Tuesday 29 April 2014

Week 5 : Guadeloupe and Antigua

Tuesday April 29 2014

Ghost Ship in the Night- DesHaies, Guadeloupe

Excitement in DesHaies (Guadeloupe) on the first night, we got to see a GhostShip..!!! Ok,well maybe it wasn't an actual ghost ship, (I do let my imagination run wild at time), but it was pretty intense and exciting

Let me start at the beginning:

While anchored in DesHaies, at around sunset, some poor souls’ boat  had dragged its anchors (both of them!) and pulled ours as well, but at first we just thought that our anchor had dragged on its own and so we moved to deeper waters and away from other boats, then at around 9pm there was a “Securité”  call which came over the VHF radio warning other boats that a boat was adrift, with no one on board, it was quite dark and we could see lights from other boats as everyone was watching the “ghost ship” go by. It was  very eerie, seeing it drift by, sideways, right beside Amelie, in the dark gloomy night,  no sign of life on board. Mark tried to call the boat on the radio (who’s name was “Aurora”), with no answer , so he put the dinghy in the water to go help the few other sailors who were trying to save the boat from ending up on the rocks, by the time Mark got to the boat, it was already out of the bay in about 70' of water, heading into the great wide open, there were two French guys onboard, gesticulating excitedly  as they tried to communicate that : “Dis is not hour boat !!!” & that  they had hopped on to try to save it, they had tried to start the engine with no luck : the battery was dead ! 

Everyone present decided that  the best course of action was to let out all the chain that was on board ( to try to slow it down” as much as possible), and that seemed to stop it from drifting any further although it was pretty tenuous hold with the wind, but at least it had escaped an early death along the rocky shore of the Bay, or drifting aimlessly into the Caribbean Sea, we felt so bad for the owners who might of been out at a restaurant or bar, sipping drinks, laughing and having a good time, totally oblivious to what was happening. I can’t imagine the feeling, it must be awful, returning to your boat in the dark and finding that it is no longer there !!! UGHH !

Turns out that is pretty much the way it seems to have happened... as we saw a lone dinghy racing out of the bay at about 9:45 pm. Mark hailed them and pointed the light to where their boat now was, (still in sight), and they must have caught up with it, funny thing though, they never did bring Aurora back into the bay, we never saw them again, (and there were no distress calls over the radio) Perhaps they were just a wee bit too embarrassed to stick around and face everyone the next morning, and decided to do a night sail to their next destination , a little early.

So this weeks lesson is : This reminder for us to never forget the importance of being extra vigilant when anchoring, and always making sure that we don’t drag !  

Botanical Garden : 

On Thursday Meg and MC went to the Botanical gardens with our Austrian friends from S/V “L’Avenir” while Mark and Matthew hung out on the boat and made sure that the anchor didn’t drag!  

These were the most beautiful gardens we have seen in the Caribbean!  Really outstanding! Meghan especially enjoyed feeding the parakeets and seeing the larger Macaws. Given our company we had  the opportunity to learn two new german words !  Papaguy (parrot) and Colibri (hummingbird)  this last one being the  same in french too (so it might be cheating...) but still, wow, Botany and German all in one day !  And these aren’t even part of the grade 6 curriculum ! 

Visiting the Botanical Gardens in DesHaies

Meanwhile back at school.

School, in my opinion, is going very well. In Science Meg has been leaning about the scientific method as she tests the various parachutes she built. I have to say that she really showed a lot of resiliency and patience as there were quite a few obstacles on launch day. We were in another very “rolly” anchorage and the boat was lurching back and forth and the landing strip for the parachutes was very narrow , but she got her results after many, many trials, and we are now investigating Hot Air Balloons and Density. 

Meg learning about density


Reading "Treasure Island"

We are enjoying our novel study R.L. Stevenson’s “Treasure Island” which we are reading out-loud (& in character) everyday.... and we are both learning a ton about the Iroquois Confederacy in Social Studies.( I must have been "absent" that week back in my school days, it’s pretty fascinating stuff!). Meghan is just whizzing through Math too….an excellent pupil ! 

Matthew is also doing well. We are working on many programs : Setting the table, Verbal Imitation, Tracing the letter A (which he is really enjoying because he has to follow an Airplane (on his iPad) to trace it) ...and he is really applying himself! He also does some independent work (drawers of tasks  that he must complete on his own) he loves this !  We also sing songs to help him with his pronunciation and I am happy to report that he is doing very well with many of the many programs he was doing at school before he left and which the staff were so kind to help me with before we left.  He is enjoying playing some matching games with us in the evening and is learning his daily routines onboard very well, especially taking a fresh water shower after swimming in the ocean as he has to do this 10-15 times per day (!) He has been doing it independently as he knows he is not allowed down below if he is “salty”. 

One month  anniversary !

We have survived living onboard (and more importantly: living together) for one month ! Whoo hoo ! In honour of this anniversary I decided to give you an idea of what a typical day might look like for us, in case you were wondering (read:  hopefully will not bore you to death) 

A Day in the Life of Amelie:

The following is a typical school day when we are at anchor.

