for the week but We did attend the open invite outdoor prize-giving. However, a clingy Harry was suddenly in tears. The music was loud & there was a fair crowd…”Mummy I’m not used to all these people”. I guess he’s right, so many people in an enclosed space are a bit of a shock after all these months on our own. Avoiding the team Harry & I headed off to an open back corner, kept ourselves out the way & played top trumps. We were so far out the way though that when Chris tried to go on stage he still had Lily with him & she wasn’t keen- after trying to remain inconspicuous we’d screwed up!!

Then the agghhhh relax moment came as we headed away from St Barths & back to the simplicity of the sea. 10 hours upwind to Antigua turned into a 13 hour motorsail which meant we arrived into Jolly Harbour, Antigua in the dark.

We had new surroundings to explore while we hoped our friends on Marie des Isles would arrive. We also had a rendezvous to pick up the inlaws who’d been on Caribbean walkabout for a few weeks.

Fate is a funny thing though & whilst we were sorting the boat out a dinghy with old friends in it motored up! Iain was in Portsmouth with Chris & some 10 years ago Fiona & I had done a yacht race across the Med together. They had just put an offer in on a boat anchored a stones throw from us! Lovely to catch up with them.

Realising Marie des Isle had checked in at Falmouth we intended to head off upwind in afternoon. The kids had made great use of their time with their grandparents, model yachting, sailing, fishing, drawing, card games you name it Sue & Lawrie were roped in.

As we were about to leave we had a cluster ‘:);! A boat on our starboard hip was trying to get their anchor up but was taking us with them. To make matters worse their windlass has given up the ghost. The stress vibes and raised voices coming off their boat were high. Any advice from us conveyed from the bow was still heard as just shouting. Before things escalated with a collision, Chris went all Hassellhoff & dived in to check on the anchors & figure a solution.

We were definitely being towed around the anchorage at pace! Chris & another boat owner managed to get aboard. They manueveured the boat & got the anchor up, but not before every cruiser in the anchorage had had a good gander. Thanks to the guys on the moody from Hamble for your help, we were free at last!

We took the cheeky route inside Cade’s reef which gave us some protection from the upwind slam until Carlisle Bay. We then hooked into Falmouth harbour to see a plethora of classics yachts. Proper old school stunning classic boats, glamour.

Great night was had catching up with local & not so local friends, including Morag who’d been on Marie des Isles for 3 weeks. The kids were super excited to see their friends & scoot @ the AYC whilst the band played and the little ones rocked out.

The next week played out in a similar vein with much socialising, climbing mangroves, running wild for the kids and the added bonus of me getting a ride for classics week on the stunning Mariella. After what feels like a lifetime of not racing it was great to be on the water with Carlo Falcone & Paola. Sat at the back on the main sheet with Paola was a great spot to view all the action.

Luckily Sue and Lawrie were happy to help with the kids as Chris picked up a ride too with Ollie who had kindly housed us for hurricane Irma. For the 1st time in months we had some kid free days & Harry & Lily were delighted to spend time with their grandparents. Much better with us out the way I’m sure.

We were all the more gutted to leave the regatta a day early due to a few logistical issues. The kids & I had expected to be staying for race week until mid May but Chris’s trip to Europe just got extended meaning he won’t be around to help us with a hop to Martinique for the end of May. We held out for a spare pair of hands & even looked into moving the inlaws flights but with the clock ticking and no definite option we had to leg it to Martinique. Antigua we will be back!!

So here we are. Luckily I didn’t pick up a random! It was a fairly mixed bag trip, with a lot of squalls between the Islands. Sometimes 5knots turned into 30knts of breeze & sheet rain with a fair old sea to boot. Naked reefing happened on a few occasions and we had a few hatch leaks to contend with. The bow team got a bit flattened but didn’t complain.

Just as we headed into the final upwind darkness approached we dodged and failed to dodge a tonne of sargasso. The steering paddle had one and we did a back down to get some weed off. Sadly we made a classic error I didn’t get in the fishing line….. hero Hasselhoff Chris was to the rescue again and got in to clear the prop of the fishing line.

