In the last post, you’ll have read Nick’s account of his appendicitis. This post will describe what I was doing whilst Nick was in hospital being looked after by pretty nurses, and what we did for 4 weeks in Guadeloupe whilst he was getting well enough to sail again.
To pick up where I left off in my blog about Les Saintes, we went to the doctor, and she decided to have him sent immediately to Guadeloupe, the parent island of Les Saintes, where there is a hospital with equipment to scan him to provide an accurate diagnosis, and if necessary, operate. Within 30mins of us being inside the doctor’s office, Nick was on his way to Guadeloupe on a speed boat full of paramedics and I was waving goodbye to him on the dock, worrying about two things, firstly Nick, hoping he was going to be ok, and secondly about me, what the hell was I going to do now? How was I going to see him and what was I going to do with the boat? Although I’ve sailed with Nick to the Caribbean, and have plenty of sailing experience, I’ve never sailed the boat alone, and really didn’t want to start now under these circumstances.
To my rescue (literally) came our friends from Germany, Robert & Anna, and Mike and Katja (with their son Nicklaus). They knew we were going to the doctors and our fears of appendicitis and were waiting for us to inform them of what happened. From the ferry dock, I started to walk back to Borne, at anchor a little over a mile away; I was pleased for the time to get my thoughts together before having to do anything. Halfway back, I contacted our friends anchored across the bay using our mobile VHF, and explained to them the situation, that Nick was on his way to hospital and there was a good chance he would have an operation there too. My suspicion is that Robert and Mike had already had a discussion about this eventually, as they immediately offered to accompany me and Borne to Basse Terre (the town on Guadeloupe where the hospital is). The alternative to this was leaving Borne at anchor and getting a ferry and bus to the hospital (round trip of several hours each day); I wanted to be with Nick asap so I took them up on the offer and agreed to meet them on Borne in about 30mins, by which time I should be back onboard.
I got to the dinghy dock in the anchorage where earlier that morning Nick and I had tied up to go to the doctors. The dinghy started and I began motoring out to Borne, but, I suppose due to my distressed state of mind, I’d left a rope in the water. The rope promptly wrapped itself around the dinghy’s prop, and the engine stopped. Our paddles don’t work as the mounts are broken, before I could think about what to do, I was being blow out to sea. After about a minute of panicking I realised the problem and managed to unwrap the rope and continue back to Borne (during which time another sailor was coming to check on me as it was obvious I was in trouble).
I finally arrived back onboard just as Mike and Robert arrived too. The three of us got to work packing up the boat ready to move to Guadeloupe. I explained that really I only needed one of them to come with me so we decided that Robert would come and Mike would stay with Anna and Katja in their anchorage.
30mins later, we’d lifted the anchor and were on our way. It took us about 2-3 hours to motor-sail to Guadeloupe, not bad. However, this bad day was about to get worse. We arrived at the Basse-Terre marina, to find it was closed for building works. There was a very rolly anchorage outside the marina they wanted us to move to, but for me alone onboard, being at anchor in this place was very undesirable. Robert was a super hero (not the only time in this story), and explained my situation and argued with the marina staff until they gave in and agreed for me to stay for 1 night only, having to move in the morning to the anchorage. We agreed, by this time it was about 5pm and Robert needed to get the last ferry back to Les Saintes, and I needed to get to the hospital to find out what was happening with Nick. Robert managed to get a taxi and I got a lift to the hospital with one of the kinder people working at the marina who I think took pity on me.
Upon arriving at the hospital, I was faced with my next challenge; how do I find Nick? It was Thursday before Easter weekend, and there was no one in sight other than a coffee bar manager. I walked over to him and miraculously he spoke quite good English. I explained the situation and he took me to admissions, spoke to them in French, found out where Nick’s room was, and then he took me there. Before he left I asked him if there would be any taxi’s to take me back to the marina for the night, and he said probably not, but for now I wasn’t worried because I wanted to see Nick.
Nick was in a bad way, he looked very ill, and I was really upset to see him like this. The scans showed it definitely was appendicitis and he was going to be operated on asap. I was pleased it had been diagnosed and he was going to be treated, but was worried as now he was going to have an operation! 20mins after I got there, he was taken into surgery, and I kissed him goodbye as he went into the operating room.
The coffee shop man reappeared and said that he had arranged for me to get a lift home with his car-share person, a nurse from the hospital, leaving in 30mins. I waited with him at the coffee shop, and he very kindly gave me a croissant, fruit salad and a water, I hadn’t realised I was starving and hadn’t eaten since breakfast. This man was one of the kindest people we’ve met on the trip and I am so grateful for everything he did to help me that day.
I got back to the marina, and was all alone without Nick for the first time on this trip. I think I was the only person in the whole marina as they were closed for business (except for me). That was a very lonely night, and I was worried about Nick and about having to move the boat to the anchorage in the morning.
Morning came and I was awake early. I got up and walked to the sea wall to look at the anchorage, it looked rolly with a big swell and I wasn’t keen to go out there with Borne. I saw the same man who gave me a lift to the hospital the previous day, and he said I could stay in the marina another night – hurrah! And I managed to get another lift to the hospital.
