From Antigua to Bahamas

Hi everybody,

I will tell you about these last days from Antigua up to now, the last days with Rocio and me together before we take a little break and went discovering Carribbean on our own before meeting up again. We just both felt like having some time on our own after spending five months together non stop. So Rocio is now waiting for delivering boats from St Martin towards Tortola! I am visiting Ma´tinik awaiting to get more information about the boat we will deliver back to France, an RM10.50.

Let us start with the story then; we left Berenice on the 18th of February after two months of work. We will remember our Captain Fonzie and his moment of swearing as well as his Pina Colada moments and his passion for fishing that filled our belly more than once. After all it was a real good experience for us; you get to see the inside of running luxury yachts, discover what makes a difference between a good from a bad boat (“the devil is in the details”… so they say), meet more people and discover how different can people live their lifes but still being happy. We will keep with us the images of millions of dollars floating palaces sitting next to each other, waiting for the rich man to come onboard.

On the 18th we moved onto Luskentyre, an Oyster 72 (21.5 m long saling yacht) which is run by Arvid and Georgia, a couple to who we were introduced by Fonzie (Canadian and Kiwi). They needed delivery crew to bring Luskentyre to Bahamas and proposed to pay us as well as a friend of ours to come and do it with them, including a flight back to anywhere we wanted in the Carribbean. The flight back for us was the start point of deciding to take some time each one aside and so both of us went looking into his opportunities. The delivery was 1000 NM sailing North West, thus in theory 5 to 6 days of downwind sail with the sun… who would say no?!

We left on the 20th from Antigua after struggling to get a piece of the steering system back in place. This delayed us of one day on the schedule and meant we would have to sail fast, and if sailing was not fast enough… engine on!… The weather was very pleasant to us, maybe even a bit to much: we sailed downwind for the first couple of days but ended up having to motor because the wind dropped or shifted round to blow straight on our stern. In those conditions and on those type of boats, going by sail is very uncomfortable: the composite “park avenue” boom weighing more than 200 kgs bangs from one side to the other, risking to damage sail and blocks.

We had to stop in St Martin to fix the generator. We stayed at anchor for one night and the following morning. That gave time to some of us (mainly me) to rush onshore and buy a couple of duty free articles. I came back to the boat very happy: new toys! a phone and a camera!

For the rest of the crossing all the crew struggled to keep busy; five of us onboard and sailing under engine on a straight course did not provide many excitement in itself. The first thing was to learn backgamon! Once Geaorgia explained it to Rocio and me we would keep battling one another for a whole afternoon, me defending that the game is all about tactics and Rocio stating that luck rules backgamon… Once I started loosing the opinions diverged…

Fishing was another way of killing the time while roasting under a cloudless and hot sunny day. We caught two little tunas, a wahoo and a mahi mahi. All of them finished in our little hungry tommies in various way: carpaccio, curry, steaks… miam miam… Georgia unveiled her secret tricks and cooking became another pleasant way to spend our time. We were not competing but evryone was happy to show the best he could do: fresh tagliatelle, salads of all sorts, empanadas, curry… And when we were not eating, reading, fishing, watching a DVD, sleeping and/or steering (the autopilot would not want to take our relay…) we were left with reading. I would strongly recommend this short book I ate in a day, a Voyage for Madmen (in French I think it is Goldenglobe). It treats about the first single handed round the world race and describes the nine characters who took part to it.

And last but not least, the most marking point of this crossing was how much sea life we saw. We spotted several days some whales jumping out the water at 200 m from the boat, and landing back in the water with a massive splash! We all tried to snap a picture of them but obviously the whales were shy and would only jump when the camera was not aimed at them… Untill two of them passed at two meters from the boat, Rocio on the helm had to give a hard turn to port to avoid a collision.

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Georgia and Rocio spotting the whales, Francesco spotting… the whales?

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But where are they?

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Arvid filleting a mahi mahi… miam

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Night watch time… foot on the steering wheel, engine at 1700 RPM…

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All quiet on board. The sunset reflects in our massively heavy boom…

Finally on the 26th at 7 o´clock local time we entered Lyford Cay on the North-Western part of New Providence. This marina is nicknamed “Lifeless Cay” by the sailors and locals because it is situated in the middle of one of the most exclusive and expensive residential neighbourhood of the world. And indeed nothing happens there… Some people pay a lot of money to keep quiet with their millions and that is how it is.

 After spending the day working to make the boat as shiny as possible for the boss, we wanted to go out for a drink somewhere and asked a taxi to drive us “somewhere nice for a drink”…. On the way we felt totally in a sort of American resort islands; perfectly maintained bushes, supermarket, Mac Donalds, Sheratons… we finally ended up in a terrible restaurant area and come out from there feeling quite disgusted. After all Lifeless Cay is maybe the best the island had to offer… A bit sad for a place with such an adventurous past: capital of the pirates.

