Saturday 1st January 2011 (Day 6)

Happy New Year from from 14o 56.405 North 36o 38.275 West. Since nobody else showed up to help us celebrate, we had our own little party in the saloon while we sailed along to tunes from the “Are We There Yet” CD that our good friends David & Michelle gave us. We danced the Maccarena, ate some funny tasting Spanish potato chips and even indulged in a small tasting of some honey rum we acquired along the way.

Monday 3rd January 2011 (Day 8)

I was sleeping in my cabin after coming off the early morning watch, just in that peaceful in-between euphoric haze that comes when you finally have time to yourself to sleep, but being an odd hour you lie there feeling like you should be doing something. All of a sudden my door flew open and Ginnie's head popped in, blasting me from my haze like a blow to the head; “Get up – Quick! We've got a fish and you're needed!!” I rolled out of bed and hastily pulled on my shorts as I made my way up to the cockpit, trying in vain to get both legs in at once. Cheryl was there, perched on the outer side of the cockpit, holding the fishing rod against the strain of a good bite. I shook off my groggy haze that still obscured my vision and movements and clumsily relieved Cheryl of the fishing rod while trying to gain a perch and not to drop the rod in the process. After 5 minutes of work, we'd landed another beautiful Mahi Mahi. Wearily I trudged back to bed, looking forward to my sleep!

Tucked up, back in bed, I quickly dozed off. The next instant I was awake as a torrent of sea water came pouring into my cabin, through the hatch, soaking my clothes, pillow and quilt. Roused from slumber once more, and in a not too kindly manner, I jumped up and pulled the hatch shut before racing to get a cloth to mop up the water. I returned with a cloth, feeling a little puzzled that we'd taken a wave over the deck when we were in such smooth conditions. As I started to mop up, I noticed the water had a distinctive “fishy” smell and my concerns grew. Unbeknownst to me, Ginnie, after cleaning our morning catch tipped the bucket of mucky fishy water out over the deck, expecting it to flow off the side of the boat. The problem was she was only a few feet away from my hatch and with the movement of the boat, the contents of the bucket ran back across the deck and down my open hatch. Now my cabin smells of fish and I'm still deprived of my sleep. Days like this are enough to make a guy vegetarian.

Washing Day – Mid Atlantic!!!

Tuesday 4th January 2011 (Day 9)

At around 6am UTC we crossed the half way mark in our journey, a distance of 1151NM down and 1151NM to go. Whoo Hoo, now we can start counting down.

We've done very well in our travels so far. While at times the winds have been light, they've always been there and we've never had to motor, save for charging the batteries. Onboard, every system has worked flawlessly and there's been no mechanical or other breakages of concern. Probably the worst we've had is that the spectra spinnaker sheet that attaches the tack of the spinnaker to the windward deck chaffed through the other day and nearly failed. The pulley that it runs through had somehow failed and twisted at an angle such that the sheet chaffed, but didn't fail completely.

On the daily SSB “Rum Runner's” radio net, we've listened in dismay as we hear reports of spinnakers being torn, main sails ripping, engines failing and worst of all, auto pilots breaking completely. One yacht that is a little ahead of us had their auto pilot fail on them about 4 days ago. Since then the husband and wife have had to contend with hand steering 24 hours a day. This is a hugely time consuming and tiring job that they'll have to continue until they get to the Caribbean. Of all the things that can fail on a yacht, the auto pilot is the one that would affect our life the most. The thought of hand steering that far is something that nightmares are made of. When I looked at auto pilots for “Connect4” I did loads of research and selected the best I could finding on an Australian TMQ autopilot which I purchased and carried in my suitcase all the way to Turkey. The hydraulic actuator, pump and cylinder were a top-of-the-line Le Comble and Schmidt unit that's widely accepted as the “Rolls Royce” of systems. When I hear of yachts having to hand steer for 15 days straight, and the struggles they face, suddenly I'm glad I spent the extra money on my system.