Seeing Nick in his post-op state was quite shocking. That morning he looked as though he has aged 10 years (he’s back to normal now), and he was very weak and still in considerable pain. That, in combination with my own worries brought tears to my eyes and it was then that I realised how close I had come to losing him and how lucky we were to be in French territory.
Whilst I was there the phone rang, and I answered it to find it was Robert! He called to see how Nick was, and to tell me that they (himself, Anna, Mike and Katja) were going to sail their boats to Guadeloupe to be with me while I was at anchor. This for me was a massive relief and a huge weight lifted knowing that I would have friends near to assist with looking after Borne. I left Nick around 2pm, and walked back to the marina along a coastal path. On the way, I saw Timpertee and Nubia sailing past (the two boats), and I thought I had missed them! I ran back to Borne in the marina and turned on the VHF radio and hailed Timpertee. Robert said that they were going to a better anchorage just north of Basse Terre which would be much safer than the one by the marina, then he and Mike would get a bus/taxi down to me and we’d all take Borne to meet the others.
Mike and Robert arrived as the sun was setting, they had some difficulty getting transport to me as it was Good Friday. I left 20 Euros for the marina in their letterbox with a short note, and we were off. We arrived in the new anchorage, Anse a la Banque, a couple of hours later and after some fun and games trying to lay the anchor (bad holding) we joined Katja, Anna and Nicklaus and we all ate pasta for dinner.
The next day we all hitch-hiked to the hospital to see Nick. The update from the surgeon was that because the appendix had burst, Nick would be in hospital for at least a week, and then would need several weeks of rest before flying, sailing or swimming. We were there for an hour, and then went into town to try to find an internet connection so we could make some plans. At this point I was considering moving Borne to Antigua which is the nearest open marina, and flying back to Guadeloupe to stay in a hotel until Nick was able to travel back there with me. Without the internet it would be impossible to work out my options, and we couldn’t find a connection anywhere in Basse Terre, which was quite unbelievable.
With no internet or shops in the anchorage we were located, it wasn’t going to be a place to stay for long. We made a plan to move the boats to Deshaies, which was further north (50k from Nick in Basse Terre), but with shops and internet connectivity. I didn’t want to be further away from Nick, but we needed to be somewhere sustainable, and we knew we could hire a car there too.
The next day (Easter Sunday) we moved, Katja and me on Borne, Anna with Mike and Nicklaus on Nubia, and Robert on his own on Timpertee. The conditions were very calm, and we motored to Deshaies in a couple of hours without incident. Mike jumped onboard to assist with anchoring when we got there.
At one point in the afternoon, the catamaran anchored in front of me seemed to get quite close, so I called over Robert and Anna, who let out more chain and we moved back, I thought that was the end of it. We made a plan to get together for Easter dinner that evening. There were turtles swimming in the bay, and at one point dolphins, and it seemed a really nice place to be.
We had a lovely Easter dinner on Timpertee. As I left, Robert and Anna said they would leave their VHF on overnight just in case. That night I fell asleep almost straight away, as I was exhausted from everything over the last few days. For some reason, at 4am I woke up, I sat up and looked out the window, and I saw the Catamaran in front was now less than a meter away and we were pointing in different directions, as soon as either of us swung, we would hit! I got up, stuck my head outside and confirmed my fears, I then radioed Robert and Anna explaining the situation and asked for their help. Within 60 seconds Robert (the superhero) dinghy’d over to Borne, and just as he arrived the Catamaran hit us. Luckily there was no wind, so it was only a light touch, but of course we had to move Borne to a new place in the harbour. Robert lifted the anchor (not an easy job for that time of day, and probably impossible for me to do alone), and we moved Borne to a safer spot and dropped anchor.
Needless to say, I didn’t get back to sleep that night. I was still very worried for Nick (and wasn’t able to see him for another 2 days, although I could call), and I was feeling very sorry for myself in this seemingly helpless situation, which is not something I’m used to. I had a bit of a cry, then pulled myself together and made myself a cup of tea and some breakfast.
The sun rose, and Mike was up to check my anchor, and also that of the Catamaran. It turned out that the catamaran had dragged during the night so the collision was their fault (although they did nothing about it). In my new location, the anchor was not dug in, and was caught on a rock, so once more we needed to move and re-anchor. Mike and Robert jumped onboard, and we moved Borne again to a better part of the anchorage where there was sand underneath. Just as we lifted the anchor, the heavens opened and it rained buckets the whole time we were doing this. Just as the anchor set, the rain stopped – typical of my luck over these days! I spent the day drying out, getting some food from town, and tidying up, then called Nick at the hospital. He was in good spirits, and was already getting bored with being there – a good sign! Everyone came on to Borne for a beer as the sunset, and we tried to see the green flash, I’m not sure if anyone saw it! Then we headed into town to get pizza for dinner, however, the only Pizza restaurant we could get a table didn’t serve pizza that day (the waitress told us we could only buy pizza in a 15 minute time window, and we didn’t really understand this rather bizarre concept, and subsequently arrived too late to get the pizza). So, we decided to attempt to get pizza the next day and went back to our boats.
