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.

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

Back to the voyage

After a fantastic month in Steamboat Springs, Colorado indulging in powder days and a lot of family skiing we are back home & it feels good.

Having arrived back to the boat in Grenada Marine on Wednesday night we had a busy Thursday fixing, polishing, cleaning and getting the boat into the water. It’s testament to Will and this friendly, professional & reasonably priced yard, that we could rock up and haul in within 24hrs. Oh & they had paper straws in the bar-winning against plastic (www.aarvarkstraws.com).

We were also blessed that a boat family we’d met before was there fitting our their new boat. After a month with little kid contact (or kids that weren’t in need of new friends) Harry was in his element exploring the yard, the woods and kayaking with Teddy. We also stumbled across the O’Donnell’s with their 2 girls that were bundles of energy just like Lily. A beautiful welcome back to boat-life and we even got a brekkie package from the gorgeous Philippa & Ben!

We then left port on a Friday….not the done thing. Urban legends dictate that this is 100% a bad idea. We’d been backed into a marginal weather window! Chris’s flight to an event was brought forward 24hrs & the weather between now & the 13th looks utterly poop. Sometimes you just have to go…

Our intention was to make it the 13hrs odd to Bequia. But as we headed along we realised we’d be better off pulling an all nighter to St.Lucia rather than risk the worse weather later in the weekend.

Truth be told it totally sucked at times. Still not the southern ocean or racing to NZ in the Volvo, but in family cruising terms it got a tad fresh heading upwind. I emerged semi-naked as we got a hit by one squall & a few expletives were exchanged as we hoved to in 35knts & I froze my butt off. Soon after realising the radar was in fact reliable we did the sensible thing yanked the main down & motored upwind in a rough sea through a few more squalls…limited fun & always feels worse in the dark.

On the upside Harry snuck up on deck at one point (not permitted on a night sail) but he was concerned who would save me if I fell in…his sweet side coming out. He was pretty excited early in the passage that we’d finally caught a whopper fish. Sadly the whopper nearly stopped the boat, pulled his mammoth hook straight & left us for dust. The freezer is still empty.

Chris put in a trojan last shift to complete the 125nm into Marigot Bay, St.Lucia early this morning! The benefit of this place is that if you take a ball at Capella marina you can use the resort facilities-bonus. Today is definitely a lie by the pool kind of day.

We think our friends from Party of 5 just arrived….

We’re also looking forward to meeting up with fellow Essex girl (Charlotte) and family later this weekend. Then we head off to Martinique for a 40th birthday weather permitted. Quite the social we’re on.

This month a few visitors do start arriving, which is going to be great as Chris has a lot of time away sailing. But if anyone can teach, likes kids and wants to come visit the Caribbean in May then get in touch- I have a 5 week stretch solo!!!!

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

The Honest One

So we aren’t sailing this week. We are missing our lovely boat though and we’ve been reflecting on the last 6 months of awesomeness. We are beyond lucky to have spent so much time together. Living the dream hasn’t been without its challenges and I’ve deliberated whether to write about the biggest one but here it is in all its honesty….!

The biggest challenge has been adjusting to our new roles…. I guess on land I was used to running the show while Chris put in big hours with the team on the AC campaign. I’d be doing the usual parenting thing like millions of other people – juggling and yes it was a whole lot less than others but it was juggling for me. Truth is I was super lucky and had a sweet life.

I took up running to fulfil a few of my own goals while Chris spearheaded his. I trained before Chris left the house, there was the 50 minute school run which was impressive on a tiny Island. I had a part time Physio job at an awesome clinic. I ran the over-scheduled kids all over the place to all manner of after school activities (ballet, sailing, CrossFit kids, swimming, Lego club, Aerial skills etc etc) and we had play dates and birthday parties in some stunning corners of Bermuda. I’d then fit in attempts at nourishing the kids souls with something they would eat (Ok that’s mostly anything white for Harry). I’d try in vain to get them to bed at a decent hour and yep I made attempts at studying on top of that.

Life was bursting full and super busy, just the way I like it. It was pretty much a challenge to get to the end of the day in one piece & I was always the hot mess at the school gates. What do they say…it takes a village.

Rocking on our own meant that if we wanted to spontaneously change our plans then we did (or I did on the kids behalf). We lived in frigging paradise with a whole posse of amazing families and badass women from the AC, from Bermuda, from school, work and with legendary neighbours round the corner! If we were super lucky we even got to see Chris!

