On the nose


Newsletters 2009

From Senegal to the Caribbean

Dakar, Senegal to Banjul, The Gambia

 Posted Banjul Gambia 19th January 2009

 1st - 2nd January, Dakar to Banjul

By new Year’s Day it was time to move on with an overnight sail to Banjul, The Gambia. Light winds, watching out for pirogues, a lovely moonlit, starlit night, and moths everywhere; there were clouds of them in the sails and in every crevice on deck. Coming into Banjul is tricky with sandbanks and has to be approached at high water. The wind was great for a close hauled sail, the seas were flat and we were skimming along till about 7 miles out when we saw a pirogue and a figure waving. Their outboard had broken down and we furled away the sails, prepared a tow rope and towed them to the fishing village. As we released them they came alongside ‘Welcome to The Gambia.’ and gave us four big fish. This was to be rescue no.1.   

When we anchored off Half-Die dockyard to clear in, there was a very similar boat to ours, a Rival, anchored too. Just as we put our dinghy in the water, the owner returned, tied up his dinghy, which promptly came loose. So Bob to the rescue – with oars in 17 knots of wind. The owner, in his 70’s, was very grateful. He was stuck there with no engine and no crew – they were Israeli and the Immigration office had deported them. We put the outboard on the dinghy, got the paperwork etc. then saw his yacht had moved – its anchor was dragging. Bob in the dinghy again, outboard this time, went to alert him – he was down below on his computer – and helped him put another anchor out.

We did eventually get over to a small harbour to tie alongside a pilot boat where a couple of youths were eager to help watch the dinghy – help us with anything to make money. The Immigration office was staffed by youngsters in uniforms, feet up on the desk, watching an old Richard Burton film – it was a public holiday and the boss was out. In fact, all the offices were closed, and it was Friday. They insisted on inspecting Yanina, cost 500D, Bob got in the dinghy again with an immigration officer while Liz watched the film with the others - the ‘older woman’ is respected here. Finally Bob was falling asleep as they rummaged in drawers looking for a 5 day pass for us. We had to change our CFA notes from Senegal but of course it was a holiday. Asking at the police station, a young policeman took us into a local shop and supervised while the notes were changed – apparently there are better rates on the black market. Half Die -half the population did die in a cholera epidemic - is a windy desolate anchorage, the dockyard is closed and the town is run down, but the baked fish supper was excellent.

 2nd – 6th January, Lamin Creek

The next day was nearly rescue no. 4 when the other yacht was dragging its anchor again. We were concerned about the owner and ready with a tow rope (call us Yanina breakdown service) to offer to take him to Lamin Creek but he had hitched himself alongside a Navy boat on a mooring and it was too dangerous to approach. We did in the end have enough on our hands negotiating the sandbanks and the entrance to the creeks, then suddenly we were surrounded by mangrove and the wind dropped. A boat called over with information about a new wreck below the surface ahead of us - we are using Steve Jones’ West Africa pilot which is 12 years old.

Lamin Lodge, on the shores of the creek, looks like the kind of den Liz would have liked to have built as child. It’s a restaurant, and Lamin creek is a peaceful anchorage. Outside were several boats on moorings, and two other yachts, one of which was Sea Dove – Bruce and Cheryle. Bruce was ill, and Marcus and Jess had gone on up the river.









Llanda came visiting and introduced himself and brought us some water from a local tap in the village. His friend Lennox has a 4x4, given to him by a French sailor who had to leave the country. They are nice lads and keen to run a business. Lennox will drive you anywhere, ideal as the nearest road is about 3 miles down dirt tracks, and Llanda looks after the boats and lives on a catamaran.The Belgian owner has a hotel, runs charter trips, and is also involved in work to educate the local women and stop female circumcision. The first thing we did was have a cold beer on the veranda at Lamin Lodge at sunset. There is no electricity and we had an inexpensive meal by candlelight.

We based ourselves here over the next few days. Llanda and Lennox took us into Senegambia one evening, and a slight conflict of interest between Kora and Reggae music.


                                                                                Lennox Tourist Taxi  [email protected]