The next morning (now Tuesday), Guadeloupe came to life after the bank holiday weekend, and we managed to hire a car. All 6 of us climbed into a ford fiesta, and made the 1.5hr journey on long and very winding roads south to Basse Terre. We all dropped into see Nick and I stayed there while the others went to see La Soufriere, the volcano, not too far away. Nick was looking much better than when I’d last seen him, and we spent the day together watching movies on the laptop and chatting. By now, Nick was sick of the food, and had decided that no matter what he would be out by the end of the week!
On the way home we all discussed the options, and decided to wait in Deshaies together until the end of the week, and hope Nick would be out. This would avoid having to move the boat to Antigua. I took the car the next day alone to the hospital, and this was the first time I drove on the right hand side, what a laugh! I hit the curb several times on that first trip, but managed to say on the road when driving past cliffs etc, so that’s the important thing!
The rest of the week went quickly. On Weds, Mike and Katja had a new weather report for the coming days, and they needed to leave Guadeloupe on the Friday to ensure a safe crossing to Antigua, after this time the wind would pickup. I went to see Nick on Thursday, and he was told he could leave on Friday. I broke Nick out of hospital and took him to the nearby supermarket and brought a roasted chicken and some cheese and bread (Nick couldn’t eat hospital food any more), and that night I had permission to sleep on of the chairs in his room. First thing in the morning we were up and out of there on condition we returned in 2 days at 7am to see the surgeon for a check up.
We arrived back in Deshaies on Friday morning, but not early enough to see Mike and Katja off. Anna and Robert were still there, so we had tea with them on board, and arranged to meet for dinner later, as they were leaving the next day.
The day after Robert and Anna left, there was a storm, and winds were up to 35kts in the anchorage – it was rough! Happily for us, the anchor held us well, and we were comfortable onboard, apart from nearly loosing the bimini I’d made in Gomera that Nick managed to rescue from being blown out to sea.
Apart from this, the next few weeks in Deshaies were pretty quiet. Nick and I took a car to the hospital every other day for the first 10 days or so for his wound to be checked and dressings changed. This was a tiresome trip by the end as we would need to be up at 5am to be there for 7am. After about 4 of these journeys, the surgeon was happy for Nicks wound to be dealt with locally, and we found a nurse’s office a short walk down the road, and went to see them every other day instead, which was much more convenient and cheaper than hiring a car! Everyday Nick grew stronger, and his pain got less and less.
Whilst we were in Deshaies, we met up with existing friends on Hitch-Hike Heidi and Vrijheid who were passing through, and made some new friends, Abby and Tom, on Bloom, with whom we spent a couple of lovely evenings.
We took the opportunity to explore locally, and went to the botanical gardens up the road which had very cute parrots that were quite happy to walk up your arms and stand on your head! We also took a really nice walk up and around the headland on the other side of which was a huge beautiful beach. We also took a trip to Pont-a-Pitre, the largest city in Guadeloupe, to buy a new battery for the boat as our old ones were no longer holding charge.
We ate out a lot to break up the monotony of being onboard (and the local supermarket had limited choice), and found a couple of great restaurants in town where we became regulars (Savannah – great for steaks and fish, and a Pizza restaurant just down the street from there with blue shutters).
The biggest sign for me that Nick was nearly better was that a week or so before we left, he started fishing again. He had seen big King Fish (a.k.a. Cero’s) jumping in the harbour and decided he was going to catch one! For many days Nick was catching live bait from the boat, and attaching them to big hooks over night waiting for one of his prize fish to bite…when this failed, he changed tactics and migrated to trawling from the dinghy at dusk. However, his attempts weren’t to be rewarded, as the King Fish eluded him, and won the battle, much to Nick’s frustration and disappointment (especially when the locals were catching them nearly every day using the same methods). But it kept him busy and I’m sure the activity helped him get better more quickly.
Finally the time came for us to take one last trip to Basse Terre for Nick to see the surgeon and hopefully get the all clear to sail, as we have an appointment in the US Virgin Islands to get the boat shipped back to the UK on 16th May (now moved back to 26th May, but we didn’t know that at the time).
The ‘All clear’ was finally given, and at last Nick was officially well again, still with a small wound, but much, much better. We stocked up on supplies in Basse Terre before heading back to Deshaies. We then waited another couple of days for wind before leaving and set sail for our last destination on this trip, the Virgin Islands.
(The pic is not really relevant to the story but I don’t have one that is and I like this picture)
I want to explain that I started to write this blog at 4am in the morning and under the influence of some pretty strong drugs so if I veer off a little into fantasy then please bear with me, since reality is in the eyes of the beholder.
A few days ago Mel and I had been talking about how it will be when we return to the UK. How we will take great pleasure in the seemingly simple experience like heading to our local pub for the best Sunday roast dinner, cuddling down in bed to watch a movie with Dave our cat or walking in the beautiful fields surrounding our home.
You see, this trip has been all about experiences and they really have been coming at us thick and fast. Mel wrote the last blog but she actually missed quite a bit out which was mine to write about and true to form I was too busy experiencing to actually blog about it.
