Heading North …

… towards the Land of the Purple Heather

(just a reminder that to get full benefit of the photos, just tap or click on each image to enlarge to your liking!)


After three weeks back home, Elaine rejoined Bob and Pipistrelle on 19th July at Howth Marina, flying from Southampton to Dublin, from the warmth of Southern England to the rain on the Emerald Isle!

A quick weather check and conversation with local sailors the following morning confirmed there was no time to linger in Howth if we were to catch the ‘window’ and start heading northwards.  So we slipped our lines at lunchtime and set off towards Bangor, Northern Ireland from where it would be ideal to cross to Scotland.  At a distance of 90nm, Bangor was just an overnight sail away.  All began well if a little damp with a couple of rainbows thrown in, and of course there was plenty of shipping around in the Irish Sea on our night watches.  The wind and heavy rain came up on the approach to Bangor early the next morning, with visibility of about 100 m, so we anchored in Ballyholme Bay, preferring to enter the nearby marina in calmer conditions the following day.

We stayed for a couple of days and did a bit of local exploration on foot around what was once a popular Victorian seaside resort and still an attractive town, but unfortunately did not have time to venture into Belfast as we needed to press on northwards.

Judging the right time to leave Bangor on a favourable tide and get round the Mull of Kintyre with its fierce current in our favour demanded some thought.  We wanted to get to Ardminish on the island of Gigha in a day, a new destination for us and the most southerly island of the Inner Hebrides.  Once safely at anchor, we both agreed how delightful it was to be back in the land of the purple heather after eight years, despite or because of the weather!

We were fortunate to walk around the local Achamore Gardens on a bright, rainless day.  Unfortunately, now no longer manicured, they are still colourful and have belonged to the local community since 2002.   The house is separately owned and currently for sale for anyone who would like a 14 bedroomed mansion in a peaceful location for the price of an expensive flat in London.

From Gigha we crossed to Craighouse on Jura, and moored in the shadow of the small whisky distillery and hotel where we had dinner one evening.  Here we reminisced about our two visits to the island as part of the Classic Malts Cruise eight years ago when we visited the distillery and enjoyed a private ‘nosing’ or tasting on board Pipistrelle.

Working our way north, we had a lively sail to Crinan where we anchored in the protected bay just west of the Canal entrance and used the dinghy to get ashore.  Watching the yachts in the sea lock gave us a few pointers and tips for handling Pipistrelle in our upcoming transit of the Caledonian Canal, and walking along the scenic towpath we saw just how narrow the Canal is in places.  Highly recommended comes the Seafood Bar of the Crinan Hotel with its fresh seafood dishes and cosy atmosphere overlooking the Canal.

And so on up to Oban Marina on the island of Kerrera.  A fairly tricky sail taking the inshore route which we did, weighing anchor at dawn to get the current through the Dorus Mor, on up between Scarba and Luing, past Fladda, the island of Seil and the Sound of Kerrera to the marina opposite the town of Oban.  With precision navigation required most of the way, the tablet showing our position on the Navionics chart was firmly in its holder in the cockpit.

What a friendly welcome we received on Kerrera!  The marina has changed hands since we were last there, new owners having taken over just four months previously.  They are succeeding in turning it around from neglect.  The team is multi-talented, from being on reception, to driving the complementary ferry shuttle to get us from the island to the North Pier in town, taking lines for arriving yachts, working behind the bar in the small restaurant or waiting at table in the evening, which all gives it a family feel.

As with the Seafood Bar at Crinan, we followed the recommendation of sailing friends to have a meal at the Seafood Temple in Oban.  We weren’t disappointed!  Within walking distance of the town, this tiny family run restaurant is located in what used to be the park pavilion (aka facilities!) with glorious sea views and serves fresh top quality Scottish seafood – a delicious treat!  As was the pre-dinner drink we enjoyed at the Manor House Hotel.

The Classic Malts Cruise started here with a reception at the distillery and parade of sail around Oban Harbour.   This time we booked a distillery tour, a tasting and a few purchases once Edvard and Lars had joined us.