Fast forward 6 months and suddenly there was no schedule. I hadn’t set myself some crazy arsed goal to achieve and we were all together 24/7, also the tribe of badass friends were gone! There was a new captain quite literally aboard the ship and he even wanted to have input on the food shop….

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The struggle of living aboard a stunning 40ft catamaran in the Caribbean was real!! Joking aside, it has been an adjustment. We both wanted to be 100% involved in the boat and not just the sailing. Obviously one of us may be SLIGHTLY more experienced than the other at racing boats, but I’m fairly sure there wasn’t an engine or water maker or an electric toilet on the AC50…

When we moved onboard I was fairly vocal (no surprises there) that we should do 1 for 1 of docking, anchoring, nav etc. We both had to learn new skills & I was adamant I didn’t want to be left behind. Chris wanted us both to get good at our own roles & in reality I know he wanted to feel 100% confident & in control of our life’s investment. So we had a stale-mate for a while & then I backed down and we fell into roles. Similar things happened with maintenance. I’m as happy to decipher a manual as well as the next cruiser. Funnily enough my vagina does not prevent me from processing the written word & getting stuck into problem solving. The two little people, however, have other ideas!!

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In reality for two of us to work on boat maintenance or sorting a water maker or whatever issue has arisen means that the kids are being left to their own devices & generally causing havoc. It doesn’t work. The goal driven girl in me, that is desperate to achieve something or learn struggles with this…

As frustrating as I’ve found it to admit I am slightly better equipped in the patience department for dealing with the kids and letting Chris deal with a boat issue without the distraction of the kids and obviously making sure everyone is appropriately fed and watered.

As for boat-schooling. I feel it is super important that our children get an influence from both of us on the education front. Inevitably if stuff is being fixed and there is always boat-work to be done, then school generally falls to me. In reality whilst it is a massive challenge, it is pretty rewarding to help your kids to learn, even if they are writing stories about poo! What an amazing opportunity to get….Because it’s me, my main fear is that I’ll fail at it and the kids will be the ones that pay the price! If Lily rocks back into school one day unable to read, that will be on me- yikes!

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Time to have a shift of mindset! We are a team in life and on this boat of ours. The adventure and journey itself are the goal Chris & I dreamed of. If that means I have to be put back in my box every so often, jog on & do the domesticity bit while Chris fixes stuff- so be it. From speaking to other cruisers this adjustment is most definitely not unique to our boat or life. Whatever the hell works for you on your boat and in your life is a-ok.

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Let’s face it when Chris is flying off to sailing events next year I better be able to put my money where my mouth is, step up & own the other half of the roles too….ummmmm.

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

Happy New year

Amazing to think that this time a year ago we were living in Bermuda in the build up to the America’s cup. Now as we hit the new year we’ve been living on the boat for 6months & the pace is certainly a lot different!

We’ve had a lazy few weeks in Martinique with some great great families. From chalking & skateboarding in St.Anne to hikes and runs via nude beaches, we’ve explored real life “pirate ships” and had various beach parties. It’s been a blast.

We met the self proclaimed Cornish pixie pirates & their beautiful scooner that they bought this year here in Martinique. Chris helped Lee, a triathlon coach, with his rigging change and the kids flung themselves off swings and booms left right & centre. They played at ours, on the beach, but always the “pirate ship” won the hearts. Awesome kids with a lot in common with ours. Hopefully we ll hang out over the coming months.

The beach chalking/ graffitiing in St.Anne went down a storm. Rhonda & the kids from party of 5 continued to be seriously good value. We tried to ply Rhonda with enough booze to loose Mexican train dominoes but failed miserably.

Christmas Eve Potluck on the beach saw the zoo of Cruisers hit the beach. We met many many more great characters and probably ruffled the odd feather. The food was varied and rich and in plentiful supply. I’m not sure my body knew what the hell to make of it & it was not happy. The next while was spent having the most unsavoury swim out to sea. However, I made a speedy recovery and manned up. Not how I saw my day panning out!

With an imminent departure on the cards, we made the most of our time & had party of 5 over for drinks. Not even 1 drink in & I walked full chat into our glass door…Doh!! I’ve had a slight black eye hue and delicate nose ever since!