I promise the missing stories will follow very soon but to give you a taster here is a very short synopsis:
In the Tobago cays we narrowly missed being smashed and dismasted by a very large catamaran dragging its anchor and also saved them from being wrecked on a reef. Our trip would have ended there and it certainly would have ruined their day.
We ran Borne hard onto a reef on the perilous and lightly visited East coast of Martinique and thanks to Robert (the Hood), escaped with barely a scratch.
Being a leap year, Mel asked me to marry her. I like to think I am not totally stupid so of course I said yes before she could change her mind.
We have agreed to send Borne back to the UK by Cargo ship.
Then of course there is all the usual stuff, deserted anchorages with white sandy beaches, beautiful blue skies dotted with wispy sheep…..sorry, I mean clouds (the drugs!), BBQ’s on the beach with people we have come to regard as good friends. Hunting for the dream fish (the all consuming search for the mythical 10Kg+ snapper that I see in my dreams but have yet to tempt in front of my spear, sailing in perfect trade winds (we found them at last) etc, etc…..
Back to the present.
I suppose I should explain that I am writing this while sitting in a hospital room on the French island of Guadeloupe.
What happened was this:
Tues 3rd April
Mel and I had a great day. We were anchored off a small group of French islands call Les Saints, the closest to paradise that we have found in the Caribbean. In the morning we took the dingy and motored a couple of miles to one of the deserted outlying islands and there, with the whole island to ourselves, we spent the day spearfishing. Though there were not a lot of large fish, the coral reef was rich and in every hole sat a small lobster. When under the water, we could hear whale song and I saw three turtles. Mel is turning out to be quite a natural freediver but this was her first time with a speargun in her hand and I am quite distressed to report that the days score was: Nick – 1 fish, Mel – 4 fish.
My woman was a natural hunter….how proud was I?
We headed back to Borne and while we were relaxing down below we had a visit from a young couple, Heather (American) and Phillip (British) who were anchored just behind us who invited us back to theirs for a drink. We got changed and headed across and were joined by another British couple. The six of us spent a couple of very pleasurable hours sipping BAD rum (brought to the party by me) and indulging in great conversation and a lot of laughter. After, we headed back to Borne. My rule has always been that if you kill it then you need to eat it and we had fish for dinner. Mel fried up the squid that I had shot and after we had munched that I went out on deck to tend to my two fishing rods which are almost always seen pocking out from the sides of the boat when we are at anchor.
That’s when the pain started. I came down below for the main course. The fish were simply fried in butter and served with only a lemon but no less delicious for it. Mel had shot a Squirrel fish, a yellow tailed snapper (a baby dream fish), a glass eye (the best of the bunch) and a type of jack called a blue runner.
By the end of dinner I was really in some discomfort and stayed up for a while stretched out on the saloon berth while Mel went to bed. I figured I had eaten something bad and Mel suggested that I might have swallowed some bad water when diving as we think this made me ill in Gomera so I figured I would try to sleep and would be OK in the morning.
During the night I threw up and slept very little
Wednesday 4th April:
In the morning I was in real pain so I crawled into the front cabin and spent the day in bed.
In the afternoon Mel dug out our emergency medical book and looked up appendicitis. The pain was getting worse and had gone from a bad stomach ache to an excruciating pain in my right side just above my hip. I also had a bit of a fever and somewhere deep in my brain I must have linked these symptoms with appendix problems. Mel read out the symptoms from the book: upper abdominal pain developing into localised burning pain on the right side, some vomiting and fever with the only cure being urgent operation……oh hell!.
It was late afternoon and the Doctors surgery was closed on Wednesday. It still didn’t seem so urgent as it might still be trapped wind or a little food poisoning….I hoped.
We decided to reassess in the morning so I made myself as comfortable as I could curled up in the front and Mel spent the night in the saloon. It was another sleepless night for me but after a peak in pain during the early hours it seemed to be a little better.
Thursday 5th April
In the morning Mel helped me to get up and that was when the pain really hit me. My organised German side got Mel to pack an overnight bag with my documents, laptop and change of clothes etc and we dinghied in to a small pontoon by a pretty hotel on the beach near our anchorage. The walk to reception was only a 100 meters but seemed to take forever as Mel helped me up the hill. As we got there a Hotel shuttle bus was about to leave for the main town and they assumed we were staying at the hotel so we jumped aboard. We were dropped in the town about half a mile from the Doctors and after a slow walk we then had a 2 ½ hr wait before we were seen by a very friendly but totally professional lady doctor. I was still not taking it really seriously as I could make myself reasonably comfortable when I was sitting or lying down and I was shocked when the doctor calmly explained that she was calling for a helicopter to take me to the hospital on the mainland (Guadeloupe) for urgent tests. Minutes later an ambulance arrived and we were taken to the small island airfield only to be told that the Police helicopter that had been called was on another emergency job so I was to be ferried by boat. We ended up by a small dock where a 10 meter workboat waited with three crew onboard. As soon as I was on board they slipped the lines and I had to shout a quick farewell to Mel and we were off for the 20 minute ride across to the main island. The seas were rough but the small boat was powerful and heavy with a small wheelhouse in which I wedged myself and she powered smoothly through the seas. Suddenly the crew started shouting excitedly and pointing. Behind us the tail flukes of a massive whale reared up and smashed flat into the sea sending a cascade of water high into the air. As the spray settled the whale did it again and as we watched behind us he continued until we were out of sight. This was a very special experience for me. I have seen many whales and dolphins and have even swum with both but I have never seen a whale raise his flukes and I had told Mel that this was one of the things I hoped to see on this trip. Anyone who knows me will be aware that I wear a silver whale tail tied around my neck and that other than changing the cord a couple of times it has not been removed in the last 17 years or so and I see it as something of a good luck charm. Seeing the real thing waving at me at such a time sent me a special message that everything would turn out OK. On arrival there was another ambulance to whisk me to the hospital. I can’t stress enough how grateful I am for the kindness and high level of professionalism shown by everyone involved.