On the Monday they took us back to Banjul to finish clearing in, and we were invited for a meal at Llanda’s home. At nine am we were at Llanda and Lennox’s respective compounds to greet their families, which they do every morning, then a drive through the village of Lamin, past the tap where our water came from and other compounds, shacks along the road selling groceries. The track was alive with people and we stopped continually to greet them. Clearing in was not so much fun. Everywhere was chaotic. Half–Die is being demolished under the orders of the President, and a new dockyard is to be built that will rival Singapore by 2020, says Llanda. We’ll gloss over the second visit to the immigration office, finding the Customs officer in his temporary home with no photocopier, talking him out of visiting the boat again, and finally to the Harbour Masters office where an unfortunate assistant was being harangued by his mother-in-law who had come to his place of work to accuse him of beating her daughter. Apparently his defence was that she cut and bruised herself on all the things she was throwing around the room. To me, there seemed a lot of shouting in Malinka and it was Llanda who explained the story. The guide book says ‘be patient’. On a computer nearby, Latif was downloading his photos. ‘Why do you sail across the Atlantic?’ he asks. ‘Isn’t it easier to get a plane?’ Well, fair point, but Liz goes through all the bit of economy – transporting your home with you…the wind is free…misses out the carbon footprint… and shows him a copy of the book – ‘this is what we’re doing’. He then wants one – everybody does, but we’ve sold all the 60 copies we had on the boat.

7th January, Lamin Creek to Bintang Bolon

We set off at midday on a rising tide. The estuary is much bigger than we expected. It is windier too, up to 23knots, and we sailed and the genoa was enough. Nearly went aground in the entrance to Bintang Bolon – all these creeks have extensive mud flats at the mouth and they had changed. Eventually we found the channel and suddenly it was peaceful and we anchored up the creek as the sun set, accompanied by dolphins, blacker and more languid than their ocean relatives.

8th January, Bintang Bolon to Tendeba Village

An early start at 7am to catch the tide, and we woke up and realised how isolated we were. Once out of the creek, there was mangrove as far as the eye could see and it was windy again and ‘on the nose’ so we were ploughing through choppy water with the sprayhood up – is this fun? We were heading to Mandori creek but the tide had turned when we got there. We didn’t want to enter on a falling tide so we pressed on to Tendeba where a village and tourist camp have existed side by side for 30 years in symbiotic partnership. The village is corrugated iron and the camp is, by comparison, better built with round brick buildings and thatched roofs and has a swimming pool and a generator. We couldn’t get ashore till the current stopped running so hard, then we walked through the village and everyone greeted us, asked our names, and wanted their photo taken. We went to the tourist camp for a cold beer and a meal, bush pig on the menu; then walking back in the moonlight we stopped and talked to locals sitting round a fire in the village square – they said it is the cold season. We were offered green tea and a chicken roosting in a tree shat on Bob’s shoulder – well it’s not exactly what you look out for. Jainaba and Alieu spoke English and translated for the older women who haven’t been to school. They were asking for books, paper and pens for the village school and we promised to do out best.

 Jainaba and Alieu

Tendeba Village

Kiang Central District

Lower River Region

The Gambia




 9th January, Tendeba Village to Kau-ur Village

Another early start to catch the tide - the further upriver we go the later and slower it gets. We’re not mathematicians, but we can picture that maybe eventually we will be out-running it? Another maths problem reared its head with a panic about how much fuel we were using, but we monitored it all day and were reassured. We had expected to be mainly motoring, what we hadn’t expected was the fresh headwinds. The mangrove was changing character to ‘high mangrove’. We passed the only yacht we’ve seen so far, sailing back downwind, so maybe we’ll sail more on the trip back. More open land and fields now and we reached Kau-ur village late afternoon. There is a peanut factory here with a wharf, but not suitable for a sailing yacht. Local women were washing their clothes in the brown river and hanging them out on the wire fence, children were playing; we anchored discreetly off and when they had finished we took the dinghy ashore. We were greeted by hordes of kids who giggled and dragged the dinghy ashore on a concrete jetty. Only a few spoke English here but an older youth supervised them and about ten of them marched us down the track across the rice field to the village and we were given a ride on a donkey and cart for part of the way.

The village was corrugated iron buildings and fences. In the square was a substantial gazebo with a thatched roof and seating for maybe a market. (Some sponsorship has been here as this and the concrete jetty were quite new, and there was a pirogue with lettering ‘From the Dutch People to the Children of The Gambia’). It was getting dark and there were only three small street lamps but we found a dimly lit local shop and bought pencils and lollipops to give to the children. Back at the jetty it got a bit unruly as hordes of kids wanted lollipops and we hurriedly escaped in the dinghy.

10th January Kau-ur Village to Bird Island

This stretch of the river was more interesting, narrower, and less windy. There were more trees and palms along the river and lots of different birds. Saw several eagles and hawks. Lots of fishermen in dug out canoes and we sailed up close to one and bought a fish for dinner. We mostly motored with the current and occasionally put the genoa out, but not for long. We passed the village of Kudang Tenda and waved. At Carrols Wharf near some more settlements, a dugout canoe launched itself from the bank to intercept us very fast and nearly rammed us. As we came up to Bird Island we saw our first hippo’s in the water. We can hear them barking in the distance now as we sit at anchor, protected by our insect nets. We’ve had a full moon which has been very pleasurable and also helped us see at night.