Wednesday 5th January 2011 (Day 10)

Night watches can get boring when you've nobody to keep you company and little to do. Sure, sometimes it can be a time of reflection and a time of soul searching; but there's only so much of that you can do. When we were in the Mediterranean, night watches were never dull as there would always be a handful of vessels within a couple of miles of you that needed constant watching and the radio was always active. Here in the Atlantic it's different. If a vessel appears on the AIS screen, even if it's 20NM out and way too far away for a visual, the whole family excitedly gathers around the chart plotter, talking in excitement tones, as we read out the ship's details and gloat over who first “spotted” the boat; even if we never actually get so close to the ship as to get a visual on it!

Last night I was on the midnight to 3am watch and I was bored! I was looking for something small to play with that didn't take much brain work. Looking through the Nav for something, anything, I stumbled across my iTouch disguarded and forgotten. Like finding a long lost toy, a smile curled the corner of my mouth as I picked it up and turned it over in my hand feeling it as for the first time. Tentatively I turned it on, hoping, praying, that it might have some battery power left to relieve me of my boredom of needing something to play with. With a blinding flash my little boredom reliever flared into life, immediately removing any trace of my night vision. Ahhh, but what a small price to pay for such a fine toy! I scrounged around for the ear phones, and plugged them in, Yes – I'll not be bored for this watch thank you very much! This find is even better than discovering left over dessert in the fridge at 3am.

Out of a long forgotten habit of work, my thumb automatically opened my calendar to check what appointments I had to remember today. Curiously, I was presented with a blank white page – no appointments. How good is that; a day to myself! Next I scanned my selection of games. Most were thinking games and too hard for a 2am brain such as mine. I opened my collection of music and struck gold; 158 albums! Now this - was a great find! A brilliant discovery! Many were albums I'd loaded before leaving Australia and never listened to since. There were even some that were given to me by friends along the way, loaded and then long since forgotten.

I sorted by album, then I sorted by artist. I even sorted in song title and scrolled through the mega list, looking at LP covers and artists that I'd so long missed hearing: “Too Young for Promises – Koo De Tah”, “Rain – Dragon”, “In a Big Country – Big Country”, “Come On Eileen – Dexy's Midnight Runners”, “No More Words – Berlin”. There was even a fine collection of music from the Fine Young Cannibals! I was just walking outside to do a look around when I fell on the “piece de resistance” of my music collection: “Phil Collins – 12” hits”. Seriously, can life get any better than this I ask you! I cranked up the volume until my head was twisting from side to with the stereo effect of the drum and clapping as the extended mix introduction to one of the best songs ever known to man “Take Me Home” started filling my head. The 12” introduction goes on and on with drums and a strong beat that just makes you have to move in obedience. The when it can't get any better Phil's incredible voice opens with:

... Take that look of worry, I'm an ordinary man”

They don't tell me nothing, So I find out all I can”

The euphoria builds as the music surrounds my world and involuntarily my feet start moving of their own accord as I sit at the helm, writhing to the motion of the sea and Phil.

They can turn off my feelings, like they're turning off a light”

But I … I don't mind … No … I … I don't mind”

Then like a wave it hits and washes over me and suddenly I am Phil, and I'm singing on stage as the music moves me:

... So take, Take me home, 'coz I don't remember”

Take Take me Home …. 'coz I don't remember”

Well I've been a prisoner all my life and I can tell you …”

Then the drums fill in … and I am the drummer, playing with all my heart and soul to a crowd of thousands. As I look out over the audience …

... Take that look of worry, mine's an ordinary life”

I AM the music!

Working when it's daylight …”

then a hand touches my leg!!! YHHHEEAAAGGGHHH! I leapt involuntarily with a scream as my drums disappeared and the crowd of adoring fans retreat. I nearly went over, arms flailing as I tried to stop from falling off my helm seat. With my slowly recovering night vision I vaguely make out the silhouette of a shape in the door way as it moves towards me! I yank the earphones from my ear, hands trembling with the after effects of the adrenaline coursing through my body.