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Team Fender (Francesco and Gaspar) washing the hull from the dinghy and the dinghy from the hull

Hopefully we did not despair and spent our free day exploring a bit more… Having picked up a guide of the Bahamas dating of 2001 we left in three of us, Rocio, Francesco and me, in a taxi… we ended up for a couple of hours in a little village, Adelaide, in the South West of the island further away from the touristy bling bling. The village has an interesting history; it was founded by the freed slaves that the british navy were unloading on New Providence. They settled here because the gigantic lagoon (more than 30 NM wide) provided them with fishes and conchs (as long as a shark did not take a bite at them before) enough for surviving. A local ex policeman drove us around from Adelaide to Nassau the capital and there and recommended what to see, indeed most of the places recommended in our guide had been either destroyed by a hurrycane or simply abandonned… everywhere the same tourist attractions; passenger ferry vomiting thousands in the streets of Nassau, filled of shops you can find home, Resort centers, casinos, hotels… Overall it is pretty sad that a plca with such an extraordinary topology and history has became a profit making American massive resort island, working on the ideal dream holliday concept sold by TV programs… But well this is obviously only my modest opinion…

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Francesco and me enjoying a beer in Adelaide with our guide of the Bahamas dating from 2001…

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Paradise Island… Beurk!

And that is enough for keeping you up to date. I will try to post you some news on Ma´tinik and I wait with impatience, as well as you, the news from Roro! So let us finish in beauty after this ugly picture of “Paradise Island”…

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Roro!

Bye bye

Gaspar

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The other Antigua

What happens when the Caribbean winter season finishes? How is it like when all these floating luxury hotels leave Antigua? I have asked this question to myself many times since I arrived here.
And the answer is nothing. Apparently, the locals make enough money during the season to get going until next November. Restaurants, shops and services around Falmouth Bay are closed during the summer. And the water on the docks gets its clarity back, happy to rest from the exhausts of big generators running 24/7. They say that the place fills up with pelicans, that might look like some of the yachties, but they fly.
To see the real local life, the best is to take a bus and at the rhythm of gospel go through a road full of fruit shops and palm trees to the capital, St. Johns. The bus drivers are usually very friendly and unless you smash the door the treat you very well and bring you wherever you ask them, even if it is a bit out of their way.

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Antiguan bus

The streets of St. Johns are full of life during the day, there is reggae music sounding on every corner and everyone salutes each other with the classical “jah man”. Between all this mess there is the public fruit and veg market, fish market and meat market three times cheaper than the ones around the marina.

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Streets of St. Johns

Whereas it is worth to go to St. Johns and feel the ambiance of a city, the beaches are the most beautiful places to visit in Antigua. Not too far to the west of Falmouth Harbour there is Rendez-vous beach, simply beautiful. Since you can only arrive by dinghy or walking it is usually very quiet and relaxing.

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Local kids playing in Rendez-vous beach

On the other side there is Pigeon Beach, where the barbecues stay on for the whole weekend. It is a fun beach where everybody, local and not, goes for playing Frisbee, swimming, sunbathing or having their weekend party. The curiosity is that all the local girls dress up for this “free day at the beach” , which is usually Sunday. They wear their nice bikinis, dresses, jewelry and they even put make up, which before I would have thought that nobody uses at the beach.

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Sunset beach games at Pigeon beach

There are some beautiful beaches on the east side as well, although we haven’t visited many, only Jaberwock beach where Gaspar and Arturo did some windsurf. These beaches are much wilder and windier, very beautiful indeed.
Apart from gospel and reggae, Antigua is characterized for its steel bands. Who needs a description when you can listen to it:

We have had the occasion to meet a few locals, my favorites are Jackie and Co., the owners of the Mexican restaurant – guest house in Falmouth harbor. These women are always there for what you need and they never stop laughing with their contagious laugh.

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Tammie in the mexican restaurant

As an anecdote, it seems that many local guys like Rocio, and make Gaspar become jealous when they invite her to play “the ring and the hook” at the pub. This game consists on a hook on the wall and a ring held on a wire from the ceiling. All the Antiguan guys are very good at putting the ring into the hook and teaching girls how to do it… On the other hand there is the security man from the marina, alias “Antiguan Homer Simpson” who waves suspiciously at Roro every time she passes. And to finish with this succession of rasta love, the guy who works at the supermarket once told Gaspar as both of us were walking towards the beach: “Hey brother! You’ve got taste!”. Hohoho… Is it coincidence or they just like everyone? We will never know…
Anyway, señoras y señores, madams et monsieurs, next week we will say goodbye to this little piece of paradise and go onboard Luskentyre to the Bahamas! Yihaaaa!