Christmas was spent sinking our boat with all their presents kindly given them from family in the UK. Suddenly there is no where to put anything and a mass declutter is needed! We headed back to the beach with friends from Nomadica, Marie des Isles & a fab French sky diving couple. Eating a boat Christmas dinner on the beach was a unique experience & it nearly made it there warm. Must admit it wasn’t Elbow beach, Bermuda, but that’s going to be hard to beat. A perfect day was finished off by seeing my first green flash as the sunset- it’s not just some urban legend it turns out!

Boxing Day saw us, ok me, get “flip flopped”; it’s a verb for hanging out with Nix & Haig on Flip Flops. It was their son’s 15th birthday & it was pretty large. Their waterline was certainly a tad low with all the people we crammed onboard the 38ft cat (atleast 35). The sprinkler & lawn mower were out in force atop their tables as well as some other great moves to embarrass the kids with my Mum dancing.

Following a spectacular Beach Olympics with kids from 4-14 to celebrate Sol’s 10th birthday (Marie des Isles) the check out cafe was now open and we prised ourselves away from Martinique.

After a windy week we squeezed ourselves into a weather window. It was pretty breezy and bumpy start until we got into the Lee of St.Lucia. With upto 30 Kts we had 2 reefs, some sea sick tabs to pre-empt kids feeling ill & a good bit of surf downwind. We had a bit of compression between the islands as we came down and things got interesting off St Vincent with a tiny leak from the escape hatch to add to the gusts of 30knts which always seem worse in the dark. But let’s face it…it’s not the Southern ocean! Serious respect to our Volvo ocean race friends and heal quick to those off this next leg because the Southern Ocean flung them around.

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Harry sneaking up on the night watch
Sunrise in the Grenadines

We made it to Grenada in a little over 24 hours, we pulled back into Prickly Bay in very little breeze. It was a grey old day and the heavens opened, but the water tanks were happy.

The early part of New Year’s Eve was spent celebrating with friends we first met in the cup world with Prada. Adam & Sarah are taking the long way home to New Zealand via boat, having bought “Sailing Latitude” in France. Our plan was to join the party at Port Louis marina, the relative ritz of the cruising world. Subbing in didn’t exactly go to plan, but the fireworks were pretty cool! So good and slightly surreal to see these 2 diamonds & the 5 friends staying with them.

So the New Year sees us haul out next week for a month. We’re getting some work done on the boat while we take a pretty extravagant trip to the snow in Steamboat Springs Colorado. Secretly I’m not keen to leave our floating home and cannot wait for more adventures on Fille de Joie.

Happy New Year-May you make your dreams a reality for 2018.

The last misadventures of 2017:

-I accidentally dyed my roots ginger & now look like a crap Lindsay Lohan.

-Chris fell down a hatch.

-Harry fell down a hatch.

-I walked into a glass door (only 1 drink).

-I fell off another dinghy (only 2 drinks).

-Thinking 2018 should be the year of no drinks….

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Christmas Shot

During our week back in the UK, I feel like the kids and imbibed a shot of Christmas complete with Christmas jumpers & even blooming snow! We camped out in Essex and spent lots of time with my parents, but we also hit up the Harry Potter studios, the Natural History museum with aunty Ellie, London lights and caught a few fab friends and family! I proudly took on new responsibilities as Godmother and intend to be a positively bad influence on Oliver Greenland for ever more…

It was a surreal experience to get back into UK life. Scary how quickly the pace of life consumes you and how the underground still strips you of all personality as soon as you step on a tube! The free flowing hot showers, lights, creature comforts and readily available food were momentarily special. Whilst it was awesome to go home to see my Dad, I struggle to see how we’d fit back in. Life goes on and friends move on and we’d be forging another new life. Transient living has been our life for the last 7 years and whilst sticking down some roots would be fantastic for the kids, I’m not quite sure where those roots will be! Guess I’ll stick to trusting in this nomadic lifestyle and see where we end up…..life is certainly never dull!

Chris cracked on with solar and battery fitting in between surfs and missing our chaos dreadfully! I’m slightly overexcited that we can now charge the odd appliance and I feel guilty bragging but we can also power the freezer….Christmas really did come early in Martinique!!

We are beginning to spy a few Brit boats since the Arc came across, hopefully we’ll catch some families at a beach soirée soon. Looks like we may chill here for the next few days with kid boats and get the bateau sorted pre-Christmas.