10th January Bird Island to Baboon Island, back to Red Hill

At last we are nearly at Baboon Island, our destination and goal to see the hippos and the chimps. There are several islands and as we approached the depth dropped dramatically and we slowed down, then a wooden boat with two park rangers approached. We paid 100D each for tickets to help the ‘chimpanzee rehabilitation project’ that is being conducted on the island, (we have both just read ‘Brazzaville Beach by William Boyd, so this is very topical), and we saw some more hippo’s then some red monkeys in the trees. The pilot book says to keep a good distance from the hippos as they are very territorial and have been known to charge at boats. We followed the only deep water channel to the end of Baboon Island which was thick with vegetation but no more sightings. At the other end were more rangers who said come back at 1600, low water, which is the best time to see hippos and the chimps are being fed by the researchers.

We sailed as far as Barajali where there is a ferry crossing and anchored for lunch. There was activity both sides with people washing clothes and others waiting for the ferryman, some with bicycles. We had read about the rice project at Sapu and decided to dinghy ashore to the south side to see it. As usual we were greeted and made welcome but less English spoken here. Then Seikou offered to show us the rice project in return for a lift over the river. Apparently the usual ferry had been taken to be used further up river at Georgetown today. We walked down a track and it was hot, but not too much so. Baobab trees with bees, termite mounds, and birds with brilliant blue wings. Past a fishermen's village with mud houses, thatched roofs, stick fencing. ‘They are from Mali’ says Seikou. Then open countryside and it is the dry season so they are burning off the old crops and ploughing. Cows grazing and an irrigation ditch with sluice gates uses the river water to flood the fields ‘before that, we used a pump. Seikou used to work for the project but he lost his job when he travelled to Mali, and now he has no work. He explained that the project is funded by Chinese who sell the farmers fertiliser and pay them 600D a month (a 28 kilo bag of rice to last a month costs 750D) ‘They keep the project going so I guess they are making money’ he says. Seiko is well informed and talks about world economics and friends who live in England - he would like to go there. He explains he was only educated till the age of 6. Up till then, his father only had to pay for his books; after that, he had to pay for the teaching too and he couldn’t afford it.

Back to Baboon Island to meet the rangers. (One of them asked if we have any novels so we gave him Stephen King and Ben Elton). Then the feeders arrived with a boat full of fruit, sweetcorn and bread (to put medication in) and the researchers in another boat. We waited about 10 minutes, then followed the researchers and they showed us a spot with baboons, chimps and monkeys. As we approached we could smell the flowers of the many different exotic shrubs. To make it complete, at the end of the islands there were two hippos. What an exciting day, with guest treatment from the rangers. We made it back to Red Hill but the anchor skittered over rock and we re-anchored as it was getting dark, on the opposite bank, just in time.

 G6aJD-eFD5I Sunset at Red Hill

  12th January, Red Hill to somewhere in the river Between Kudang Tenda and Kau-ur

A windy night and morning and we were glad that we anchored where the holding was good. We dinghied over to climb one of the few hills in this area. At the landing, was a lad waiting with several bundles of bamboo. Climbing the rocky hill we saw over the river, the thatched roofs of a village a mile away, and a bullock cart coming to pick up the rushes.


Sailing downwind now, but the ebb tide time is reduced as you come back downriver – until you meet the next high water that is…. Steve Jones’ pilot calls reading the tides up and down the river here a ‘black art’. We intend to stop at Kudang Tenda village, it’s a shame it will be at the strongest flow of the ebbing tide. We anchor off the concrete wharf and the tide is indeed strong so we need the outboard on the dinghy. There are lots of children watching our arrival and two set off in pirogues to meet us, they want pens and we have a stock of pencils and lollipops. (Someone suggested footballs would be welcome in the villages but we never got round to getting them, that would have been good). Then four boys brave the current and swim out to the dingy, and shivering, we give them a ride back. Ashore we were surrounded by children, we needed six pairs of hands to shake theirs and hold them too. They helped us with the dinghy and then we met Mok, the fisherman that we bought a fish off two days ago.