Then we came to a grinding halt in a truck load of current off Diamond rock! We sat still despite the motor for an hour. After 27hours and not our best journey everyone was pretty pleased to throw down the anchor in St. Anne.

Nice to be back in familiar surroundings as a four. Cuddles with baby Gael from Nomadica are making up for the lack of kid boats. I’m also hoping Harry will forgive me soon having promised him a birthday in Antigua with his friends!!


St. Barths

We had very happy Easter with family & friends as 4 very excited kids went scampering around a little beach in Deshais, Guadeloupe in search of Easter treats!

We then took our new crew of family Ward in search of volcanoes in Montserrat. Where not 1 but 3 volcanoes awaited us. We pulled up & anchored off Rendesvous bay after a 5 hour sail downwind. A poorly 2 year old didn’t stop family Ward enjoying the first cruise & their eldest Jack (5) fell quickly in with Lily, though they aren’t in love apparently.

A jump in to snorkel and explore the busy reef before sunset was the perfect end to a busy day. Slightly worried Lily would knock off her respiratory drive I had to keep reminding our part mermaid to breath…always useful.

Despite the bank holiday we were stunned to meet the Caribbean’s friendliest port authority & immigration team! Montserrat quite literally rocked.

Levels of organisation were high for team Ward & we’d even pre arranged a island tour with Joe Phillips. A local legend, who is obviously very passionate about his Island & the history of the world renowned volcano that wiped out 2/3 of the island and busy thriving communities during our lifetime. We made a trip into the exclusion zone and now deserted capital city of Plymouth which has been buried under a mountain of ash following successive eruptions over 20+ years. 4 story buildings, hotels, businesses, churches and the capital Plymouth have been engulfed since 1997. A whole golf course, roads and bridges were buried and swept into the ocean in a mudslide in 1997. Parts of the island have been extended hundreds of metres by the flow of material into the sea.

Joe’s before and after shots help set the scene & highlight the devastation & full force of nature. Scientists initially believed the dome formation & collapse cycles which see 2 container loads of lava produced every second would stop after 5 years. 20+ years later none of the criteria for rendering the volcano inactive have been met. The magma chamber is still growing despite no recent dome growth. The observatory was a particularly exciting visit for me. It reminded me that as a teenager I wanted to be a volcanologist! The last major dome callapse and eruption of the cauliflower shaped plumes of pyroclastic flow occurred in 2010. Travelling a 100km/hr the gases, rocks and firey hot debris destroyed everything in their path.

It was a surreal experience and great geography lesson when we could get Harry away from having his nose in his kindle. Pretty tricky to appreciate the sometimes subtle changes to the landscape if you’re a kid. Particularly hunting for glimpses of houses. Jack remained amazingly attentive as-long as he could but for the 2-5 year olds it was a big day!

A beach bar trip was a welcome end to the day before a quick wakeboard to burn off some energy. Just before sunset we decided to make the night sail downwind to St Barths. This approach seemed a lot fairer on the kids, especially as poor Jack was coming down with his brothers bug.

Pulling into Isle de Fortune for breakfast we were pretty happy with our night crossing call & so we’re the kids when they could bomb in for a snorkel with an array of fish, stingray, turtles and a reported nurse shark sighting. Poorly kids had a chilled day & made attempts to bounce back with a lot of hydration & calpol. A good night sleep for all was just what the doctor ordered.

Exploration of St Barths then commenced.

The kids have wandered around the streets of Gustavia with all its finery, they danced on tables over lunch in Nikki’s like any self respecting under 7s and chilled out at Shell beach, which is some feat as it seems to have its own climate 5degrees C above elsewhere on the Island. I may have used 1 of my self allowed 10 alcohol tickets for the year after nearly 3 months off the booze. But the couple of cocktails were worth it with great friends.