For now I’m watching Harry return from another lion fish hunt, while Lily rocks out with some buddies on the bow, I can see where she gets her aggressive dance moves from and I think it’s about time I joined her up there!

Chris has also done a bit of his own writing it turns out. He only goes and gets his published though! Have a gander at the January edition of yachting world to see our lovely mugs.

Classic kid thoughts in the UK:

-“Mum why is that metal thing by the window really hot when I touch it?”….Lily met a radiator.

-“Mum what is that brown muddy water?”….Harry met the Thames.

-“Mum we’re in London and I can’t see Harry Potter’s night bus anywhere”.

-“Mum in the olden days did you go to school here?”

*All family health chat has been censored by my Mum. Remember we are British after all (she’s probably the only one who reads it!)*

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Well hello UK….

We’ve made it through another dreadful week in the Caribbean, which makes it 5 months- hard to know how we cope…!!

We took some back up for lion fish culling this week, it came in the form of our s/v “party of 5” friends. We hit a reef a km south of St.anne and came back with a few. Travis prepped the spiny buggers & we were treated to a mini feast on them. The guys were right they do weirdly taste a bit like popcorn!

We headed back out to St.lucia for a Sunday morning sail as there was swell on the horizon. Lily woke up half way across and literally didn’t know if she was coming or going. This time it was Daddy’s go at the water park and a family affair on the hobie. The kids called for pitch poles the whole way & Chris didn’t disappoint with a capsize for the thrill seekers.

Waves were then had and the kids hung out at the pool at Rodney bay marina. A very civilised affair & we even snuck in a Thai.

The kids picked up some new found friends to hang out with. We met a Norwegian family who were waiting for their boat to come in from the arc+ which heads to St.Lucia via Cape Verde. No wind has significantly slowed play!

A seasoned Caribbean cruiser named Lynne took me on some exploration runs. We went to the other side of the island And picked up a trail and some dogs to run with at Cas en Bas beach. On the way up-to the coastal path I spied a laid back beach bar in a c-shaped bay that had kiting written all over it. Up the hill some way were massive cactus barley, rolling hills, wild horses and a stunning view over the coast- totally unspoilt & totally different to the other side of the Island.

After some negotiation I brought the family back across for the day, which turned into 2. Harry got his first kitesurfing lesson with a legend called Simon of aquaholics and Lily was thrilled with a horse ride along the beach from the local stables. We then stumbled across a YouTube chef who specialises in outdoor or bush cooking. Really interesting and obviously super talented guy. Look him up if you’re in the area (chefSherlock). All this thanks to Lynne and her running routes! Cheers Lynne!

The plan was then to head back to Martinique, finally fit solar panels and batteries and hot foot it to Antigua…….bbuuuttt plans change! Even the word “plan” seems to be a dirty word among the cruising fraternity. It evokes the odd twitch in people when you mention it. You can plan your route all you want but for the most part you can add a massive pinch of salt. Now I did think our mini-plan for the short term was fairly cast iron but no!

We had comms from outside our cruising bubble. Apparently way over there in the real world there is family and everything. So right now the kids and I are on our way to the UK. We’re off to see Grandad who will kill me for writing this. I’m sure as always he’ll tell us “I’m lovely” when we arrive and ask how he is.

We are Essex bound to the town I grew up in. For all the travelling Harry’s done I’ve only just realised he has never visited Essex, mostly because my parents have been off cruising for 10 years! We won’t take him on the pub tour of Burnham-on-Crouch(BOC) just yet and he’s lucky I won’t be making him short tack up the river Crouch in the raging tide and probably bitter December wind.

We’ll wait for Otter week or RB week one summer to induct the kids into Burnham sailing scene, only then will either of them truly know that BOC really stands for “Better than Orange County”…..

So we’ll be back to our boat home and gorgeous Daddy sooooonnn, I’m sure he’ll enjoy some peace and quiet! Who knows where we’ll end up for Christmas. We’re cherishing everyday on this journey.

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

The Great Crab Robbery….


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We’ve spent a fair amount of time up on the North East coast of Martinique in the last 10 days. Basing the boat in St. Anne has meant we’ve had the chance to catch up with our friends on Nomadica and meet more boat families.