Mok offered to show us around the village and the peanut wharf next to it. The villagers are fishermen, mostly from Senegal, and some speak French. The homes are made from mud bricks fired in the village with thatched roofs of the local grasses. Mok invited us inside his; there is a double bed, a cane sofa and chair on a mud floor. ‘What happens in the rainy season?’ ‘It rains in….’ He took us to his brother’s house where a consignment of dried fish, produced in the village, and packed in a net, was being jumped on by two men, to compress it. To the peanut wharf – ‘the peanuts come from inland, not here’ then back past the bakery – ‘the baker is asleep’, to meet a friend whose wife is cooking a delicious looking meal of lamb, potatoes on an open fire. All the houses have their kitchen outside, with tables made of tree stumps and a frame of half-logs or sticks laid across them. The friend invited us into his home, which is bigger than Mok’s, with a dividing wall between the main room and bedroom. Mok translates that his friend cannot work as he is recovering from a hippo attack while he was in his dug out canoe. We passed an aerial on a hut and the one television in the village. Then back to Mok’s house where we sat under an outdoor sun shelter on low benches made of bamboo. Mok’s wife had made us a meal of fish and rice which we shared with Mok and his friends and talked. One of them asked why we could come to their country and they couldn’t come to ours. We told them that we are only allowed here as tourists for 4 weeks, explained it takes money to be a tourist, and how much more expensive everything is in England. The village is almost self-sufficient at a subsistence level but there is only fishing to earn money and not the kind that is earned in England. The Gambia's river area is beautiful now, warm during the day and cool at night, but it will soon be baking hot in March and rainy from June to November, what other industry could you create here? We showed them ‘On the nose’ ‘I would like to draw, will you teach me?’ Cue for paper and pencils. We gave ‘gifts’ to Mok for his hospitality and for him to give to everyone else and to the children, (a good idea, otherwise we would get mobbed). Back to the boat and we struggled on with the ebbing tide and anchored at sunset.

Weŕe now back at Lamin Lodge  to wash the boat, re-provision, and looking at the weather for the trip to the Cape Verdes.We were in time for a festival at Lamin village and a visit from the President, apparently his favourite colour is green.




 Lamin Village Festival


Atlantic crossing, The Gambia to Sau Vicente, Cape Verdes to Chaguaramas bay,Trinidad

 Posted 4th March 2009


We sailed from The Gambia to Cape Verdes and it was not a pleasant trip beating into the wnd and waves for five days, but we wanted to make some northing before crossing the Atlantic.


Our plans for cruising some of the Cape Verde islands had shrunk to a brief stop at Mindelo, so we didn’t really get a balanced view of the islands. Mindelo was like a Portuguese outpost dropped into a lunar landscape and the people a fasciating blend of African and Portuguese.  With a few pontoons and a marina office it is becoming a place for yachts to take a break, but fresh food and water are in short supply and yacht services are in their infancy. We gathered that some of the other islands are more fertile with fresh produce supplies, some have good beaches, and a burgeoning tourist insustry, and others have unspoilt anchorages. We did take a day to tour the island in the back of a truck, and we heard several bands playing Cape Verdian music, It has a distinctive rhythm and sound created by the ukelele.



We’ve made it! We crossed the Atlantic from Mindelo, Cape Verdes to Chaguaramas Bay, Trinidad. 2320 miles and it took us 19 days.


We saw very little for most of the trip apart from obviously the waves, big, then not so big, usually behind us, usually with white crests. Flying fish - these would land on deck at night and the first you knew about it was a wet flapping sound just outside the cockpit. We eventually did see two ships, one a bit too close, one on the horizon, dolphins, three whales and seabirds as we approached Trinidad and we caught a tuna fish.


      Kamikazi flying fish                                    Ready for a sail change

  Whale sighting                                                       Unsuspecting tuna fish


It was hard earlier on in the trip, with 35 knot winds and rain squalls and a scrap of genoa out. Then we hid down below with the washboards in keeping dry and listening to the waves thump Yanina's hull and hiss, splatter and crash into the cockpit. The rolling was very tiring - the floor would lurch, and we would stagger a few steps then fall over, usually halfway into wellies and wet weather gear. Flying fish were nothing to the flying tins, cornflakes, soup. And boring – you can’t really do anything. Throughout all this Yanina plowed effortlessly on, lifting her backside to the waves.


Cheryle on Sea Dove’s 10 most useful phrases on an Atlantic crossing (except there’s only 8 so far)...


  1. Hold on!
  2. Where the f*** did that wave come from?
  3. Wake up darling
  4. I’m bored
  5. Any emails?
  6. Ouch!
  7. When we get home…..
  8. What day is it?


We then had a spell of good days with twin headsails out day and night and fluffy trade wind clouds in a blue sky, moon and stars at night. This was a quite nice period. When we were downwind with the twin headsails, we experimented by hoisting the main with a third reef and it did reduce the rolling considerably.



 Yanina’s Downwind Rig


Yanina rolls, it’s the shape of the Warrior’s hull, but then we are told by other yachties that their boats roll when sailing downwind.


We originally got the idea of putting up a triple reefed mailsail to reduce the rolling from reading ‘Warrior Queen’ owner John Beattie’s book 'The Breath of Angels', where he crossed the Atlantic single-handed. Unlike him, we didn't have twin furling headsails but used a working jib on an inner forestay and a high cut genoa in winds up to 30 knots, then a storm jib and furled genoa in stronger winds. We found this rig only worked dead downwind, otherwise the main blocked one of the headsails, but otherwise we could safely leave it up day and night for days. 