Antigua and the life of the yachties

Hello our dear followers and beloved friends and families,

We have now been in Antigua since a month more or less, living like proper yachties. But first we should tell you what a “yachty” is. The yachties can come from many nationalities but here are mainly English, Australians, Kiwis, Americans, South Africans and Italians. So in general on the docks the atmosphere is quite “commonwealth”. All this little world work on luxury yachts, both power and sail, in crew ranging from two to 15 and more. Everyone works from monday to friday, 8 to 5, and usually go spend their dollars every evening in the different yachties pubs and clubs. So up to now a yachty does not differ so much from any other profesion. The weekends are spent in kiting expedition, beach or simply roaming the net. We are all here living of the crazy caprices of immensely rich persons. Overall being a yachty implies that you can adapt to many situations and are ready not to live in a fixed place. You rarely have holidays but it is ok since these are pretty much all year long, unless the owner announces that he comes in the next three days!…

In these harbour an 80 feet yacht is considered “small”… Sometimes we wonder if the crisis ever happened… One evening Antigua was struck by a complete black out. The electricity was shut in the whole island. Obviously some pubs and clubs knew the story already and in five minutes their generators were running. But for five minutes the only lights – and what an amount of lights! – were in English and Falmouth Harbours where the superyachts were pooring light from every possible hole… quite funny to immagine that with enough diesel these yachts could maybe power the island but the inverse is not true…

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Falmouth marina by night

Otherwise what have we done in particular? Lately a lot of deck work. Indeed the sikaflex seams between the teak planks needed to be levelled down. So we cut, we sand, and finally we ended up with a lot of fresh sikaflex tagliatelli;

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Fresh Sikaflex tagliatelli… mmm

P1040252Roro sanding the deck! So happy not to work inside!

Otherwise coming back to us and what we have done more specifically, we have been laser sailing until we argued with the boss of the yacht club, but we ll forget about that… Many BBQs, meeting many people. And to impress our sailor friends, we jumped on board a Volvo 70! the ex Green Dragon. Unfortunately we do not have any pictures to show you due to Gasparisation… the SD card containing the pictures jumped out the camera straight in between two planks on the dock and down for a swim… Despite diving twice it was nowhere to be found…

It is thus with Gaspar swimming below the terrace of the bar that Rocio met Arturo, an old friend who studied with us in England. Arturo now works as engineer/deckhand on boad a 50 m Perini yacht. For the anecdote, this yacht is so huge that you can stand in the bilges!

Since then we spent many evenings with our newly constituted group of friends and on Friday went to a “raft competition”. Any team can enter the competition. You are given two sheets of plywood and three hours to build your pirate raft that will have to race the others round the marina and recover the treasure: a bottle of rum. Our team did a bamboo raft, probably one of the heaviest of all and were towed to the finish line.We will shorten the description of this event by feeding you with a couple of pictures.

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The Rasta Pirates of Silencio and their bamboo raft

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Most of the competitors are lining up on the start line…

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A brave but not winning team…

Otherwise our plans for the future? We will finish working on Berenice on Friday, so two months after starting. And then we will deliver an Oyster 72 to Bahamas from where we will split: Rocio will join Loes, a Dutch skipper, with who she will deliver a couple more small yachts around Saint Martin, the BVI and Jamaica before meeting up with Gaspar in Martinique. And if all goes good, around the end of March/Beginning of April, we will set off on a RM 10.50 to sail back to France!

And that is all for now my friends…

See you soon!

What have we been up to all this time? From St Lucia to Curacao passing by Venezuela…

Hi everybody,

We haven´t been doing our homework lately. It proved very difficult to find both time and good internet connection in the same time. But we hope that this absence of news on the blog will not have made you forget its existence. Anyway, we now have free weekends and promised ourselves to catch up. Here we go;

Two days after arriving in St Lucia we sailed away on board a swan 80, Berenice, to be delivered in Antigua. We had been told by a friend that they needed crew and could not believe our luck when the skipper accepted to take us on board. Being on this sort of boat was for us completely new. Berenice was the third biggest yacht in the marina with its 25 m of length and we hallucinated on the size of the galley and winches… The boat had sailed the ARC with an Italian crew and the skipper had one week to get his boat back to its best shine before having to meet the owner in Isla Margarita for two weeks of charter. So we met Alfonso the skipper, and Paula the hostess. They both work in – what I know pronounce in each conversation with a new person – “yachting industry”. In other words, serving and cleaning luxury floating hotel, as we found out later.

In Antigua we got stunned by the atmosphere and the contrast; multi-millionaires toys lying in the harbor filled up of Americans and Europeans polishing the day and drinking the night on one side. On the other side the locals whose business is mostly centered on getting these palaces all they need to fulfill the wishes and caprices of their owners. All this little world seems always happy, throwing jokes at each other while hanging from the side of a motor yacht to polish the topsides or dancing the night away drinking rum punch.