Once at the hospital I was again checked by a doctor and after a small wait I was showered (a rare pleasure these days) and taken for an ultrasound check. They had already decided to operate straight away and the ultrasound confirmed that my appendix had burst. I met the surgeon, a bear of a man with big round shoulders and a grim face but a sharp sense of humour, and was told that he had four quick operations first then I would be number five. Mel had arrived at the hospital. It seems her day had been more traumatic than mine. After preparing Borne with the help of Mike from “Nubia” and Robert (the hood) from “Timpetee” she and Robert sailed her over to Guadeloupe and after Robert headed off for the ferry back to Les Saints Mel came to the hospital. I will let Mel tell her own story about this as it was not nearly as simple a trip as I have portrayed it.
About seven o’clock Mel accompanied me to the surgery and said goodbye at the door. I had my first moment of real fear. I hate to be put under anaesthetic. I think it’s a fear of not being in control, of not being directly responsible for what happens. I have always considered myself pretty level headed and fearless but when they laid me on the table in the operating room and strapped my arms down so they could knock me out I was scared.
I remember opening my eyes to see the surgeon talking angrily with the anaesthetist and saw I was still in the theatre and got the impression that I should not be awake yet and then I was out again. My next memory is chatting to the young intern who had taken me for the ultrasound and who had been in the operation. She told me that I had woken up three times before and each time had asked for a cheeseburger and fries (I hadn’t eaten or drunk all day). After a while in recovery I was taken to my room where I read until late then slept in small batches for the rest of the night.
Friday 6th April
In the morning the surgeon came to see me. All had gone OK but he explained that I was very infected and that it had been a very urgent operation. He showed me the small incision in my side (still open to drain the bad stuff….yuck!) and I asked him what would have happened if I had left it any later and he made a cutting motion with his fingers from my neck to my groin. Mel came in as he went out and sat with me for most of the day. We discussed how lucky we were. It’s difficult to accept that given another day or so I might have died. Our journey has been full of danger but it has all felt quantifiable and in the end reasonably controllable but to be put at risk by something as uncontrollable as infection is almost unthinkable. The Gods have always been kind to me and when I consider the possible outcomes if this had happened anywhere else I realise just how lucky I am. Had I fallen ill crossing the Atlantic then I would probably not be around to write this and had it happened on any island other than a French one which is considered to be France and therefore free healthcare for EU citizens then I would be in a hut somewhere being operated on with a machete….I kid you not!
Later Mel returned to the boat and I settled down with a good book until I slept.
Saturday 7th April:
I woke up early in the morning in a lot of pain and needing to use the loo. It’s a long and painful journey. The toilet door is less than a meter from the bed and it takes me about 20 minutes to get there and back. Yes, I could call the for a nurse but I can still walk, just, so my pride won’t let me. The sequence goes something like this:
1Shuffle up a little in the bed (takes time to move the 3 or 4 inches I need)
2Press the button and wait for the top of the bed to go as high as it can
3Sit up. This is a long and painful process as I can’t put any pressure on my stomach muscles without agony.
4Swing legs off bed…see number 3.
5Now the hard bit…to stand up….still in a bent over, sitting position.
6Try to stand straight. This takes a couple of minutes and needs to be done slowly.
7Shuffle…..very slowly…..to the toilet door dragging the drip stand with you. This last part is very important as you are attached to the drip and the stand is required in step 9.
8Locate yourself with the loo behind you and move the drip stand (drip is in the right arm) to the left side.
9With right hand on handle screwed into the wall and left hand using the drip stand for support you lower yourself onto the loo.
To get back to bed you then repeat the above in reverse order.
Now if that isn’t traumatic enough there is the vampire. A blood sucking beast of huge proportions…meanus mosquitos maximus …to give him his latin name.
I know he is waiting for me as he taunts me by buzzing right in front of my face only to disappear as soon as I make a weak swipe at him (my reactions are not very good at the moment).
He bit me this morning when I went…..in a place where he could never have bitten Mel…..and frankly I am not happy.