To look back on our Scottish adventures of 2008 go to:

Scotland The Brave

The Mull Circumnavigation and of course, most importantly

The Classic Malts Cruise – Whisky Galore

Posted in Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Amazing Azores

On 20th June Elaine flew out from the UK to the Azores to join Bob for a 10 day holiday – no sailing involved!

With Pipistrelle in Ponta Delgada Marina, it seemed the ideal opportunity to focus on exploring the city and the island of Sao Miguel, the largest in the group.

We had both sailed in the archipelago before, both of us on separate Overlord trips (Elaine 15 years ago, Bob a little earlier) though neither of us could remember the Ponta Delgada marina or town.  Probably because the ‘new’ marina hadn’t been built back then, and our edition of the Atlantic Islands pilot book still had it marked as ‘planned’.

What makes these Portuguese islands in the middle of the Atlantic so special?  Beautiful towns, lush countryside, rugged coastlines, stunning views over lakes and craters, a pleasant climate influenced by the Gulf Stream and whale watching all contribute to the Azores’ reputation as a sought after destination today, but the first landing was in the 15th century, bringing a cargo of cattle.  For more about the islands, go to www.azores.com.

Ponta Delgada is the administrative capital with a population of about 64000.  Behind the modern avenue running along the shoreline is a plethora of narrow streets with ornately decorated pavements, numerous churches, the 18th century city gates, as well as a number of interesting small shops and hostelries, of which more later.  The end of June also marked a series of free evening concerts in the square outside the Town Hall, one of which was a group performing traditional and melancholic Fado music. An interesting experience, with fascinating lighting effects.

Within easy walking distance is the ‘Jardim do Palacio de Sant’Ana’, the mid 19th century palace with its park is used as the regional government seat.  Another botanical garden to add to our list with its lake, and curious trees.


Further afield, we chose a day promising sunshine and cloudless skies to hire a car and drive up to the Sete Cidades with its green and blue lakes.  We were rewarded with breathtaking views.  Well worth the effort of an early start, getting up there by 08.30!  The roads on our route were lined with beautiful wild hydrangea and agapanthus, taking us past fields with lush grazing for herds of dairy cattle.  No wonder the islands are famous for their cheeses, and milk is exported to mainland Portugal.


An afternoon stop at the Lagoa do Fogo gave us the opportunity to admire the panorama and to have a walk – no saunter with a 1 in 2 descent from the car park to the lake and a similar climb back up!  Time to wend our way back to the marina and put our feet up!

Taking advantage of the good weather, we decided to extend the rental on the car and explore the eastern part of the island over three days, heading initially to the spa town of Furnas with its famous hot springs, and Terra Nostra Botanical Park with the geothermal pool at its centre.  Having taken our bathing gear and tested the water temperature (hot), we ventured in to the murky, muddy brown pool before throngs of visitors arrived.  Despite the colour, bathing was bliss, even if it did take copious amounts of fresh water to shower mud off body and bathers afterwards.  Good for the soul!

As always, we found the garden enchanting.  Dating back to the late 18th century and extensively renovated over time, the grounds boast collections of endemic flora, ferns, camellia, plus winding paths, bridges, grottoes, lakes and above all tranquillity.

With the smell of sulphur leading you there, at the other end of town are hot springs.  At 24 hours’ notice, you can even order a whole meal cooked using volcanic heat or steam.   We preferred a more conventional lunch!

Then came the real treat of the stay – a last minute booking for two nights at a secluded hotel on the south coast!  At The Caloura Resort we spent a whole day relaxing, lying by the pool, swimming and sunbathing.

On that note, there are many public salt water swimming pools that are obviously extremely popular on hot sunny days.  Not so in the rain!

Not only are the Azores renowned for their dairy products, seafood and rich stews.  Perhaps surprisingly, pineapple is a locally grown tropical fruit and available at the indoor fruit and vegetable market in Ponta Delgada, but far more expensive than pineapple we’ve bought in other exotic places.