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Not a bad spot for homeschool last week in St. Anne

Tartane had a big swell last tuesday and Chris got the best of it. We then had a cracking family night in Decathlon and Bricolage. The kids were beyond excited to be in a store with the possibility of purchasing anything, it was like we’d taken them into a free candy store. Consumerism isn’t dead it would seem and a beach football was the best thing ever.

Chris had quite the adventure off surfing back up at Tartane on the wednesday. In his eager rush to get in the waves he hid the car key behind a curb, apparently he took note of a nearby crab hole but didn’t think much of it (Who still leaves their keys by their car on the beach by the way?!). A few hours later he came back to no keys but a crab poking itself menacingly from its hole. A wrestle ensued between Chris and crab, with eyes on the prize of key treasure. Chris allegedly won the tussle but after an hour and half of digging all crab holes in the vicinity he admitted defeat and rang the hire car company on a fellow surfers phone. Some 2 hours later a spare key was delivered from 30 miles away, at the potential cost of 400 euro! Meanwhile the kids and I had entertained ourselves on the boat all day with no tender. Fortunately “A-car” hire company in St. Anne were legends and have waved the fee, probably on account of the ridiculous story- use them if you go!

Complete with new hire car, the whole family headed back up to Tartane at the end of the week. Harry got some great overhead waves and Lily, bored of waiting her turn, became quite the beach diva and was convinced everyone was just showing off. There were some seriously good surfers out including a local boat captain called Virgile from Le Marin. We also discovered Cocoa Beach restaurant, which is famed for its yummy food and setting.

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Watching for sets at Tartane

Last week I finally made it out on my first long run in what feels like a lifetime. Having convinced Morgan (S/V Nomadic) to come out running with me, we discovered a beautiful trail round the south of the island and towards Anse Trabaud. We coursed beaches, across salt flats, over rocks that looked like the moon and then ended up in what looked like Beachy head in East Sussex! I best go and do it again as I didn’t take a camera!! The day got better as the kids went to play on another kid boat for a few hours. Thank you Rhonda and S/v”Party of 5″ for having them! I realised its been a few months since the kids have been anywhere without us….

Harry and I took his friend Quincy out knee boarding and skirfing much to Harry’s delight. So good to see the kids hanging out. They are reluctant to try and speak with French kids at the moment but will attempt French in shops, particularly if croissants are involved! Hats off to all the amazing kids we’ve met who speak a number of languages. We might have to tap up the duo lingo app.

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Courtesy of Virgile, Chris was super fortunate to get the opportunity to go sailing in one of the local boats last weekend. The “Yole” is a one design boat of the Caribbean, we saw similar boats in Bequia too. This boat had 5 wooden outriggers that you need to tack over, the rudder was a big oar and the best technique involved a massive turning motion. The kids and I watched eagerly from the wooden chase boat. With minimal breeze around the chase boat driver got a little bored and started circling the yole at pace, creating a decent wake with  the predictable outcome of capsizing the boat! Turns out its a full mission to right one. A tow to the nearest beach was needed to empty the nearly sunk boat and get the rig back in! This gave plenty of time for the wind to fill in and for Chris to have a go on the helm. Great morning out and the kids and I were suitability jealous.

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Did they really just capsize??!!
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Chris on the stick

Harry cracked out his Hawaiian sling on a mission to save the planet. Seems counterintuitive but he caught two lion fish. They are a venomous invasive species of fish. Harry tells me that whilst they are pretty stunning not only are their spines deadly, they are also responsible for eating truck loads of reef fish. With few predators they reduce young juvenile reef fish populations and have a negative impact on the coral reefs by eating the important grazers and cleaners of the reef. The reefs are fragile enough and there is a big drive to cull them.

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Lionfish

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The call of the waves resumed on sunday and we had very relaxed 4 hour run along the coast with the kite up. We headed 4 miles past Saint Pierre on the North West coast to 3 right hand points around Le Precheur area. Not enough swell the afternoon we arrived but the black sand beach hidden under the rainforest was a sight to see. Just off shore we found a reef teeming with life and ready for us to snorkel until dusk.

This week we’ve hung out with new friends and are patiently awaiting delivery of some gucci batteries and a solar panel (feel like I’ve been saying this for weeks). It is slightly delaying our journey north but will be worth it we hope. We woke up on Wednesday and made the split decision to head to St. Lucia for the day, as you do! Our main purpose was to fill up with gas. We have the wrong kind of tank for exchange in Martinique and couldn’t source anyone to fill our US style tank, plus a little explore is what we like. I think we could name ourselves uncruisy cruisers the amount of random miles we log. But hey, just like life on land you got to do what’s right for you. There are definitely a lot of ways to skin the proverbial cruising cat.

