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Sailmithril - ocean cruising adventures

Tropical Island Hopping


Escaping the winter blues and learning to sail in the sun.

St Patrick's Day Montserrat
a mostly Irish crew

We arrived in St Lucia just in time for Christmas, which was hot and humid but also quiet and relaxing. Our next lot of crew arrived in mid January.  We revisited some of the islands to the south, which didn't seem to have changed much since 1994 when we were last here. It was wonderful to be snorkelling on coral again after so long. The Tobago Cays were a highlight of this cruise and we were surprised to find fewer yachts than before. For the first time we tied up in St Vincent which used to have a very bad reputation and poor facilities. The harbour wall was still poor especially for smaller boats but the town was great. Fewer yachts, cruise ships and tourists come here and it retains much of its old character with lovely old colonial buildings. The main Catholic church was a busy mishmash of styles and full of people singing and nuns washing the tiled floors. Just across the street, the Anglican Cathedral was a graceful empty pile with high ceilings and mouldering carpets. We got some good sailing weather with fast reaches and good bumpy beats in the lee of the islands. We returned to St Lucia and the crew left at the end of January. We took February off and made our way slowly northwards through the islands as far as St Martin which we had never visited before. This is very touristy indeed with dozens of cruise ships calling every day. It is a duty free island and filled with tacky shops. We did manage to buy 2 new outboards. We were feeling unexpectedly wealthy by then as we had confirmed bookings for 7 crew during March. To meet them we sailed south to Venezuela and the duty free island of Margarita. This hadn't changed much either since 1994; the anchorage was still rolly and busy and yachties had dire warnings about not walking to town or changing money on the street. As it happened we didn't need to change money as the main supermarket took dollars at the black market rate. We had to purchase a hell of a lot of food for 9 people for 4 weeks and we wanted to get as much as possible in Venezuela where it was cheap. The boys also bought their supplies of beer and rum here making the ship jam packed with goodies. We had a hard beat northwards up island, which was a baptism by fire for the crew only a couple of whom had sailed much before. They all enjoyed the experience though and over the next 3 weeks most of them learned at least the rudiments of sailing. The highlight of the month was St Patrick's Day on Montserrat. The island is still dominated by a live volcano that belches forth smoke and sulphurous gases on a regular basis. The lads had a fine time. The anchorage is very rolly and open to the swell though. After another quick visit to St Lucia to go to the Friday night jump up that is recommended in all the guide books. We had an overnight passage back to Margarita when we motored most of the way. It was a very successful but tiring trip. The boys were all very good and did their share of the cooking and cleaning without complaint. Needless to say most of the beer was now finished but we did manage to find a few tins, which had become lost in the bilges. In fact, we came home with 98 tins all in all but I think we bought a few extra cases for the voyage. It was now April and we had intended having a couple more cruises before heading north for Canada but we got the word that all long distance cruisers dread - that an aged parent was seriously ill and we would have to decide whether to sail home or fly. We opted for sailing and set off from Venezuela on about the 4th of April to sail directly back to Ireland.
You can read about our return passage in another newsletter.
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copyright Geraldine Foley.