06:00 Sunrise & "Our alarm clock", aka Matthew, is up and asking for a "snack" (literally first words out of his mouth). I ask him to wait and stay in bed just a FEW minutes more, and he usually complies, as Mark and I try to get a few more minutes of sleep.

07:00 After a few more requests for food from Matthew, we are now up, Matthew is “dressed” (bathing suit) & has applied his deodorant (his program) and is  “sun-screened” up for the day, as he is usually already in the water by this time having eaten breakfast ahead of everyone else, MC tidies up the cabin for the day and makes breakfast for everyone else..

 07:45 Meghan is up, getting dressed having breakfast , her room is tidied up (for inspection) and she probably is trying to get at least one of her chores done before school starts. Mark is up and turn the generator on, gets a load of laundry started and perhaps is checking the engine or the weather or, some pilot forum on the internet if we have wifi. Sometimes, Mark takes Matthew for a hike (we hope to make this a “run” in the future)

09:00 School starts: Mark hangs out with Matthew as he swims (gym) and MC and Meg do some Math and Language Arts

10:00 MC and Matthew work on his programs while Meghan does some individual work. There is a snack thrown in there too. Mark does odd jobs around the boat which are always abundant.

11:00 Meg and Mom work on Social Studies and Science and Mark and Mathew might go in to “town” to run some errands. 

Mark prepares lunch. 

12:00 School is done !  We have lunch and get ready to go on an expedition,some snorkelling  or just for a swim to cool off. 

13:00-17:00 Busy doing all the stuff we have been writing about in the blog or not, some days we just putter around each doing our own “thing”.

18:00 MC usually has dinner prepared so that we can enjoy it with the sunset. 

18:30 Mark and Meg “discuss” who’s turn it is to wash dishes 

19:00  It’s already pitch dark outside now. Prepare the boat for night time: tidy up outside, bring the outboard up and then haul the dinghy out of the water (for safety reasons)bring in the water toys,in and the clothe off the clothe line take a moment to stop and admire the constellations or the “Cheshire Cat” in the sky (thats what Meg and I call the moon bcs in the Caribbean the crescent moon looks like a giant Cheshire cat smile)

19:30 Have a family games night, or just a giggle fest/tickle fest with Matthew, perhaps some guitar playing , or we watch an episode of Friends or, on special nights ,watch a movie. 

21:30 Go to bed and get rocked to sleep by the waves and the dancing stars..

So as you can see,  our reality is not that exciting. We do this 5 days a week, while trying to get as much as possible out of the places we are visiting and, yeah,it is pretty great, but  does it always go smoothly?? Hell No !  Does it all go sideways sometimes ?? Hell Yes !  I could write a novel about all the times when school has been interrupted for the most unusual circumstances, like the time when the Math books were practically thrown overboard in the excitement of seeing whales on our Port side (see last video), yeah, in our class we stop for marine mammals !!! It also pauses for sea sickness or “Nudist Ned’s” Antics, there are so many potential and interesting diversions and so we just have to go with the flow.

You may also be wondering: Have there been times in this first month when I have wanted to start a Mutiny ?! Send the captain off in a long boat?? Hell Yes !  (Hm maybe reading Treasure Island is having an affect on me) but I am sure that the captain would tell you the same.No worries though. It is all part of the “normal adjustment” period. I am sure it will pass hehe, right ??

Seriously though, most of the time, things go quite smoothly and I  am proud of everyone for trying so hard to make this work. I think that when we look back at this first month, years from now, we will recognize it as being our hardest month with lots of attitude adjustments and mind stretches ( to adapt and deal with "stuff" and with one another) as I write this blog, one month in, everyone else is sleeping and I can look back on one of our most successful days as “live a-boards” we all got along (90%) of the time, today, we all worked together and got lots done on board, we seem as comfortable as we can be, Amelie is clean and our routines seem efficient and realistic everyone is healthy and so I can go to sleep content ready for another day tomorrow, but first let me tell you a little bit about:


We had no idea what to expect, not having done much reading on Antigua  before hand. We found a very upscale,very pretty island with many options for beautiful anchorages. We also stumbled into one of the busiest weeks to visit Antigua as it just happens to be RACE WEEK here, which is a BIG deal on Antigua. It is very busy, but not in a bad way, just lots going on.

An all ladies team getting ready to race

America's Cup Starting Line

So it being race week and all, we had a chance to “Meet the Trophy” of the Americas’ Cup.Now I must admit that I have not “met” many trophy’s before, but to me, the Americas cup seemed a little bit quiet, a little bit reserved.I mean, for a trophy it certainly did not seem to be much of a party animal, not like, say the STANLEY CUP. I am not judging mind you, just saying...

