February already?

It’s been a long time between drinks, well blog posts anyway and we’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

We’ve been busy with festive season celebrations, guests and generally just hangin’!

Christmas was in St Barths with friends aboard Kool Kat and we had a blast!

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Plating up is always a hive of activity!
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Slow Waltz (Gwen & Guillaume) with Mal and me in back row, Banyan (Alex & Dave) and Sea Life (Mark, another Aussie) had a great day, and night!

New Year was in Sint Maarten with friends and Aussie guests, Jo and Bob, who had just flown in for their second tour on Kool Kat! Another blast!

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Ready to party….
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Jo and Gwen enjoying the best Margaritas in town!

Then it was off to the Virgin Islands, British, US and Spanish, with Jo and Bob, for three weeks of fun. We snorkelled The Indians, Long Bay, Anegada, Christmas Cove just to name a few; hiked Virgin Gorda; drank Painkillers at Saba Rock, Foxy’s, Pusser’s, The Soggy Dollar, The Greenhouse and many more; played Rummy Tiles ad infinitum and basically had a ball.

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Their fave spot on Kool Kat

We had an awesome time together and felt more homesick than usual as we waved them goodbye at Culebra airport on our last time together on Kool Kat. Hang on, did Jo yell something about The Bahamas…..?

We spent a few more days in  Culebra before heading to Puerto Rico where we stayed in the Palmas del Mar Marina – a bit of luxe whilst we provision for The Bahamas but that’s a whole other story….

Happy sailing, Sue and Mal xx

Merry Christmas from Team Kool Kat

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We are sending you much love and best wishes for a truly wonderful Christmas wherever you may be. We will be on the island of St Barths and it’s highly likely we won’t have wi-fi so we have decided to post this now in the event that we are incommunicado!

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We find being so far away from family the hardest part of our cruising life and thereby missing out on family celebrations. But, this is our last Christmas away and we are lucky enough to be celebrating with good friends, Gwen & Guillaume from s/v Slow Waltz and Alex and Dave from s/v Banyan (in pic above creating, in Alex-speak, much shenanigans!).

It’s very much a joint affair and will be held on Kool Kat. The cockpit lights are up, the menu is sorted including eggnog and other delights, and kris kringle/secret santa has been allocated. Where will you be celebrating  Christmas 2015?

Wherever it is, best wishes for a fabulous Christmas and we hope you enjoy lots of treasured moments with loved ones.

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Love, Sue and Mal xx

Our last Caribbean sailing season starts now….

This has always been a 3-year project for us and it is with mixed feelings that we head into our final season of Caribbean cruising. We will miss so many things: the amazing, fabulous, awesome friends we have met along the way; the friendly, relaxed islanders and their enviable way of life; the incredible diversity and adventures each island offers; the warm seas; fresh, cheap coconut water; amazing chicken (jerk, roti or a la St Pierre); rum punches that knock your socks off; and, the memorable sunrises, sunsets, sundowners, green flashes and rainbows all viewed from ours or other boats! I could go on and on but there’s still fun to be had and one more season to do it!

This post is a pictorial representation of our journey over the last few months and covers Grenada to Martinique.

Friends…..

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A dock gathering at Secret Harbour, Grenada

And more friends….

And friends saying farewell to cruising….

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Dalynn and Glenn (S/V Amoray)
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Wendy and Doug (S/V Nahanni River)

Mal and I enjoying the Underwater Sculpture Park at Moliniere Point, Grenada….

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The best Jerk Chicken Shop in Grenada….

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A couple of Mona Monkeys of Grenada

Leaving Grenada behind and heading north….

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And somewhere in between we fitted in a birthday celebration….

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Birthday celebrations at The Slipway Restaurant, Carriacou

Some of our underwater friends between Grenada and Martinique….

Sunrise and sunset….

