We finally left Rodney Bay on Sunday 20th. We were on our way to collect Gareth from Fort de France in Martinique and we were so looking forward to seeing him. To have family with us is something we have really missed. I felt the usual departure anxiety – getting lines ready and thinking about the wind direction and weather for our crossing. It is only 4 hours but we have been tucked away in our cosy berth for over a week and now we are off again. Like a lot of things you always want what you don’t have. When you are out on a rolly sea with squalls and rain you long for the safety of a marina but when you have been in a marina for more than a few days you are desperate to leave and be on the ocean again. We were ready to go – The ARC has been an incredible experience with highs and lows. We were so glad we left on a high with a Prize for innovation for Mays Blog during the crossing. We were able to see so many happy crews and also talk with other teams about the positive things that happened during their time crossing the Atlantic – the achievement, the fact that we are in the Caribbean…these are all good things – very good things
We were longing for that Caribbean experience that we had had in our minds for a long time – white beaches fringed with Palm Trees and children playing in the warm sea…
So we set off – we got out of the marina without a hitch – well apart from the fact that we couldn’t pay for our laundry, as the guy didn’t come and we left all my diet cokes in the ARC office! We will be going back to Saint Lucia in the New Year and will pay Sparkle laundry then. It is an excellent service run by a lovely guy who comes to your boat in his boat to collect the laundry. We love that!
Out on the sea again and it was blowing hard with 25kts of wind gusting 30kts – the gusts are alarming at first and they make setting the sail right a challenge. We put up the mainsail and decided that a mainsail with two reefs in would be enough. Then our new friend Tim Aitken on his beautiful yacht Braveheart of Sark came up behind us with full sails – urm we thought …perhaps we should put up our Genoa (the sail at the front) It was a bit rolly and we knew the Genoa would stabalise the movement.
In Rodney Bay we had someone look at the Genoa as we had, had issues with it on the crossing. It needed some repairs (I refuse to go into what as it is so dull!) but he said it was stable for now and we could sail.
We unfurled the Genoa and at first it slipped out perfectly then – and I know that you know what is coming – BANG – the sail completely collapsed and fell in the ocean over the side of the boat. Bloody hell – we are so sick of things breaking – we are resilient but this is getting beyond a challenge that is fun. We would love to ‘just sail’
I took the helm and Mark whet forward to try to retrieve the sail. We had been told that if the sail went into the water it would be unlikely that it could be retrieved. But we have learned not to trust all that we have been told so we were determined to get our sail back on board. We needed to de-power the main so we decided to take it down. I turned Magic into the wind and dropped the main. That went well. I needed to help Mark with the sail – it was a two-person job and we struggled in the mid-day sun for over an hour until finally it was all back on board and safely tied on the deck. Mark thinks his little finger on his left hand is broken (an injury from previously going up the mast at sea) it didn’t help the injury much hauling in a huge wet sail from the sea – across the guard rail and onto the deck. Once again we find ourselves bruised and burned and broken and the sail was looking like it had seen better days too. Now we will have to get a rigger to repair the head of the furler unit and a sail maker to repair this sail and make us a new one. Ho Hum.
We were tired but happy we had got the sail on board. Enough of sailing – we decided we would motor the rest of the way to Fort de France. It was gusting over 30knts – so we put on some music – a fantastic selection of Reggae tracks given to us by Quincy in Rodney Bay and we enjoyed the moment. The air was warm, the sky was blue and there were Boobies flying and fishing around the boat. We were going to get Gareth and that was all that mattered. We arrived into the bay at Fort de France later than we had hoped and we took a while anchoring – but it all went fine.
Being in the Caribbean brings a whole new set of things we have to learn to do everyday like – anchor up and down, dingy on board and back in the water, outboard for the dingy on the dingy and then back on Magic. It can be tricky with just two of us but you learn to think differently and good teamwork is important.
