Wow! These past few months have been absolutely fantastic. I've always dreamed of crossing the Atlantic, and being a participant in the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers) at www.worldcruising.com made it an incredible experience. On November 20th, the six of us embarked from Las Palmas Gran Canarias, Canary Islands, fully prepared for our 18-day journey across the ocean. We were blessed with fantastic winds and cherished some of the most serene and remarkable moments of my life!
With my previous experience as a yacht chef, I came well-prepared for the journey with a freezer stocked full of pre-cooked meals. This allowed me to fully enjoy the passage, regardless of the weather conditions. I take great pride in saying that meal times were the highlight for the other five men onboard, as it brought us together and strengthened our bond. As the days seamlessly rolled by, crossing the Atlantic became a profoundly special life experience that will be etched in my memory forever.
During this time, I found myself in a unique place where I could disconnect from the world: no social media or external influences. It was a precious opportunity to fully immerse myself in the present moment. I decided to dedicate my time to reading and painting, embracing this chance to explore a new creative side of myself. It was an ideal occasion to have zero distractions and simply relish in the joy of self-discovery.
Just one week after reaching Rodney Bay Marina in St. Lucia, the ARC team and Marina Manager graciously assisted me in organizing an exhibition showcasing my collection of nine paintings on paper, created using Japanese pen and watercolor techniques. We extended invitations to everyone who had crossed the Atlantic with us, and the turnout was beyond expectations, making it a resounding success. The timing was perfect, as it coincided with the holiday season, providing an excellent opportunity for attendees to find unique Christmas gifts. You can find more details about this feature on the ARC Atlantic Rally for Cruisers website.
Link to ARC Atlantic Rally for Cruisers Feature.
Sailing South from St Lucia to Tobago Cays
From the majority of December leading up to Christmas, Marc and I enjoyed the solitude, allowing us ample time to explore the wonders of St. Lucia. Simultaneously, we dedicated ourselves to preparing the boat for our inaugural journey southward, accompanied by our friends David and Max. Our destination: the breathtaking islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, including Bequia, Mustique, Canouan, and the picturesque Tobago Cays, with their mesmerising islands and reefs.
To ensure our loved ones could keep track of our adventures, we set up a global tracker, providing friends and family with the opportunity to follow our journey. You can find our tracker here
While I had previously explored numerous Caribbean islands, such as the British Virgin Islands, Antigua, and Sint Maarten, I had never ventured to the windward (southern) islands of the Caribbean. To my delight, these islands turned out to be a delightful surprise, each one offering its own distinct, authentic charm. Our time was primarily devoted to island exploration and dining out, as our friends aboard were eager to immerse themselves in the vibrant Caribbean atmosphere and connect with as many people as possible. This left me with limited opportunities to indulge in my painting passion. However, I knew I would have a chance to make up for it during the next leg of our journey.
Sailing up north towards Sint Maarten
In mid-January, with only the two of us aboard, we bid farewell to St. Lucia and set sail for Martinique. Our first stop was motivated by the enticing rumours that it was the ultimate destination for stocking up on delectable French provisions, such as rose wine and cheese. Until then, acquiring quality supplies had proven to be a bit of a challenge. With Marc's birthday just a few days away, we were determined to ensure we had ample provisions to celebrate in style and indulge our taste buds to the fullest.
Returning to my passion for painting, I made a deliberate choice to capture the essence of "Mount Pelee" in the northern region of St. Pierre. It was a place marked by a tragic saga, where the entire population of the town had been lost and more, as we discovered during our visit to the museum.
Interestingly, in the same town of Saint Pierre, the renowned artist Paul Gauguin had once resided before embarking on his journey to the Pacific, where he created some of his most captivating works. During my stay, I had the opportunity to explore his former residence, now transformed into the Interactive Centre, a popular tourist attraction. The centre showcased replicas of the artworks Gauguin had produced during his time in the Caribbean, accompanied by insightful explanations. This experience held great significance for me, as Gauguin remains one of my greatest sources of inspiration—especially considering our upcoming voyage through the Pacific next year!