And, we’ve now made it to the French island of Martinique. Hmmmm, Lorraine beer, baguettes, cheese, wine, pate and so it goes…

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Mal enjoying a 50cl Lorraine beer!

Of course, it’s not all beer and skittles.  There’s been the odd boat job, like replacing the dodger….

But, even when things don’t go the way you think they will, it’s all still fun and we are excited to still be living this life! Well, for a few more months anyway! 🙂

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We hope you follow our last journey through the Eastern Caribbean. So until next time, safe sailing, Sue and Mal xx

Kool Kat’s Makeover

It’s been awhile since our last blog post and much has happened in that time; we sailed back to Grenada for hurricane season, we celebrated carnival, we prepped the boat for our 6-week trip home to Oz and we hauled out at the new (not quite finished) Clarke’s Court Boatyard. We then spent six glorious weeks in Melbourne satisfying homesickness by visiting family and friends. Oh, and we also bought a land-home whilst in Oz, but more about that another time. Now, to focus on Kool Kat’s makeover……

On return to Grenada we set ourselves up in an apartment on the road to Clarke’s Court Bay. We have air-conditioning, a huge oven, a large washing machine and even a bath! I know our cruiser friends are drooling right now! We hightailed it down to the boatyard asap and it was so satisfying to see Kool Kat safe and sound and that all our prep work had paid off: no mould or mildew developed during our absence. 🙂

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Kool Kat weathered the humidity well and is now ready for her full spa treatment package! Note the old hull stripes.

Mal has dodged the rain squalls and taken the 15-20 minute walk down to the boatyard every day, sometimes twice, to discuss, liaise, oversee and, basically, project manage Kool Kat’s ‘treatments’. Of course, we had a list we knew she’d love but, as is often the case, other jobs just happen to appear.

Wayne and Maverick from Turbulence came to replace the diamonds part of her rigging, the boom bails, bearings in the furler and pins in the traveller.

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When it came to replacing the pins it was obvious the wear and tear on the traveller meant a new traveller car was needed.

Meanwhile, I’ve been toing and froing to town either to the dentist for some scheduled work or for food shopping. There’s alot to buy when you return to the boat because you give away lots of fridge goodies and other perishables when you leave. Glenda from Black Butterfly showed me the easiest way to get to the no.2 bus route and where to hop off to catch the no.1 bus, which would take me to the dentist.  I love bus trips on the islands – they’re hot, noisy and often reckless, but they’re always interesting and I usually have a laugh!

OK, back to Kool Kat’s treatments. Martin did a great job polishing her hull and top-sides. Mal met Martin years ago at Grenada Marine and remembered what an excellent job he’d done boat polishing. So, when he met him again during Carnival at Port Louis Marina, Mal arranged with have him to give Kool Kat a lift.

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Martin applying tape in preparation for anti-foul but check out the shine on her hull where he’d finished polishing the port side.
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Martin tackling the starboard hull.

Martin brought along Robert who’s experience applying bottom paint was quickly evident and we are very happy with his work.

Robert applying barrier coat.
Robert finishing her barrier coat and discussing the next coats with Mal.
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Robert applying the first coat of anti-foul.

X-Marine did some nipping and tucking:

Robert cleaned her props with Mal replacing the anodes:

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Larry at Nabela re-stitched her cockpit awnings and helm seat cushion, created a new helm seat backrest, and made a rain awning and throw cushions from the Sunbrella fabric generously given to us by Wendy on Nahanni River. Thanks so much guys, it looks great. Photos not available yet but will include in future post. 🙂

And, Qualitek gave her a facelift with new black hull-stripes, larger KOOL KAT font and a brand new super-cool logo.

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The new-look Kool Kat! Whaddyathink?

We want to thank everyone who has worked on her as we’re very appreciative of a great job and a big thanks to Clarke’s Court Boatyard for their friendly, can-do attitude. We’re just waiting on some of the nip and tucks to be finished and are scheduled to splash on Tuesday.