Cheryl's now standing there in the cockpit looking at me. She was fast asleep in the cabin below until she woke to the sound of a person in distress crying for help. Hearing a screaming noise coming from the deck could only mean one thing – Steve's in trouble and needs help. Still covered in a haze of sleep, she leapt out of bed and raced to the cockpit to see what emergency had befell me – and there I am in the cockpit.

I think at this point we need no further explanation of our actions. I can see that Cheryl in her sleepy stupor could possibly have misinterpreted my singing as a cry for help; perhaps she has a little wax build up in her ears. I'm not going to admit for a minute that my singing voice could ever be interpreted by anyone with their senses about them as anything other than a pretty close copy of the real thing. From where I sat, with the volume turned way up, I could only hear Phil and I singing duetto, and we were good. And here I'll leave it.

With various boats arriving in the Caribbean, the number of radio net operators has been dwindling and a call went out the other day for a new Wednesday net operator. “Connect4” volunteered and this morning I had my first turn as radio net operator for the “Rum Runners” where we had check ins with 26 vessels underway. Although we're in the middle of the Atlantic and have only seen one other yacht in the whole crossing, it's nice to know there's a group of us out here watching out for each other.

Today we caught not one fish, but two, and simultaneously. As tradition, we had both the fishing rod and a hand line out trawling off the back of the boat. Cheryl was sleeping after having come off watch, but the rest of us were relaxing in the cockpit when the fishing rod suddenly started flexing and feeding out. Nick jumped up to grab the rod, while I came around behind him to check the weight of the fish. He's been wanting to land a fish himself for some time now, but we've been concerned that he may get pulled in if the fish is too big and puts up too much of a fight. We agreed that the next fish he hooked he could try to reel in, provided he was harnessed and attached to the boat with a lanyard. With his harness and lanyard attached he started working hard, reeling in the fish.

It was hard work, but it was worth it, because Nick landed our very first Wahoo, and a good size it was too. Not too big and not too small.

Within a few seconds of the fish taking our first line, the hand line that we trawl off the starboard side of the boat went tight and with a yell, Chelsea ran over to check it. Sure enough, we had a decent bite on that line also. Since I was occupied with assisting Nick in pulling in the line, I couldn't go over to help Chelsea with her hand line, so with Grandma watching Chelsea and me watching Nick, my two children set about landing their own fish.

It was hard work for both the children since both fish were putting up quite a fight and added to this we were sailing along at around 6knots. Admirably, both Chelsea and Nick worked really hard and were rewarded with two great catches.

Nick's Wahoo was a beautiful fish that tasted divine. We were told on the SSB radio by some fellow cruisers that catching Wahoo is a pretty rare thing, so we were pretty proud of his efforts.

Chelsea landed a beautiful Mahi Mahi, and we all agreed that it was probably the largest one we've caught to date. We didn't weigh it, or measure its length, but our fridge is now stocked with fish for quite a few days.

With all the commotion, Cheryl was woken and came out to see the events of the morning. After she was up, she wasn't going back to bed, so I took the opportunity and took myself off to bed for a few hours, but not before I shut and locked my cabin hatch!

Sunday 9th January 2011 (Day 14)

The Atlantic Ocean is a pretty big place to be sailing! Although we're crossing with approximately 8-10 other yachts and are in touch with probably 15-20 yachts on our daily SSB radio “Rum Runners” net we've not seen any other yachts from our group in the whole crossing. Every day after the radio net, we meticulously plot the position and heading of the other yachts in our group. This serves a couple of purposes. First it lets us plot our progress against other yachts in our area so that we can gloat a little when we cover more miles in one day than the next yacht, but more importantly it lets us keep tabs on where each yacht is for safety. If anything should happen to another yacht, then we'd be able to assist search and rescue with a pretty accurate position, heading and speed. Perhaps most of all though plotting the position of the other yachts gives us a feeling that we're not out here all alone! The wide ocean can be a lonely place at times and it's nice just having someone else to talk to, and to know there's someone else out there in the big blue.

