It was with excitement that we arrived into Dominica.  The island most friends put at the top of their favourite list.  Why?  Well, according to Spirit of Argo, the first island that you can properly shop in the local markets and stock up for $10 a week with fruit and veg.  To Ruffian, no corporate businesses.  To Shian, the best environmentally protected of islands with fantastic rain forests.  Downside, the first place we had to be careful in the selection of our boat boys and there are few beaches to enjoy.

We were met by Jerome (otherwise known as Cobra – the same Cobra who makes an appearance in the Doyle’s guide to the Windward Isles) a mile out from Plymouth Bay.  A quick explanation –

Boat Boys are individuals who will run around anchorages and harbours in speed boats, offering services to you.  They are common in the S of the Caribbean.  Everything from the “best mooring ball” to tours of the island, work on the boat, fruit, fish, laundry, water, diesel…. You name it; they’ll get it for you – at a price.  In most places they are unregulated and this can cause problems, fights even, as they tote or claim your future business.  It is common (St Lucia and St Vincent are said to be the worst) for the boat boys to be uncomfortably and aggressively in your face.

In Plymouth Bay, after some external advice that they were becoming too aggressive, driving away yachties, the boat boys came together, sorted their ways and formed a small collective.  The word got around quickly on the cruiser net that Plymouth was a good place to go again.

These days it is a very safe anchorage.  The boat boys run a security boat during the night and have run off any trouble makers there may have been.

With the Thomas family due in to St Lucia in a few days, we decided that we would spend all our remaining time before that in Dominica.  It proved to be a good decision.

Cobra was questioned closely and laundry was fired off with him.  Lou was very happy to find that it had been line dried rather than being roasted in a machine and at a reasonable price.  We also decided that we would take one of the tours he offered up the river at Plymouth.  The rest of the activities, we chose to sort ourselves.

Our trip up the river was fascinating.  Although Plymouth has by far and away the best anchorage on the island, the river and the swamp it runs out of, too big to drain, meant that the original capital based there, was moved to Roseau further down the coast.  Yellow fever and mosquitos were a major killer in colonial days.

There are strict laws enforcing the preservation of the natural habitat of the island so the journey up the river (of not more than a mile) is done by oar.  We had a good conversation with Cobra and going quietly means that you get to see a lot more fauna.  We saw the local version of the Kingfisher and several Crowned Heron on our journey as well as lots of huge crabs and shoals of mullet; the mangroves being a wonderful nursery for young fish.

We went up a side river to visit the filming site for Calypso’s House, used in the second and third Pirates of the Caribbean films.  The locals from Plymouth made up a lot of the extras for the scenes filmed there.  Johnny Depp was quite human and down to earth, according to Cobra.

We finished at a small plantation, walking out into a scene of tropical flowers and hummingbirds before wandering into a mix of mango, bay, pineapple, banana, passion fruit and cinnamon trees.  It was absolute heaven and the passionfruit juice was extremely refreshing.  We were presented with a bay sprig, now drying out in the girl’s bedroom.

To explore Dominica, you need a car.  Taxis, as always, are fiercely expensive so we hired a 4×4, visited the local police station for my Dominican license, which proved to be a receipt for the money I paid for the privilege, and headed off to explore.

The island is mountainous and the roads are a collection of endless switchbacks through the rain forests.  Thankfully there isn’t that much traffic and the locals, for once, actually drive carefully.

We visited a few of the sites the island had to offer including the Emerald Pool, Trafalgar Falls, the hot pools at Wotton Waven (great baths!) as well as the Fort which stands guarding the entrance of Plymouth Bay, walking up the hill to the top gun sights and a fantastic view N to S through W. Sadly we didn’t have time to stay to visit more nor stay for the Jazz concert due at the Fort on the following Saturday.

We also had a wander through Roseau. Small and chaotic, it also proved to be the site of one of the West Indies Test match cricket venues for the upcoming Australia tour.  I bought tickets for the first four days of the match (in the best stand) for a total of just over £20.  Try paying that at the Rose Bowl – you might get a couple of Pimms if you are lucky.