Rodney Bay was our destination and a mere 4 hour downwind sail away. There were approximately 10 boats moored up in a pretty bay with pigeon Island and beach at one end and a few hotels further down the beach near the marina entrance. Chris got a surf in at a decent sized wave, of which we’re told there are plenty of. We also saw an actual shopping mall which slightly blew our minds. We came away with mozzie repellant for a friend!

Before we dashed back to Martinique for a dinner date, Harry and I squeezed in an epic morning at Splash waterpark. This was not the rare morning to have lathered myself in cocoa butter; I was as slippy as a new born baby in the bath! Awesome fun had by all, I won’t be signing up for ninja warriors anytime soon though. Sadly Lily was too young (and short) for the park, much to her disgust. She had to make do with hobie sailing with Chris. She bossed the helming which was fab to see.

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Bossing the helm

We had been reluctant to visit St. Lucia after a number of reported boardings/robberies of boats in the far south. However, after our quick visit we’ll definitely be back and yes we just might take care after dark (as we would anywhere). Just before we left a local said I’d love the event on the friday night and must come back apparently its “Strip night”……she’d only met me for 5mins so her judge of my character was a concern! Turns out she was referring to the area of the town the party is in…

Happy friyay from Fille de Joie!!

 

 

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Not all plain sailing!

What a week! The top of the week saw us do a bit of island exploring here in Martinique. We hired a car & drove an hour & half to a science and earth exploration centre at the base of Mount Pelee volcano, but it’s shut on a Monday…doh!

On the way there my scheming kids decided to give me a little hair cut with pocket knife scissors!! As you can imagine I was utterly delighted to find a chunk of hair missing…..Just wow….I gave birth to savages! I guess I’ll get my own back by cutting off Harry’s Liam Gallagher “do” one day soon mwhahaha!

To be fair the car journey to the shut science centre was a novelty. There were dual carriageways involved, traffic near forte de France and everything! We affirmed that whilst boarding school sounds like a solid option in the kids immediate future, a return to full civilisation is not currently appealing. As we headed further north the hills got steeper and the vegetation denser. Then we glimpsed the Mt. Pelee volcano through the clouds.

We did manage to visit the volcano museum in St.Pierre and see some relics from the eruption of 1902. Harry’s photo diary was left wanting as there was a no photo policy, by order of the mayor apparently but not related to preserving the objects…maybe the reason was lost in translation. Think I mentioned my French is crap.

I couldn’t convince anyone to do the epic sounding 5 hour hike up the volcano, so we crossed to the east of the island in search of waves. Tartane was the spot of the day. My mothering pride returned sufficiently to be super pleased for Harry catching some waves on his Dad’s board.

Tuesday saw a bit more homeschool trauma then we headed out on a kiteboarding adventure towards Anse Travaud. The road was a bump fest and then you pay to cross a guy’s land. A bit more bumping and head butting surfboards, a navigation across quicksand and we finally arrived to a deserted beach and Chris had a quick kitesurf. I stumbled past a few palm trees with the kids and across a naked Frenchman. Not a problem. But a) where do you look? and b) where do you look?

The later part of the week we had a few more dinghy rides into Port Plassainse at le Marin to ogle a plethora of chandleries and chat boat bits. We were blown away by the number of boats moored up there & in the Marina’s! Reminded me a lot of Cowes week. I was quite taken by the ingenious Pizza oven on the back of a Cat in the harbour, it even does deliveries!

The skate park was a nice 15 minute jaunt from the dock at le Marin. The kids were having a great arvo until Daddy cool went splat! Safe to say he came off worse than the ramp.

Friday saw us fill our water tanks from the sky and hot foot it to Saint Pierre. A speedy downwind leg with some decent waves and probably a bit more sail up than we needed. Chris forgot we weren’t in the 2nd leg of the Volvo and giggled to himself as he got our home up to 15.4knots! The scenery up the West coast is green, lush and mountainous. So nice to get some pace and be heading downwind.