Wine has been produced on the islands and exported for centuries.  At reasonable prices even in restaurants, we sampled both white and rose, and bought a few bottles for the Pipistrelle cellar at a small wine shop that brought us firmly into the 21st century with a couple of its labels!


Recommended by Elaine’s niece, the Azores Wine Company’s ‘volcanic’ offering was a must have!  The winemaker is the very same oenologist who makes wine for the Quinta de Sant’Ana vineyard near Lisbon.

Last but not least, the Ocean Cruising Club’s Port Officer for Ponta Delgada has to be mentioned.  Alberto Pacheco was most helpful to us by email before Pipistrelle arrived in Sao Miguel and in person while we were there.  He is the charming, friendly Vice President of the Yacht Club, a font of knowledge about the island and local trades and speaks extremely good English.

See also Gaelic Greetings!

Posted in Azores, Portugal | Tagged , , , , , , ,

The Last Ocean Leg

Or Azores to Kinsale and Dublin

On 30th June, it was comings and goings at Ponta Delgada airport, with Elaine departing (see Amazing Azores post) on the same flight on which Martin Goodchild arrived.  It’s not the first time we have experienced a situation like that, and there was enough time for us all to meet briefly, before Elaine had to go through passport control.

We came by Martin through the Gerrard’s Cross Sailing Association.  Many thanks to Stuart Gaunt for sending out a detailed email to members explaining we were looking for crew.  Unfortunately for Martin there was a weather window to leave the next day, 1st July, but maybe there will be an opportunity in future for us all to explore and enjoy the Azores to the full.

After final provisioning at the market, we set sail after lunch and headed to the western end of Sao Miguel where we altered course for the Emerald Isle and Kinsale.  As if by magic the breeze filled in, we were able to turn off the engine and sail.

The wind lasted all night, but eased in time for breakfast, so we were then back to motoring.  We then enjoyed 3 days of good sailing accompanied by dolphins that we both enjoyed watching.  The wind continued to vary, so we did have to resort to motoring every now and again.  But the big plus factor was enjoying the company of whales for three days in succession, one of them was a sperm whale, one unidentified, and then pilot whales, but we also enjoyed dolphins that swam with us for a considerable time, and also performed with some spectacular jumps clear of the waves.

We arrived at Kinsale at 03.45 on 10th July, and anchored in the river, before catching up on sleep.  The passage was 1152nm in 8 days and 11 hours.

Later that morning we prepared Pipistrelle for berthing alongside in the marina, and then visiting Kinsale YC, who were very welcoming and helpful.  Since our last visit in 2008 the clubhouse has been extensively modernised, and while we were there, cadets were being taught to sail their Toppers on a daily basis.

We were delighted to find that the craic had returned to Kinsale in the form of live music, singing and dancing, which we enjoyed on two nights ashore, along with some excellent food.  Alas, all good things have to come to an end, and with another favourable weather window we prepared to leave on 13th July.  Customs finally caught up with us as we refuelled, and wanted to inspect down below with a dog.  Big reminder for next time.  Dog wears covers over its paws.  Handler sweeps up all hairs left by dog!

We had great sailing towards the Irish Sea, and were astonished to watch humpback whales perform close to us.  After 18 hours we were able to round Carnsore Point and inside Tuskar Rock, to anchor off Rosslare Harbour at 06.40.  We stayed on board, had a relaxing day and a good night’s sleep.

We left the next morning at 06.00 for Howth, just to the north of the entrance to Dublin Harbour.  We chose to take the inshore passage which is buoyed the whole way, and anchored off the yacht club at 13.30, before then waiting for the tide the next morning and taking Pipistrelle alongside in the marina.

We were incredibly impressed with the yacht club which is managed superbly well, and the facilities are excellent.  They were also running a cadet fortnight, but here the kids were under control, no mess in the changing rooms, boats were left neatly so that one barely noticed them, and the emphasis was on fun, and not just sailing!  Well done Howth YC.