In the video clips below, the wind is blowing at 30 knots and we are using the storm jib and furled genoa.


EaeBzvZiF6A   Twin headsails poled out without main


hLFcZcoD0Dk  Twin headsails poled out with main

See the difference?


Throughout the trip we able to download weather files and emails using our satellite phone, great, except that the connection was poor a lot of the time and a lot of our emails and weather file requests didn’t get sent first time. Our phone bill was correspondingly high as we had to keep trying to resend, and we still have to investigate our computer and aerial to find the problem.


Towards the end of our trip the wind picked up again. By this time we were very tired with the rolling, the 3 hour on/off watches, and running out of eggs, bread, and generally anything interesting to eat. On the last day it was hard work again with 35 knot rain squalls every half an hour, taking us all day to pass the north coast of Trinidad. Never mind we thought, looking forward to a straightforward landfall at the customs dock and then just slide into the berth we’d booked. Chaguaramas bay turned out to be bewilderingly huge and industrial, the customs dock was full of tripper boats and there were lines across our mooring space and no one in at the office. It was getting dark as we tried to anchor, but the anchor didn’t take. We managed to pick up a mooring ball and propping our eyes open, had our first beer since Mindelo.


Although we were both very tired it was Carnival and we couldn't miss that. For the next few days we saw the final of the costumes and watched the street parades. It was a huge, thoroughly managed and organised affair. Costumes up to 25' high and 35' long (the length of Yanina) and an all day parade that seemed to include the entire female

population of Trinidad in bikinis and feathers. We gave J’Ouvert a miss though (the early morning session where people pelt each other with mud and paint).



Then came the boat jobs. Yanina has been brilliant and we sailed conservatively, so there were only minor repairs but the sails were rinsed, we plugged into electricity for a few days, topped up the water etc. We are now on a mooring ball still finishing jobs but also trying to rest and decide our route. The idea of snorkeling in nice anchorages sounds good right now and we think we will stay in the Caribbean area for a while.


Would we do it again? Everyone who has crossed the Atlantic this year has said it was hard, so maybe the next ocean crossing will be more pleasant? If you asked us on day two, we were talking about selling the boat, by day four it was 'well, no more long ocean passages for us'. But then two days into the trip from La Gomera to Dakar (and Banjul to Mindelo) it was the same. By day six our future cruising plan is to go faster, by day eight we want to go slower, by day ten we’re discussing the Pacific again. Believe it or not, despite all the hardship, this is one of the reasons we do it – the freedom to change our minds.


After J'Ouvert                                   


Trinidad, Grenada, Carriacou, Union, Tobago Cays, Bequia Islands


We stayed in Chagaramas bay Trinidad for four weeks. We went on an inland trip to see the rainforests and the birds at the Asa Wright Centre, a former coffee plantation and at the Caroni swamp we saw the spectacular sight of the red flamengo’s coming home to roost in the evening. We had 80 books delivered to Yanina, introduced ‘On the nose’ into the Budget Marine chandlery chain and Peake’s chandlery with reviews in The Bay magazine, and the Caribbean Compass newspaper. We played music at the TTSA yachtie barbeque along with John on keyboards. We stayed so long we had to scrape the barnacles from the bottom of our dinghy. It was hard to leave such a nice yachtie community.






                                                          Snake asleep in a tree


The sail overnight from Trinidad to Grenada was not nice. Big seas, currents, wind, all setting us off our track to the west so strongly that we couldn’t tack and ended up motorsailing just to keep being swept over to Mexico. When we got to Grenada, so many other sailors said ‘Oh yes, I hate that crossing, and it’s just the same going back’. It had been very humid in Trinidad and we noticed how much less so it was in Grenada. Because of this, and the crossing, and because our insurance company was okay about it, we decided to leave Yanina in Spice Island Marine Boatyard over the hurricane season…this is despite the fact it was hit by hurrican Ivan in 2004, fingers crossed.


Pricky bay in Grenada is delightful. Too far south for the charter boats, it is a favourite with liveaboards, it’s water is clean, so you can swim off the boat, and all the things you need onshore are there in a simple, laid back sort of way. We put some more books into Budget Marine chandlery, we visited St Georges bay, we saw a blues band, went to a Fishfest at Gouyave fishing port, and took Yanina round to Hog island bay for the Sunday barbeque. It was easy to stay two weeks more here.