Whilst St Barths is mostly in full swing evidence of last year’s devastating hurricane season are still evident in corners of the island. As it is such a wealthy island the bounce back has been quick but a few hotels are yet to reopen & a walk to Toiny beach or Grande Cul de Sac reminds you that a lot of damage was done.

Captain Chris fitted in Hobie cat tours with the full rabble of kids off St Jean beach. Many a screech of delight was had. Wardy met up with “Serial divers” and passed the diving mantle onto Katie & myself promising us sights of spotted eagle rays, sharks and barracudas. We both got our dive back on after many years hiatus. Emmanuel was a fab instructor. An hours dive around the rocks off Gustavia gave us plenty to see and time to get our skills back up. The first of many more dives on this trip I hope.

Wardy had very kindly taken charge of the 4 kids for the morning as Chris was racing in Les Voiles St Barths. Whilst Katie & I did our dive, the kids spotted nurse sharks off the dock, skate boarded and caused mischief. None gave Ward the runaround as much as Theo -captain Chaos himself. My new favourite 2 year old. Wanting to fish gaze a bit more gravity got the better of him & he took a full dive off the dock quickly followed by Ward! Cheers came from the other 3 for great dives! The morning continued in a similar vein with a trip to the race village. The kids returned with dog poop on their flip flops due to some irresponsible dog owner….or was it?! Turns out Theo’s morning was epic! Wardy then continued Hasslehoff style rescue missions most of the afternoon as he dived in for various paraphernalia.

Flamingo float delights, croissants and ice creams sealed off a banging 10 days. The Wards will be well pleased with a shower,beds to themselves and escaping “Frau Brown” and her boat rules!! We’ve loved having you, miss you already & see you in Panama….

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

The Butterfly

Chris’s parents have been staying with us this week so we’ve been on the move.

Wednesday saw Draper’s on masse check out & head off in a little squall around to Carlisle Bay for the night. A uneventful shake down hour motor to get Sue & Lawrie into the swing. The afternoon had crept up & we decided against arriving in Guadeloupe in the dark.

Last August when we pulled into Carlisle Bay I drank my weight in rose & there wasn’t another boat in sight. This time it’s a hell of a lot cooler & there are over a dozen boats here.

After giving himself a headache free diving to check the anchor Harry, & therefore I bowed out of snorkelling to source potential lobster dinner. We sent the in-laws & Lily with Daddy instead. A lion fish was culled but didn’t make it to the dinner table unfortunately!

Thursday saw us leave Antigua. As I woke us & rolled over I realised that vertigo was back again. I felt like I’d just jumped onto an upside down rollercoaster midride every time I turned to the left in bed! So after 8 months & during a moderate sail the boat was finally christened with vomit – great!!

Following 5 hours of reaching in 20-25knts we reached the chilled shores of Deshaies in Guadeloupe. It’s a small picturesque village not dissimilar from St.Anne in Martinique. It’s also apparently the location that UK programme “Death in Paradise” is filmed too (random fact).

Harry got stuck into sailing his new Rc model boat that was hand crafted by grandpa! Obligatory croissants were loaded & a trip to the botanical gardens was had. A 1km walk up a reasonable hill brought us to the beautifully kept botanical gardens. Touted as the gem of the region by other cruisers, everyone was kept entertained & Harry took up paparazzi duty.

By mid afternoon Friday we were on the move south along the west coast. The main aim was to chop up our trip to Les saintes over the weekend. We overnighted in a deep anchorage just off Rivière Sens beach in Basse Terre. After an unsuccessful Boulangerie trip & a painfully slow jog we were on our way to the Saintes in the morning with Lawrie enjoying some time on the helm.

Les Saintes are a quiet archipelago of islands to the south of Guadeloupe. We’d been told there is plenty of snorkelling & stunning beaches to explore. Our first stop just off Sucre Pain beach was as advised. Probably some of the best snorkelling we’ve had in a long time. As per usual no GoPro battery means I can only offer kids pics of what they saw!

Our morning trip into le Marigot was timed perfectly to get ourselves in the way of a Palm Sunday procession. The small town itself was enchanting with rustic french charm and a gentle buzz.