Note for future visitors – make sure you pay for the week Island visitor ticket rather than the single site ticket.  We only found out about the option when we visited our second site and had to pay up again, feeling a bit mugged.  Current cost per person? $5 for one; $8 for a week pass.

We left Dominica unsatisfied.  Although beaches are rare, the island interior with its hot springs, spectacular waterfalls and rainforest is beautiful.  The locals have done well to maintain its unique environment.  Long may that policy set continue.  We could have explored this island for weeks and the short period we have had has but wetted our appetite.

Another time………………………..


On the basis that we were going to spend time later in the trip in the other French island of Martinique, we had initially decided to cut short our time in Guadeloupe.  Perhaps this sounds a bit judgemental but we are running out of time to see all the places we’d really like to and still get S enough to be safe as the Hurricane Season (and wet season) nominally arrives at the start of Jun. So prioritising where we spend time is sadly necessary.

No plan survives contact with the enemy and unfortunately the enemy here proved to be Skylark’s port engine.

Our engines don’t get a lot of use. We have them on for anchoring and getting underway (must haves as our windlass needs engine power to power it – frankly a design flaw but nothing we can do about without replacing the damn thing) and little else. As we left Monserrat, we heard the scream of the engine alarm showing us overheating. We switched off and failed to find anything markedly wrong. Oil ok, coolant level seemingly ok, nothing gumming up the seawater intake and the filter was fine.

Coming in to Deshaies at the NW end of Guadeloupe we had 5 mins of engine before the engine alarm screamed again. We managed to anchor and on checking the engine again, this time it was obvious the coolant level was painfully low. We refilled and with Robert from Almost There acting as the engine guru tracked the leak to an outflow pipe from the coolant tank to the engine. The tank had slipped, allowing the pipe to touch the belt (another rubbish design) and the belt had eaten through the pipe, just enough for a very slow drain of the coolant.

One advantage of being in Guadeloupe is it is the home of Volvo for the Caribbean. We decided to stay and make the most of the island for the day, hired a car and then drove across to the capital, Pointe-a- Pitre. I got to go and be frustrated by the lack of correct part and Robert at the cost of some dive equipment. I had a conversation in my pigeon French with the Volvo engineer, mainly drawing pictures of possible solutions with a lot of questioning raised eyebrows which led me to take another pipe part with a cutting suggestion. Not the perfect solution but one that will do us (hopefully) until I can get the right part ordered from Europe.

On the way back across, we failed miserably to find a field that we could surreptitiously nick some more sugar cane but did find the Rum Museum which combined its attractions with a fantastic collection of dead bugs and model boats through the ages.  Have to admit although the mix sounds pretty messed up it was an excellent afternoon’s entertainment and the kids loved it.  The grown ups enjoyed a selection of straight and flavoured rums. The model boats allowed a reaffirmation of the explorer work we had been doing with the girls; Sir Francis Drake and Columbus’s ships both in the collection.

After managing to cut the replacement tube to size and refill the coolant tank, we moved on to the one place we did want to stop at in Guadeloupe which was Pigeon or Jack Cousteau Island. This island, half way down the W side of the island is a famous dive sight. We anchored on the Guadeloupe shore, about a mile from the island and dinghied out. Having been protected for a long time the wildlife around it is fantastic. Although it is better dived rather than snorkelled as it is all pretty deep , the coral where we swam in 20-40’ of water was excellent with plenty of fish. Friends that have dived it down to about 70′ say that whilst you need to be careful in the currents that run up the side of the island, it is one of the best sites they have dived in the whole of the Caribbean – no mean praise. My thanks go to the young French couple who saw my dive knife fall out of its holster and recovered it for me.

Having had a great day at the island, we left Guadeloupe in the dark for an overnight sail down to our next port of call, Dominica.

We didn’t do Guadeloupe justice at all, I fear. It looked good, the French influence was very obvious and we enjoyed the short time we were here. If we had more time it would have been good to have a proper explore of the island. As it was we missed completely the islands of the S coast, which were on our really want to see list.

The island is definitely somewhere to revisit when we next pass through this way. In a few more years……


Sailing down to Montserrat proved to be slightly annoying. Having announced that we should have at the worst a close reach, we ended up being close hauled all the way down as the wind wandered into the ESE for our crossing. The saving grace were the seas running in from the ENE so we made pretty good time and went over the waves rather than into them.

