Sailing

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!!

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!

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Spicy Ting!

Well the kids have thrown us back into life in Antigua. We’ve had sailing lessons, been skirfing, met new friends, old friends and had a cheeky trip round a superyacht and gatecrashed a few swimming pools. Lily has charmed all the locals around Falmouth harbour & has a new nickname of “Spicy Ting”. It suits the little diva to T…

We haven’t moved anchor in weeks as Chris has been away, but one really good thing about Antigua is slew of families in similar positions. We met some great kids & Mums based here for the season and have been busy!

Morag, an old colleague from Dorchester Physio days came to visit with her gorgeous 4 yr old James. They are exploring the Caribbean for 3 months before James starts school and despite a stroppy Harry for day 1, it was soo good to have them stay. Morag is someone who is the opitimy of the phrase “When life gives you lemons make lemonade”. She’s out here living life & making memories, whether it’s the path you choose or not you have to embrace it.

Having chatted until 2 in the morning catching up on the last 10 years, we headed to beach boot camp at Pigeon beach for a wake up. Lily then inducted James in the best spots to jump off the boat from. Despite continuing minging swell on anchor, James was right into boatlife.

English harbour & Nelsons dockyard were day 1’s exploration. Using ice creams to bribe a few walks we took in the sights. We then narrowly avoided wrestling tarpon to retrieve a precious toy car from Falmouth harbour, all in some vain attempt to placate a fractious 7 year old….arghhhhh.

Stingray city was an epic trip out & far more successful than Chris’s encounter in Melbourne when he trod on one at the moth worlds in 2015 & got the barb through his leg…. We sensibly performed the stingray shuffle, fed them when prodded by them & snorkelled around with them on a deserted patch of sand on the east coast. Lily wasn’t so keen on one mounting her face, but Harry & James thought they were cool.

Half moon bay was a pretty captivating spot for Friday. We slathered ourselves in mud at the far end of the beach & emerged silky smooth. The furthest end gave the greatest shelter from the current swell. We snorkelled around and James was thrilled with any fish we saw. On our way back to the boat we took a trip to the donkey sanctuary, which also houses cats & dogs. It was a young kids delight & we escaped without any extra pets and all toes in tact.

All 4 year olds need the chance to skirf right…?! That’s what Saturday brought, served up after turtle sightings off the stern of the boat. Otto the octopus was the best sight of our snorkel as he sloped off then propelled between rocks completely in camo.

Treating Morag to a total experience wouldn’t have been complete without a (Not quite) Broadway trip. On Saturday night we saw the local school (Island Academy) production of the Lion King- Lily never wanted it to end & the kids put on a great performance. Admittedly James was a little confused about where the Lions were.

Even in our not so busy lives on Fille de Joie we can manage even lazier Sunday mornings! Before the day ran away we got off to Nonsuch resort with the aim of taking a water taxi to Green Island. However, once we arrived bellies were hungry, the surroundings were picturesque & lunch was on offer after a kamikaze kayak with 3 kids. The kids expended some energy disturbing the pool peace with bombing, diving & jumping. We rushed back to English harbour to make sundowners with Chris’s parents who’d been settling into Antigua over the previous few days.

The view from Shirley heights is renowned & it didn’t disappoint, though on a Sunday you do have a few hundred other people to contend with, unlike the rest of the week. I love a steel pan band & it will always remind me of the kids time at Somersfield academy in Bermuda, no visit to Antigua is complete without taking in this night. A night cap was then had in Cloggy’s. Some top parenting ensued as Lily and James (or “Limes” as Harry insists on) fell asleep on a very comfy sofa right in front of the DJ. I had my first drink in nearly 3 months then we wrestled sleeping babies into the tender & home.

Suddenly Morag’s last day was upon us so after numerous frustrating attempts to swim with the turtles that were only 20ft from the boat, we had a chilled few hours & took in the Colonial views of English harbour from “Boom”.

10 years is a long time and there was trepidation on both parts about the visit, but it was awesome to have Morag & the fab James on the boat. Raising him on your own can be no easy feat, he is a credit to you & Paul. What a fantastic trip he’s having with his Mummy. We hope you enjoyed playing tourists as much as we did. Next time we might even move the boat! Safe travels to St.Lucia & maybe we’ll see you in Guadeloupe with our friends on Marie des Isles.

We swapped Morag for Chris who arrived home from Oman just in time for chilled 40th birthday celebrations with family, some local and some old friends!

Today it’s Election Day in Antigua, we’re clearing out, taking Sue & Lawrie to Guadeloupe before we head off to St.Barth’s for La Voile. We’ll miss our friends here & boot camp but time to get sailing.

Misadventures:

– Harry took his first accidental swim from the tender….”It’s not funny Mummy”.