Immediately outside the YC there is a fabulous cliff walk to the south and east as far as the Baily Lighthouse, marking the headland and entrance to Dublin Harbour, where one is walking along a narrow footpath and in many places a sheer drop of over a hundred feet to the clear waters of the Irish Sea below.  We shared this with a large number of tourists, including many Poles who make up a big community in and around Dublin.  In a way it was lovely to return to the private oasis of the YC, and to peace and quiet!

We managed an evening in Dublin, and here the craic scene had changed, so we finished up getting in a taxi and being taken to the Brazen Head, the oldest pub in Dublin, where the music and singing started just as we arrived.  Another good night out, which left one evening on board with home cooked food before sadly Martin had to leave for home.

Bob was left with 6 hours to clean and tidy Pipistrelle before welcoming Elaine at the airport!!

Many thanks Martin for sharing this passage with Bob, and we look forward to welcoming you on board again in the not too distant future!

See also Gaelic Greetings!



Posted in Azores, Ireland, Portugal | Tagged , ,

Gaelic Greetings!

As so often, our progress through the water is far faster than our progress with the blog, with which we’re way behind the pace.  With many hundreds of sea miles under her keel since the last post, Pipistrelle is now in Oban Marina, Kerrera.  We were last here nine years ago and are thoroughly enjoying being back in the inner seas off the West Coast of Scotland.

Still to come are three articles to bring us up to date.

They won’t necessarily be published in that order!


Posted in Scotland | Tagged ,

Flotsam and Jetsam in the North Atlantic

This gallery contains 6 photos.

Variable weather, trying to catch the wind, constantly changing sail configurations and dealing with unidentified submerged objects all made for a challenging, not entirely uneventful passage from Bermuda to the Azores. Back home in the UK, having flown from Bermuda … Continue reading

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Pipistrelle makes Landfall in the Azores

After a 14-day passage, Pipistrelle, with Bob, Pete Stone and Bob Tuckwood on board, reached Horta on the island of Faial.   A full account of the trip will follow shortly, but this is worth posting!

On the marina wall it’s customary for crews of visiting yachts to mark their arrival by painting a picture.  This is our ‘Picasso’, amongst the hundreds of others painted over the years.

Quite a landmark …. nine years and 50,000 nm

Somewhere on that wall is ‘Batrachian’ (Pipistrelle’s previous name) by her owners at the time, Stephen and Katherine.  There too is ‘Overlord’ – the classic yacht we sail, which has cruised the islands on several occasions.

Posted in Azores, Portugal | Tagged , ,

Bermuda – The Onion Island

Thanks to growing thousands of tons of onions in the 19th century and exporting them in the main to the USA, Bermudian seamen were known as ‘Onions’ and the island, ‘The Onion Patch’.  Though trade declined after WW1 until the 1930’s, when locally grown produce could no longer compete with vast harvests in Texas, the islanders’ nickname lives on.

A British colony since 1707 and now an Overseas Territory, Bermuda is a lovely friendly island with an extremely pleasant climate – most of the time.  At 32.20N it is the most northerly coral atoll in the Atlantic, situated towards the western edges of the Sargasso Sea, and of course famous for being part of the legendary triangle that bears its name.  This imaginary reaches from Miami in Florida, south east to San Juan in Puerto Rico and north to Bermuda whose reefs are strewn with over 300 shipwrecks – a paradise for divers with deep pockets!  This is an expensive spot!

Quaint St. George’s, where we anchored, is a UNESCO site with an old Town Hall and Square, museum, churches, post office, restaurants and boutiques.

The limestone houses, unique to the island, are all painted in pastel colours and have signature white stepped roofs to catch the rain as there is no mains water supply, a tradition that dates back 400 years.  By law 80% of water has to be collected and stored in a tank under each house.  Nowadays roofs are painted every two or three years with a special non-toxic paint to keep the water as clean as possible.    Otherwise, desalination plants provide water for hotels and numerous golf courses that attract thousands of tourists each year.