We realised that we were downwind of the volcano only after a typical Henderson argument on who hadn’t owned up to dropping one. We were 15 miles offshore and the sulphurous stink was strong!

Sailing up the island, the damage caused by the latest round of volcanic eruptions which started in 1997 is painfully obvious. Plymouth the old capital city was laid waste and is largely covered by the ash.  A few buildings poke out here and there. The only part of the city which is still in operation is the jetty at the port which, ironically is used to load the ships taking away the island only export, the ash, for building and agricultural use.

We anchored at Little Bay at the N end of the island. This is where the new capital city is planned although there is little evidence of it other than a posh new administration building sitting by itself up a one way street. Having booked in, an easy process, we met a wonderful lady acting as the security guard for the port. We asked her about car hire on the island (yet again taxi prices here being very expensive) and she spent an hour phoning around before finding us a car. Great service!

We drove down to the Montserrat Volcano Observatory and lucked out. It was both open and one of resident volcanologist’s was there. Small world moment – he turned out to be from Haddington – a whole 5 miles from where my folks live now – which led to us getting a longer chat from him than I think most would get. The 40mins video they show at the MVO was informative but could do with a refresh. A bit washed out.

We left the MVO with directions to hill top sites which gets you closest to the volcano. Montserrat still has a large exclusion zone with a line dividing the island about 1/2 of the way down, the southern half being out of bounds. Montserrat’s saving grace is the trade winds run SE-NW and it is very rare that any fallout would ever hit the N end of the island.

With no road signs, we had a bit of an explore to find our first hill top and drove aimlessly around, occasionally coming up to signs with “Forbidden Zone” on them. Thankfully a local felt sorry for us and kindly led us to the start of the hill across what was an 8m deep ash river – not surprised our map was inaccurate.

Garibaldi Hill gave us a good view over Plymouth. The size of some of the boulders thrown miles from the crater were staggering. They were bigger than good sized houses. We drove around to the other side of the island to where the old airport had been and on to Jack Boy Hill. We had a wander up the nature trail there but quickly realised that we didn’t have the time or water to do even a small part of it.

We kept the van and revisited the route we did on day one with Almost There who arrived 24hrs after us. We also stopped at the road side café recommended to make the best Goat Water, the Montserrat national dish. We ate in front of a colourful building. Kingsley’s look of horror when she read exactly what the building was for was priceless.

We also enlivened our trip by finding what we thought was a posh hotel (shown on the map as a historic building) which turned out to be a private house of a very annoyed  and gobby American who threatened to turn the dogs lose on us. We departed swiftly.

On Jack Boy Hill, we met a very tired looking Matthew Paris finishing the trail we had looked at the day before. We had a quick chat in passing. He was there to recover from the election campaign. Not sure if had envisioned hacking up and down parts of a volcano in 90 degrees of heat as part of his recovery plan!

Two days in Montserrat was enough for us. There is little to do there other than the activities around the volcano and for all of them you need a car which, even at the knock down rate of $40 a day soon adds up. Saying that, remembering what the volcanologist told us, whilst the traditional markers for an eruption aren’t been seen although the top of the current volcano is larger than the 1995 height, perhaps soon someone will work out why the SO2 output of the volcano is currently running at 200 times its normal…..

On to Guadeloupe.

St Kitts and Nevis (and a surprising UTR’s moment)

This point on our travels marks the change from upwind sailing to being able to get for much of the time a wind on the beam, making life far more pleasant on board.  Although we still have to get out to Guadalupe via Monserrat, there should be enough S in our course to hopefully give us a close reach rather than the tight on the wind thump we have sadly been used to.

Although we thought about going across to St Eustatius, we decided that putting a couple of days into the timetable when we knew we were cutting things fine to get down in reasonable order to St Lucia to pick up the Thomas’s (our next boatload of friends visiting from the UK), might cause us dramas later on down on our travels.