After a 4 hour sail and a half an hour walk up the base of Mount Pelee Volcano we arrived at the Science and earth museum that was shut on Monday! We learned all about the 1902 eruption that devastated Saint Pierre and killed 30,000 people. The term “Nuee Ardentes” was coined by Mr La Croix who extensively researched the type of eruption that occurred in Mount Pelee. It was a fantastic interactive spot with loads of learning opportunities, particularly if you are fluent in French! The kids did get a lot out of it though & the “make your own animation” zone kept them entertained until we got kicked out at closing time.

Fair to say we had a rough week with the kiddos, which had has trying not to call in the yacht brokers. They pushed us to the max with attempts at school and fought like billio over everything from Lego to fishing bait. So frustrating at times. Boggles my mind the tantrums, tears and resistance at a few tasks (not all the tantrums were mine). As much as we try to engage Harry in the process on a project he likes, the act of writing is painful for him. Video projects where he spontaneously writes his own notes or writing letters to his friends does get a pen on paper. Lily pretty much makes up her own work and we attempt to gently steer her occasionally, much to her big brothers dismay! Resurrecting the old star chart, whilst it didn’t bring my locks back, brought back a tiny bit of sanity to the ship. We’re on the lookout for some other boat kids in Martinique too!

We had a chilled sail back South to Grande Anse. We had 6 to 20 knots in a matter of mins which kept me on my toes. A mini bar hop for sundowners in the chilled picturesque bay was the perfect end to the day.

Yesterday we beat 4hrs back upto St.Anne. Our main agenda this week is battery replacement and surf….probably not in that order!

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Bequia and beyond

We anchored up and stayed put in beautiful Bequia for the best part of a windless week.

Controversially it is one of 3 places in the world where whaling is still permitted. 4 whales a year can be killed. An aboriginal law is used that upholds the heritage of the island. It would seem to me that these days tourists provide a more sustainable income for the island & the container ships bring in food that can’t be grown on the lush island, but then I don’t sit on the whaling commission….

The model whaling boats at Sargeants model boat shop are a sight to behold. Harry was mildly disappointed the models don’t sail or hydrofoil like his Grandpa’s though.

Our neighbours in Port Elizabeth were friends from Grenada. “The red boat” Nomadica with gorgeous Cheryl and Morgan one side & the “SAGO” family the other side, which was perfect for Halloween action. A resident turtle also paid us daily visits and sprat flung themselves into our dinghy desperate to join the party.

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Dinghy issues this week were sorted by a local legend & chaps made up at Grenada sails. Hopefully this will extend the life of our dinghy, assuming I don’t let it float away again!

I pulled myself out of slothsville and took on a few runs on some hilly terrain across to the other side of the Island (no it isn’t a big Island). I might have stalked a French couple and joined them for their run one morning…such a weirdo. I appreciated the company even if they didn’t.

Going ashore at Port Elizabeth we were met by a walkway full of vibrant colours. Laid back sellers on a small stretch don’t force their wares on you. A unique bunch of bars and cafes littered the waters edge. The kids were partial to the ice cream at the Gingerbread hotel & cafe, and were pretty taken with the parrot at the next door dive shop too..

If you continue on past the Beach hotel up & down streps on the side of a cliff you reach “Jacks bar” on princess Margaret beach. We were anchored just off here. Our true find was at the far end of the beach where “Len the Lion” will cook the meat you bring & seat you for $5EC a BBQ use. His beer somehow tastes even better! We had a great Friday afternoon here with fellow cruisers.

I took the whole school of Draper on 2 trips this week. The avid marine biologist took notes and asked Mr Orton King a million questions at the Turtle sanctuary. He was particularly confused as to why you’d take baby turtles from the beach if they weren’t ill. Mr.King explained that his aim was to increase dwindling Hawksbill numbers. 20% of his turtles survive to be released by 5years old or when he deems them large enough to survive. In the wild only 1 in 3000 survive to 40 yrs old. Not really comparable stats but Harry was satisfied this is a good thing to do. The larger turtles kept in small tanks were unable to fend for themselves in the wild and so would stay at the sanctuary and be scrubbed once a fortnight, be gawped at by the likes of us and continue on a diet of canned tuna for life.

The other trip was to the Firefly hotel and restaurant. Ok so the drinks were pretty good! I promise the kids learned a thing or 2!! The hotel is on the site of an old sugar plantation but now grows a variety of fruits etc. Our personal tour kept the kids interested for 45mins (better than I ever manage). We munched on whatever we could try from passion fruit to star fruits and a lot in between, but the best was pulverising our own sugar cane and drinking it- yum.