Woohoo, she feels like a new cat and we can’t wait to get her back in the water! Hope to see you out there sometime 🙂

Non-negotiables on Kool Kat

A follower of our blog asked me about ideas for space saving when travelling in a caravan and after recently reading Windtraveler’s post Ten Simple (and inexpensive) products we Love on our boat, I got to thinking about the products I use that are a must-have, non-negotiable item on Kool Kat. By the way, if you haven’t tapped into Brittany’s blog before and you want to put a smile on your face, do yourself a favour and check it out here. She, Scott and their three little poppets lead an amazing life.

So, getting back to non-negotiables, I got to thinking and I got to talking to other cruisers in the sailing sisterhood, and this is what I came up with.

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No 1: Totally in agreement with Brittany, and many others, that the ‘Turkish’ towel is brilliant! It takes up no room, is light, dries quickly and is super versatile, morphing from a towel into a sarong/pareo into a beach blanket! There are many versions available but my favourite is Hammamas which we bought in Australia. Other cruisers I know who swear by them bought their towels in the US or in St Maarten. What I like about the Hammamas is that mine has softened up beautifully over time and they have a huge range of colours.

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Hammamas Turkish Towels

No 2: Second on my list is Silicone bakeware. Cruising provides many opportunities to ponder one’s navel, even on a 3-hr crossing, and one thing I have discovered is I love to cook. Hold your horses, I need to be more specific here! I love creating healthy, SIMPLE, food and I’m not into creaming butter and sugar or sifting flour six times! I like it pretty damn easy, particularly as I’m in a cosy (read small) environment. Okay, monohull girls, I know I’ve got it pretty good but everything is relative! Anyway, I don’t like having to clean up a big mess afterwards either and this is where my silicone products shine (well, not really as silicone is quite dull).

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Silicone bakeware: muffin tray, loaf pan and baking sheet.

Last year I bought, through Amazon, a silicone 12-muffin tray and two silicone baking sheets. Then on one of the French islands I spied a silicone loaf pan. All I can say is that I use these four items at least once a week. They are light and flexible which makes them easy to store and they are an absolute bonus when it comes to cleaning! Check out my previous post about using the muffin tray and the baking sheets and pay particular attention to my advice about what to look for when buying silicone products as there are varying standards. Some people worry that they don’t brown the food but my experience is the opposite except on one occasion and you’ll see why when you read the post.

No 3: Before we set out on this adventure I read an article about one item women cruisers seriously valued and the TEFAL Ingenio saucepans came up a few times. I set about trying to find them in Australia only to find out they weren’t available. Long story short, I was able to get a set and they have been one of our best purchases. Our set is made up of 3 pots; stainless steel inside and out, 3 glass lids with silicone edges, removable pot handle, removable lid handle and three plastic lids. The beauty of them is that they take up much less space than regular pans with attached handles, I can see through the glass lid as food is cooking and I can reseal with a plastic lid for storage of leftovers in the fridge or freezer. They are easy to clean and the large one is plenty big enough for pasta and soups. Check out my Galley Series post to see one being used to cook callaloo soup/fritters.

I have prepared a short video showing how easy it is to affix and remove the handles.

No. 4: Brittany refers to a flexible chopping board and I’m thinking I might get one of those too but I do like my Joseph Joseph chopping boards. This isn’t actually a non-negotiable but I do really like them. I have a small white one and a larger green one. The bit I find really handy is the lip on one side which catches runaway liquids and, on a boat, they runaway alot! The boards are reversible, meaning the lip is on both sides and one side also has several prongs to secure whatever it is you are carving. They work really well.

Slant on board catches juices in lip.
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Reverse side with prongs to prevent slipping.

No. 5: Moving away from the galley, another excellent purchase we made was the hose we use for washdown. I read an article on the Boat Galley blog about the XHose Pro and we decided to lash out and pay a little more when we needed to replace ours. It has been so worth it! It takes up very little space as it retracts when not in use and expands when filled with water. It is light, easy to manoeuvre, covers a large area, packs away in a small space and we love it!