The sail down to St Kitts from St Barths on a course of about 190 Magnetic  was wonderful. Not being thumped by the waves meant that we left a little too much sail up but rather than lumping along at 5knts, we touched double digits at times. Exhilarating, fun and we even saw a slightly smug smile on Lou’s face as we went past a 60ft ketch going the same way as us.

We screamed down to the gap between the N end of St Kitts and St Eustatius before we got into the wind shadow of St Kitts. We had a slow sail down the side of the island to Basseterre, the capital. The island had far more obvious organised agriculture than anywhere else we had seen so far with large numbers of old chimneys sticking up. These we found out, marked different sugar plantations processing plants, dating back to the 1700s, the plantations covering a large proportion of the island for a long, long time.

We parked up, the only yacht in a very rolly bay, to allow us to book in. After wandering around to find the immigration office (tucked away at the awful cruise ship terminal with its obligatory “genuine” island product shops), we had a quick stop in town, finding a very good museum covering the history of the island. School done we headed back to the boat and were pleasantly surprised to get a call from our friends on Almost There.

We found ourselves parked up beside them in a partly built marina in the Great Salt Pond at the S end of the island, part of a huge complex being built there. It was obvious yachties were not the normal clientele. Used to having only superyachts, they let Almost There in on the basis that Robert gave them his @ Youngblood address (yes, he did own his own sizable airport…). I think they were hopeful he might buy one of the lots! We got to tie up on the basis of being his special friends. Saying that, they didn’t bother giving me the glossy brochure he received once they had seen Skylark. Not quite superyacht status…….

Whilst the facilities at the marina were minimal, the clubhouse that we got free use of was pretty special. At only $400k membership fee, it is probably out of our price range when we finish sailing but we thoroughly enjoyed it whilst we were there. I think that the staff rather enjoyed the kids being around as well.  As the club was pretty quiet, they may have just been a bit bored but it meant the kids and ladies got looked after royally.

Almost There had hired a car but we upgraded it to a van to allow us all to tour the island. The three things we really fancied seeing were a zip line course, the Botanic Gardens  and the fort that looked so impressive as we had sailed down the coast to Basseterre.   Sadly the zip line course, much to the kids disappointment, was closed and it was the wrong time of year to see the Botanics (wet season the best time). However from the zip line camp, we followed the road up the hill on a pretty rough track (hire care= someone else’s problem….) getting some great views looking N up the coast before being attacked by a couple of dogs guarding a small field of cannabis plants. After going a bit higher, we turned round when we thought that we would pull out the suspension.

Fort George ( )  was a bit special and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Having had several years at Fort George just outside Inverness, I was surprised at the amount of similarities I could see in the design. I was even more surprised to find the Royal Scots (the Royal Regiment) crest up in the military part of the small museum that the Fort had.   It turns out that the Regiment formed the infantry contingent of the Fort’s population when the French invaded the island in 1792 and having fought the French to a standstill although hugely outnumbered, were allowed to march out bearing arms. The island still marks the occasion as the most significant battle the island saw. Up the Royals!

We went right round the island, stopping for some great and cheap food at the street cafés which are common here. We also stopped on a farm track and cut a few sugar cane. Cue sounds of crunching and quiet children!

After being joined briefly by Taia who had caught up with us from St Barths, we decided to move on quickly to Nevis.   Nevis is very different to St Kitts. Whilst St Kitts has embraced the arrival of the big cruise ships, Nevis voted against their arrival. The island is far quieter and is reliant on one big Four Seasons hotel for a large part of its islands tourist income and island employment. It employs up to 2000 staff during the high season, a sixth of the island’s total population and maintains, by agreement with the island a minimum staff of 800 during the off season.

The island is volcanic. We had heard about the hot spring baths in the main town of Charlestown and we went up mob handed to try them. After we minced around (lots of expressions of “damn, it’s hot) we were shown by a local how you should get in which is to man up, get in quick then not move! Once you were in, it did feel good. In the end, even the kids managed a dip.

We went on to the Nelson Museum, just up the hill from the Baths. Lord Nelson’s wife, Fanny ( )was from Nevis. They met whilst he was stationed in the Caribbean early in his career and the island commemorates this by having a good exhibition on him. It is worth a look.