 Dinghy park at the 'Big Fish', Prickly bay                                Fish Stew at Hog Island barbeque                     






Then a better sail to Carriacou, a sleepy island north of Grenada where we met an English boat who had been there for ten weeks, they liked it so much. To Union island to clear into the Grenadines, and three glorious days snorkelling off the Tobago Cays.A really good sail to Bequia, so good we couldn’t believe it could be so easy. We’ve been here several days, staying for the Easter regatta, and we’ve done some business too, there are now six copies on ‘On the nose’ in The Bequia Bookshop.


Bob and Cheryl at The Bequia Bookshop
















Hillsborough Carriacou                                                      Windward, Carriacou



Snorkling on the reef, Tobago Cays

We are always meeting people we know. In Trinidad we met up again with Doreen and Alan on Kiah, we’ve been with them every winter for the last four years, last seen in Gibraltar. In Grenada, with Christa and Udo on Caroona, first met in Almerimar, then Tenerife and La Gomera. In Bequia were Chris and Dave on Chrisandaver, last seen in Tenerife. It goes on…and we’re always meeting new people, Mike and Cheryl have sailed on Yanina with a previous owner.


Some time back, on the other side of the Atlantic, we decided our twin ambitions to see Brasil and travel inland, then go to Cuba, were going to take some time to achieve if we wanted to sail to them. The trip has to be planned with the seasons, winds and currents and from Salvador that’s all the way up the Brasilian coast to the Caribbean, up the islands to Cuba, at least two seasons, then it’s best to go west to Guatemala…..that’s about two years sailing…..and there’s another book or two or three to write.


Way back in The Gambia there were sailors heading for Brasil and that was the time to decide. We felt we wanted a break from passagemaking when we’d crossed the Atlantic, so our plan on arriving in the Caribbean was to sail up and down the chain and leave the boat at some point and fly to see inland Brasil and Cuba. And to write the next book we’re flying back to the UK for the summer.


 It’s like Mediterranean sailing in reverse here, as you can sail for 6 months, and still have summer at home. It’s not like Mediterranean sailing in that there are constant and steady trade winds and you can always sail. However, due to the curve of the island chain, the west setting current, the winds that go from NE earlier in the season, to SE later in the season… etc. all this means that the wind is… yes…ON THE NOSE.


There are a lot of yachts here, and an infrastructure has built up to cater for them. So no worries about finding fresh food, water and fuel. Planning the sailing is a matter of juggling tides, curents and wind and trying to get the best combination for your day sail. It’s all very easy…..and relaxing.

Bequia, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia Islands

Posted May 7th 2009

At the Bequia regatta, the race we enjoyed most was 'Crazy Craft', organised for children over at Friendship bay. The theme was ‘Noah’s ark and to enter, the boats had to be handmade and of course had to float and sail. Yachties are very skilled when it comes to this sort of thing and there was many a fine craft made using everyday objects, some found on the beach, and all complete with mast, rigging, sails and a rudder to steer with.We met up with Chris and Dave, Caroline and Charles, Jose and Neil, who were taking part in the yacht racing, and had designed and built a Crazy Craft between them – all they needed was a child to sail it. That was when it was Oliver’s lucky day. He was on holiday with his parents and younger brother, and was watching them assemble it intently. ‘Would you like to sail it for us?’ he was asked. ‘Oh yes’, he gasped, and he shot back to his parents to get their permission. The race began and assorted craft laden with kids, some wearing costumes and many with toy animals on board amazingly took off in the wind. Oliver handled his boat very capabably and although he finished somewhere in the middle, it was another nice surprise when he was presented with the ‘Best Design’ award at the prize-giving. A holiday experience he surely will never forget.

Bequia is small and you can walk the length of the island in a day. The main town is Port Elizabeth in Admiralty bay, huge, deep and sheltered. A lot of Europeans and Americans have set up businesses and there are expensive restaurants and hotels on the right. The locals seem to live in Hamilton, to the left of the bay, and have their own bars and eateries. Somewhere in the middle they meet, and most offices and shops are here. The waterfront is lively with market stalls and people, especially in the evening. There is a fruit and vegetable market, run by Rastafarians, notorious for their aggressive selling methods of trying to make you buy something from every stall holder. If you want a peaceful shopping experience, go to the street market vendors instead. We spent a day walking the length of the island to the windward side and visited the turtle sanctuary, a one man project to save turtles from extinction, where the owner keeps the turtles captive in rather small tubs for five years and feeds them on canned tuna fish. 

