It is with mixed feelings that we have listed our beautiful home, Kool Kat I, for sale! Anyone who knows us or has followed our blog since we commenced this incredible journey, living aboard and cruising the Caribbean was always going to be a three-year adventure! Those three years are now coming to an end and it’s time to head home, back to Australia.
Kool Kat I is a 2003 Leopard 47 built by South Africans Robertson & Caine. I really didn’t know what to expect in our first year and was a little anxious but I was totally blown away by how wonderful the boat was. She gave me confidence in her ability to handle anything we threw at her and, best of all, I didn’t get seasick! 🙂
She’s strong, sails really well and has been our home away from home with all the mod-cons. She’s totally self-sufficient so we’ve been privileged to be able to visit some awesome places and see some amazing things! She has met every need we have had, and some more!
We have been in The Virgin Islands for just on a month now and they are stunning! There are over 100 islands, both large and small, inhabited and uninhabited and they are a cruiser’s delight! It is very quick and easy to sail to other islands or to find a protected bay if needed.
To the east are the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and to the south and west lie the US Virgin Islands (USVI). There are three larger islands in each country and lots of smaller ones dispersed throughout. We are currently in St Croix (bottom of the map) in the USVI and really enjoying this low-key island.
These photos are just a quick snapshot of our month here. Most islands satisfy our basic needs: good hiking, interesting flora and fauna and fabulous snorkelling.
We started on Virgin Gorda in the BVI:
We swam with Spotted Eagle Rays who seemed to feed under our boat! They have beautiful markings and the tail is three times longer than the photo shows. Absolutely majestic and not worried about us.
After much toing and froing through Facebook we were able to coordinate a gathering at Norman Island (six boats) so we hightailed it down the Francis Drake Channel, which I liken to a water super highway and reminds us of the Australian Whitsundays. It was great to catch up with friends and we did some fabulous snorkelling off the back of Izzy R at a rocky outcrop known as The Indians.
Then it was off to Peter Island for a night before heading to Jost Van Dyke Island (JVD). We were lucky to catch up with Jo and Gregg from s/v Serenade and their guests.
The next day we walked to the Bubble Pool on JVD. Looks pretty calm…..
Off the next day to Cane Garden Bayon Tortola. A very pretty anchorage and we enjoyed a few quiet days here.
Over to Sandy Cay, near Little Jost Van Dyke. This is a tiny island that Laurence Rockefeller owned and gave to the Brits. It’s home to the biggest collection of hermit crabs I’ve ever seen! It’s also totally untouched and a pleasure to take the short trail around the island.
We then cleared out of the BVIs and entered the USVIs at St John. What an amazing island. Again, thank goodness for the philanthropy of Laurence Rockefeller. He bought huge tracts of land (almost 2/3rds of the island) and bequeathed it to the US subject to it gaining National Park status. It is now a National Park with fabulous hikes and underwater marine parks. This is where I swam with an endangered hawksbill turtle and saw my first nurse sharks.
As with most Caribbean islands, St John has had many ‘owners’; Spanish, British and Danish. It was built on slavery and had a substantial sugar industry until sugar beet came on the scene and slaves were freed in 1848. There are lots of sugar mill ruins and plantation estates throughout the island which make for very interesting hikes. We often caught a glimpse back in time and got our minds imagining what life may have been like with some of the estates looking very grand. The US purchased the islands from the Danes in 1917 for 25 million in gold.
On St John we stayed at the following bays: Caneel, Maho, Waterlemon, Salt Pond and Little Lameshur. Each had their own beauty with hikes and snorkelling – what more could you ask for?
This cactus is common throughout The Virgin Islands and has a wonderful little fruit very high in Vitamin C. Check out the pics.
Then it was a hike to the Petroglyphs, the ruins of the Reef Bay Sugar Mill and the ruins of the Reef Bay Estate atop a hill. The Petroglyphs are attributed to the Taino Indians and date to between 900-1500AD.