Once back in bed I called the nurse for the first time to ask for some pain killers and she plugged in a bottle of something good to my drip and that’s when I started to write this blog. Its 7.40am now, I am a slow typist and I have a bite on my neck and on my arm so I know that the vampire escaped with me when I left the toilet. He seems to be full up now as he has left me alone for a while, of course, he could be sitting on a wall somewhere stoned out of his head on my blood.
The Surgeon has just been to visit. It’s a Saturday and he made the trip in just to see me. I can’t begin to express my gratitude to the staff at this hospital. They are fantastic. Almost everyone is smiling and they all try very hard to communicate with me in broken English. I feel safe and in good hands here.
The Surgeon has said that if I had my appendix removed normally I would be back on the boat by now, instead I am laying in bed almost unable to move. This is because the infection was so bad and he tells me I might be here a little while but would not be drawn on how long.
All in all I feel very fortunate. I am on the mend and my worry is for Mel who is having to look after Borne on her own but we have great friends on board Timpetee and Nubia who are moving their boats to be with Borne and keep an eye on her and Mel.
We left Martinique at 4pm heading directly for Les Saintes on an overnight passage, bypassing Dominica. Nick and I had decided upon arriving in Martinique that we really love the French islands, so we decided to miss out Dominica which is much poorer than it’s European neighbours (although we’re told extremely beautiful rainforest) and head directly to another far flung corner of the EU.
We arrived in Les Saintes a mere 18 hours later, having had the best sail of the whole trip to date, averaging 6 knots, our norm is only 4. On my watch between midnight and 4am, I was accompanied by a bird that would fly above the cockpit and swoop down and around the boat. The wind was between 10 and 12 knots all the way, and we carried full sail and it was truly delightful.
Les Saintes is nothing short of beautiful. It consists of 2 main islands Terre de Haut (the more populated and touristic), and Terre de Bas, surrounded by 3 or 4 smalled Islets within dinghy reach of the main anchorages. There are several beautiful and well sheltered anchorages with many sandy beaches and great French food. Of all the places we’ve visited, if we won the lottery one day, then we’d definitely return for several months as we really did just love it.
The diving/snorkelling is the best we’d found so far with crystal clear seas and nearly every day we had fun playing in the water with the fish. I even leant to free dive (only down to 9 meters so far), and then Nick armed me with a gun and I went spearfishing for the first time, and caught 4 fish – all edible but all rather small….nevertheless, I was very proud of myself, and have even committed to continue when we return to the UK (weather permitting)! We also spent an afternoon of fun and laughter with Maarten from Lola learning to wakeboard!
Whilst we were there we met with many friends, old and new. Of the usual crowd nearly all the Duchies were there, as well as our German friends on Nubia and Timpertee, and as usual, we all got together for a beach BBQ the second night we were there. We made new friends on TigerLilly, and Heather and Phillip over in the Pain de Sucre anchorage. Lilly from Tigerlilly took us on an energetic (and fun) hike to the top of the hill where there’s an old Napoleonic fort and the views were amazing.
Our last day of fun in Les Saintes was spent free diving and spearfishing on our own personal island. Nick and I took our dinghy over to one of the islets, and found a huge reef with very beautiful fish (where I caught my 4), it was a perfect day.
Before we knew it, 1 week had turned to 3 and we were still trying to leave, but kept finding reasons to stay. However, our luck changed, and produced a reason to leave this wonderful place, and it wasn’t a good one…Nick developed burst appendix…
We arrived in Bequia (pronounced Bekway) in mid February after our adventures in the Tobago Cays (Nick’s blog to come soon). I thought it wasn’t possible, but Bequia is even more beautiful, and on top that, a little more tourist friendly than some of the other islands, with a huge choice of restaurants and beautiful beaches right next to the anchorage. My favourite place on the journey so far.
The first day we took a trip into the main town to buy some food and check it out. We wandered into the fruit and vegetable market and encountered around 10 stalls with very friendly and enthusiastic vendors. Two of whom were real characters. The first was a rastaman who tried to sell Nick some local ganja and was very funny, his sales pitch included gems like ‘they put it in da cakes, give dem to the guests at da parties and everybody go crazy’ and then turned to me and put his face 2inches away from mine and loudly rejoiced with a big smile ‘It’s all about de ganja’! All the while the other vendors looked on and rolled their eyes. We still laugh about it nearly every other day.
The second was an elderly lady running a small stall, she approached Nick and tried to sell him a Soursop (a tasty local fruit), she held her little finger up to him and said ‘It make your little mon stand up’…we laughed a lot, but passed on the soursop!
We also dropped into a local fishing tackle shop and I spotted the perfect T-shirt for Nick, with the logo ‘Don’t Buy Dem, Catch Dem’ which of course, we had to buy
Nick’s mum & dad kindly gave us some money for Christmas to put towards a hotel for a day or so as a treat for us to stay away from the boat, in a nice proper bed with a shower for the first time since we left. So, I did some research immediately upon arriving in Bequia, and found us a beautiful small hotel (4 rooms) called the Sweet Retreat, located on a hill overlooking Admiralty Bay. The owners, Shelby and Roger really looked after us and helped us do a mountain of washing too! It was a beautiful place, and our balcony over looked super yachts including the Royal Navy ship that brought Prince Edward to town whilst we were there, and another huge motor yacht believed to be owned by Roman Abramovic as well as little Borne, a small spec in the distance. We had amazing dinner there, against a backdrop of singing tree frogs, and for breakfast feasted on fresh fruit salad and freshly cooked muffins (Shelby cooks approx 4000 muffins per year)! We felt great for having had a good night’s sleep without kicking each other and hot showers, luxury!