All the islands have very different characteristics and we had heard so much about Dominica, one of the ‘Islands that brush the clouds’ – mountainous, covered with tropical rainforest, many waterfalls and an active volcano. This and the rugged coastline with no real beaches, make it attractive for walking and diving. The population live in simple villages along the coast and in the valleys. We decided to sail overnight to Martinique’s North West coast, anchor off St Pierre, and then continue straight to Dominica the next day. Approaching Roseau, the homemade pontoons and corrugated iron shanties lining the beach reminded us a bit of West Africa. The anchorage is deep and there is a bit of a current, and we gratefully took a mooring buoy with Pancho who works along the waterfront organising yacht services and island tours. We nearly, but didn’t, go on his notorious seven hour hike in the mountains to the volcano and boiling lake. (One thing about being on a yacht continuously is that your legs just don’t get enough exercise and this didn’t seem the right moment to test our fitness). We did make our own way to the Middleham waterfall via a three hour hike, and that was just enough. The town of Roseau has streets with huge gutters to take flood water and you could easily fall down them too as it was impossible to walk along the pavement filled with street vendors, or people asleep. A lot of shops were shacks and shanties, there were many interesting old buildings in various states of repair, then larger modern brick built shops and even a couple of large supermarkets. There were a few hotels along the waterfront that seemed to cater for diving holidays and then the waterfront had had a facelift and a new cruise ship dock. When a cruise ship was in, there were stalls selling souvenirs, taxi drivers offering tours, but by contrast on non cruise ship days, it was very sleepy.   

Dominica was easy to get round on the local buses and if there weren’t any buses, we hitched a lift. The Dominicans were very friendly, all seemed to know each other, and there were so few cars around, they would stop for you, and we gave them the bus fare at the end. We took a bus to the far northwest of the island where the Carib’s, the original inhabitants of the island live in eight parishes and the bus took us up and down hills and valleys with lush vegetation with every kind of dwelling from a hut to a house painted in bright pastel colours and finally to the Carib museum.

One day we snorkelled at Champagne, so named because of the underwater thermal springs that release a stream of bubbles,  then we visited the fishing village at Scotts head. One evening we heard a really good band playing ashore and thinking they were at a hotel, we dinghied over to take a closer look. It was not a hotel, but Dive Dominica who were holding a promotional evening for Appleton Estates Jamaica Rum in their beautiful garden. Far from being turned away as gatecrashers, we were welcomed by The Perryman family and supplied with food and rum cocktails all evening - Dominican hospitality. Another nice thing happened in Roseau. We left the dinghy at Dominica Marine's jetty, and left our small grapnel anchor in it, just like the previous day. When we came back it wasn't there. Liz told the girl in the filling station but we expected to just have to buy another. Next morning, Roots (who we hadn't met before) arrived at the boat and handed it over to us, saying 'I bought it from some crack head for $5EC'. Bob expected to reimburse him in the time-honoured Mediterranean way of buying back your dinghy/outboard/anchor, but he refused. 'God will find a way of making it up.' We understood this immediately, that he wanted to maintain the reputation they are trying to establish of looking after every yachtie as a guest to the island. He's right; we'll tell the story to others and word will spread.

It was beginning to rain as we left Dominica to return to Martinique and St Pierre and the wind had turned from NE to the SE. The seasons were changing, as we had been warned, and the winds for our return were – ‘On the nose’ of course. A rainy Sunday with showers and wind squalls and we cleared customs on a computer at a bar, and wandered round in a culture shock…Patisserie.. Mmm French bread, European groceries, and familiar cuts of meat. (Most of the islands sell unidentifiable lumps of meat in a freezer - it’s easy to become a vegetarian), wonderful Menu du Jour at Tamaya. On Monday we set sail to Marin in the south and struggled a while down the coast in gusty headwinds, big waves, motoring at two knots, till we turned back, only to find that St Pierre was closed on a Monday, all of it. Our mobile communications all seized up……..no internet, no sat phone, no mobile, no weather reports. Still raining, we stayed another day to sort it all out and do our washing. We often end up staying longer this way, in places we didn’t mean to.

The next day we had no wind and motored all day in rain showers to anchor in Marin, a huge bay. It’s described as a yachting centre, but this day it looked a bit run down, abandoned rusting steel boats at anchor, one or two wrecks on the shoals, a boatyard of dilapidated buildings, or was it just the rain bucketing down that made it look that way. The next day we dinghied over to the marina, and a comforting café where we sat with other yachtsmen waiting for the rain to stop before we went shopping, maybe a trip to Fort de France, only to find it was May 1st and Martinique was closed again.We didn’t have a great experience of Martinique, it’s supposed to have idyllic anchorages and beaches and fantastic shopping, but I guess to be fair, nowhere is idyllic in torrential rain.


We wanted to be in St Lucia in time for the week long Jazz festival starting May 2nd, so we made the crossing, sailing through sunshine and squalls. We anchored off Pigeon island in Rodney bay where ashore was a lovely little bar and restaurant ‘Jambe de Bois’ with live music, songs from the ‘60’s (guitar, violin and keyboard) and jazz the following night from a trio from the St Lucia school of music.(trombone, trumpet and drums). It is a very laid back homely place, full of character with a book swap library, free wi-fi, art on the walls and a cat asleep in a basket. It has a veranda with quirky outdoor furniture made from old wagon wheels.