Dominica, Iles de Saints, Guadeloupe, Sint Eustatius until arriving in Sint Maarten
When we were planning our Caribbean voyage, both Marc and I had a strong desire to spend time in Dominica, and it absolutely surpassed all our expectations! This island was incredibly verdant, with hospitable locals who made our stay truly memorable. We had the opportunity to explore numerous breathtaking lakes and waterfalls, which added an extra layer of delight to our journey. The individuals responsible for the well-being of the yachting community were remarkably helpful and genuine, providing us with a refreshing experience.
Before our dear friend Rita from Lisbon joined us on board, we made it a point to visit various filming locations used in the making of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. These excursions served as a fascinating addition to our trip. Afterward, we set sail together to the stunning Iles de Saints, a mere couple of hours away from Guadeloupe and Sint Eustatius. What a wonderful continuation of our Caribbean adventure!
Arriving in Sint Maarten & off to St Barths:)
With all the buzz surrounding the stylish island of St. Barthelemy, I had always yearned for the perfect chance to discover its allure. Fortunately, my long time Australian friend Fiona arrived at just the right time, allowing us to explore the island together while Marc returned to Europe. Fiona and I had a delightful time zipping around in our trusty Nissan Micra, exploring every nook and cranny of the island. However, we soon found it challenging to resist the allure of the exquisite boutiques that graced each town we visited. Our shopping indulgences left us both with empty wallets but hearts filled with joy.
Regatta Time!!! Heineken 2023 was a blast!
Having both participated in the Heineken Regatta once before, we knew exactly what awaited us: exciting sailing and an abundance of fun for everyone involved! This time, we were fortunate to have my sister Justine and her boyfriend Martin join us as part of our crew. Additionally, our deckhand Eleanor recommended a fantastic group of racers who played a crucial role in making it all happen!
We sailed with determination and enthusiasm, ultimately securing an impressive 3rd place in our class racing division. But that's not all! We also had the honor of winning the coveted titles of "Sexiest Boat" and "Best Bridge Show." On the last day, we dressed up in style as we passed through the Sint Maarten Bridge, creating a memorable spectacle. It was undoubtedly the highlight of our season, and we proudly took home a well-deserved trophy to commemorate our achievement.
After the exhilarating regatta came to a close, I made it a point to set aside some time for painting a canvas capturing the essence of Cole Bay. This location held special significance as it had served as our base for the month leading up to and following the regatta. Painting in Sint Maarten evoked a flood of memories from my past, when I would venture out to paint amidst my yacht chef jobs. However, this time, I had discovered a perfect vantage point—an elevated position providing a bird's eye view of the bay. From there, I could encapsulate the beauty and essence of the scene on my canvas, creating a lasting memento of our time in Sint Maarten.
Next stop further north to explore the British Virgin Islands...
Our journey through the British Virgin Islands (BVI) began and ended at the captivating site of The Boulders, also known as the Baths, in Virgin Gorda. This unique landscape presented us with a rather unconventional yet stunningly beautiful anchorage. It quickly became one of my personal favorites during our trip, perhaps because we arrived under the cover of night, making the delightful surprise of waking up to its splendor the next morning all the more enchanting. The Boulders truly left a lasting impression on us, offering a memorable start and end to our exploration of the British Virgin Islands.
It was much easier to find time to paint when Marc and I were alone, and calm anchorages were the prime locations to get into the zone. The British Virgin Islands has so many special spots like 'The Bight' Norman Island, 'Great Harbour' Jost Van Dyke and Salt Island. All very different colour palettes and styles which made it all the more exciting.
We spent a week on Tortola based at Soper's Hole, driving around discovering the island full of heavenly bays like Josiah's, Brewer's Bay and Smugglers Cove. The British Virgin Islands actually feel like the Caribbean all in one, with so many islands so close to each other that one can island hop everyday. Definitely my favourite part of the Caribbean, I really look forward to coming back here again soon!
Last stop Antigua before ending our season:(
We were here in Antigua for Classic Week and part of Antigua Sailing Week, offering many opportunities to meet old friends, like captain Paul of SY Adix .
While based out of Nelson's Dockyard the UNESCO site, I created the perfect opportunity to hold an exhibition of my work when we hopefully return back to Antigua next December, before heading back down to St Lucia mid January in time for the start of the ARC World rally