We leave Deshaies and have our first decent daylight sail towards the Islands of Les Saintes. En route, we stop at Pigeon Island for a bit of snorkelling where the water is crystal clear and we feel the historical presence of the legendary Jack Cousteau - intrepid explorer and pioneer diver.
As we approach Les Îles Saintes, we are astounded by the beauty of this little Archipelago, with the SugarLoaf mountain peering down at us and a vibrant little bay to anchor in. We are impatient to go ashore and explore Terre de Haut Island. We are slowly adjusting to boat life but its always exciting to go ashore and see what awaits… the town is colourful - every house painted a different bright colour yet again there is such a remarkable French vibe and my rusty French is being put to good use. Here we discover the the joys of coconut ice-cream that is out of this world and the most idyllic beach which couldn’t be more heavenly even if you dreamed it, in fact i keep having to pinch myself every now and then.. Getting back to this ice-cream though….made the traditional way of churning the coconut cream within stainless steel drums within a wooden barrel which they fill with ice blocks and add copious amounts of salt which dramatically lowers the freezing point.. sorry for the science but i find it fascinating! Anyway, this ice-cream is ladled out into little cups and topped with nutmeg, utterly divine and quite possibly now mine and Lottie’s new favourite thing.
Another anchorage in a sheltered secluded bay of an even smaller Island called Basse Terre where we snorkelled off the boat - quite hard to beat my first snorkel and wow factor of the spotted eagle rays but still in awe of the magical underwater world…interrupted by the occasional niece trying to drown me : ) but I’m regarded briefly as a bit of a hero when Ruthie drops her underwater camera to the bottom and Aunty Em valiantly dives 5m down to retrieve (with ears hurting a little as i haven’t managed to equalise successfully - out of practice!) I also bring up a beautiful conch shell for Lottie which makes her sad in the end as she can’t take it back to Dorset with her.
There has been a special bond between Greatest Uncle Mark and particularly Bethie and she is often seen on the aft deck dancing and twirling to Uncle Mark’s wonderfully tuneful Ukele playing - another skill which I’m yet to turn my attention too. Anyway, Bethie is ridiculously adorable and is tremendously funny without even knowing it! The pure joy of a three year old!
After a few days in Les Saintes, we wave goodbye to the turtles and they wave a fin, and we reluctantly up anchor back to Guadaloupe mainland and leave these gorgeous Islands. We contemplate making a trip over to Dominica but Papa can’t face another day in customs office - quite understandably not worth it for a short stay. On our brisk sail back, we keep our eye out for Sperm Whales which supposedly frequent these waters, every wave and a splash brings great excitement but sadly to no avail…not today. We dock Tin Tin in a very uninspiring marina in Riviere Sens. Their showers were delightful though, i hasten to add…its amazing the appreciation one gets after being on the boat for a while and having to limit the amount of water used - a shampoo and condition are a rare thing! So here i delight in a more lengthy soak.
The next day we venture into the rainforest, Kate hires a car and after a few wrong turns, we make it up to the volcanic mountain, La Soufriere. The ascent into the luscious green giant leaved wonderland leaves us breathless in both senses as the humidity is stifling! It is quite a hike for the little ones and with totally unsuitable footwear - we underestimate how muddy it would be, we split up so Daddy Shim and Ruthie can climb to the waterfall and Kate and I take the smaller ones on a more gentle route and listen to the sounds of the tropical birds and frogs hiding in the canopy.
When we return we realise that Gerry has been left behind at the lunch spot we stopped at along the way…absolute catastrophe - Bethie, as you may have already figured out cannot live without him and so Kate goes on a rescue mission to find him while I take the girls for a sunset swim off the black sand beach and we’re joined by Papa Paul.
Gerry the giraffe arrives safely back in Bethie’s arms incase you were worrying! Mummy Kate saves the day.
We sail back to Deshaies and on arrival we are greeted by a very friendly dolphin dancing in the wake of the bow, playing up to our squeals of joy. I want to jump in and swim with this beautiful animal but i’m too slow and he has already swam off into the sunset. And wow what a sunset it was!