With no self-drive hire cars on the island, to go further afield we could either take a very expensive taxi, or use public transport – far cheaper at US$ 20 for a day pass.   We took one of the frequent ferries to the historic Royal Naval Dockyard at the very western tip of the island, where cruise ships dwarf yachts in the small marina and overshadow the dockyard itself.  The America’s Cup teams were there too along with throngs of people wandering around.   For us the main attraction was the Commissioner’s House within the extensive fortifications of the National Museum, housing fascinating artefacts from 500 years of Bermuda history.

Back in St. George’s, Bob T who had joined us a few days earlier for the passage to the Azores, experienced some of the rain and high winds at the anchorage which proved to have excellent holding.  Pipistrelle’s anchor remained firmly dug in when one morning the wind rose to 28kn and then to 41kn+ in 2 hours, the motion very much like being on the ocean!  Coincidentally ARC Europe yachts arrived from the BVI during the storm.  Unfortunately, some had great difficulty in dropping anchor, with much dragging – not what’s needed after a challenging passage.  In lighter airs that afternoon we moved to the main anchorage where we would get more protection ahead of one of the countless changes of wind direction over the next few days.

Apart from seeing some of the island while we were there, time was naturally devoted to the normal amount of ‘boatie’ tasks.  OCC Port Officers Steve and Suzanne, of Ocean Sails, carried out small repairs to the genoa, they also tried very hard to help with a boom vang repair which didn’t work out in Bermuda for various reasons – more about that in a future blog. Otherwise of course, laundry was on the agenda at the local laundromat along with reprovisioning mainly for fresh fruit and veg.  Very conveniently both laundromat and supermarket were within easy walking distance of the dinghy dock, Somers offering a wide range of Waitrose goods at Fortnum and Mason prices!  But that’s Bermuda!

After two weeks, Elaine disembarked to fly home (in a stiff breeze, it was some undertaking to get her plus luggage ashore in the dinghy without getting anything wet!), leaving ‘the boys’ to wait for a suitable weather window and prepare Pipistrelle for the next stage.


Posted in Azores, Bermuda, Portugal | Tagged , , ,

Farewell Caribbean

After the family had left, we turned our attention to retrieving our ‘clobber’ from the locker, re-provisioning, cooking on-passage meals to freeze, baking bread and generally preparing Pipistrelle for our first serious passage of 2017 – from the Lesser Antilles to the more northerly latitudes of Bermuda at 32.22N.

Pete Stone joined us for this next stage from Antigua (17.03N) and we departed on the afternoon of Monday 1st May for the 950 nm run to St. George’s.   Leaving Barbuda to starboard after about 40 nm, we altered course marginally to sail due north for Bermuda.

The passage took a total of 7 days in varying conditions from light airs and champagne sailing with warm sunny days blue seas and starry nights, to lively Force 6’s and overcast skies with 2 reefs in the main plus staysail.  Under full main and poled out genoa we sailed for a day to avoid continual gybing with Pipistrelle sailing extremely comfortably, before the boisterous final 12 hours, 3 reefs, much cooler temperatures and damp nights.   As the latitude increased so did the layers of clothing, with jackets, long trousers and footwear for night watches.

A call to Bermuda Radio on the VHF coming up the St. George’s Channel announced our imminent arrival before going through the narrow pass to the Harbour.  We were finally alongside the Customs Dock at 16.00 on cool and dull Sunday 7th May.  With formalities completed we found a quiet spot to anchor, tidy up Pipistrelle above and below decks, celebrate our safe arrival and get a welcome night’s rest on an even keel.

For the record, we motored for 3 hours, sailed at an average of 6.6kn, 8.7kn being the top constant speed (11 kn was seen fleetingly), and our best 24 hour run was 170 nm.

Posted in Antigua, Bermuda, Caribbean | Tagged ,

It’s Here!

So what have we been up to for the last five months?

Cruising The Caribbean again …

We returned to Grenada mid-November and stayed at La Sagesse, while Pipistrelle was prepared to be launched.  The resort is excellent, and staying there again was delightful. Unfortunately it was all rather marred by an unsatisfactory experience prior to ‘splashing’ at Grenada Marine – we will not be hauling there again!