There are a lot of things that are different when you live aboard. We don’t eat as much and we don’t watch any TV – we have limited access to the Internet so we are almost on a digital detox permanently. We have NO normallyies – every day is completely different with new – sometimes exciting and sometimes horrible challenges. We do love it but after 14 months living aboard Magic we are starting to think of a life in a house with a garden. Strange how much I miss a garden.
So back to collecting Gareth..After we had anchored we got the dingy off the deck and into the sea, then we got the outboard on the back and got the security line to lock it ashore ( theft of dingys is common and we don’t want to lose ours) we got the deadman switch, the fuel can, the head torch and a dry bag. Mark started the engine (it worked! – amazing) and he went ashore. Gareth and Mark had to rely on old school communications – one email had got to Gareth regarding a time and rendezvous (well we are in France!) place. Of course Gareth’s flight was delayed an hour and then both of them missed each other as they walked around trying to find where to meet. Then eventually they bumped into each other in a park – funny. I was on board Magic making her feel warm and homely – turning on lights, making up Gareth’s room, plumping cushions and making supper. I love nesting!
So Gareth came on board and we had a lovely evening. It is strange being on Anchor and were we were there was some ‘ferry wash’ from the small ferries that leave too frequently from Fort de France to some of the other bays. None of us slept too well but we didn’t care as we were happy to be together.
In the morning we decided to go into the town and we had all imagined a small French café with excellent croissants and great coffee. The town is small and grubby with boarded up shops and a lot of noisy, dusty road works – it was a disappointment and we didn’t find our lovely French café – We were hungry as it was late morning so we dropped our ideals and when for what we could find. Then we ‘cleared in’ this is how you do the entry papers for our arrival into Martinique. It was funny – just a computer in a ships chandlers – fill in the form – print it – hand it to the owner of the store who stamps it and then that’s it you are in! Nothing for May just us. We were told that no one will check it anyway – but we were glad to have done the official paperwork properly.
Then it was off to the mobile phone store to buy a data sim (we are always on the hunt for internet and we thought we would try again) we got one and it seems to be working – amazing! As so many things are a struggle we are always so elated when something actually works – we celebrate it like giddy children. I know we will always be grateful for things working!
Back on the boat – we took the dingy on deck and the outboard. Then we were off – we lifted the anchor with ease – good team working again. We were thinking of staying in Fort de France to get work done on the Genoa but it was not great there and we wanted to leave. I had been researching where we should go and we set off to Grande Anise D’Arlet ‘a little village set on a white sand beach fringed with palm trees’ as the guide book said.
We arrived an hour later and as we entered the bay we were delighted to see Liam and Liz whizzing up to us in their dingy. They were smiling and waving – this is the second time they have been warmly met by Liam and Liz as we entered an unfamiliar port. Liam is from Tipperary in Ireland and Liz is from Wales – they are so fantastic – young and fun and great sailors. They did the ARC+ and had a lot of adventures on their trip. They are the sort of people who make fun happen. They are always positive and optimistic and laughing – what ever challenges they have. They helped us with our lines to moor up to a buoy and then came alongside to tell us all the tips for the area – swimming with turtles is a must and which bars are best. Best of all they have arranged for Christmas lunch and there are now nearly 40 people who are meeting to celebrate Christmas together – here in Grande Anise D’Artlet. This is the sort of thing that Liam and Liz make happen – a sort of happiness alchemy. it’s Magic
Last night we met with them and their friends ashore for food and drinks. It was quite an adventure getting ashore as the dock is too high and the ladders do not reach to the dingy – it was really tricky – very lara croft! (in my fantasy version!) climbing up on the wood plank then across to the ladder and then finally to the dock.
When we came to leave the dock we all went in convoy – Liam gave us a tow behind his dingy – our engine would have started ( I think) but it was quicker to get a tow.
Today we woke up late and had a big breakfast on board. We are just going to read and sleep and lie in hammocks and swim with turtles today – now this is what we came for!