Then it was Mal’s birthday. He had a breakfast fit for a king, enjoyed his present and shared a beautiful meal at night with Gwen & Guillaume.
Below are some underwater pics I just love taking!
We are now six as Dalynn and Glen from S/V Amoray have joined Kool Kat and Slow Waltz and we are spending a week or so here in St Croix.
This is a month’s worth of news so I’ll stop here. St Croix has heaps of interesting bits and pieces too so that will have to be in the next update!
Throughout Antigua and Barbuda, and now The Virgin Islands, we have been boat buddies with Canadians, Gwen and Guillaume from s/v Slow Waltz. They have been a delight to travel with and we have shared some amazing times together and created incredible memories.
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.
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 🙂
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.
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?
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!
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
OMG! We both looked at each other in disbelief as we realised we were approaching our first anniversary of this extraordinary time in our lives. As everyone says, where has the time gone?
Today, the 14th February, marks the day in 2014 when we left Australia to commence this new stage in our lives. My reflections on the past twelve months are easily divided into two areas: our boat and what I have learnt.
Kool Kat 1: Mal, having sailed with previous owners Linda and John for five weeks the year before, was a little nervous but basically knew what to expect. I, however, was a tad more anxious! Excited, but anxious. I had only seen Kool Kat once three years earlier. Would she have enough room to house all my worldly possessions I was bringing from home? Could she handle my culinary attempts using a small 3-burner stove top and oven? How could I get in the dinghy at the dock and off the dinghy at the other end without falling into the drink? What would she do when I pushed instead of pulled that lever or button? Did she know that I DIDN’T know much at all.
The answer is she has been the most patient (outside Mal of course) and forgiving friend I could have asked for. She safely stores everything I ask of her, she teams with me to prepare some fabulous new dishes, I only fell in the water once which wasn’t her fault, and she quickly regrouped after I inadvertently turned off her solar panels. She is a beautiful girl and I love her 🙂 She gives me a freedom I haven’t experienced before, she has helped me overcome my disabling seasickness and, best of all, she’s contributed to my love of sailing.
Things I’ve come to learn (in no particular order):
dark nail polish leaves marks
haircuts don’t happen every six weeks
Family are a long, long, long way away
I can paddle board
I can scuba dive
15 hours is an awkward time difference
I miss my friends
Mal isn’t responsible if water gets in my goggles
I can prepare a pretty good meal with limited ingredients
I can make wonderful new friends and be inspired by so many of them
Drinking a G&T with Mal and watching the sun go down is pretty damn good
my body serves me well
I love being on or underwater
I can save my iPhone from drowning when falling in the water
I can maneuver Kool Kat in tight situations while Mal hoists the anchor
we can live ‘in each other’s pockets’ without killing each other
simple things can bring an enormous amount of joy
Australia is a bloody long way from The Caribbean especially when flights are delayed or missed!
I love living so close to the natural environment
That yachties are a unique breed of people – helpful, friendly, adventurous, and, best of all, I’m now one of them!
One thing I already knew, but that living 24/7 together in a confined space has confirmed, is that Mal and I make a great team. Mal has borne most of the initial worry and responsibility of our new lifestyle. He rarely loses his patience with me, he never gets overwhelmed because, as he always says, “there is a solution to every problem” and he just sits down and works it out, sometimes with my help. He has been my best teacher. Happy Valentine’s Day Mal! ❤
It’s been a great year and we are thrilled that a few family and friends have been able to make the journey to share it with us. We hope there will be more.
This first year has been a great learning experience for me as every day I learn something new about the boat. It is usually in the form of a breakdown of some sort. We had the generator overheat, raw water-pump fail on the water maker and bad connections here and there effecting the operation of various components. Every day I do something to the boat whether it is polishing, making water, a repair or just preventive maintenance like changing oil and filters.
The boat has been as good as I expected and better. We have learnt what makes her sail well and how to anchor her securely for the night.
Sue has been brilliant in her application to how things work and her coolness in some of the very confronting experiences we have endured (dragging the anchor during a violent storm is at the top of the list).