Ingemar and Ann-Britt arrived from Sweden on 24th November, joining us in Prickly Bay for a two week stay taking us north to St Lucia.  Before leaving we had a very enjoyable dinner at The Aquarium restaurant with Ole & Jette from Lahaina who are Danish. The weather was far from settled, strong breezes and rain, sometimes heavy, but we did manage to return to the Tobago Cays for a couple of fine days, as well as visit Mustique for the first time.  In 2010 the winds were not favourable so it was ‘third time lucky’.

Mustique is a lovely island, and very different from the other West Indies.  Through ‘The Mustique Company’ the wealthy property owners fund the roads, the airport, it has its own airline, and is all kept impeccably.  We enjoyed sundowners at the famous Basil’s Bar, and took a taxi tour of the island to ogle at villas owned by the rich and famous.

After a short stay in Bequia, and leaving there early in the morning, we managed to make Marigot Bay on St Lucia in a day sail, and moored stern-to for the night at the Chateau Mygo restaurant.   A half-day guided tour took in Rodney Bay and Pigeon Island and climbing to the peak, Ingemar and Ann Britt left us to return to a cold Sweden, and we sailed on to Rodney Bay to collect some urgent parts, and had the pleasure of watching the final ARC participants cross the finishing line – as we did in 2009!

Our next stop was Sainte Anne on Martinique, where we had decided to spend Christmas and the New Year.  As we approached we encountered a mighty squall and rainstorm reducing visibility to a few yards, but it cleared enabling us to pick out the anchorage, and decide where to drop the hook.  Imagine our surprise to find we had chosen a spot right next to Gosi.  We last saw Tom and Barbara in Jacare, Brazil where we had spent time together, including a trip to Olinda.

Sainte Anne is a lovely village on the west coast of Martinique just to the south of the major yachting centre of Le Marin.  The village has almost everything you could wish for, a quaint church, lovely buildings, quiet alleys with bars and restaurants, a brilliant boulangerie and patisserie, hikes and hills to climb.

We then met up with Phil and Norma Heaton on Minnie B, and a Belgian couple, Stephane and Ann.  So, the stage was set for dinner on Christmas Eve at ‘La Dunette’, overlooking the anchorage, and then New Year’s Eve at ‘Les Filets Bleus’ on the beach just to the north of St Anne, with midnight fireworks courtesy of nearby Club Med.   Memorable gatherings in themselves, on Christmas Day we were treated to an absolutely perfect sunset and remarkable ‘green flash’ to clapping and cheering from all the boats in the anchorage.

Hiring a car, we explored the capital of Fort de France and the Jardin de Balata, beautiful tropical gardens in the hills to the north east.  Phil and Norma joined us for a trip up the east coast, which was a delight after the heavy traffic on the west, and we found many interesting and enjoyable places to stop.

We were sorry to leave Sainte Anne, but were on a time line for our next visitors Brian and Helen.  So after a night in Grande Anse d’Arlet and then in a quiet anchorage just south of St Pierre, we daysailed to Dominica and anchored in Prince Rupert Bay, Portsmouth, towards the north of the island.  We had no sooner anchored than boat boy Edison came alongside, and remembered us from 2010 – wow!  Once we had got ourselves organised it was time to drive our hire car along the picturesque and windy road to Douglas Charles Airport on the east side of the island to meet Helen and Brian.  They had flown down from Antigua with LIAT via Barbados with two bags of luggage.  Whilst the flight was more or less on time, LIAT had managed to lose one of them (Helen’s), and it was over a week before it was finally found at Barbados.  So a visit to Roseau the ‘capital’ towards the south of the island was in order to buy essentials for Helen from a limited selection in the one and only ‘department store’, and Elaine lent her other clothing to keep her going.  Brian was constantly on the phone to LIAT, and through his persistence the bag was eventually found in Barbados.  We then discovered LIAT is known locally as “Left it at another Terminal”!  Their record on the customer service website is appalling and local advice is to use the ferry.