Still, we did get a chance to get up close to it though and take some great shots with a great backdrop, the trophy came in a giant Louis Vuitton case and was traveling with its two “body guards”, or “men in black” if you like, who were the only ones allowed to “man handle it”, on account of their white gloves you see what a day for me to forget to bring my white gloves with me!! I normally never leave home without them !!!  Oh well it was neat to see all the same, and the view from our lookout was the best seats in the house to see the race from. 

Meg and the cup

America's Cup

A media helicopter did several round, quite low (read: right above our heads!) camera men hanging from the sides (just like in the movies !), all very loud and exciting, especially when they got a little bit too close and stirred up the dust and branches all around the crowd who was trying to eat their $10 breakfast, chaos ensued, plates, papaya and fish flying everywhere, the helicopter pilot must of realized his faux pas, as he took off in a hurry after that, but it was good for a laugh.The kids though it was pretty cool. 

Today, Tuesday April 29th, we went for a little excursion after school. We saw an old sugar plantation and it's mill (designed by the Dutch), a fabulous rock formation called "Devils Bridge" and a BE-A-U-TIFUL  beach on the East Coast called Long Bay where we enjoyed crystal clear blue water, white sands and some good snorkelling. 

Nelson's DockYard

This was rowed across the Atlantic by one person in 51 days!

Nelson's DockYard

Hummingbird in his nest in our light at the restaurant

English Bay- Antigua, Race Week

English Bay, Antigua

English Bay

Figure heads

Nelson's DockYard

Inside the Old Mill

Sugar Plantation Mill, Antigua

Devil's Bridge

Mom and Matthew enjoying a quiet moment

Long Bay, Antigua

Long Bay, Antigua

A little interesting tid bit for Eric Clapton fans out there. We found out that he has a home right here in Antigua and he actually lives there most of the year. It turns out that he has a very succesful business here, he opened a rehab clinic (called Crossroads), for the rich and famous, and I guess it is quite busy, huh !  It looks like a nice place to hang out, if you need it.

Eric Clapton's CrossRoads


Wednesday 23 April 2014

Week 4 : Les Saintes

April 23 2014

We spent Easter in Les Saintes. quite appropriate don’t you think ? 

These small islands , which are just to the South of Guadeloupe, were another pleasant surprise for us. In fact, we were not going to stop to see them at all, but we are SO glad that we did! 

From the many shades of the dark greens of Dominica, we stepped onto the light greys and brown of the dry Island that they call “Basse Terre”. We were greeted by a very clean and pleasant little village where most people either have bicycles, small electric golf carts or electric scooters as their main mode of transportation.

As Les Saintes are French Islands they are modern and very well kept. On our first exploration we were so pleased to find a FANTASTIC playground right on the waterfront where the kids got to do an impromptu “gym class”.

Matthew's favourite Playground

As Basse Terre is a tiny island and you can walk everywhere....we took a few hikes and really enjoyed ourselves in the process.The Saintes have a dry and “Mediterranean-like” climate, so different from what we have been seeing so far. We saw a very large variety of cacti and aloe plants on the  lovely terraced hills....Oh and goats! Goats everywhere ! 

We walked up to a look out and saw beautiful beach below called Pompierre, so we just had to walk down to have a refreshing swim.

Matthew in his element

Meg and Mark

On Easter Sunday we hiked up to see Fort Napoleon where we visited the cactus garden and a very good museum which taught us about the famous “Battle of the Saints”, the local marine life and all about Christopher Columbus.

Fort Napoleon


Looks like a giant pineapple, but actually is an Aloe plant           

Meg thought this looked like a Hobbit Door 

  Then we went for a swim at the next little island called Islet Cabrit, where Meg got a great shot of a family of cuttle fish. 

A school of Cuttlefish

Even if Matthew might feel like he is “too cool” to wear a mask and snorkel, he gets to enjoy the snorkeling experience too…. in his inflatable ring, as he tags along and looks underwater at his leisure (he opens his eyes under water). We always make sure that he has some sort of footwear so that he does not step on to coral or sea urchins....like he did last year, and getting him to keep these water shoes on is a work in progress...  We had a nice game of "treasure hunt" the other day, looking for the shoes amidst the coral......always keeping things fun that Matthew !

Meanwhile, in the “That’s life” category: Mark has lost his golden crown (not the one that makes him KING, but the one that protects his tooth). He had been so happy to have a gold crown made before we left, "just like a pirate” and now,  it is somewhere in his digestive system (sigh). We hear that there is a good dentist in Antigua so we may be giving him a call meanwhile Mark is not in any pain, as long as he does not eat ice cream, which is not a huge challenge on board given our tiny freezer space which has been reserved for meat. 

One of the things we have really been enjoying is the discovery of  many interesting species of plants, birds and other neat creatures. 

We are now in Guadeloupe, hoping to visit THE Jacques Cousteau Under Water Marine Park on Pigeon Island and the Botanical Gardens in DesHaies. This will also be our last chance to get our fill of delicious pastries, baguettes and sausages for a while.

Waiting for Ice cream

A little visitor on our anchor chain !

The Bay where Amelie was anchored 

Meg putting up the Quarantine Flag upon Arrival