Sunday, March 19, 2023

Martinique, Dominica & Guadeloupe!

Our Adventures have continued in the beautiful Caribbean. We have moved north through the islands of Martinique, Dominica & Guadeloupe. Martinique and Guadeloupe are part of France, but Dominica (right in the middle) is independent. The history is fascinating because the indigenous Carib people (originally from the Amazon area) successfully fought off the various Europeans who were continually squabbling over the islands in this area. 

Let’s start in Martinique and try to have as much fun as humanly possible!  

We had a date with a potential buyer for Oyai and a survey & haul out scheduled. We cleaned and tidied, but had lots of fun along the way. Micah’s dream came true and there was some great horseback riding. 

We worked hard during our time in Martinique and did a few boat jobs, including painting the bottom. 

We were lucky to be in Martinique (Fort-de-France, to be exact) during “Festival”. It’s a week-long celebration that goes 24/7 and includes theme days. This day was the colourful day…

We caught an incredible parade that was so rich in culture and history.  Many of the performers were telling a story through their dances and actions. 

While anchored in St. Anne off Martinique, the kids were learning how to wingfoil with borrowed gear from our sailing friends. Aria was doing really well and had tons of fun!

We sailed to the northwest tip of Martinique to a town called St. Pierre that was wiped out by a volcano in the early 1900’s. Over 30,000 lives were lost and the reminders of the tragedy are still visible throughout town.  There was a great little zoo in this small town and we spent the morning there. 

At the zoo, we found a proper Tarzan vine to swing from and everyone had a go. In this video, a great friend and boat dad, James, got some amazing hang time.

Next up on our adventure was a short 5 hour sail to beautiful Dominica. The vibe there was much more wild and Caribbean with unlimited natural beauty. The people were incredibly welcoming and friendly as well. This has been one of our favourite places on this entire trip!  On day one in Dominica, we did a 7 hour hike to a huge boiling lake in the caldera of a volcano. Words can’t describe how spectacular it was. 

The cloud forest hike was unlike anything we had seen in the Caribbean so far.  We were so thrilled to be hiking with our new close friends from “Luna” and “Starry Knight”.  Here, Lana and Kathy are all smiles during the descent down to the caldera. 

Of course, there were also some natural hot springs to soak in during the hike as well. Paradise!

We have been so fortunate to be traveling on & off with superb friends who we crossed in the ARC with. We have regular gatherings and bond over “sundowners”.

We moved up to the northwest corner of Dominica and experienced a National Park called the Indian River.  We got to see so many cool animals, plants and beautiful scenery. 

This was the site of one of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie scenes and the shack they built is still there. 

On our last night in Dominica, the kids had an “Emergency Survival Drill” and used an expired liferaft from “Alchemy”. They spent hours getting to shore, making shelter, building a fire and cooking for themselves. They LOVED it!

In amongst all of the sailing and adventures, the girls have been thriving with their “boat school”. They usually do 2-3 hours, 5 days per week of focused learning. Math, language arts, science and history are part of their learning which is facilitated by Lana and their distance education teacher Lisa. It’s been a very positive experience and has taught them a lot, including self-motivation.  Here Micah demonstrates a science experiment they did to discover which common liquids are acids (or bases).

So much of our daily lives revolves around learning in this unique environment as well. We are so proud of our kids for embracing this life and learning as much as possible during our year away. 

We kept moving north and had a few days in Guadeloupe, another French island. It had a nice feel as well, but very different than Dominica. We were anchored in a bay and had close encounters with some wild dolphins!  The kids eventually were able to put on masks and go swimming with the dolphins - a truly magical experience. 

Oyai had to stick around Guadeloupe for a couple of extra days while we waited for a part to be delivered from Martinique. There is no customs between these islands and flights are frequent, so the delay was minimal.  We made the most of it with our friends (one of whom has the exact same boat as us!). 

