It’s Thursday…I thinkĀ 

On the bow of the boat somewhere between the north and south of Guadeloupe James asked me “what day is it today?”…”It’s Thursday, I think” was my reply. It is not an easy state of mind to reach but now it has been achieved it will be hard to give up….no news reader to remind us of the time or date or traffic conditions or even the state of the globe and with only intermittent internet access to check out the news it is as close as we will ever be to disengaged. Not sure at this stage if that is good or bad? 

Not long after we parted ways with Antigua, we decided to hike from the lovely French village of Deshaies, in the north of Guadeloupe, along the river (of the same name). The book described it as a path with some rock jumping, about 3 hours return in duration, to a beautiful gully and a waterfall. We set off with Mike and Charlie into a rainforest wilderness on a typical Carribean road via a garbage dump. It was serenely quiet except for the sound of the river running to the sea and once we were out of the view of the town it became a tropical riverbed full of large boulders, ferns and intermittent pools of fresh water almost big enough to swim in. All good! The road ran out, and was replaced by a type of track. The track ran out and was replaced by nothing – the next 2 hours were a rock hopping, step class that any personal trainer would have been proud of!  Sweat poured off, our shoes became wet and slippery causing a couple of minor falls and by the time we got back to the boat exhaustion and stiffness had set in (well to me anyway)…seriously a great day!!

A long session of snorkelling around the circumference of Pidgeon Island was like a quick trip around the world. It dawned on me that life under the water goes on night and day just as it does on the land – this place is a microcosm of the world. It was quickly evident that there are different types of terrain including the desert (large patches of sand), hills, mountains, gullies and gorges, rocks with vegetation and forests waving in the current. To boot is the varied fish life ranging in size from almost microscopic to edible size; some are long and lithe, some are short and dumpy, some are taller from fin to fin than they are from gills to tail and they also propel themselves in different ways! I watched as a colourful orange and black fish swam past me as if it was turbo-charged and it reminded me of a wind up bath toy. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that I now understand why groups of fish are called schools…I recognised the snooty private school group all dressed up in dark blue blazers and swimming together in a tight format, the naughty high school group in a myriad of colours doing their own thing, the school bully who would target a lone youngster and head at it like a missile just to frighten it, the Headmistress in black with lips pursed, and the kindergarten group, oh so cute, being shepherded by the class teacher – of larger size and dowdy colouring. And always lurking, like the officious legislator, we saw a large barracuda, just looking for an excuse to hang around! Even the coral is a reminder of the world above – it’s architectural shapes a reminder of cathedrals and tubular buildings that are the receptacle of large numbers of fish which hang around with purpose or peep out from underneath mimicking the human race! 

Dominica is best described as a Garden of Eden! Gone is the European influence of the islands we have just previously visited; this place is a naturalists dream! We spent a day (10 hours if truth be known) in a mini van driven by Winston, a 68 year old local with one eye who grew up in Dominica and is passionate and protective about his beautiful homeland. He steered us around the island using his horn at any and every opportunity and knowing the roads well (sometimes I had to close my eyes) we gleaned a bit about the history and culture of the island. The physical devastation that Dominica suffered in more recent times, including the torrential rains that hit on August 27th 2015, has left it with major road issues with bridges being washed away (the use of the Bailey bridge system reminded me of a divided Hobart when the bridge was hit by a ship in the 1970’s) and parts of the road hanging on to the edge for grim death, but even that doesn’t detract from the overwhelming and stunning beauty of the island. The fruit and vegetables grown here are prolific – bananas, watermelon, limes, sugar cane, pineapples are abundant and the dense verdant vegetation is incredible! A slow boat ride up the Indian River at sun-up topped us up with Dominican flavours and the constant reminder on the road signs of “Keep Dominica beautiful” seems perfectly achievable!

Moving on

In a few days time Miss Tiggy will set sail on the Oyster Round World Rally. Our Crew is now complete – Michael Roberts rejoined us from Melbourne complete with coffee pods for our Nespresso machine, 4 tubes of vegemite and most importantly, the Maddie Riewoldt Vision (MRV) flag that is now flying proudly with our Aussie one to lead us home across the Pacific. The addition to the team is Charlie Vinten, a young Brit who we met originally in Palma and has been a skipper on another Oyster 575 for the past 7 months. Gone is my amazing friend and chef across the Atlantic, Michelle Elia, which leaves me as chief of the galley with the main responsibility of feeding 3 hungry men! “Come back” Mich I say!!

A word about Antiguans…

If the world was populated with the people of Antigua what a different place it would be. Hospitable, relaxed, friendly, amusing, happy are just a few adjectives to describe these Carribean characters. Our recent visit to a plumbing and hardware store perfectly demonstrated to us what it is to be Antiguan. We witnessed, while in a long line to check out with our goods (due to their antiquated accounting system) their way of verbalising dissastisfaction at having to wait. There was no abuse or complaining but merely a comment made by one man to the girl behind the counter saying that his legs were very tired. Rather than ignore him she replied that she would be happy to lift him and take the weight off his feet. The banter was gentle and fun, so different from big city queues and stressed out shoppers! Two of my favourites are below – Sheena who made me a delicious cappuccino most mornings that we were in Catamaran Marina and Beverley who did our laundry on a regular basis…everything was always executed with a smile!

 

In two days time James and I will have our Padi Open Water Diving licenses. Mind blowing is how I would describe my first experience of breathing under water! Why have I never done this before I ask?? Our Diving Instructor, Shawn, has taken us through a series of diving competencies and even though some of them were not that pleasant (e.g filling up the face mask with sea water at 10 metres of depth and then clearing it ) but the experience of being at neutral bouyancy and moving through the the water while breathing and looking at the spectacular coloured marine life has opened up a whole new world!

I have changed! I would never have described myself as stoic before this adventure but I have quickly learned that there are times when you just have to put up with being wet and uncomfortable or be able to assist with the needs of the yacht or crew, when all you want to do is sit quietly in a corner of the boat. If something broke at home, I would pick up the phone and get help – I now look at the problem and try to solve it myself, even to the point of hanging upside down in the bilge and clearing the blocked drain from the washing machine. Not much fluffing and coiffing and makeup is going on and shorts are now the mainstay of my wardrobe. Above and beyond that I have learnt the true meaning of “obey” (which I deleted from our wedding ceremony) because on a boat there is only one skipper and that is James! 

Last evening Oyster Yachts put on a dinner to farewell the fleet – the first of many social events and rum punches! There is a great deal of anticipation in the air as the culmination of months of planning and organising is coming to a head – the general feeling is “let’s get the show on the road” ! At 1300 on Sunday 15th of January, 30+ Oysters will sail out of English Harbour in Antigua on the first leg to New Zealand!