We set sail back to Antigua at midnight, we’re lucky again with a beautifully moonlit passage and this time my watch is 3-6am with Papa. The wind is very light but it is so peaceful sailing through the calm that we resist putting on the motor to make us go faster. I fabricate a ‘grass skirt’ for Lottie made from undone threads from an old rope. i took unexpected enjoyment from this tedious task (I had promised Lottie a “Moana” grass skirt from day one but didn’t have the suitable material to do so until the bit of rope caught my eye) I created, and i’m very proud of this, not only a grass skirt but a magical one at that as it had been touched by the moonlight. Its the little things… that are beginning to give me a lot of pleasure. Im aware that this may be boring you all immensely but I’m on a roll and therefore must not stop writing - its a rare occasion. I stay up to watch the sunrise - again i don’t think i can store all of this beauty in my mind… i mean, really? Can this earth get anymore stunning? TOO MUCH <3
More giant turtles!! Loads of them swimming under our bow. Hi again, Antigua! We briefly anchor in mosquito bay and then think again -perhaps not the most pleasant place considering the name. Although here we do spot a load of Ospreys and Brown -Footed Boobies - the girls find this very funny. Now i’m not much of a bird buff but even i recognise their glory! We move on around the corner to Crab Hill and swim ashore to the white coral sand beach, which Papa informed me was the result of the blue parrot fish nibbling away at thousands of tonnes of coral a year. Amazing. Here we meet the owner, Oliver Joseph, OJ, a funny old Antiguan man with round rimmed glasses who jestfully (i Hope) asks Papa if he could marry me! Papa and Uncle Mark have had a few Pina Coladas by this point and probably are striking a deal as i speak!
We stay anchored off here for a couple of nights with more ridiculous sunsets with Montserrat Silhouetted in the background, its volcano smoking steadily away. Ha, what a view! We all luxuriate in the crystal blue waters, the girls make rafts with wooden pallets and fenders and another Spotted Eagle Ray comes to say hello with a big splash whilst I’m dangling my legs astern… I’m beginning to think i’m a Ray Whisperer now…. extraordinary.
There's some drama as I get a fish bone stuck in my throat whist eating a red snapper at OJ's (First time ever in my 30 years, i'd like to add) I quietly whisper to Surgeon Shim, not to make a scene, that i may be slowly dying and find it hard to breathe. He tells me not to worry and drink CocaCola to dissolve the fish bone. Although i feel like its a little too large for that so later he attempts minor surgery on Tin Tin and manages to tweezer out the fish bone from the back of my throat, wedged in my left tonsil. The offending fish bone is in fact quite a beast... about an inch long! Thanks Shim for your skilled surgery and Kate for your reassuring words. Phewf..what a relief! Has not put me off eating more fish, however, just must be more careful, silly Em!
We sadly say goodbye to the Shim’s and my little munchkin nieces who have made the first part of my adventure such a joy. I’m going to miss the entertainment and atmosphere that only children can create, and seeing all of this paradise through their new little eyes! Thank you.
Now Tin Tin feels strangely quiet but we sail to Falmouth Harbour to pick up our newest crew member, Justin, from The Antigua Yacht Club,, thank goodness! Freshly caught Dorado line the dock and i ask to buy one but all are reserved for the restaurants and super yachts - oh my i forgot about those bad boys! How many billions of dollars nestles in this harbour, again ridics!
We have a lovely morning sail to Jolly Harbour and we manage to launch the Parasailor - what a beauty! Uncle Mark goes for a surprise splash as he steps onto the guy sheet, luckily we can laugh about it now but it was touch and go! Jolly Harbour is very American with large condominiums and not much character but it has everything we need and we have the day getting the boat ready for our next passage - a four day sail to the Dutch Islands of Aruba, Bonair and Curaçao (ABC). Fuel, water and gas topped up. The chaps do chandlery and tackle shopping for new lines and lures and I’m on supermarket duty to stock up on provisions for another week. This air-conditioned place is full of over- sunned Brits and Americans and to my surprise stocks Essential Waitrose items…what?! I would have much preferred to go to a local market in St. John’s but time didn’t allow. I sit writing this feeling chilly for the first time since my arrival in the Caribbean (yes, I’ve actually put a jumper on) I can’t work out if I’ve just acclimatised or I’ve got a fever which comes from the lurgy i may have caught from Lottie, making me feel rather rotten - i hope i’ll be rid of it before we set off tomorrow, i don’t much fancy feeling like this for the coming days all at sea. And before you say anything - I’m drinking gallons of water so not dehydration ickiness.
Next time i write, it will be off the coast of Columbia, wahooo... so excited for the next leg en route to Panama!
Frustratingly, internet not behaving so won't let me upload any photos onto blog. Will try and solve this but for now i hope my descriptions been enough to take you here....
Thank you for following me on my journey my lovelies.
Ps Can i just mention that I’m missing all my dearest ones dreadfully…you know who you are.. Not to mention, my gorgeous and courageous sister Alice (Crumpet) is about to have her Baby any day now and i’m really sad I won’t be there to welcome the little one into this world. I love the little bubba already though, Crumps and its still in your tummy! Be strong and I love youuuu. I’ll be holding your hand in spirit… and yes you may bite it!
Oh and my Monty Dog, how i miss you and your cuddles…I wish I could explain that I haven’t gone forever. Sending my love across the Ocean.