Almost There, having climbed the volcano at St Eustatius, was keen to try the same thing at Nevis. We got a bus around to what we suspected was a starting point and walked up a reasonably well defined path towards the major water source coming off the mountain. Further on, it got a bit cheeky and as we got up the hill, the vegetation turned into proper jungle. Spectacular, sweaty and quite hard going for the really smalls, Hannah and Matias, who both scrambled very well. In the end, we stopped just under the river source about 2/3 up the mountain, had a bit of fun roping down into the river bed with the rope Robert had carried up and padded in some rather nice and cooling pools.  We invaded a very nice resort on our way down and illicitly used their pool to cool of in. A nice way to finish a good walk.

Back in Charlestown, we found another museum, a tiny affair devoted to sports (read cricket) personalities of the island. We had great fun taking Ernesto and Natalia in and trying to educate them in the rules of cricket. I fear we failed to impress them!

After another day anchored off Charlestown and a last dip at the baths, we decided that we needed to see an active volcano, that of Monserrat the next island down and so planned the move on. Whilst St Kitts had been impressive for Fort George, I’d have to say that I enjoyed the hospitality and friendliness of the Nevis locals more. I’d have loved to have been able to spend more time here.   Next time…….

St Barts

After nearly a month on the hook in St Martin, it was with itchy feet that we hoisted sails and headed for the small island of St Barts.  Our first stop was anchoring off the uninhabited Ile Fourchue, a marine park that lies between St Martin and St Barts.  It was originally home to a group of goats but they literally ate themselves out of house and home and the small number that survived were removed from the island.  Vegetation is slowly returning….

We went ashore to explore and take in some of the great views from the various high points, whilst trying to stop the kids throwing themselves off.  It was a welcome hike following our sail.  The next morning we snorkelled off one of the points in the bay.  The snorkelling was pretty good but not the best we have seen, by far.  I think the high point for Stewart was the number of very large barracuda lurking right on the point.

The next morning we sailed down to Anse de Colombier at the north end of St Barts.  It is a pretty little bay and beach within the marine reserve with no road access but a short hike around the coast will get you to civilisation.  And boy was it civilised!  The beach at Flamands was surrounded by exclusive hotels with guests enjoying the golden sand from beautiful white sunlongers.  We were enjoying it too, but at a fraction of the cost.  Having asked directions to the main street, we were directed through one of the afore-mentioned posh hotels, the White Horse. The kids had a sneaky foot dip in the infinity pool to get rid of the sand.  I was considering disowning them but managed to get them out in time for the concierge not to see them.

It was decided that we would attempt another field trip (following our unsuccessful trip to the museum in St Martin) so we headed into Gustavia to look at Forts and museums for the day.  While Stewart and Ernesto drooled over a very posh racing yacht, called Nomad IV ( ) that was in port, we popped into the Tourist Office to check out entry details for the fort.  Alas we failed at step one – the fort is actually the Gendarmerie and the other two forts that were displayed on the map are not actually forts.  Not to be defeated, we headed round town to take in the historical points of interest.  We managed to finally drag Stewart and Ernesto away from Nomad IV after they decided that she would be FAR too uncomfortable as a cruising yacht as she was rolling like a pig.  I don’t know, I reckon I would have been able to make myself at home.  Our frustrations were not over.  We finally made it to the museum only to find that it was closed for the day, for no apparent reason.  Not an entirely successful field trip but the kids did learn a fair amount about the history and we had a very nice lunch at the popular ‘Le Select’ restaurant, which seems to be a popular spot for yachties.

Gustavia is a very well maintained, pretty port and town but the entry fees are set so as not to encourage sailors to hang around too long.  We had a lovely few days and I would certainly like to come back, either on a yacht or a nice hotel (if we ever win the lottery!).

Gucci Kit… Or how to burn your credit card…..

I’d had a shopping list whirling around in my head for quite some time.

So when we planned to visit St Maartin, a wonderful tax free port, it seemed like a good idea to really look hard at what we should equip Skylark with for the rest of our journey. With 6 months under our belt, we had a fair idea on what items were vital, what were necessary at some point and then, the nice to have.