So far on this passage, we've been pretty much out on our own. Sure there's been a couple of yachts within a hundred miles of us or so, but nothing closer - until today!

A few days ago we noticed that our friends Chris and Erin, onboard a catamaran called “Bare Feet”, were on a course that would cross our path. They'd left directly from the Canary Islands and were heading towards St Lucia, a southerly route. We, on the other hand, left from the Cape Verdes and were heading to St Martin; a more northerly route. At some stage our paths would cross, but in a large ocean, they could easily cross a day either side of our location and we'd never know. Even 20NM away, it would be unlikely that we'd see them.

Connect4in the middle of the Atlantic - “Barefeet”

The night before last I managed to raise “Bare Feet” on the VHF radio. They were approximately 60NM away from us, and they too had been monitoring our progress. We joked about how we could raft up mid ocean for a beer and a catch up, never really believing we'd cross that close. Chris and I chatting for an hour or so; much to the disgust of our off watch partners who were trying to sleep. Sometimes it's nice just to talk to someone else, someone not on the boat; another guy even!

Today though, mid morning, we had the biggest surprise. “Bare Feet” hailed us on the VHF, telling us they had us in sight! Our journey is approximately 2300NM and our paths would cross once only. What are the chances that, in this huge ocean, having left from different origins, at different times and going to different destinations we would cross within 100m of each other? In such a huge ocean it was an amazing sight to see our two boats passing so close – and we swear, neither of us adjusted our auto pilot course on little bit.

As we passed each other, we all came on deck and waved a friendly hello and took photographs of each others yachts under way. The feeling of just seeing another yacht, a friendly yacht, was amazing and it lifted our spirits no end.

Monday 10th January 2011 (Day 15)

It's funny how my mind works on passage. As captain, husband and father, I've been carrying a lot of responsibility for keeping everyone safe and for keeping “Connect4” going well, and for making the “right” decisions on passage. While I always knew this would be a responsibility, it's one that has been weighing quite heavily on me. We're a long way from help if anything goes wrong, and while I didn't want to say anything in this blog before we left; a man drowned when his boat got rolled in a storm on their way to the Cape Verdes. The very same passage we took just a couple of weeks ago! A container ship diverted to try to rescue the two men, however they could only retrieve one of the men; the other was too weak to hold the lifeline and they lost him in the rough seas.

While we've had a great sail, thanks in no small part to the number of people I know are praying for us for a safe journey, I'm still aware that people can have accidents and die out here. How would I feel if I lost one of my children overboard and couldn't retrieve them? I feel like as we get closer to completing the trip, I'm getting more and more nervous. It's a bit like when your on a winning streak and you keep doing the “double or nothing”. With each day that passes, I'm doing another “double or nothing”, I'm getting closer, but also getting more nervous. I know it's silly, but I feel at times like I've been pushing my luck long enough and now I just want to make landfall before it runs out.

I was sitting in the cockpit at sunset, thinking about just these things and worrying myself over things I can't chance, when an unusual sound caught my attention. It wasn't a loud sound, just different to the “normal” sounds I'm used to hearing when we're sailing. I looked out to the side of the boat and almost fainted with disbelief. There, not two metres off the side of “Connect4” was a large Orca (Killer Whale) swimming alongside. He was about 6-7 metres long (half the length of “Connect4”) and was just broaching the surface next to us. As I stood looking at this behemoth that could easily damage my boat with a flick of his tail, I was in awe at the beauty of this creature. Here, in the middle of the ocean, was this curious giant that had come up to look at our boat. He stayed around us for about 5 minutes and while he didn't surface again, he rolled over under the water so that we could see his large white belly just beneath our yacht. Sadly we didn't get another clear look at this gentle giant of the deep, but a few minutes later we saw a pod of around 30 small dolphins who came out of nowhere to start a sunset performance, just for us. Everywhere we looked these playful creatures were jumping and leaping, they were exhilarating on such a simple and pure level. They displayed such a genuine simplistic joy that was unbelievably contagious. Within minutes my spirits were lifted as all of us stood on deck laughing at the antics of these incredible creatures as they played and frolicked around our boat. As the sun set on another day at sea, I went back inside realising that I wasn't alone and that the sea is a beautiful place to be. Sometimes the world is a bigger and more beautiful place than your fears.