Humidity seems to have dropped a tad in the last few days. Yesterday we headed north in a very civilised 10-15knts passed St.Vincent and towards St.Lucia. The wind then crapped out repeatedly & unsurprisingly we ended up motoring upwind for a while. Our aim was to anchor at Rodney Bay in the north and explore. We had been keen to visit the reknowned Pitons in the South, but a spate of boats being boarded at night and robbed had put us off. What actually happened was that it got late and we decided to push onto Martinique as the wind picked up!

So we woke up this morning in St.Anne’s near Le Marin after a 16 hour crossing. We’ve made the most of the play equipment and paved area ideal for skateboarding just off the dock. There may have been a croissant or two consumed and a post carb slump has occurred. A pretty different day to running the New York marathon this time last year! Miss you Lorna.

It seems time is cranking on and we’ll be having a Christmas knees up in Antigua before we know it!

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Grenadine Fever

Last Sunday after a family surf at Prickly bay we headed off in another down pour towards Carriacou. Looking at the forecast a pit stop in Halifax harbour for the night seemed the sensible option…but then we changed our minds and headed up anyway.

We shot past the underwater volcano exclusion zone, past the natural arch of London Bridge, past the Sisters and Kick ‘em Jenny rock. The sails were up and down like a strippers knickers, but we arrived to a beautiful sunset in Carriacou. The kids convinced us to get off the bateau for dinner & the “Lazy Turtle” was a welcome treat.

After a lazy morning on the boat of yoga, fishing, fort building & hide & seek I went for a jog & we cleared customs. We had a little starboard hitch up to Sandy island which led into a tough beginning of the week…We snorkelled with sting rays, turtles, shoals of fish had a family beach run & beach clean followed by cocktails with the Garrett family.

Salinas was our next stop after a short sail back towards Tyrell Bay. More reef exploration meant the kids covered a lot of ground. The tucked away bay was full of charm, turtles & a great coral reef garden. The downside was the mozzies!!

We bid farewell to the Garrett’s with a lobster dinner as they leave the cruising world after 11 months and head home to Oz. We wish them safe travels & hope to see you there one day.

A night back in Union was called for. We hear that we narrowly missed a local stabbing incident in Clifton, right in the spot we had been with the kids for ice cream! Mild wake up call, but we’ve enjoyed our time on Union. These isolated local incidents that could happen anywhere wouldn’t stop us going back to the Island.

After nearly 4 months on the boat we got off for 2 nights…It felt weird with our home just outside!! Great timing though as I’ve been randomly suffering with vertigo this last week & it had got worse. The feeling took me back to my Uni days when I’d swear that I never got ill, only for the whole room to spin after a night out with predictable consequences. This is not a good feeling when you live on a boat or want to move your head. Must be the dizzy heights of 10 years marriage!!

Salt whistle bay was a gem of the Grenadines & a stunning spot to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary! We were the only guests in one of a handful of cottages with a glamping tent outside for extra kid beds. Ralph the dog was a friendly security guard, as were the actual 24hr security that looked after us. Justin was a fab host & chef. The locals were super friendly & a trip to the small village got us acquainted with the reknowned Rasta Righteous Richard & his quirky bar. A epic clash of steel pans played over a backdrop of Celine Dion….The rum punch definitely was special too!

Lily & Harry adored their glamping experience in the tent. Lily unpacked pretty much all her possessions for the 2 night stay. She then set up a beach stall selling shells, rope, flowers & general tat. Fortunately she took leaves & sand for payment as we were all out of cash.

There were 10 boats anchored up in the small picture postcard bay. The charter season has started! Turns out there are some benefits of cruising in the summer- empty anchorage’s. Think we’ll need to do some adjusting.

We’re pleased to be back on our home. After a tight fetch to West Cay in Bequia (3 hours ish). Chris then short tacked up the shore against the Sunday dinghy racers in true competitive style! We’re now in Princess Margaret bay, one of the few anchorages on this little Island. Loving the vibe of this funky place and it’s been great to catch up with some fellow cruisers here, especially when they have us over for a fresh tuna feast!

We plan to head to St Lucia, then Martinique next, before trickling back to Antigua.