Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Final Countdown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chris Draper · Cruising with kids · Sailing · Travel

Juiced up in the Grenadines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!!