Wednesday 12th January 2011 (Day 17)

We've Arrived! After 17 days at sea, 2300NM and a whole raft of experiences and adventures we've finally arrived in St Martin in the Caribbean.

The conditions and weather for the passage were pretty much perfect. We only had one squall hit us, and even that was minor in comparison to friends who were getting 4-5 a night for nights at a time. We sailed the whole way and used only about 40 litres of fuel, only starting the engines to charge the batteries and to make some hot water when we started to smell a bit much. The extra 100 litres of fuel we put on the deck in jerry cans is sitting untouched.

Overall the sail was uneventful and we enjoyed ourselves and made the most of the time to catch up on schooling for the children. The last 40 hours of our journey the winds picked up and the seas got a little higher - we had approximately 25- 30 knots of wind and 4m seas pushing us along. Although it was rough and bumpy it was very fast and we were averaging in the high 8-9knots for most of the night and next morning. While we were being bounced around and it wasn't comfortable for sleeping it shaved almost 1/2 a day off our journey which enabled us to arrive in St Martin at lunch time, rather than arriving after dark, in which case we would have had to slow down and waste time to ensure we would arrive the next morning.

Friday 14th January 2011

Today was a great day, because it was my birthday. We woke early and got dressed and headed into town to “Lagoonies” which is a cruiser's waterfront bar and eatery. Basically when I say a “cruisers bar” that means its cheap, so it suited us well. Being my birthday, it was my call on what I got for the day, so bacon and eggs it was for breakfast at “Lagoonies “. Since they have free wi-fi, I even got to check my much ignored Facebook page and was amazed to read so many birthday greetings from loved friends and family. I even received a few emails which made my day even more special. Small things like that mean so much to us while we're away because one of our fears, if you can call it that, is that we'll be forgotten by all the friends we hold so dear. Perhaps forgotten is too strong a word, perhaps it's better to say we worry sometimes that they'll move on in life in one direction and us in another and we'll drift apart. Getting something as simple as an email or a Facebook message to say we're missed is so precious.

After a great breakfast we went for a wander around town for most of the day. Later in the afternoon the birthday boy got cravings for an ice cream, so we went off to McDonalds for a soft serve fix.

In the evening we went to the Dutch Yacht Club which is right on the lagoon waterfront adjacent the bridge. During happy hour the bridge opens to let all the super yachts through. From our vantage point we watched the procession of multi million dollar yachts entering the lagoon, some barely narrow enough to make it through the bridge as linesmen ran alongside the boats holding fenders down to buffer them at their widest girth. Chelsea befriended a few girls who worked on a ship called “Majestic”, one of the super yachts in the Lagoon.

We were told that most of the yachts are $60 million plus and that is the cheap part of the deal! The ongoing maintenance and upkeep costs make the purchase pale into insignificance. Surprisingly we learned that most of the yachts are owned by businessmen, not famous actors as we assumed. Apparently, most actors wouldn't have enough money to maintain a yacht such as this, so most yachts are owned and operated by businessmen. Wow, what a different world some people live in. Mind you, I think I am happy where I'm at.

Saturday 15th January 2011

You can only stay in one place so long, provisioning, repairing, cleaning and doing the likes before you start feeling a little boat bound and need to escape. Today we took a day off and caught the bus to Phillipsburg for a look around. Phillipsburg is a touristy, cruise ship dock that just bristles with fine diamonds, watches for sale and cheap souvenirs.