Also in Bequia with us were lots of friends including Maarten and Daan, Robert and Anna, and a number of other German and Dutch boats who we’ve met along the way, so all in all we had a great time there.
The last thing to say about Bequia is that on 29th Feb I asked Nick to marry me and he said yes…after coming this far, how could we not?
On 1st March it rained, all day…so we decided to sail to St Vincent?!?! We went directly to Walliabou Bay, which is one of the main sets where the first Pirates of the Caribbean film was shot. To be honest, it was quite run down, and many of the buildings used for the film were ruins, which was disappointing. However, there was good snorkelling, and we met some real characters in the locals who made us laugh. Robert and Anna were there with us and we enjoyed a BBQ with them where we saw some huge bats flying around the boat, at least 40 cm wing span.
Another evening we went to the bar directly onshore from the boat, which served famous ‘Jack Sparrow Rum Punch’! We were chatting to the owner and another local called Bagga, and realised that all the men have two names, their own, and an alias. So, with the help of the bar owner, Robert is now known as ‘Robert the Hood’, and Nick as ‘Big Mac’.
Our time in St Vincent was only a few days, and then we moved on to St Lucia. We had a horrendous sail that took us 12 hours, during which time we were slapped by huge confused waves and big gusts off the northern tip of St Vincent. We’d read this was likely in one of the pilot books, so we were prepared, but we still hated every minute of it. So much so, that we decided on that passage not to sail Borne home, and instead, have her shipped back to Southampton from the US Virgin Islands. This will cost a few pennies, but for us well worth it as the sail back to the UK will be colder and longer than the way here.
St Lucia was a tale of two halves. We arrived in Soufriere, in the south directly next to the famous Pitons, which are huge (the photo’s just never seem to show this effectively) and very beautiful. We could see them for miles before we were anywhere near the island. Robert and Anna joined us the next day, and together we walked to the Sulpher Springs which is what is left of the crater of the main volcano on St Lucia. The smell was awful, but after the obligatory tour, we bathed ourselves in a mineral rich hot mud stream, which sounds gross, but I’m sure would cost £100’s in a spa, and then rinsed off in the outdoor showers. I must admit, that my skin did feel amazing afterwards, even if I did smell of ‘eau d’egg’ for the next 24 hours.
One evening in Soufriere, Nick and Robert decided to head to shore to talk to the locals fishing on the beach to find out about their techniques. Armed with a bottle of rum and a number of cokes, they approached them and soon became firm friends (Anna and I sensibly remained on board). They learned some fishing techniques, before another local turned up who makes his money by walking up 100-150ft high palm trees, to pick coconuts for tourists. He demonstrated his talent of walking (not climbing) up these trees to Nick and Robert, when one of the fishermen said to them “They call him the ‘Lizard’”. Big Mac and Robert the Hood by this time were fearless (through drinking a few rums) and of course tried to climb up themselves, but fortunately didn’t get high enough to do any damage!
Then, after months of ‘raw Caribbean’ (which was lovely but by now we’re craving western food), we encountered civilisation again in Rodney Bay. We needed to go to the marina there, which is the first big proper marina we’d been to since Gomera (there is one in Grenada too but we didn’t stay there). It was a very welcome break. We could walk off the boat onto dry land without having to use the dinghy, and the marina had lots of different restaurants, all of which were just like you’d find at home i.e. a fantastic pizza place, great cheeseburgers, thai, sushi, deli’s etc, etc. Heaven! Not to mention hot showers! They also had big supermarkets, some of which sold Waitrose branded products, so we stocked up!
Robert and Anna were there too, and we went to a mad street party which happens every Friday night in a nearby village. The main street is closed, and at one end a wall of huge speakers is built belting out reggae and latest hits, whilst locals bbq on the side of the street and sell drinks (beer and rum mainly) out of cool boxes. There were lots of tourists there but also locals and it was a lot of fun. We left earlyish, and decided to go to the casino in Rodney Bay to continue our night out. Robert the Hood did well and managed to play for a long time after Nick and I were out of funds, but unfortunately we all left empty handed.
We left St Lucia a couple of days later, heading for Martinique, our first French island, where many adventures, good and bad, have taken place…check out the next blog coming soon…
To say we were relieved when we finally put down the anchor in Prickly Bay, would be an understatement. Our last 6 hours sailing on the approach to Grenada was pretty stormy and both of us were very pleased to have reached safe harbour after 27 days at sea.
The first thing we did was make a cup of tea, (something that we’d only attempted once during the crossing, and I pretty much succeeded in redecorating the boat in hot tea that time, so we didn’t bother again after that)! Our next mission was to find warm, fresh, delicious food!