All week there has been music on the beach and in the square in Castries and we are anchored near where the main concerts are held. We have sampled them all and so far the only Jazz we have heard was at Jame de Bois. We have dinghied ashore to see the main stage being built, and we reckon we will hear the concerts from the boat. There’s Amy Winehouse (if she decides to show up), KC and the Sunshine Band, George Duke, Chicago, Patti LaBelle and Chaka Khan amongst others. It's still raining with squalls and has been for the last two weeks. Early this morning Bob had an on-deck shower and we've filled eight buckets with rainwater from the deck and the dinghy. For us, having running water is almost exciting.

Grenada to....England!

Posted on August 10th 2009

We’re in England at the moment. Bob needed somewhere to write the next book, Mike, Liz's son had bought an old Water Mill and needed help with the building work, and it’s the hurricane season in the Caribbean, so it seemed to fit that we come back to the UK. Having made the decision it was very strange indeed to be flying back over the ocean that we had worked so hard to sail across. But Yanina is still in Grenada, in Spice Island boatyard, safely tied to the ground.

When we first came back to the UK, we damaged our hard drive and lost all our files, hence the delay on this post. We are still hopeful we may recover them, there are some back-ups on the boat, and there are a few photographs here of our time in Grenada.  The moral of this tale is of course to back up all your files....twice!

We sailed back to Prickly bay Grenada to haul out and we spent the last week or so at anchor in the bay. Chris and Dave were anchored nearby and we toured the island together in a car.   



Yanina is the little boat in the middle!              


One moonlit night we sat on one of the northern beaches of the island and watched the female leatherback turtles come up from the sea, dig a hole in the sand and lay their eggs, all strictly organised, see http://www.oceanspirits.org

 The turtles  go into a sort of trance when they lay the eggs and it’s okay to watch them with the aid of a red light, As it was late in the season, we also saw a nest hatch and tiny turtles crawling their way up to the surface and heading straight for the sea - both amazing sights.



 You can just about see the turtle digging a hole to lay eggs.....              The Rum factory Grenada


We spent many a happy hour at the happy hour at Prickly bay marina where we met Dwaine, we met up again with Angela and Mike, and we also went to Mount Hartman bay and met Graham and Leslie who have lived on the island for 25 years. Prickly bay is another community of yachties with a cruisers net on the VHF in the mornings that can be heard in the all the other bays on the island. When several people had heard us playing music on the boat, we decided to play one evening at ‘de Big Fish’ restaurant. We announced it on the net and filled the place.                        


                                                                                                             Happy hour at Pricky bay marina with

                                                                                                            Dwaine, Chris and Dave

The cocoa bean factory Grenada


It's  five years since we saw an English summer  and although the weather is the usual sunshine and showers,  it is a welcome break from the heat and humidity at the moment in the Caribbean. The countryside is beautiful here, the towns are a novelty, and we are enjoying the huge choice of food in the shops. We are also taking advantage of being in the UK to promote the book and do some design work. We are flying back to Grenada at the end of February 2010.

Christmas at the Water Mill

Posted on December 16th 2009


Christmas greetings from England. It's cold, the skies are grey and snow is forecast and building work is underway inside the Water Mill as I write.






So what have we been doing all summer?

Here's some photographs of our time in England.


 The Water Mill in summer                         Fred clearing weeds                  Bob in the beck


  Mike and Jenny strimming the waist high weeds on the field and clearing it for rotovating              


   Roger rotovating the field                      Mark digging trenches for heating pipes       Liz spraying weedkiller


 A day at the seaside complete with a lady in Victorian dress, a Specials Live concert and a day at the races


 Catching up with our families

We've been working very hard, and as you can see, so have lots of other people, but Bob has still managed to write the next book 'Bang on the nose' about our sailing life and travels in the Eastern Mediterranean and is now busy drawing the illustrations.

We will also be at the London Boat Show at Excel on the Kelvin Hughes stand from Friday 8th to Sunday 11th January 2010 where Bob will be signing copies of 'On the nose'.

Finally, we had an interview on the Graham Liver show at BBC Radio Leeds last Friday December 11th. You can   listen to us on Radio Leeds iPlayer for a limited period till December 18th (scroll to about 1015am).


Looking back over this year's newletters, we have a lot done a lot and been to many different countries. Last Christmas day, we were sailing into Dakar harbour, this year we're in England, it's been a great break from our sailing lives but we're beginning to miss our life, and the sunshine. We're looking forward to returning to Yanina.