Before we left the USA, I bought 280W of solar panels, thinking that this would go a long way to help us to be self sufficient in energy. I wish I’d bought more ( the most I’ve found on one boat is 1200W!) but saying that, I’m not sure where I’d actually have been able to mount them without some fairly serious remodelling of the stern fittings of the boat. As we progressed down island, we realised that the energy bill was adding up and with no power generation at night, we were coming up short, needing to run the generator every day.

It wasn’t helped that out single 8D AGM battery was knackered after years of misuse. We were often getting up to find the battery saying 10.8V. Less than 12.3 is regarded as near flat……..

First things first, I knew that the battery had to be replaced.

Having failed to get cheap Lithium Ion batteries from fellow RHYC member, Highland Fling who had imported a number and sold them on to other boaters in St Maartin (we arrived too late), the choice was then either to stick with AGM or go for cheaper lead acid. In the end, I choose four T105 6V in series and parallel to give me near double the Ahs I had previously or would have available with a like for like AGM. I’d seen another FP Lavezzi with this set up in BVI whose owner was v happy with T105s. Unlike the AGM, I will need to make sure I carry out proper battery maintenance on them. A new addition to the monthly checks.  After a few schoolboy diagrams the system was wired in without any other issues than a too short lead, quickly fixed.

An easy add on, which I originally reserved judgement on, was wind power generation. I had had a long chat with the company rep for the D400 and the Silentwind systems in the BVI who was parked a couple of boats down from us in Nanny Cay. Whilst the D400 is (maybe) the best around for power generation, it is also one of the heaviest at 20+kg. Fine if you have a big frame to hang it on but I didn’t. The next choice and his recommendation was the Silentwind, manufactured with blades designed by an infuriated German engineer sick of the noise of his own system. These blades are now used by several firms due to their efficiency and quietness. For all those who have had to put up with the noise of some sods howling generator in an otherwise quiet anchorage, that word is crucial. The system only weighed about 7kg which sounded a lot more manageable too.

After deciding that for ease of access and wiring into the house battery, it needed to be on the starboard hull it was an easy matter to drill holes and wire it in. Less easy was the balancing act to get the damn pole vertical and the final tightening of the blade hub. My thanks to Ernesto on Taia for balancing on a stack of beer cans and a small step ladder. Handy having a tall(er) friend to call on!

Silentwind 400 at work

Silentwind 400 at work

Since we fitted it, although we have been running the water maker every couple of days, we had had to only once switch the generator on in the last week. The infamous incident involving Lou, the inverter and the toaster will need to wait for another time.

You may also remember I wrote an article a while back on “Dinghy Envy”. Well, we succumbed on our very first day here. We arrived to be told that the next day was the last day of a sale at Budget Marine, the main chandlery on the island. Can you smell the credit card burning yet?

Although the Apex dinghy we had had a plastic body, it weighed a lot. Too much frankly, especially with the 100kg limit on my davits. Budget conveniently had some aluminium ribs for sale. I knew I did not want more than 100 lb as the dinghy weight budget and the 9.5 foot aluminium AB dinghy for sale came in at 95lbs. Perfect and lighter by 10lbs than the 8’ Apex I had. Unfortunately I then got a bit carried away with the engine. I was looking at either a 9.8HP or a 15HP but was persuaded to take an 18HP 2 stroke Tohatsu at sale price…. and then with a bit more off as well – lesson for all – always, always bargin.   The 18HP is the same weight as a 15HP after all. Damn engine weighed nearly the same as the dinghy…….


Keeping the bottom clean
Keeping the bottom clean
The new speedy runabout
The new speedy runabout

So, I have a big cheesy smile, a shiny new dinghy that when I opened up the engine with Lou on board, her response was to grab a handle and say, in surprise, an unprintable word. Fast, or certainly when compared to our little 5HP Mercury on the old dinghy. But a complete inability to put the dinghy up on the davits as is. Oops.

