We started our first cruising season at the end of November 2012 and were immediately frustrated by the fit-out work not having being completed when we arrived in St Thomas – everyone being on island time – but were particularly annoyed as we had given six months’ notice prior to our arrival in the islands. And that’s without mentioning the stuff that wasn’t done properly the first time round and had to be rectified…..
While we were waiting on crucial parts to be delivered – we pottered around and visited Tortola, Norman Island, Virgin Gorda, Jost van Dyke, Marina Cay, Anegada, St John, Peter Island and Cooper Island, sometimes just going the long way round to reintroduce ourselves to Morphie and get used to sailing her again. We enjoyed a fantastic Christmas (thanks in particular to the Corsairs gang!) and celebrated New Year’s Eve in Cane Garden Bay – before we returned for our third and final time into Red Hook, St Thomas, US Virgin Islands and finally slipped for our new adventure on 5 January 2013.
We then did our final spin through the British Virgin Islands to say goodbye to all the friends we had made over the years as well as waiting for an appropriate weather window – and putting the frustrations behind us we finally slipped for St Martin on 18 January 2013. We had a tough overnight trip but were pleased with the way we – and Morphie – stood up to it….
We visited the following islands and I’ve asterisked our favourites:
- St Martin* – great food, great supermarkets, lovely scenery and fantastic French pastries for breakfast.
- Saint Maarten – Dutch side and more commercial
- Anguilla* – sleepy, welcoming people and up-market resorts
- St Bartholomew (St Barts) – expensive and full of huge superyachts
- St Eustatius* (Statia) – sleepy, welcoming people and an amazing volcano
- St Kitts – fantastic history, annoying customs practices, some dodgy areas
- Nevis* – beautiful black sand beaches, friendly beach bars but difficult to beach dink
- Antigua – loads of history and great marina
- Barbuda – pink beach and amazing frigate bird sanctuary
- Guadeloupe – bad weather meant we didn’t really explore much
- Iles de Saintes* – beautiful islands and French food
- Dominica* – stunning rainforest, volcanos, waterfalls, rivers, rum shops, fantastic diving and friendly people but poor for provisioning
- Martinique – great beaches and historic capital but average food and poor service
- St Lucia* – great choice of restaurants, best Chinese ever, amazing to anchor under the Pitons and, of course, holiday with mum.
- Bequia* – sleepy, great beach, friendly people, fantastic varnish work by Winfield
- Mustique* – part of British history, shame it was a bit quiet when we were there
- Canouan – good anchorage, nice beach and hotel, cheap beer in the supermarket, but theft from a boat behind us.
- Tobago Cays* – the jewel in the crown. Turtles galore.
- Mayreau* – Saltwhistle Bay fantastic picturesque beach but didn’t like the vibe of the village or Saline Bay anchorage
- Union Island* – Chatham Bay amazing and friendly but boat boys annoying in Clifton and boat stolen whilst we were there
- Happy Island* – Jonti’s little paradise
- Petit St Vincent* – beautiful anchorage with pale blue water and great beach bar
- Carriacou* – sleepy, friendly, welcoming island and great t-shirt shopping.
- Grenada* – amazing marinas, rolly anchorages, fantastic beach, lovely hotel, big supermarkets, chandleries and Morphie’s home for the worst of the hurricane season.
In total – excluding duplicate visits to islands in the US and British Virgin Islands at the start of our trip and when we returned north for the Smith family holiday – we sailed to 34 islands and visited 56 anchorages…..covering 1251 miles. What an adventure!
Reflecting on our experiences we had the following highs:
Meeting some great cruiser couples / families and forging lasting friendships
Meeting cruisers who are young at heart if not in years
Fantastic bobbing in wonderful clear blue sea
Great food – particularly in French St Martin, Anguilla, St Lucia, Union Island and Grenada
Seeing a seahorse and two frogfish on a single dive in Bequia
Pristine and uncrowded dive sights – particularly in Statia and Dominica
Navigating to and from different islands / anchorages
Visiting so many wonderful islands – different cultures, fantastic history, friendly people, amazing sightseeing
Swimming under waterfalls
Driving through rainforests / volcanos
Mechanical failures that we could fix ourselves
Eating fresh fruit as it falls from trees when out walking
The full moon / the sunrise / the sunset / sailing (particularly at night) / isolated anchorages and living on board
And then there were the lows:
- Frustrating delay in starting our cruising life
- Island Yacht staff not turning up for our leaving party
- Trying to keep up with the dirty laundry
- Cruisers who think that our common lifestyle makes us good friends on first meeting
- Cruisers who are young in years but old in habits (er…I mean boring!)
- Provisioning in some islands, particularly for good quality meat
- Receiving bad news from home and not being able to do anything about it
- Emotional response to news from home – even the good news!
- Some unfriendly / shady locals
- No whales!
- Bureaucracy of moving between islands and overtime fees
- Mechanical failures that we couldn’t fix ourselves
- Leaving Morphie on the hard on her own
So the burning question is did the cruising life suit us? YES! Would we do it again? YES! Did the lows ever outweigh the highs? NEVER… A fantastic adventure and we are very excited about doing it all again…. although not sure of our route yet for next season. We leave home on 26 November arriving in Grenada on 27 November to continue our cruising life. So that’s it folks…. Please return to view the blog at the end of November. And to round it all off, I’ll leave you with a snapshot of the last amazing nine months. Enjoy!