What a ride!

Whilst in Sint Maarten I entered a competition at Island Water World (IWW) where us cruisers seem to spend copious amounts of money! I wasn’t really sure what the prize entailed except I knew it had something to do with watching some of the 35th Heineken Regatta.

I received an email advising that I’d won and would be joining 10 other winners the next morning out on the water on the IWW 52′ Racing Catamaran. I wondered if Mal was included so I emailed back asking the question to which the response was, sure, bring him along too. Ooh, all of a sudden this is real. It’s been a bit windy, like 25 knots windy, and I get a tad seasick in rough conditions. Do I really want to go? Perhaps Mal could go on his own. Heck no, I want to go too, even if it’s just to get my free IWW rash-guard! Mal assures me I’ll be fine; yeah right, he always says that!

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Winners are grinners!

So with trepidation we head out the next morning to meet the fellow winners, receive our rash-guards, sunglass holders, both kindly donated by IWW, pose for the photo opportunity and board the vessel. Wait, there’s no cockpit, no saloon, no berths, nowhere to hide from the weather! She’s nothing like our 47′ catamaran! She’s sleek, lean and light as a feather! I’m relieved to hear there is a head in one of the hulls!

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Where’s the cockpit?

We are welcomed by Captain Rodney, crew member Guillaume and part-owner, Dominic. Rodney provides a safety briefing on deck, well, trampoline as there is no deck!  We don the safety vests and away we go. I can’t back out now!

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Captain Rodney
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Safety vests in place!

Rodney explains we will head out to watch the start of the Commodore’s Cup, which is a pre-Regatta event, then motor alongside the leaders up to Phillipsburg where we will peel off, hoist the sails and sail back to Simpson’s Bay. We can ‘play around’ in the bay for awhile and, if there is time, approach the finish line to watch the end of the race.  Everyone is excited and itching to get going. I’m still a little nervous as the winds are definitely picking up but my tummy is holding it altogether at this stage!

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Race participant, TAZ – Tasmanian Devil.

In the end, we had a great day. There was lots of wind, rain, sun and we got drenched again and again. The rash-guards were brilliant as I wasn’t cold, even when I was wet through and they dried very quickly. Mal had a turn on the tiller and got us up to 21.5 knots with two reefs in the mainsail.

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Mal on the tiller tipping 21.5 knots
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Mal bracing himself – we were hooting along!
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Enjoying the sail
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Zipping through the waves.

The cat is gorgeous. She only weighs 2.5 tonnes (Kool Kat weighs up to 33) and she has the latest and best equipment. Her shrouds and railings and, I think, the trampoline, are all made of Dyneema rope which is renowned as the “World’s Strongest Fibre”. Her history is that a few  years ago the owner-builder entered the Route du Rhum Solo Transatlantic Race from France to Guadeloupe, finishing in 14 days. She then sat in a boat-yard on Sint Maarten until Dominic from Bluebeard Charters saw her. It has been a labour of love for him to bring her up to the boat she is today where they can now use her in the business. She will be ready and entered in the 2016 Heineken Regatta! Good luck Dominic. Click here for further information about her, and if you’d like to book a ride!

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Mal with owner Dominic.
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Winner after crossing the finishing line.

Island Water World, together with Dominic, were fantastic hosts and we had water, soft drinks and, of course, Heineken on tap throughout the morning.

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Enjoying a Heineken Light.

I wasn’t ill at all and still can’t believe I managed a beer whilst sailing! Thanks Dominic and IWW, it was a great experience!

Until our next adventure, take care, Sue and Mal.


Turtles, pastries and family

Mal’s sister and niece are now back in Australia but sent through the following comments on their recent Caribbean experience! They arrived in Antigua and departed from Sint Maarten, sailing to St Barts and Ile Fourchue with us on Kool Kat.

Jan’s thoughts:

We finally arrived after a long trip the afternoon of my birthday, so corks were popping as soon as we were aboard – lovely.

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Our first day and lots to photograph on Antigua
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Touring Gustavia harbour, St Barts

Mal and Sue helped us adapt to life on board quickly, although the toilet (head) instructions given on arrival, had to be repeated after some catch-up sleep when it made alot more sense.

Imagine my surprise when I looked into the night sky, expecting to see a whole new array of stars and there was the saucepan and our own beloved Southern Cross!  Lower, but there it was (I thought it just belonged to us at the bottom of the World.  It was my first time crossing the Equator!) How wonderful to be warm 99.9% of the time and laying in bed with the hatch open and a gentle breeze (mostly) wafting in and the stars visible – this is paradise.

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Hiking near Anse de Columbier, St Barts

Lots of photographic opportunities were included as the itinerary carefully planned by Mal and Sue took us to so many beautiful places.  I was quite nervous to try snorkeling as it’s been a very long time, but I jumped in with encouragement from Mal promising to rescue his sister in the dinghy if I couldn’t make the distance to the beach.  I did make it, and that meant when we were in the marine parks I had the confidence to go much further for much longer and even on my own. I’m very grateful for that as swimming with and photographing the turtles and myriad of fish (thanks so much Mal and Sue for graciously lending me the underwater camera) was such a highlight.

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Snorkelling at Ile Fourchue

Memorable Happy Hours and, of course, French pastries and cheese and tasting local delights were wonderful experiences.

So much fun having the planes almost landing on our head at Sint Maarten’s Sunset Beach at the end of the runway.

Thanks are not enough to Mal and Sue for their generosity in catering for our needs and hospitality for our three week time with them.