Simon, Penny, Skye & Oscar hosted all of us aboard their beautiful catamaran “Starry Knight” for a day sail in Guadeloupe. It was super cool. 

From Guadeloupe, we will head to Antigua and the British Virgin Islands. This will mean we are starting to head west towards the Bahamas (and eventually the east coast of the USA). Follow along over the next few weeks!


Friday, February 24, 2023

Visitors from home!

We have been neglecting our blogging over the last few weeks!  Sorry about that, but we have had some awesome times, including when our friends Addy and Erica came to visit us in St. Vincent & The Grenadines.  We kept busy sailing, hiking, snorkelling and just generally exploring!

We picked up our guests in St. Vincent and sailed south to Bequia which was our base for a week.  We had an awesome day sail to a deserted island (inhabited only by hundreds of tortoises) called Baliceaux.  The island was incredibly beautiful. 

We had ourselves a good old-fashioned tortoise race. Everyone picked their favourite tortoise and after about 20 minutes, the exhilarating 2 meter race was over!  Watch it here in time lapse. 

The girls had so much fun in each other’s company during our time in Bequia. 

We all did some unique snorkeling around a wreck and some underwater coral nurseries. 

Sadly, we had to say goodbye to Addy & Erica after about a week and Oyai started to head north again. We had an appointment in Martinique to get our boat surveyed for a prospective buyer.  That meant we had to pick a good weather window to head upwind about 150 km. 

In Martinique we were busy taking care of our boat-job list and cleaning from stem to stern. We took a few fun days to stretch our legs as well. We will post all the action in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned!

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Sailing in the Windward Islands

 We have left Grenada and headed north. The trade winds seem to blow from the NE at this time of year and that is the exact direction we want to go!  So… we waited for a day when the wind shifted a little from the south and beetled our way up the Windward Island chain to Carriacou.  From there we visited Petite Martinique (which is nowhere near Martinique!).  This little island is packed with character and friendly, helpful people.  This is a photo of us and the welcome sign for the island.

We hiked to the top of the Piton on Petite Martinique (an extinct Volcano) and had the place all to ourselves.  What a view!

Next, we headed back to Carriacou to visit its main town of Hillsborough, a very cute, quintessentially Caribbean village. We had homemade Roti, and stocked up on supplies. This photo is of Oyai sitting at anchor just off the main pier in town. 

In Hillsborough we went to the Paradise Beach Club where they encourage visiting boats to leave some art with the boat’s name on it.  So we painted up our “Oyai” sign and left it there for posterity. 

While we were there, Aria had a homeschool class using the club’s Wifi. Thanks Lisa and Self Design!  What a place to go to school!

On our way over to Carriacou, we made a quick stop at the smallest island we have seen so far on the trip. It was about the size of a small house and totally breathtaking. It’s name is “Morpion” and we had a 20 second race around the little island. 

We could have stayed on this island all day, but we had to get moving as it wasn’t very protected for the boat at anchor. 

We have been exposed to the most amazing wildlife here in the Caribbean. Monkeys, lizards and bugs. This was one of the more beautiful caterpillars we have ever layer eyes on.  This guy was just hanging out at the beach with us.

After Carriacou, we sailed more north to Union Island to check into a new country (St Vincent and the Grenadines) then onto Bequia. We were close hauled, and the sailing was pretty boisterous in 20-25 knots of wind. Luckily, we were able to make our destination with just 3 tacks, and a little motoring. 

We came through Bequia at Christmas on our way south and love it here.  This island has so much to offer and everything is so close. There are many cruisers here and we love the vibe both on the water and in town. 

Once you step on land, the signs are welcoming, and the people are all smiles!

Next up, we are looking forward to having visitors from Canada for a week!  Addy and Erica from Comox will join us for some sunshine and sailing.  It’ll be a blast!