We are a team and have our special jobs. Sue is my backup always reminding me of things I usually forget, like, have you done the topping lift or slackened of the sheet before unfurling the genoa.
To sum up the first year has been fun every day and spending summer in Grenada was very special as we would not met so many people who have become very good friends. Our data base has over 80 boats who we have met along the way. It is a delight to meet up with them again when we drop anchor in a bay somewhere. We have visited seven countries and twelve islands to date whilst covering almost 700 nautical miles. Not bad for our first year!
Thanks for following our blog, we’ve loved bringing our adventures to you. Sue & Mal xx
Gilligan (Jon) and Ginger (Gail) left an Icy Toronto at -13 Degrees to crew on the wonderful SS Minnow with the Skipper (Mal) and Mary-Ann (Sue). Arriving at the airport, to the driving rain and high humidity, we wondered what we were in for.
Having been met by Skip and Mary–Ann we descended to the bar of the Antigua Yacht Club in Falmouth Harbour, and had an immediate drink to start our 8-day cruise.
After our debriefing by Skip, under direction of Mary-Anne, we settled into life on-board. Over the next eight days we were told we will Sail, Snorkel, Swim, Motor, Drink, Sleep, Rest and do as we are told (by Skip).
Spent day one in and around Falmouth and English Harbours getting rid of our land legs and hoping that our sea legs would hold us in good stead.
At night we spent a very enjoyable evening with Yachty friends on s/v Purrfect, eating and drinking far too much. Next morning we set sail for Jolly Harbour followed by pouring rain and fluky winds.
Skip and Mary–Ann are doing their best to make our experience memorable, but no need for that as the experience of being on such a pleasurable yacht with good Company is surreal for us Landlubbers.
The beaches are incredible, and we are experiencing as many as we can. Out of this world!! Gilligan is in Heaven!
Having all suffered from internet deprivation, we convinced Skip to move to Hermitage Bay so we could feed our addiction but really so we could again swim off the boat in sparkling blue waters. At night we were treated to the culinary delights of Skip and Mary-Anne. What pleasures came out of the Magma and the Galley!
After two days of heaven in Hermitage Bay and Jolly Harbour, our leaders told us we are going to go somewhere they had have never been before. We are off to Great Bird Island.
Despite again being without the Skip’s beloved internet for two days we had a fantastic time walking to the top of the island, swimming at North Beach and South Beach…isolated and beautiful beaches that you only remember seeing in travel brochures. It is amazing how you can cut yourself off from the real world and lapse into Paradise. We also saw Skip at his best as he chased a yacht as it was circling its anchor because the unskilled Captain had left the engine in gear. Thank God for our Skip, well done (in future if Skip could learn to whistle he would save himself a lot of energy).
We awoke the next day and were told we are going to Jumby Bay on Long Island. The island houses a very expensive resort that does not let yachties land ashore..AND, guess what, Good Internet! yippee 200 emails to deal with …welcome back to reality. This was quickly solved by a swim in the azure bright blue waters.
What did we learn from our adventure on Minnow. Always place a coaster under any glass, on any surface; do not under any circumstances bring sand onto the boat; only leave dinghy when it is square to boat; always rinse anything that has come into contact with salt water; hot water is not required; don’t slam freezer door but firmly shut fridge door.
You can see why Skip and Mary–Ann have a superb boat that is worthy of their pride.
Thanks Skip and Mary–Ann for a memorable time on the Minnow. We will not forget your warmth, friendship and hospitality for a long time….even better, the Minnow didn’t get lost. Gilligan’s instructions to Skip must have worked.
Skip & Mary-Ann’s postscript: We invite our guests to write a post and this one is a cracker! We had a ball with Ginger and Gilligan and miss their great company. Particularly those deep and meaningful questions that only Gilligan can pose: such as, why is the Boxing Kangaroo flag flying upside down Skip? We loved it that Ginger had some PBs AND finally saw a Green Flash! Miss you guys, love Skip and Mary-Ann xx
We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.