Normally we don't like hanging out in places that are overpriced and geared just for the tourists. Perhaps I can handle the environment, but on the whole I find some types of tourists a little self centred and obnoxious in the way they come to a foreign country and expect the country to do everything for them as if they were right back at home. Sadly many countries have lost their uniqueness and identity by pandering to these tourists to the point where you feel more like you're in England or the US than in some foreign country. I saw a T-shirt once that said “If it's tourist season … why can't we shoot them?” I so would have liked to buy that T-shirt!

Ok, so now that I've had my little rant, I have to confess that sometimes it's fun to play tourist. We walked through the markets, bought some souvenirs and then made our way to the waterfront where we ate hot dogs for lunch and sat watching a swarm of overweight tourists get herded off the visiting cruise ships and into the mouths of the street vendors, taxi drivers and other salesmen who were waiting to devour their wallets during their 6 hour stop. In a sadistic kind of way it was quite amusing entertainment to see the hapless cruise ship tourists delivered so innocently to the waiting swarms.

Surely they can't really believe that in the 6 hour stop over they are actually seeing the “real” St Martin? Occasionally we would get a little too close to the action and be set upon by a smooth street seller, whose lines we've heard a dozen times before in a dozen other countries. With a confident grin that belied the fact that he wasn't going to get anywhere with us, our standard reply of “We're not with the cruise ship!” seemed to work well and the guy with a shrug of his seller's shoulders, would reluctantly smile and wander off to find a softer target. After all, time's money when he's only got 6 hours.

We had fun though, and we enjoyed a wander along the foreshore. The kids had a swim in the beautiful clear waters of the bay and we had a snow cone from a local vendor. The day was bright and it was nice to get off the boat.

Sunday 16th January 2011

Friends are so special within the cruising community and it's always sad to say goodbye; especially to friends that have been with us from the start. Today we had to say goodbye to one special couple: Jim and Michelle from “Wind Machine”. We first met Jim and Michelle in Marmaris, and they kind of adopted us as green newbies, full of enthusiasm and not much else. Jim and Michelle befriended us and their support and encouragement was invaluable. Perhaps most of all though, their belief in our ability to actually take our little boat out of the marina and cross an ocean gave us the affirmation to move forward and try. Jim and Michelle were with us when we sailed our first trans-country trip from Turkey to Rhodos. They sailed with us all the way to Santorini and while we went different ways from there, we crossed paths with them at various points, all the way to the Cape Verdes.

Even during our Atlantic crossing, they meticulously emailed my parents every day or so to give them our longitude and latitude and to reassure them that we were safe and doing well, since they had a Pactor email modem and we didn't.

Whenever we said goodbye we always knew that there would be a chance we'd see them down the track at some other port or bay. Sadly, today we had to say goodbye, knowing that we'd not see them on the ocean again. You see, they're leaving their yacht on the hard in St Martin and flying back home for a while. When they come back, we'll have gone through the Panama and they'll be staying in the Caribbean.

Friends are so special and it's hard to say goodbye – especially to precious ones like Jim and Michelle. Perhaps one day we'll meet up again. But in the mean time, we'll treasure our memories of them and remember that they were a part of our trip and a part of us. If there's a silver lining on every cloud, it's that they were such a part of our Mediterranean cruising adventures that they'll never be forgotten.

Tuesday 18th January 2011

In the lead up to the island's Mardi-Gras, different towns put on various entertainments. We hired a car for the afternoon and drove over to the French side of St Martin, to a sea side town called Grand Case. One night a week they have street sellers, road side eateries and entertainment for both locals and visitors alike. We arrived in Grand Case mid afternoon and enjoyed a wander around the town and a relax on the beach as the sun was setting.

