After New Year in Bequia we spent a pleasant couple of weeks cruising slowly north
in company with a professional photographer and his wife (DJ and Kate) while he coached
Sheena in photographic techniques. During this time we called in St Vincent which
turned out to be far pleasanter, safer and less hassle than we had been led to believe.
It is, in fact, a very interesting island.
We eventually left Kate and DJ in Martinique and pressed on to Dominica where Sheena
and I spent a very pleasant week exploring parts of the island we had not previously
visited. This included a lone ascent of the highest mountain in the island and, I
believe, the highest in the Eastern Caribbean, Morne Diablotin 4747 feet (1450 m).
The route was through dense rain forest almost all the way to the summit and could
be likened to an SAS assault jungle course! On the way down I slipped and fell 3
metres onto rock and was very lucky to escape with only minor injuries.
The next day we sailed 20 miles to Les Isles des Saintes to access the French medical
system and I was treated by a charming French lady doctor who stuffed me full of
drugs and told me I was lucky to be alive and, by the way, quite crazy!
From there we went to Antigua and I spent three weeks doing maintenance while Sheena
went back to the UK, mainly to buy more photographic equipment. This unplanned visit,
on top of the previous photo-excursion, unfortunately set back our onward programme
to visit Cuba by about 5 weeks.
We finally left Antigua on 8 March and had a glorious downwind overnight sail under
a full moon, to Anguilla. A couple of days later we carried on, also overnight and
again dead downwind, to Virgin Gorda – new territory at last! Whilst in the US and
British Virgin Islands we had some very pleasant sailing, somewhat reminiscent of
the west coast of Scotland, but warmer! Much of the time the islands protect the
sounds between them from the seas and swells and one gets very fast sailing on relatively
Unfortunately, out time there was marred by our deteriorating personal relationship
and I eventually decided to abandon our plans to sail on to Cuba and USA.
Instead we decided to return south and store Al Shaheen ashore in Grenada for the
summer hurricane season, as we had done the previous year. In the event, we had some
lovely sailing on the way back south and visited Anguilla again, Barbuda, Antigua,
Guadeloupe, The Saintes, Dominica, Martinique, St Lucia, Bequia, Mayreau and finally
sailed down the rugged windward coast of Grenada arriving off St David’s in torrential
rain and zero visibility. We had to stand off for an hour before it was safe to navigate
in between the reefs!
After hauling out and packing up the boat, mainly in torrential rain, we came back
to the UK in late April and Sheena went off to Ireland for the summer and we have
now parted company. I have spent most of the summer in and around Sevenoaks visiting
family and friends and working on modernising the house. I had two weeks in Barcelona
in June, attempting rather unsuccessfully, to learn Spanish. During the summer I
met a South African lady, Jenny, and have just returned from spending two weeks with
her in South Africa. We saw a lot of the country, driving from Johannesburg to Durban
and then along the south coast to Capetown, where Jenny lives.
Of course, the big news of the summer has been Hurricane Ivan. I watched (on the
Internet) this storm developing and tracked it over a week as it swept westwards
and scored a direct hit on Grenada, totally devastating the island. This is the first
hurricane for 50 years to track so far south and it was a major one, developing into
a category 5 storm, causing widespread devastation, not only in Grenada, but also
in the Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Cuba and the USA. The major yacht insurers define
a “box” delineated by latitude and longitude, within which they will not entertain
claims for damage arising from named Hurricanes or Tropical Storms between 1 July
and 31 October. The southern limit of this box runs just to the north of Grenada
so the exclusion clause does not apply to yachts in Grenada and this is the main
reason we go so far south to leave her for the summer.
It looks as if we have been exceptionally fortunate as Al Shaheen is still standing
and seems to be undamaged. In the yard where she is, 31 boats were blown down out
of about 180. In the other main yard on the island, all 200 boats there were blown
down. The mess is indescribable and there are so many damaged boats that local repair
is way beyond the scope of available resources and facilities and will take years
to accomplish. Many of our friends have badly damaged boats and, in some cases, nowhere
to live as their boats had become their homes.
I plan to return to Grenada on 22 October and will commission the boat as soon as
I can and get her launched. Grenada is still very badly affected with much of the
island still without electricity and a lot of the infrastructure demolished. Water
supplies have been restored but food availability remains a problem so living there
will be quite difficult and we shall sail north as soon as possible. After Jenny
joins me on 31 October we will leave and head 400 miles north to Antigua where I
am due to have some remedial paintwork done in late November. After that, who knows?
We shall stay in the Eastern Caribbean until April but are not making any firm plans
beyond that at the moment.