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

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.