The last couple of weeks has been taken up with finding someone who could build a hoist and make some new rails to take the engine mounted on board Skylark whilst we travel. We lucked out finding Jean Pierre (arrived in his boat in 1995 and hasn’t left since) in one of the yards on the French side who quoted us a fantastic figure for the work he did. Having been quoted $850 just for the hoist and pulley before more than double that again for rails and fittings from the very good but fiercely expensive FKG, he was very very competitive. I’ll happily pass on details to anyone that needs similar work done.

The new pulley, engine mount and rail

The new hoist, pulley, engine mount and rail

So, we leave St Maartin with a greatly upgraded boat with only one boat system that I’m still unhappy with which is the foresail furler which remains a lot stiffer than I like. But I think I can manage that until the bank balance stabilises a bit.  Maybe once we get to Columbia though…

St Martin

St Martin, as a tax-free destination, is a great place to get work done and buy essential kit for the boat.  Stewart has had his eye on a wind generator for a while so this seemed the ideal place to invest.  We also needed new batteries as ours was old and was not holding a charge particularly well.  The initial plan had been to purchase it and only spend four to five days here before heading to Antigua for the cricket, but as the old military saying goes, ‘no plan survives contact with the enemy’.

On arriving in Marigot Bay after  a bit of a pounding on the way across, we were greeted by our old friends from Taia, bearing gifts of French cheese and ham.  After booking in, Lou, the French lady who had accompanied us as crew from the BVI, immediately set about starting to look for a place on a boat heading across the Atlantic.  Stewart, myself and the kids went off to find the Super U supermarket, on the lookout for some decent French cheese, some decent French wine and some Nutella.  Early the following morning, Stewart headed to the sale at Budget Marine – I will let him cover the boat purchases in another blog.  Needless to say, it has been a costly month!

On the first weekend we headed across to Maho Beach on the Dutch side, at the end of the runway for Princess Juliana Airport.  Due to the unique proximity of low flying airplanes, the beach is popular with plane spotters.   This is one of the few places in the world where aircraft can be viewed in their flightpath just outside the end of the runway.  We had a great time taking photos of the planes overhead.  The take-offs, however, were slightly more exhilarating. particularly for the uninitiated.  We were sat in the middle of the beach, directly under the flightpath, when a rather large plane lined itself up on the runway for takeoff.  It slowly dawned on us that we were in the direct line of fire for the jet exhaust.  Realising that we had no time to move our belongings, we lay down across as much of it as we could.  The engines then fired up ready for take off and sent the biggest wave of sand directly across us, at great speed.  Talk about exfoliation!  We could not open our eyes and had to just wait it out – fortunately the kids were in the sea so managed to avoid it.  A very kind lady came across afterwards and suggested we might want to move as the next plane was even bigger – we can take a hint.

The next outing was to Fort Louis in Marigot.  Fort Louis was built in 1789 on a hill overlooking Marigot Bay and the island of Anguilla by the locals in the town, on the orders of Jean Sebastian de Durat, who was governor of St Martin and St Barth, for the king of France at the time.  Its primary function was to defend the harbour warehouses where goods were stored (salt, coffee, sugar cane, and rum).
Later the fort was abandoned and fell into ruin.  In the 19th century it was restored once more, only to be abandoned again.  During this period it was also the site of battle between the French and the English, as the latter regularly came across from Anguilla to raid the warehouses.  The kids found this pretty amusing – raiding a fort for coffee!  It was an educational morning and the kids did some sketching of the fort and the views.

About a week after we arrived, our friends on Almost There (who had turned back just off Virgin Gorda) arrived in Marigot Bay, much to the excitement of the kids.  Sleepovers were planned before even the parents managed to say hello.  It has been a sociable time for both the adults and the kids!

Almost There invested in a kneeboard on one of their trips to the Chandlers.  So what to do on a lazy Sunday afternoon…..  Disturb the peace in the bay by whizzing around in a dinghy with small children (and grown men!) squealing in delight on a kneeboard.  I’m sure we were very popular but everyone had a great time.

We have had a great three weeks (yes, not four days but three weeks!) here in St Martin meeting new people and new boat kids from all over the globe but it is time to move on.  It is a great place to provision and fit up the boat but we have missed the beaches and snorkelling that we have enjoyed elsewhere .  We will set off to St Barths in the morning, doing some buddy sailing with Taia and Almost There.