Our passage north took us to the islands of Les Saintes where we found we had to pick up a mooring – anchoring is now forbidden except in deep water.  Part of Guadeloupe, Terre-de-Haut on Les Saintes with its narrow streets, boutiques, bars and restaurants is charming.  La Fringale proved once more to be a lovely setting for dinner.   On Guadeloupe proper we enjoyed the botanical gardens at Deshaies, and hired a car to tour the island, and take a hike to the Carbet waterfalls in the southeast.

Les Saintes


And so on to Antigua and Jolly Harbour.  After a visit to the airport Helen was happy to be reunited with her luggage, just a day before their flight home!

Jolly Harbour was a short stop for us before we made our way to Gustavia on St. Barts, to find the anchorage had totally changed for the worse since our visit in 2010.  It was incredibly busy and uncomfortable from the wash of constant ferries, so after one night at anchor we sailed the short distance for Saint Maarten/St Martin (yes – that half Dutch/half French island).

St Martin and Marigot Bay on the French side is protected from easterlies, and being duty free as far as chandlery is concerned, provided us with the opportunity to purchase a new Jabsco pump for the aft heads, and to find an engineer to fix the watermaker, which had been giving us problems since leaving Grenada.   We met David Dowoghue who is an expert on Spectra, and he totally serviced the Clark Pump.  We now are making more water than ever before.

Quite by chance we met up again with Serge and Siao on Pearl 2, a Wauquiez PS 47 built in 2015.  We first came across them in Martinique, and this time we sailed with them to Baie Blanche, Tintamarre, which is a national park.  Once we had re anchored closer in to the shore it was calmer, and an evening on the beach with crews from 3 different boats, all French, was very enjoyable.  So too was watching numerous turtles popping their heads up above the water line before disappearing once more into the deep – always a marvellous sight.

We left Marigot Bay at 04.30 to make the 80nm passage to the British Virgin Islands during daylight, and arrived at Virgin Gorda at 18.20, to find Phil and Norma on Minnie B waiting for us in Gorda Sound.  Having checked in we managed to hire a car and do a tour of the island, finishing for sundowners at Hog Heaven, overlooking the bay, Necker Island and Mosquito Island (owned by Richard Branson), before we parted company again, sailing in opposite directions.

The need for a medical check-up took us to Nanny Cay Marina, where Miles is the General Manager, and also as it happens the Port Officer for the BVIs with the Ocean Cruising Club.  We found him not only charming, but also very generous and hospitable.  We unexpectedly encountered some problems, and Miles and his Yard Manager Keith took control and our stay at Nanny Cay was excellent.  In the ‘Peg Leg’ Nanny Cay has a good restaurant, hotel, swimming pool, haul out facilities, as well as all the trades that one would expect at a world class marina.

Culebra, or the Spanish Virgin Islands beckoned, but we stopped at Cruz in St John (US Virgin Islands) to check in, and try to buy a local sim card.  Being US, their values are rather different from ours, a sim card costs $25US, and the minimum data we could buy was $55US, or a total of £64!  Just unreal, so we decided to rely on internet available in bars or restaurants.   We then headed north west to the north coast of St Thomas, anchoring in Magens Bay, and were amazed to find only one other yacht there, though it is large and well sheltered.  Maybe the reason is that in strong trade winds, you have the katabatic effect of gusts screaming down the hillside.  But we sheltered there whilst the strong easterlies persisted, and discovered that the whole sandy beach was privately owned, and a charge was made of $2 US per person from cruise liners that dock in Charlotte Amelie, plus the taxi fare, a deck chair, drinks, food, paddle boards all extra!  A nice little earner!

We then sailed west to Culebra, an interesting passage knowing that we would have to sail back against the prevailing winds, and also knowing that the anchorage we were aiming for faced the prevailing winds, so what would the shelter be like?  As we approached the offlying island of Culebrita we could see masts in the anchorage, and then the reefs we had planned to negotiate.  As we passed through the reefs and into the buoyed channel, the seas calmed and we found a lagoon that reminded us of being in the South Pacific!