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This is expanded with water and remains easy to take anywhere on the boat.
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This is deflated with no water in the hose and it just fits really easily.

The above items are all purchases Mal and I made but we were fortunate enough to have alot of equipment left on our boat by the previous owners; thanks John and Linda. It’s a running joke with our friends that when someone asks us where we bought something, eg: dinghy ladder, we reply ‘it came with the boat’ much to their chagrin!

No. 6: Yes, the dinghy ladder! It is an invaluable aid when you are exhausted from snorkelling and you need to drag yourself back up out of the water and into the dinghy. Without a ladder it can be like watching a whale beach itself, only not as gracefully! The ladder ‘that came with the boat’ is called “Up-n-out” by Scandia Marine Products; it is sturdy and collapses into a small bag for storage.

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Ladder extended.

No. 7: The Tervis tumblers ‘that came with the boat’ have been a godsend in the sometimes sticky but always hot Caribbean weather.  We have both the tall and the short and they keep those deliciously refreshing G&Ts we are so fond of, beautifully cold!

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Gin and Tonics in our Tervis tumblers at the end of the day!

So, there we have it, some serious non-negotiables and some must-haves when cruising. What are your non-negotiables?

Cheers, Sue and Mal.

Indian River, Portsmouth, Dominica

When we arrive at an island we  like to investigate the local area and often hire a car with other cruisers or use a local guide to take us on an island tour. On the French islands we tend to hire a car but on  others, there are always locals readily available to show you their island. And so it was recently on Dominica.

Photo courtesy of Aussie mates, Annie and Cam on s/v Annacam

We arrived in Portsmouth on the north of the island after a brisk sail from Les Saintes and were greeted by a boat boy recommended to us, Martin, aka Providence. All the boat “boys” have nicknames: Lawrence of Arabia, Cobra, Providence. In Portsmouth they have a system where yachts are assigned a boat boy to assist you. It might be with mooring or anchoring, rubbish disposal, trips like island tours, etc. Really, whatever you want to know, just ask your boat boy and they will try very hard to help you out. Dominica is a poor country so they need yachties to stop by and inject some cash into their communities. There had been a small number of incidents in the past where yachts had been boarded or robbed and so a group of locals (boat boys) decided to set up Dominica PAYS – Portsmouth Association of Yacht Security – and provide services for yachties and this includes providing a safe anchorage. They do a great job and everyone is happy because EVERYONE loves Dominica 🙂

Martin aka Providence showing us some crabs on our Indian River Tour.

We participated in two tours with Martin: a day tour with eight other cruisers (five boats in all) visiting the northern part of Dominica and the Indian River Tour with four other cruisers (three boats).  The latter tour commenced at 6am in the morning with Martin rowing the six of us up and back down the Indian River in just over three hours.

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L-R: Rosemary and Tony (s/v English Rose), fellow Aussie Annie (s/v Annacam) and me paying close attention to Martin.

It is a magical place especially in the early morning with birds and crabs in abundance and Swamp Blood Trees (Pterocarpus officinalis) lining the river banks with their extraordinarily sculpted root systems. The river, like several places on Dominica, was a backdrop for the film Pirates of the Caribbean 2 and various skeletons adorn the banks creating a fun atmosphere (see pic below).

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Yellow-Crowned Night Heron
Reflections

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Banks of the Indian River
Crab in roots of Swamp Blood Tree
Indian River

It really was a magical few hours listening to and feeling the rhythm of the river. Martin even sang the Dominican national anthem whilst rowing back down the river which was a goose-bump type of moment.

We spent a few weeks on Dominica in Portsmouth and down south in the capital Roseau, where we watched the 1st day of the Australia vs West Indies Cricket Test. Now, that’s a story for another time!

Thanks for reading and, until next time, take care. Sue & Mal.