– Non 4×4 hire car did not appreciate the unpaved roads & we may have got stuck once or twice.

– Toilet parts have not yet arrived! Pooooo eeyyyy.

– The generator needed jump starting & thankfully Pierina were on hand to help the first time and I didn’t electrocute myself after that.

– Watermaker was playing up, but changing both filters & putting some serious hours in & we’re back off rations.

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

St. Lucia flying solo

DSC_1885Been swinging around on a ball this past few weeks in St. Lucia and not sailing! It was blowing the dogs off chains for the majority of the time which scuppered plans to head to Martinique.

This blow did mean we had extra time to catch up with friends from Essex. A bumpy trip around to Rodney bay didn’t disappoint & the kids had a blast together at the water park and at our friend’s hotel. So lovely to catch up with the Pittuck’s.

Chris headed off to Florida on last week for a few sailing events to earn some pennies so he can keep cruising with his cocked crew of professionals onboard Fille de Joie! Sure he’s particularly missing the kids hanging on his every decision making word…

Having had 7 months to be ill I waited til the day he left to take myself down with some lurgy. The mothership was down for a few days. Harry up-skilled in his lunch prep & Mum care whilst our friends on party of 5 were luckily close by to help pick up the pieces and sorted me out with chicken soup! Even the local boat boys were concerned someone might have died apparently….bouncing back now fortunately.

Marigot Bay ,where we are based, is a picturesque transient spot for cruisers. Lots of charters hang out for a day or 2 and there’s a big through put. At the Capella resort there’s also a decent likelihood of the kids picking up friends around the pool. They’re becoming pros at introducing themselves to any kid and generally harrasing holidaymakers . Thinking I should take a few notes!

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As far as flying solo in a random Caribbean island goes this isn’t a bad spot. Whilst now on our own we’re in a spot really close to other boats which gives some added security. Obviously fog horn & radio are at the ready should we have any issues overnight.

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We did meet a bone fide UK primary school headmistress last week. Because we’re out on the road we don’t often meet people who think our lifestyle is a really crap idea…until now. She rattled me & all my initial insecurities about the kids bubbled to the surface. She was a older lady with a mildly scary demeanour. Her point of view didn’t seem to take into consideration what the kids might experience & learn experientially or socially, more the importance of the facts they should retain (timestables) and that Harry should be reading a greater breadth of genres (he’s read 5 novels this month). Her concerns were that the kids will be behind in the UK and not catch up. I have this fear too. In fact I have a recurring nightmare of facing a social services panel to explain myself. But you know what I’m done with it and I’m backing myself here, the kids are gaining.img_6135

I do remember a wonderful friend in Bermuda telling me that the kids would adapt to what we’re doing but that it doesn’t make it any less selfish. She is right. This is Chris & my dream, the kids are dragged along for the ride. Whilst I feel their are huge positives for them, the duration of our adventures will be a careful weighing up of benefit and opportunities for them against what they potentially miss out on. When we feel the scale has tipped, we’ll hot foot back into the mainstream somewhere (preferably with some sun).

But…. I wouldn’t take any of it back for a second. We’ve stepped outside the box. Whilst that means there will be compromises down the line I believe in our kids and I believe in this trip. If they don’t fit the right mould and find another path to pursue in the future with passion and kindness I will be super proud. Now fly off back to school headmistress and don’t scare any NQTs.

In other news we got out and explored the island with a great bunch of cruisers. Our friends on “See ya” were 2 of the kindest people you could ever meet. A Political asylum seeker originally from South Africa, Phil is a pretty interesting character with a heart of gold. I’m looking forward to reading his book “Asylum” which charts his story.

Our tour saw us take in the breath-taking lush rainforests, waterfalls and steep hillsides of this tear drop shaped volcanic island. We headed along the rugged coastline to the “Pitons” which are two ancient lava domes belonging to the Soufriere’s volcano. You can actually drive into the crater of the volcano. As you can imagine the sulphur springs and their bubbling pools smell delightful. Lily and I had a great time attempting to gain the elixir of youth from the mud baths. The Hazman obviously didn’t want to get dirty and was beginning to get my lurgy so didn’t join in the fun! We finished up our day poised on a cliff top at Dennery having sundowners before heading back to Marigot Bay.

Yesterday huge excitement ensued as our first official visitor arrived in the form of Tom, an actual adult with some chat. “Saunty” is Chris’s old 49er coach who has come to hang out for 10 days. Its 20 years since he sailed into the Caribbean with another friend Ollie Nuttall. It’s a renowned voyage in a 26ft monohull that was probably the original catalyst for our trip. Hopefully we might be able to find him some waves. Evidently he’s shy though…

Chris arrives back tomorrow and our plan is to finally make it back to Antigua for the 2nd March. A lot of north in the wind might make it a bit of a slog but all good to be on the move again.