Before heading ashore we needed to sort out ourselves and the boat, and get online to phone our parents to say we’d made it (we had no comms during the crossing).
Just as we were ready to head ashore, a small yacht entered the harbour, we were in the dingy by the time they were close enough for us to see the name, and we were delighted to find that our friends from Germany, who we’d previously met in Portugal and Gomera, Anna and Robert had come to see if we’d arrived!
We said a brief hello and arranged to meet up on shore later for food and a drink! We ate burgers and fries for dinner which is terribly unsophisticated, but is what Nick and I had been dreaming and talking about eating for the previous two weeks whilst sailing, and our appetites were at last satisfied!
Anna and Robert had been on Grenada for 10 days already. We visited St George, Grenada’s capital with them where we stocked up on food, and Nick acquired some fine duty free rum, and they told us about how to get around the island and what’s good to see.
A couple of things that struck me about Grenada in the first 24 hours, firstly, the beautiful birds that flutter about making lovely noises, secondly the never before tried or seen fruit and vegetables, and finally, the bus system. The bus system is really quite amazing. The fares are set centrally, but the buses themselves are owned and driven by private individuals who get the equivalent of a large people carrier and convert it to seat nearly 20 people (in England you’d get no more than 8). There is usually a second person assisting the driver who calls out to anyone on the route strolling along to see if they want a ride, and they respond with a nod or shake of the head. There is no central isle on these buses, so if someone at the back needs to get out of a packed bus, then around 8 people need to crawl out first, wait, and then get back in. The great thing is that there are lots of buses going past all the time, so it’s normally only a matter of minutes before you can catch one, and they are very good value for money. Not only do they get you there, but they always play very load local music and even sometimes play the corresponding video to keep passengers entertained!
After a few days at Prickly Bay, we sailed a couple of bays east (upwind) to a place recommended to us called Hog Island. This is a smallish bay sandwiched between a small island (reportedly now owned by Four Seasons) and the main island of Grenada. There is a bridge in-between to the adjoining Clarkes Court Bay which is bigger with a couple of marinas, one of which called Whisper Cove run by a French couple offering a beautiful view from their bar/restaurant as well as their own butchers/shop and wifi! One of the barmaids at Whisper Cove was fascinated with Nicks hair, and asked him if he gets a hairdresser to dye it grey for him (because she thought he was so much younger than he is apparently)! It was very funny & Nick was thrilled!
Hog Island itself has a small beach, with only one building, a ram shackled but perfect bar with it’s own stage which comes alive on Sunday evenings. All drinks cost the same, and everyone from the anchorage is treated to a wonderful reggae concert and local food – it was fantastic! In addition to the great entertainment, our Dutch friends we met in Gomera, Daan and Maarten and Bouka and Ronne arrived with their two young daughters, so we had lots of fun with them.
Whilst we were anchored there, we decided to take Daan and Maarten to visit a place called Seven Sisters Falls (recommended by Robert and Anna). This involved two buses, one to St George, and the other up into the centre of the island (on a bus with questionable suspension). Eventually we hopped off and started up a track indicated by a sign post. After a few feet we found a bar/office where we were charged a small fee to visit the falls, and were provided with sticks to aid us on the short hike there. The walk there was pretty steep in places, but well worth the effort. The falls were stunning, and after we ate lunch (homemade pate with French bread from Whisper Cove) we all jumped in for a swim. The water was cool and refreshing and it was so lovely to swim in fresh water for a change. The boys had fun jumping off the falls into the pool below whilst Daan and I posed for photos! It was a good day.
After a few more days of chilling and BBQs at Hog Island, we decided it was time to move on, so we sailed around to St George to allow us to stock up on food again before leaving Grenada, during which time our M&S plates decided to fly across the boat and about a third got smashed. We arrived rather wet and hungry so quickly dingy’d over to the swanky Port Louis marina for a well deserved Pizza and Salad.
The next day we sailed a few miles north and anchored in Grand Mal Bay, to the north of which is a wonderful underwater sculpture park in a sheltered area perfect for snorkelling. We took some underwater cams and got some great pics of the sculptures and saw some pretty cool fish too.
After two nights we headed north, again into the wind, towards Carriacou, a small island part of Grenada. It took 12 hours of motor sailing to get there and we were taken some ways off course for a time by a strong westerly current (our fault for ignoring Doyle’s recommendations). Eventually we got there, but then in the harbour managed to touch bottom whilst trying to find a suitable spot to anchor, a heart stopping moment. It wasn’t the best sailing day of our lives! Finally we anchored and went to shore for dinner, we both had Lambi (which is conch shellfish), not bad, but not amazing either in our opinion.
After a good night’s sleep we went ashore again, and I fell in love with a local called Bandit…A Labrador-cross puppy. He was gorgeous and we played with him for a few hours whilst drinking lethal rum punch on the beach. I was very drunk, and Nick was well on the way too by the time we got back to the boat and the next day was challenging to say the least.
The rest of our time in Carriacou was marred by bad weather, the normally idyllic Sandy Island was grey and wet, so we decided to move on to a Union island and a new country, St Vincent & the Grenadines….