 

 

Sint Maarten: Shopping and Carnival!

We arrived in Sint Maarten at 7am after an overnight passage from Cooper Island in the British Virgin Islands (BVIs). You may recall that Sint Maarten/St Martin is an island divided into two countries: The Netherlands and France. In the past we have stayed on the Dutch side in Simpson Bay outside the lagoon and dinghied in for shopping, restaurants  and to access the French side but the swell and winds were pretty uncomfortable on this occasion, even for a cat! The upside of staying in the bay is the water is cleaner allowing for  swimming and water-making. So, while everything was going up and down including my tummy,  we spent the day making water and swimming whilst planning to enter the lagoon the next day at the 9.30am opening for inward-bound boats.

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Simpson Bay Lagoon bridge in Sint Maarten. Photo taken from the lagoon side.

It’s funny to watch everyone ‘queueing’ beforehand. At 9.10am we lifted the hook and prepared to get in the queue. They appear to keep the bridge open until everyone is through but you want to make sure you’re in line, ready and waiting so you don’t miss the boat, I mean bridge! We motored over near or thereabouts to what looked like other boots jostling for position. Everyone is waiting, circling, waiting, but, as you can imagine, it’s hard to stay in a queue when everything is moving: the water, the wind, the boats! There was a large French Customs (Douane) boat wanting to go through and he was reversing and going forward whilst other smaller boats  circled. The queue looked like a dog’s breakfast! I took three short videos  if you are interested and you can check it out here.

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Large cat going through the bridge ahead of us. Photo taken when leaving the lagoon.

Being in the lagoon was good; windy but no swell and easier accessibility to shops, buses, restaurants. And, as mentioned above, we couldn’t swim or make water so we were just as keen to get out of there when we finally left for Nevis a week later.

During the week we caught up with old friends Izzy R and Wild Cat and met new ones, including some Aussies. George from Wild Cat organised a dinghy-drift where we met Annie and Cam (s/v Annacam) from Horsham in our home State, Victoria, and Frances and John (s/v Kia Ora) from Margaret River, Western Australia. We also met Canadians Catherine and Henry (s/v Mowzer) and Americans Janice and David (s/v Livin’ Life). Janice and David have been following our blogs and Facebook for about six months and it was lovely to meet them. A dinghy drift is normally done close to a full moon where dinghies tie up to a lead dinghy and cruisers share food, drinks and lots of stories whilst drifting along. As this one was in the lagoon and as the evening wore on we looked like side-swiping some moored boats, George and Jan tied up to a vacant mooring ball and we all hung off them just bobbing along. A very nice way to while away the evening 🙂 Photos courtesy of s/v Distant Shores.

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We were lucky enough to be in Sint Maarten for Carnival this year and it was fabulous fun. Each island seems to celebrate it slightly differently but it is always a mass of colour, costumes, loud music and super-friendly people. This Carnival was the Dutch-side celebration and held in Phillipsburg which plays host to 4-5 large cruise ships nearly every day but, the port was closed for Carnival thereby enabling all locals to attend. A group of 10 of us took a bus over and had a great day. If you’d like to see some short video clips of the carnival click here.

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Gorgeous women….
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Captivated crowds…… L-R: Guillaume, Gwen, Mark and moi.
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A rewarding beer after another great day with friends…

The last time we were in Sint Maarten we purchased a piece of beef tenderloin or, as we Aussies know it, fillet steak. We loved it so much we bought another one this time and using our FoodSaver vacuum system, we portioned it out and have several meals ready in the freezer. It’s such a great meal for the boat: quick to defrost, quick to bbq and delicious to eat with a salad or veggies. 🙂

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Our tenderloin ready for the freezer.

After a week of shopping for boat supplies, waiting for parts, provisioning, socialising and just having fun, a weather window opened and we left Sint Maarten for Nevis.

Until next time, cheers, Sue and Mal xox

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