Needing to find out where to leave the dinghy to get to the airport to check in, Bob approached a boat that turned out to be a Wauquiez Centurion, owned by a fascinating Australian and his charming American wife, Paul and Lynn Elliot on SV Kiana.  Sundowners followed, and a phone call to Immigration by Paul announcing that we had arrived, and would check in the next day.  The week that followed was cold, wet and windy, so whilst on a mooring, the anchor was deployed together with a line made fast to the mooring block on the sea bed.  But we managed to explore the island, and in particular its beautiful sandy beaches, made use of by day trippers from Puerto Rico, only a few miles away.  The weather prevented any exploration on Pipistrelle, but we would love to return, it is so different and relaxed compared to the rest of the BVI/USVI’s.

Our passage against the wind to Jost van Dyke to check back in to the BVIs was good, and we arrived in the late afternoon.  At 1900 when it was dark, a yacht anchored close to us, and then Bob heard French voices, followed by a dinghy coming towards us.  Instantly Bob realised this was Max who he met on Damahwil in Corsica last summer, and with friends he had sailed  the Atlantic to the Caribbean.  A great crew, who we met for lunch the following day, before they left for Puerto Rico, and then on up the eastern seaboard of the US.  It is such a small world!

Mo and Nigel joined us in Nanny Cay, and we spent a very enjoyable 10 days exploring Tortola by car, then to Virgin Gorda for a repeat of our experience with Phil and Norma.  Then west to Norman Island for a visit to the ‘The Indians’, a very good snorkelling site in 2010.  What a change for the worse; a lot of the corals have been damaged or have disappeared, in particular the soft corals, and the fish life has left for pastures new.  So that was a big disappointment, but in Benures Bay, Norman Island we found some good coral and plenty of fish, so returned there after ‘The Indians’ for another night, before sailing back to Trellis Bay, Beef Island for Mo and Nigel’s departure.  It was a great week, and the weather could hardly have been better.

As they left, the heavens opened, which delayed our return to Gorda Sound to check out of the BVIs.  Then an overnight passage to St Martin, our first for almost a year, and then on to St Bart’s where we anchored at Ile Fourchue which has a small bay protected from the north and east. Again, all up wind sailing, but with a purpose in mind!

This bay is lovely, surrounded by craggy peaks just waiting to be climbed, the island private but hiking here is acceptable.  And snorkelling is good.  There is virtually no coral, but the surrounds of the bay is fallen rock, giving way to a sandy weed strewn bottom, which turtles love.  And they are in abundance, with heads continually popping up for air, and we found a baby turtle resting amongst the rocks, but happily he swam away as Bob snorkelled down to check he/she was ok.  There are plenty of sting rays here, together with some live conch shellfish, which we have never seen before.  Normally we see plenty of shells but all of them empty.  We also saw a Nassau Grouper, again a first for us, but unfortunately no photos as Bob’s Sony camera that he puts in a special case for underwater photography has developed a fault.  We now find it common to these cameras.  Thanks for the built-in obsolescence, Sony!  The bay will certainly be one of those unforgettable experiences.

We then made the short hop to Anse de Colombier, another lovely bay on the NW corner of St Barts, before setting off on the long day sail back to Jolly Harbour on Antigua, to await the arrival of Andy and Annie, Bob’s son and daughter-in-law, and their two young children, Florence whose 6th birthday we celebrated on board after Easter, and Reuben who is three.  This turned in to a very special time for us.  They were with us for 10 days, so we cleared sails, seating and other ‘stuff’ we have accumulated over the years out of the starboard aft cabin and into a locker at the marina.  At last more habitable space on Pipistrelle!  To share the boat, go swimming in Deep Bay, and take them to other sights on Antigua was truly memorable.


Posted in Antigua, Bequia, BVI (British Virgin Islands), Caribbean, Grenada and The Grenadines, Guadaloupe, Les Saintes, Martinique, Mustique, St Barts, St Lucia, USVI (US Virgin Islands) | Tagged , , ,

Wait For It …..!

A summary of the last five months’ Caribbean cruising is finally, finally nearing completion, with publication and photos when we reach our next destination ….

B E R M U D A!



Posted in Bermuda, Caribbean