A short walk takes you across to the Atlantic side with sargassum covered beach of Grand Anse. Great if you want to be pounded by a shore break, otherwise the perfect location to pick up some drift wood or build a den….

Sunday afternoon rolled in & we snorkelled some more spotting an array of Caribbean Sea delights. Even a few bits of live coral would you believe!

Sundowners were rudely interrupted by a leak which occurred as we tried to re-pressurise & clean the water pump strainer. The main risk being electrical wires immediately adjacent to the leak…Some buckets, sponges & problem solving later & we were hopefully sorted.

Chris & I started the week off with a short run up to Napoleon fort. Fairly appropriate for a short couple! Stunning vistas rewarded even those who walked up the hill (ahem!) but sadly these pics will stay in my mind & weren’t caught on film.

We had a quick dip to rinse off whilst trying to avoid Barry the barracuda who was lurking beneath the boat. I shot out the water when I felt a fish brush my leg. Half an hour later I realised the hungry fish was highly likely to be my last pair of sunnies that were perched on my head when I jumped in…guess those frown lines will be getting deeper!

Despite Lily’s protests of “changing spots all the time” we soon cast off & began the 5 hour beat towards Marie Galant in champagne sailing conditions.

Anchoring up in St.Louis, Marie Galante we realised that whilst the town had the appearance of infrastructure & amenities including numerous car hire places, coffee shops etc. the town was sleepy or shut, presumably as it was Monday on a French island, but we did find a sleepy beach bar, so the others had rum was before sunset. Tuesday rolled round & the sleepy town never awoke. We did manage to call someone to loan us a car.

We visited 2 historic sites of sugar plantation attempted to explain the history behind sugar plantations & the concept of slavery to the bemused kids. Sugar cane & cattle were aplenty in Marie Galante.

The other small towns we came across were equally empty but with evidence of restaurants, bus routes, mechanics, a hospital, a hospitality college & even a stadium. To be honest it freaked me out slightly…maybe they heard we were coming or it was a week long enforced holiday. I’m guessing a faltering economy & lack of visitors is the real cause. Amongst closed businesses we did stumble across a beaut of a beach bar a plage fleuirrile. Sadly we missed the distillery trip though as it is only a morning affair 9-1pm only…since I’ve been pretty much dry since January I forget that rum in the morning is utterly acceptable here in the Caribbean.

Moving north up the intermittently rugged coast we were treated to the empty beaches of …,.and vieux fort. We anchored for another eve in an unspoilt bay. This ship was heading north in search of surf for the morning….

The trades seemed to have vanished this week & light airs on the nose meant the donkey was on. However, soon a white plume told us all was not well. A broken impeller was located & replaced. It looked like it had been in there a while…slightly odd as we’d just had an engine service & had thought they’d been replaced. Anyway it didn’t hold us up too much. A touch of wind filled in, we even flew the gennaker a few times as our heading eased off.

5 hours into the sail Harry took it upon himself to do a small piece of writing on dolphins, totally unprompted. Nearly as soon as he finished he seemed to get his reward. In a spooky turn of events a pod of dolphins was soon frolicking in our bow wave. Harry tells me Poseidon sent them…

We arrived in Port Louis on the Eastern inner corner of the “butterfly” just in time for Chris to get in the much anticipated surf! Not as big as when we were there at the start of the month but fun all the same. Another bonus of the otherwise empty anchorage was meeting a great kid boat “Little Wing”. The play dates with Seb & August we’re short but sweet & hopefully will keep the kids satiated until the weekend.

Family beach and surf time took up the rest our time in Port Louis and Sue & Lawrie squeezed a walk and explore in. We complete our speedy circumnavigation of Guadeloupe today as we head back to Deshais.

After a great week we’re having a glamour sail in 14-16knts with the purple beast unfurled in 120-40 TWA. A quick few gybes at the north west tip of Guadeloupe and into Deshais we go. We have a crew exchange on Saturday. Sue & Lawrie are off exploring & the family Ward are on for a trip to St. Barths!