After dark, we found a bustling, noisy, fun and reasonably prices eatery on the side of the main street. We enjoyed a good feed of pork ribs then left just as the parade was beginning. We got swept up in the excitement and adventure of the pageant and moved along in the endless crowd that followed the band and the dancers like a slow moving lava flow that endlessly made its way through the town.

Saturday 22nd January 2011

Our friends Abe and Janet, from Adelaide, lived in St Martin for a while and they told us that before we leave, the one “must see” was Sunset Beach, a beautiful sandy beach with a runway right at on its verge. Apparently this beach is the only one in the world where an international runway starts right where the beach ends, and the crowds are allowed right to the edge of the runway – think serious jet blast! (We looked this place up on “You Tube” once we got back and saw people clinging for life to the cyclone fence as the jet ran up its engines barely 50m away). Abe and Janet instructed us to park ourselves with a beer and enjoy the sunset as we “... watch the dumb tourists get blown away by the jet blast”. Now having a healthy cynicism for the average tourist, we couldn't pass up on an opportunity like this.

We arrived in time to sit down on the beach and watch the sun going down. The kids had a swim and we watched a couple of planes coming in to land; passing barely 20m above our heads before touching down on the runway just behind us.

After a little while, we saw a big Air France jet come out and amble towards our end of the runway. Conscious that we could indeed be letting ourselves become the “Dumb Tourists” we couldn't resist the opportunity to stand behind the jet and feel just a little of the blast.

Being sensible, well moderately sensible anyway, we stood away from the mainstream crowd of

Dumb Tourists”. Lets face it, THEY were all climbing the cyclone fence, WE were standing in the middle of the beach … a good 20m further away!

The jet slowly turned around and we could smell the kerosene. We waited for what seemed like an eternity as the jet just sat there, engines idling. We waited … “The Dumb Tourists waited” … we all waited. After what seemed like an eternity, I heard the whine of the turbines spinning up and could taste the exhaust fumes as the four engines started to scorch the air that they were blasting mercilessly upon us. I turned sideways, feeling the engines grab at my clothes, trying to minimise my area I presented to the jet blast. For a fleeting second I thought I

could be a hero and withstand the blast, then I felt the whipped up sand starting to cut into my exposed skin. It felt like being inside a sand blaster as the silicon cut into my bare legs, arms and face. The jet blast just got stronger and stronger as the pilot throttled up towards full power, my eyes were shut tight against the sand being blasted against me, even though my head was hidden in my arm pit. Every breath sucked in was painful. At some point I decided that enough was enough and I hit the sand, curling up in a tight ball against the jet blast, trying feebly to stop the pain of the sand giving me a high pressure exfoliation.

Somewhere next to me I could feel Chelsea huddled in a similar ball, waiting for the blast to end. Where everyone else was, I have no idea for I couldn't see, hear of even open my mouth to shout out to them.

Eventually the jet took off, the last of the swirling clouds of sand were washed out to sea and everything settled back to the quiet. Even the “Dumb Tourists” climbed off the fence and high five'd each other while the locals just shook their heads and went back to their beer. On second thoughts, perhaps the “Dumb Tourists” weren't so dumb – since they didn't have to contend with the sand!

Sunday 23rd January 2011

After a few relaxing weeks in St Martin, I'm feeling glad to be pulling anchor and leaving. St Martin's a great place to visit and we've had fun and got a lot of boat jobs done; but as with many other places we visit, it now feels like it's time to leave.

Early this morning we pulled anchor, went through the bridge and fuelled up at the fuel dock. For the record, we put in a total of 57 litres of diesel – an embarrassingly small amount of fuel considering the distance we travelled. When the fuel dock assistant unlocked the pump, he fed me the line, then walked back to his little container, to wait while I filled up my thirsty tanks from my big Atlantic crossing. No sooner than he'd reached the container and sat down; I was disconnecting the pump and holding it out ready for him to take it back. I must say I was feeling pretty embarrassed to put the guy out for such a small quantity of fuel.

