Manchester to Antigua

Trip Start Feb 22, 2005
Trip End Jun 22, 2005

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Tuesday, February 22, 2005

22nd Feb
We set off from a snowy Manchester on Tuesday at an ungodly hour to fly to Paris. Due to the weather, time was very tight to catch our connecting flight in Paris. We were told to hurry to the terminal and that our bags wouldn't make it on the flight with us, they would arrive in Martinique 1 or 2 days later. As we looked down at the winter clothes we were wearing we learnt travel lesson number 1; always pack a set of clothes in your hand luggage. We met up with Murph and Jo (friends of ours joining us on the boat for their honeymoon) who had flown in from Birmingham. Graham was detained by the flight attendant on the plane as he searched frantically for his boarding card; He is no longer allowed to carry any important documents. On the 8 hour flight we all managed to sit together.
On landing at Fort de France Graham and I were told Air France would provide us with 115 euros each as the bags were delayed. Result! We were collected by Martin (our friend and skipper of the boat.) Martinique is amazingly green and mountainous and a lot bigger than we'd imagined. It belongs to France and is quite wealthy and well developed with supermarkets etc.
We stayed in Martins hotel room for the first night as the boat was due in the next day. So our first night was a little uncomfortable sleeping on and tiled floor, I told Alex this was good practise for roughing it in South America, she was not entirely convinced. The next day we borrowed some swimming gear from Martin and Jo and we all headed down to the beach. The beach was just as we had imagined, with lush green vegetation all the way down to the sand, red land crabs scuttling into their little holes under the trees and lovely warm water, we were impressed. We headed down to the marina to get the boat, on the way we saw the massive ship, which in a James Bond style manoeuvre had swallowed up our 60 foot yacht in Rotterdam and was about to release it six weeks later in the Caribbean. Martin, Murph and Jo went off to unload the boat and we went for a wander around Marin the little marina town and to try to sort out our baggage troubles. Alex was very excited by the thought of having money which she had to spend on clothes and a 4 hour shopping trip commenced. On the way around town we saw two green and black giant humming birds collecting nectar from the brightly coloured flowers that seemed to grow all over the walls and buildings.
That afternoon we met the rest of the gang on the boat. They had not had such an enjoyable day; they had been out on the ship all day with no food and only one bottle of water. It had taken a lot longer than anticipated as there was engine trouble with our boat. Jo had promptly thrown up on returning. Our home for the next few weeks didn't disappoint, Clare (not the most exotic name) is an Oyster 56 sailing yacht with all mod cons worth 1.3million pounds. We declared Martin a hero for sorting us out with the holiday of life time. It is our job to help him move Clare from Martinique to the British Virgin Islands where she will be met by her owner.
The next day we hired a car and went to pick up our bags from the airport, unfortunately Graham's was still in Paris, so he was starting to regret blowing all his money on a rash vest instead of buying some clean undies. As we had the car we went to the hypermarket and bought provisions.
On Sat 26th we set off from Marin, we had barely got going when we were called back to the marina for inadvertently doing a runner, we had forgotten to pay! It was great to get underway as we'd spent 2 days polishing metalwork with toothbrushes, this might sound dull, and it was! Martin showed us some of the sailing basics and we did some man over board drills. It is very much a steep learning curve. We moored overnight at the Northern end of Martinique in Saint Pierre. We didn't go ashore but there seemed to be a good Sat night party going on at a reggae bar.
On Sun 27th we were off to neighbouring Dominica. To us the waves out at sea seemed quite big and you felt a bit green round the gills it you went below deck. I was power winched to the top of the mast in a harness; Graham didn't bother as he spends all day doing that kind of thing at work. It was really exciting and you got a great view of the boat. We tried fishing with a line behind the boat but to Graham's frustration, nothing.
It took a few hours to reach Dominica, and before we'd even moored up we were greeted by local boatman Eric Spaghetti. He told us he would sort us out with anything we needed so we arranged to be picked up for dinner later and he made us a reservation. This felt much more Caribbean than in Martinique. Dominica is quite a poor island and there are no direct flights in from the USA or Europe but this means it is very unspoilt. That night Eric Spaghetti picked us up and took us to Big Papas restaurant. We had an amazing meal of mahi mahi fish and met Big Papa himself a larger than life fella, who was a self proclaimed body guard to the star, restaurateur, Hip hop artist and general legend in his own underpants. He obviously recognised some fellow stars and proceeded to get us all legless on his special Assdown rum, so called as he explained that after one glass you better sit your ass down.
The next day after Eric spaghetti had delivered all the belongings back to us that we had left all over the beach. We decided to go for a snorkel with Murph and Jo's new underwater camera. This was amazing. We went out in the tender to a little reef. The minute we plunge into the water we were surrounded be every colour shape and size of fish imaginable. We spent about two hours swimming with the puffers, barracudas and a hundred other types of fish we had never seen before. Murph and Jo snapped away and martin managed to loose his watch which we can only assume must have disappeared into one of the volcano shaped corals which covered the sea bed. This turned out to be the perfect hangover cure and we all felt fully recovered from the previous night's antics by the time we got back to the boat.
2nd March
We set of early for Guadeloupe, the next island northwards. The crew were a member down as Murph was feeling ill but the sailing was starting to come together. We anchored up in a bay that's part of a marine reserve and has diving declared by Jacques Cousteau as some of the best he'd ever seen. We snorkeled ashore for an ice cream and on the way back after a brief meeting with a sea snake, to our amazement, we saw a turtle casually grazing on the weed on the sea bottom. He didn't seem bothered by us at all, and was probably quite used to seeing divers gawping at him.
3rd March
On the journey to Antigua it appeared Graham had managed catch Murph's illness so he spent the day asleep. It was out first day without a rain shower believe it or not. We moored up in Falmouth marina and more cleaning commenced. Martin was very excited at being in Antigua as he had lived here for a few months 5 years ago, and knows all the party hot spots, so we decided to stay for 2/3 days. Antigua is a yachting centre and there were some massive boats in the harbour and we didn't feel like such big fish anymore.
4th March
We hired a car so we could get out and see the island. After driving through the rain forests over potholed roads we found a golden sandy picture postcard beach and watched the pelicans dive bombing for fish. We drove up to the main town on the island St. John, had a laugh at the American cruise tourists and managed to pick up a watch for Martin as a thank you present.
Next day the Graham and Murph were sent up the mast to put their access skills to good use cleaning. Later that day snorkeling we saw another turtle and an octopus. As it was Friday night we had a few cocktails at the bar and Martin pulled a chef from one of the mega yachts, which was great for breakfast.
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