Having arrived there after one night of sail our objective was to find work at all cost. We did not really have a precise idea of what sort of work could be found here in the yachting industry. Chatting with crew members we understood that working for charter companies or sailing school paid less and was harder to get than day working on luxury yachts and hopefully, find a fixed position. Indeed sailing school such as Ondeck or SunSail, which we had hoped to work for (Gaspar imagining to renew his Glenans´experience but this time under the sun), ask from their employees to have all the RYA professional titles (which cost a lot and that you can pass in their school…) and anyway prefer to employ locals.

Alfonso offered Gaspar a couple days of day work while trying to sort out his crew for the charter with his owner. Paula was coming off the boat and he needed crew to deliver the boat to Venezuela as well as a hostess. After a couple days Rocio put forward that she could be stewardess (cook) although she did not have experience. So finally we ended up both being engaged for 3 weeks to one month of work on board Berenice as deckhand and stewardess. These days were extremely stressful as everything had to be perfect despite our lack of experience and the lack of time.

We sailed Berenice to Isla Margarita in Venezuela. This took us three days. The owner arrived, and his guests two days later. Altogether we would have to clean, cook and serve four adults, three kids and us three…

The work started at 7 and finished at 23 at the best. It consisted in waking up, dry the deck, prepare the breakfast and set the table, serve the breakfast and meanwhile clean the rooms and bathrooms, collect the laundry and make the beds. As soon as this was finished either prepare the boat to go sailing or prepare the snorkeling and beach equipment. Straight away the lunch: an aperitivo, two dishes and a dessert had to be prepared as well as the table set, followed by cleaning the dishes again… Hopefully then we would have a couple of hours while the owner went to the beach before we had to clean the deck and prepare the dinner (to the exception that the kids eat before and have to be cooked a different dinner). And so on until everybody goes to bed which could be between 23 o´clock and midnight. Sleep in our individual bunks after giving each other a quick kiss, sleep all you can because the next day it all starts again… We barely had the time to have a look to all the wonderful places we stopped by; los Roques, las Aves and Bonaire. We still managed to snorkel and observe the million colorful fishes swimming in the reefs, fished and cut the fillets, learned lots of cooking tips and had some good discussions with the owners which despite their wealth loved sailing and were accessible.

This situation coupled with the tension existing between us already while we were looking for jobs got to some terrible points at times and we were missing our family and friends greatly. We needed some time off…

Eventually the two weeks of charter ended in Curacao. Everyone felt relieved and a friend of Alfonso, Lisa, joined us. We had the boat at anchor for a week in Spanish water, an internal sheltered set of bays.

Curacao is a Dutch island, although it has some autonomy, for example they have their own currency (which just loaded up our wallet from some more unknown coins and notes). The people there speak at least four languages: English, Dutch, Spanish and Papiamento which is a mix of all three languages with orthography similar to a kid of 7 years old trying to write phonetically. We visited the capital Willemstad, cut in two by a canal which more or less splits the town into black part and white part. The Dutch influence was very noticeable by the organization; paying resort beaches, a timetable for the bus (thing completely revolutionary in Caribbean), strict rules on mooring zones and snorkeling zones. We made our best to relax and enjoy the place and we succeeded very well; snorkeling on the reef and renting wind surfs.

Eventually the weather changed and after a week of waiting for lighter winds we set off for Antigua; 550 NM beating against the wind and waves. The Caribbean Sea is not usually too rough as the Atlantic swell is blocked by the Leeward and Windward Islands. The difficulty of sailing here lies in the squalls which can bring 60 degrees shift in the wind direction, heavy horizontal rain and eventually strong winds, sometimes all of that at the same time, sometimes only the rain… it depends. So we tacked our way up the Caribbean Sea and moored for one night in Guadeloupe before finishing our trip in Antigua where we are currently staying.

Our plans for the coming days are to work with Alfonso for probably another two weeks on board Berenice (once again, trying to get her on her best shine…) and then we will see. The work is now only five days a week until five o´clock so we take our time off for sailing laser, exploring the island and relaxing on the beach.

We send to all of you who are reading all our affection and love. We miss you guys but are taking the best of our time and sometimes, we think of the future… Europe? Or somewhere else?

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This is how you trim the sails on board Berenice, press on the button and the hydraulic does the rest… careful you might hurt the tip of your fingers…

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Sunset in Isla Margarita, Venezuela

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In Papiamento, a trolley is a “tuk tuk”… (notice board in Willemstad)

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Rocio trying to escape after a too long day of work down below

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Berenice upwind early in the morning in the Caribbean Sea

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Los Roques, Venezuela

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Gaspar preparing the mainsail to hoist in las Aves

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Gaspar cutting a baracuda freshly fished in los Roques, he did not have the time to pass away that he was fried already…

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Birds fishing in las Aves