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Another photo opportunity: Sint Maarten Green Iguana

Bri’s experience:

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Out and about in St Barts

6 things I learned about cruiser life:

  1. The usual hours on the boat are 6.30am – 9pm. Anything later than 9 is a very late night. My friends and family know I am not a morning person, so imagine everyone’s surprise when I spent over a month up and about before 7am!
  2.  The early start to the day usually means that happy hour starts pretty early too. And you must drink at least one beer a day to make up for the nutrients you miss out on drinking water. Don’t worry if beer isn’t your thing. The barman has options!
  3.  Before I got on the boat I was interested in what cruisers do with their rubbish. The answer is pretty boring, you just drop it off on shore in skips at dinghy docks.
  4.  Expect a bit of nudity (not on Kool Kat, but the neighbours). But don’t think of hot young things. Think of middle to much later-aged overweight men that you don’t want to see.
  5.  Provisioning is important. Lists are made. For everything. It’s not simple or quick to pop back to the shops, so if you want something for another day to eat or drink get it on the list.
  6.  There is different language on the boat. Things you might expect: port, starboard, etc. However, when Sue is cold, ie a fresh 24 degrees in the morning, she will wear a ‘long sleeve top’. This is a t-shirt.
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Exploring St Barts

Trip highlight:

On board it took me a while to get my sea-legs. Which meant that whilst I was watching the horizon I could spot turtles. Our first week was in Antigua and I was desperate to swim with turtles. After a busy day and a lot of snorkeling we were resting back on the boat. I spotted a turtle a way off the back of the boat so I gathered snorkel, flippers and jumped in, but I took too long and lost him. After snorkeling around, I eventually gave up and swam back to the boat to freshen up for dinner. When I was rinsing off I saw a different turtle eating grass. I got Mal to confirm my sighting before I jumped in. I got in so quick my goggles were fogged. It was pretty funny when the turtle wasn’t moving much, because it was actually a round rock. Never fear, I saw and swam with so many turtles; they are majestic creatures and absolutely a trip highlight for me.

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By then end of our stay I think I had somewhat adapted to boat life. I was good at using coasters for my drinks, remembering to close my port-lights and even took showers after a swim with my bathers on out in the open. As a vacation it was fabulous. I am rapt with all of the additions to my passport and I’m grateful for the swimming to burn off the calories from the pastries.

Thanks again to Sue, Mal and Mum for accommodating my seasickness and for creating so many memories. It was great to have experienced the lifestyle of the cruiser. It was a pretty awesome insight into retirement!

I’d also like to claim Kool Kat rummy tile champion February 2015.

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The border between French St Martin and Dutch Sint Maarten

Postscript from Sue & Mal: It was such a pleasure to share our journey with Jan and Bri and it’s true, Bri is Kool Kat Rummy Tile Champion but not without some hot competition! We look forward to having them visit again to explore some new islands.

Cheers, Sue & Mal xx

Antigua to St Barts

It’s always great having guests to share our experiences and this time we had family! Mal’s sister and niece, Jan and Bri, arrived in Antigua on Jan’s birthday (11 February) for the start of their 3-week Caribbean holiday and took a few days to overcome the jetlag and heat, and to gain their sea-legs.

Day 1 – overlooking Falmouth Harbour with Kool Kat to the right of my head
Cooling off
Hiking to English Harbour

We had an early start at 6am for our 67nm crossing from Antigua to St Barts and dropped the hook 10 hrs later. Winds were slight but it was memorable: we had dolphins off the bow, a pod of humpback whales out to starboard and caught dinner; a Little Tunny and a Cero, both part of the mackerel family. This is what cruising is all about 🙂

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Jan and Mal underway
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Little Tunny
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Humpbacks off our starboard side

St Barts has been fought over by the Brits, the Spaniards and the French. However, the French gave it to the Swedes in the 18th Century in exchange for free port rights in Gothenburg. Thanks to the Swedes for making it a free port which it still is to this day. Many of the buildings reflect the Swedish heritage but it was sold back to the French in 1878. As with other French islands, it is a commune of France but without many European laws. Visiting French islands for us is always like having a taste of France; cheap AND good wines, excellent food at reasonable prices and there is that certain joie de vivre!

Gustavia in St Barts:

Shell Beach, within walking distance of Gustavia:

We were lucky to witness their annual Carnival. It is a fabulous family-friendly parade with everyone encouraged to dress up and enjoy the festivities.

Lunch at Dos Brazil
Lunch at Dos Brazil

The next day we hired a car and did a day-tour of the island. It’s tiny with some gorgeous beaches but it has windy, narrow roads with lots of hairpin bends, big trucks, and they drive on the wrong, I mean right-hand side of the road! I was the designated driver but I had two back-seat drivers helping out! Thank goodness Bri was in the front providing support. All the beaches had beautiful signage and we loved their ashtray idea! Take a can of coke, read ashtray, off the hook, use it whilst at the beach and then return it to the hook. Voila, no dirty cigarette butts in this beautiful environment!

Jan and Bri had their first of many up-close and personal turtle experiences with Bri being crowned official turtle-spotter! We also enjoyed some great snorkelling at Gros Ilets (off Gustavia) and in Anse de Columbier.

A hike to the village of Columbier gave us some amazing views across to Ile Fourchue and St Martin.

Steve Jobs’-designed boat, Venus, was anchored behind us in Gustavia. What do you think of her design?

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We stopped overnight at Ile Fourchue, an uninhabited island half-way between St Barts and St Martin. Again, there were turtles aplenty and a good variety of fish. Both in Anse de Columbier on St Barts and at Ile Fourchue, we were fortunate  to snorkel and swim with turtles and off the back of the boat. How good is that!

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Our next stop (and post) is Saint Martin/Sint Maarten which is shared by Holland and France, thus the two spellings. Until then, keep well, Sue & Mal xx