Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Les Ile Des Saintes, Guadeloupe
15 52.0N 61 35.2W

We have just spent a cracking 10 days or so in Guadeloupe, with the exception of Chelsea losing the Champions League final that is - watched the game in a tiny bar tabac with a huge TV screen, no joke it was half the width of the building!

A wonderful place, Caribbean island charm but part of France, so baguettes, wine and funny little cars as well.

We managed to get a couple of dives in at the Jacques Costeau underwater park - not sure what the park signifies as we watched fishermen hauling nets on the reef, but still some great diving.

From there we sailed down to Iles Des Saintes, three tiny islands just off the south coast. We are at Bourg a small village with no traffic, a boulangerie and a Napoleonic fort. A few days of pottering and now we will head on to Martinique.

We have caught up with about 6 boats we were in the Bahamas with as we now all start to funnel down the island chain towards Trinidad.

On the blog front have added photo albums to Picasa, there is a link on the right hand side of the page.
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Monday, May 19, 2008

The Kingdom Of Redonda

Sailing Past Redonda, Near Montserrat
16 57.0N 62 20.5W

We are currently sailing from Sint Maarten to Guadeloupe and have just sailed past a large rock - see photo.

The words, bizzare and strange fail to do justice to this place, a very brief excerpt from the history of Redonda may get you intrigued:

"The island of Redonda has been known ever since Columbus as a marker for ships and lately yachts sailing up and down the Eastern Caribbean. But very few people have landed as the island's sheer cliffs plunge straight down into the sea. Ferocious surf and swells pound the one boulder-strewn beach.

Nevertheless, there has been a Kingdom of Redonda for 118 years!

The story began in 1865 when a quarter-Irish Montserratian trader named Matthew Dowdy Shiell was sailing his ship past a lump of rock near home named, by Columbus, Nuestra SeƱora de la Redonda. His Free Slave wife had already presented him with eight daughters and finally a son was born. Shiell was, of course, over the moon about this so being partly descended from Irish kings and a romantic sort of gent he promptly annexed the island so that his newly born son, Matthew Phipps Shiell, could one day become King of Redonda.

On his fifteenth birthday the boy was crowned King Felipe I of Redonda by the Bishop of Antigua. He promptly elected to drop one "l" from his name. Ten years later the British Government officially annexed the island declaring it to be a dependancy of Antigua. But the act of annexation was also declared not to have affected the sovereignty vested in Shiel, and the British Colonial Office tacitly admitted his claim."

For more on how it then became a monarchy passed through generations of literary types and how you too can become an Arch Duke of Redonda try these links!
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Sunday, May 18, 2008

Marine Toilets

Sint Maarten
18 02.0N 63 05.8W


The forward toilet broke when we had 5 guests on board. An order for the broken part was placed, delivery arranged and after more than 3 weeks of sharing the en suite toilet (with a few near missed-in-action and lots of mooning-in-the-morning stories) the toilet was successfully repaired. So successfully in fact that it became clear that the back one was a time bomb and would be dying in near future. The job was put on "things to do in Trinidad" list and a prayer had to be made before every flush until then.


During a leisure and discovery trip to Budget Marine in St-Maarten, the Captain found the exact part he had to order to fix the front head at a better price! Excitement shines in his eyes and the job was upgraded on the list to "urgent" status.

After breakfast (and the use of the front head) on a warm and sunny Friday, the Captain put on his plumber suit - a pair of shorts revealing a little line at his back side- and started the preventive and urgent maintenance of the back head. The site of nearly blocked elbows and pipes corroborated his fears and the Captain/Plumber was happy he could do the job on his own terms. (read: not have to deal with a blocked toilet)

Unlike the front head, the back one hadn't been serviced in years and a more drastic approach was necessary. All hoses needed to be replaced in addition to a new service kit. The infamous brass arm though, was in a very good state but it was decided to install the new one anyway and keep this one as spare.

The main hose was refreshingly quite easy to access. A screw down floor had to be lifted and all the rest would then be easily undone. Unfortunately, the last screw didn't want to give up and it took some crude words, brute force and an hour to negotiate with it. When the floor was finally dismantled and the clogged and smelly hose taken off the Captain jumped in his dinghy and went shopping.

Upon his return, the puzzle work started and the spare repair kit, the brass arms and all the hoses were installed in a record time of 2 hours. All went well except for a little grub screw activating the pedal giving up under pressure.

Don't you just like St-Maarten, it's cruisers heaven. Everything can be found within a dinghy trip. Rowing back in the late afternoon heat and incoming tide was unplanned (ran out of petrol) but good to exercise the back getting very sore after 5 hours of bending down.

The ½ inch grub screw ending up being 2 mm too long, the result of metric and imperial systems being confused but it took only 45 minutes and 4 hands to cut it to a perfect fit.

The assembly of the toilet was then resumed and the head put back in place all hoses connected and looking shinier then ever. And why shouldn't it be? It had now evolved into a combined toilet and foot spa (with 2 jets!) giving you a nice refreshing foot clean when flushing... At 6 PM, exactly 9 hours after the start of the preventive maintenance, the plumber put on his sundowner clothes and encouraged the crew to use the front head.


Saturday morning started just like Friday if with a bit less enthusiasm. An hour later, the plumber, his bum crack and the toilet were in perfect condition and live happily ever after. Departure for Guadeloupe was delayed by a day!
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Saturday, May 17, 2008

The West Indies

Sint Maarten/Saint Martin
18 02.0N 63 05.8W

We had yet another motor sail overnight on Sunday and woke to sunrise over Sint Maarten our first Leeward Island and our first "proper" Caribbean island despite what the tourist brochures say!

The forecast northerly swells meant we traded French chic and sophistication ie St Martin for the Dutch side ie Sint Maarten, therefore hardly surprising that there was a strip club opposite customs and immigration! You can travel between the 2 sides quite freely so we have zoomed back and forth across the lagoon a few times in the past week, depending on whether we want spare parts (Dutch) or Pain Chocolat (French). The Dutch charge a lot more to be here and the French side is nicer so we must come back when the weather is better.

Marigot the French capital is very pretty, has a little fort that the French built overlooking the stunning harbour and has lots of great boulangerie and restaurants. According to the information boards, the French wanted to build the fort to protect the "inhabitants" of the island from the cruel and aggressive behaviour towards them of the English privateers and navy - another board says that the "inhabitants" were so overwhelmed by the French proposal that they agreed unanimously and showed their support by donating even more slaves to the builders than were necessary. So a not very inclusive use of the word inhabitants then!

We have passed our time here while we wait for a decent breeze to get further south catching up on long overdue maintenance, there is all the boat spares and expertise you can need here, so a great spot to start dismantling things. More later on that on the blog!