Sunday, January 15, 2023

From The Grenadines to Grenada

We have sailed south from The Grenadines, and have spent the last week in Grenada.  This will mark the southernmost point of our trip!  We will savour a slow journey back north after this.  The crew had been adjusting well to life on land (mostly) and we have visited more than one chocolate factory while we've been here!  Micah loves munching on raw cocoa nibs.

Grenada is absolutely beautiful!  It's not a very large island and has only about 110,000 people.  Everyone here is very friendly and helpful, and there is a harmonious mix of people from all over the world.  Things are very well organised for cruisers (people like us, living on boats) and there are social events, bus rides, tours and even a weekly running event called "The Hash".

The "Hashers" call themselves "Drinkers with a running problem" and host a walk or run through the jungles and pastoral lands of Grenada every Saturday afternoon.  We were lucky to participate in Hash number 1,226 (or something like that).  Lots of sailing friends from the ARC were there too!

A couple of days later, we hired a local driver and had 2 days of amazing touring around Grenada.  His name was Patrick, but he is known locally as "Shademan".  His Toyota HiAce was well past its prime, but got us around the island in style!  Our family really enjoys hanging out with our new Quebecois friends from the boat "Jayana", Sylvain, Sounda, Mael and Lohan.  Bret, Amanda & Renner from "Out of the Woods" have been super fun as well.  Lana has been put in charge of hairdos for the boys, and they love it!

We drove for an hour to reach a famous Grenadian Chocolate Plantation/Factory - Belmont Estates.  We learned how to make chocolate, from tree to chocolate bar.  In this photo, Micah takes a raw cocoa bean after Sheldon picked a ripe cocoa pod from a tree.  The raw beans are coated in a very delicious slime that tastes like sweet lemonade.

Next, the cocoa beans are fermented for 6 days under a bed of banana leaves.  After that, the beans are dried in the sun and, traditionally, workers would walk through the beans daily to aerate them and help in the drying process.

We tried some raw, dried cocoa nibs and they were very bitter.  A lot of sugar and dairy goes into the chocolate we all know and love!  The factory also brewed us some traditional chocolate tea that was so-loved by the Brits who started Belmont Estates about 100 years ago.  In fact, it was their main way of consuming the chocolate for many years.

On the way home from the chocolate factory, we visited the mountain monkeys that were imported from South America many generations ago.  They are quite tame, and clearly were looking for hand-outs from the tourists.  Brave Aria put some food on her head to entice a monkey to land on her.

Micah also got very close and personal with the mountain monkeys.

After the monkeys, we had the chance to hike to a spectacular waterfall up a meandering creek and muddy trail.  The jungle was lush and wonderful.

There was an amazing spot to do some cliff jumping into the pool below the waterfall, and all the "kids" threw themselves in with wild abandon.

During our last couple of days in Grenada, we stayed in a quaint little Marina named La Phare Bleu.  There were many new kid boats there, and the girls had a great time playing with all of their new friends.  Moored at the same marina was an antique, restored Swedish Lighthouse Boat that the kids played hide-and-seek on.

Our time in Grenada is coming to an end, but we have been very impressed with this little island in the southern Caribbean.  It's clean, safe and friendly with lots to see and do!  We will definitely be back one day.

During daily life, Micah has taken a keen interest in boat handling skills.  She coils lines, presses buttons, steers the boat, and just generally likes getting into the sailing.  

Next we will sail back north back into the Grenadines which is usually an upwind affair.  We will try to choose days with favourable winds (lighter and slightly from the south, if possible).  That way we will keep the crew's stoke level high, and be easier on the boat, in general.  We are very excited to be hosting Aria's good friend Addy, and her mom Erica for a week at the end of January.  We have so much to show them - snorkelling with turtles, cute little Caribbean villages, sailing around idyllic islands - the list goes on and on!

Martinique, Dominica & Guadeloupe!

Our Adventures have continued in the beautiful Caribbean. We have moved north through the islands of Martinique, Dominica & Guadeloupe. ...