So here we are, leaving St Martin; fuel tanks full, water tanks full and provisioned with supplies to see us easily to the Panama. We're heading off on another adventure and the world feels right.

On our way our, we passed a private yacht. On the starboard side deck he has a power boat that's around 40-50 feet long. On the other side, he's got a yacht that is as long, if not longer than our yacht. You can just make out the mast of his yacht in the photograph. I think next trip we might buy a boat like that!

We sailed a short overnight journey to Guadaloupe and anchored in Deshais. The wind was a little hard on the nose for this leg, so we had to fall off the wind a bit and ended up motoring the last 30NM into Deshais, but it was worth it.

Tuesday 25th January 2011

Ashore in Guadalupe we first checked into the country at the local internet cafe. This was a first for us; a local internet cafe that has the power to clear a yacht into a country and issue visas?

We set off for a look around town then tried to hire a car so that we could tour the island. Sadly we were told that although there was a car available, they were only interested in hiring the car for a week. Can you believe that??? We enquired at the local tourist information office about catching a bus up to the National Park and to some of the regional sights since we couldn't get a car, but the tourist information lady advised us that we'd need to catch no less than four buses, then we'd have to walk all the way up the mountain ourselves if we wanted to get to the park. Guadalupe as a place to explore was beginning to sound a trifle difficult.

As we were walking back through town, we met some friends from another yacht who had just come back from a visit to the Botanical Gardens in Deshais. Looking for something to do, we decided to go up and check out the gardens.

The gardens were amazing. The whole place was covered with lush green tropical plants, most of which I'd never seen before in my life, but a few I recognised. All of them were healthy and thriving and they grew in such sizes and proportions as to make us feel totally in awe. The gardens had a big man made lake and even a man made waterfall. In the lake the children fed the Koi food and the Koi made such a frenzy that they practically beached themselves on top of their counterparts in their attempts to get to the food. We saw a number of the fish, completely out of the water, but still trying to get to the food, as they flapped across the top of their companions.

The Botanical Gardens had a large aviary filled with Australian Rainbow Lorikeets. We all went inside and were swarmed by these beautiful birds. The fact we had little cups of nectar to give the birds perhaps helped somewhat with their attraction to us.

The gardens were so well kept and the plants were so beautiful that we could have stayed there all day, however one of the most amazing sights were the flamingos. These are beautiful birds that seem to spend most of their time with their heads underwater foraging for food from under the water. I've seen a number of flamingos before in peoples front yards in Australia, but I've never seen any that move as much as these did. Perhaps the warmer weather gave them more energy, but these ones actually moved when you watched them.

Wednesday 26th January 2011

Happy Australia Day from the crew of “Connect4”. We celebrated Australia Day in Pidgeon Island which is just off the west coast of Guadalupe. The little island is a marine park and anchoring is prohibited, so you have to tie off to mooring balls. There is a nice little semi circular bay between two of the islands, however all the mooring balls in there belong to the day tripper and dive boats. We settled for picking up a mooring ball just outside the island, then towards sunset we snuck into the bay and tied up to a dive ball for the night.

Outside the bay we celebrated Australia Day with a cold beer, vegimite, face painting in Aussie colours, some Tim Tams and some Milo before going for a snorkel on the reef outside the island. The water was clear and we saw quite a few fish, as well as some reef life. Once the last tour boat left, we picked up a dive boat ball and went ashore to explore the deserted island.

Ashore we saw hermit crabs everywhere, scampering too and fro as we wove a windy path across the beach, trying to avoid the multitude of shells on the beach that would get up and scamper across your path as you walked near. Hermit Crabs have to be one of the cutest and funniest creatures ever to grace the shoreline. The way they borrow other creature's shells when they're discarded results in a multitude of little hermit crabs in an array of different sized shells that are all mismatched.

Leaving the beach and climbed over the little island's hill we watched the sun set over the Caribbean Ocean.